For Students, Faculty, and Staff: MyU One Stop



Cynthia Lewis

Department Chair, Emma Birkmaier Professorship in Educational Leadership
Ph.D., University of Iowa
Literacy Education

Curriculum and Instruction
Room 336 PeikH

159 Pillsbury Dr S E
Tel: 612/625-6313

Office hours:
by appointment

Download Curriculum Vitae [PDF]

Areas of Expertise

  • Critical literacy in urban high schools
  • Classroom discourse
  • Identity, and learning
  • Critical media literacy
  • Digital media and learning
  • Adolescent literacy and social identities
  • Critical discourse studies
  • Sociocultural learning theories
  • Classroom ethnography

Research Summary

My research draws on critical sociocultural theory to study the relationship between classroom discourse, social identities, and learning in English/Language Arts. In study after study, classroom discourse has been found to privilege dominant social and cultural identities resulting in the validation of some literacy practices over others with profoundly negative learning consequences for students from non-dominant groups. Rather than continue to study these negative consequences, my research has focused on urban high school classrooms that successfully engage students in learning with special attention to understanding the patterns of classroom interaction that are central to creating and sustaining such classrooms. I am interested in studying interaction that supports the identities of diverse youth in ways that engage young people in learning, enhance their literacy practices, and create pathways for social and academic futures.

I have conducted studies based on partnerships with schools and teachers in both urban and rural settings. These studies address macro-level issues related to equity, access, and opportunities to learn through detailed analyses of patterns of classroom discourse. From 2008-2011, I worked with university and school-based partners to co-found a program in a high-poverty urban high school—the Digital Media Studies Program (DigMe)—focused on the use of emerging technologies to engage students in critical literacy practices across subject areas. Recent publications related to this project have focused on the role of emotion in students’ critical engagement with texts and ideas. A new research initiative examines the role of interaction and other components of activity across school, library, and community settings when digital media creation is central to engagement in learning.

Currently, I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Literacy Research Association and serve on the editorial advisory boards of four major research journals in the areas of literacy and discourse analysis, including Written Communication and Reading Research Quarterly. I have served on the executive board of the National Conference on Research in Language and Literacy (NCRLL) and as a member of the Standing Committee on Research (NCTE). I have won awards for my teaching (Robert H. Beck Faculty Teaching Award), advising/mentorship (AERA, Division G Mentoring Award and the Outstanding Academic Adviser Award), and scholarship (twice awarded the Edward B. Fry Book Award from the Literacy Research Association).

Courses taught

  • CI 8147—Critical Discourse Analysis in Education Research
  • CI 8150-- Approaches to Research in Classroom Discourse
  • CI 8461—Sociocultural Theory, Education, and Literacy
  • CI 5441—Teaching Literature in the Secondary School
  • CI 5481—Developments in Teaching English and Speech

Selected Publications

  1. Books:

    Lewis, C., Enciso, P., & Moje, E.  (Eds.) (2007).  Reframing sociocultural research on literacy: Identity, Agency, and Power.  New York: Routledge. Awarded 2007 Edward B. Fry Book Award, Literacy Research Association.

    Lewis, C.  (2001).  Literary practices as social acts:  Power, status, and cultural norms in the classroom. New York: Routledge. Awarded 2002 Edward B. Fry Book Award, Literacy Research Association.

  2. Articles and Chapters

    Boldt, G., Lewis, C., Leander, K. (in press). Moving, feeling, desiring, teaching. Forum. Research in the Teaching of English.

    Lewis, C., Pyscher, T., & Stutelberg, E. (2014) Critical sociocultural perspectives in English education. In J. Brass & A. Webb (Eds.), Reclaiming English language arts methods courses: Critical Issues and Challenges for Teacher Educators in Top-Down Times. New York: Routledge.

    Doerr-Stevens, C., Lewis, C., Ingram, D., & Asp, M. (in press). Making the body visible through dramatic/creative play: Critical literacy in Neighborhood Bridges.  In M. Perry & C. Medina (Eds.), Methodologies of embodiment: (in)scribing bodies in research in education and the performing arts. New York: Routledge.

    Lewis, C. & Causey, L. (in press). Critical engagement in digital media studies: An activity and nexus analysis. In E. Morrell & L. Scherff (Eds.), English Education for the 21st Century: Teaching, Teacher Education, Research, Assessment, and Advocacy. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.

    Lewis, C. (2014).  Affective and global ecologies: New directions for critical literacy. In J. Zacher Pandya & J. Avila (Eds.), Moving Critical Literacies Forward: A New Look at Praxis Across Contexts. New York: Routledge.

    Lewis, C. & Tierney, J. D. (2013). Mobilizing emotion in an urban classroom: Producing identities and transforming signs in a race-related discussion. Linguistics and Education, 23, 289-304.

    Lewis, C., Doerr-Stevens, C., & Tierney, J. D., Scharber, C. (2012). Negotiating identities in the market economy: An analysis of critical literacy and media production.  In J. Avila & J. Zacher Pandya (Eds.), Critical digital literacies as social praxis: Intersections and challenges. New York: Peter Lang.

    Lewis, C. & Tierney. (2011). Mobilizing emotion in an urban English classroom. Changing English: Studies in Culture and Education.

    Lewis, C. & Ketter, J.  (2011).  Learning as social interaction: Interdiscursivity in a teacher-researcher book group.  In R. Rogers (Ed.), An introduction to critical discourse analysis in education, 2nd edition (pp. 117-146).  New York: Routledge.

    Wohlwend, K. & Lewis, C. (2011). Critical literacy, critical engagement, digital technology: Convergence and embodiment in glocal spheres.  In D. Lapp & D. Fisher, The handbook on teaching English and Language Arts, 3rd edition. New York: Taylor & Francis.

    Lewis, C., & Dockter, J. (2010). Reading literature in secondary school: Disciplinary discourses in global times. In S. Wolf, K. Coats, P. Enciso, & C. A. Jenkins (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Children’s and Young Adult Literature. New York: Routledge.

    Lewis, C., & del Valle, A. (2008).  Literacy and identity: Implications for research and practice. In Christenbury, L., Bomer, R., & Smagorinsky, P. (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent literacy research (pp. 307-322).  New York: Guilford Press.

    Lewis, C.  (2006).  What’s Discourse Got to Do With It?:  A meditation on critical discourse analysis in literacy research.  “At Last.”  Research in the Teaching of English, 40, 355-361.