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 Interest

Critical sociocultural theory; Critical literacy in urban high schools; Classroom discourse; Emotion and learning; Identity and learning; Critical literacy and critical media literacy; Digital media learning; Critical discourse studies; Classroom ethnography

Research Interests

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.

I have served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Literacy Research Association, 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 served on the editorial advisory boards for all of the primary literacy research journals, currently serving on the boards for Research in the Teaching of English and The Journal of Literacy Research. 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).

Selected Publications

  1. Crampton, A., Lewis, C., & Tierney, J. D. (in press). Proper distance and the hope of cosmopolitanism in a classroom discussion about race. In R. Naqvi and J. Rowsell (Eds.), Literacy lives in transcultural times. New York: Routledge.

    Lewis C. (2016). Mikhail Bakhtin, media literacy, and me.  In R. Hobbs (Ed.), Exploring the roots of digital and media literacy through personal narrative (pp. 77-84).  Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

    Lewis, C.  & Crampton, A. (2016). Emotion as Mediated Action in Doing Research on Learning. In M. Zembylas and P.A. Schutz (eds.), Methodological advances in research on emotion and education (pp. 137-150). New York: Springer Publishing.

    Lewis, C. & Crampton, A. (2015). Literacy, emotion, and the teaching/learning body. In G. Enriques, E. Johnson, S. Kontovourki, & C. Mallozzi (eds.), Literacies, learning, and the body: Bringing research and theory into pedagogical practice (pp. 125-131). New York: Routledge.

    Boldt, G., Lewis, C., Leander, K. (2015). Moving, feeling, desiring, teaching. Forum. Research in the Teaching of English, 49, 430-441.

    Lewis, C. & Causey, L. (2015). 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., 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: R

    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. & 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.

    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., 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. 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