For Students, Faculty, and Staff: MyU One Stop


Deborah Dillon

Senior Associate Dean for Graduate and Professional Programs
Ph. D., University of Georgia
literacy education

College of Education/Human Dev
Room 104 BuH
178 Pillsbury Dr SE

Tel: 612-626-8271

Office hours:
by appointment

Areas of Interest

Literacy practices of teachers and learners in K-12 schools, the role of motivation in engaged reading, literacy leadership and school reform, qualitative research methodologies

Research Interests

I began my career as a classroom teacher in rural Nebraska working with students in grades 4-6. As a new teacher, I became interested in the intellectual and emotional development of adolescents who struggled with reading, especially those youth who lost their motivation to read and succeed in school. I pursued this interest by studying 4-12th grade students in several discipline area classrooms in Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, and nationwide; this interest continues to guide my current research endeavors.

My scholarship and grant-funded efforts focus on the literacy practices of teachers and learners in K-12 schools including the sociocultural, political, and historical contexts shaping literacy events and students’ and teachers’ lives; and motivation and engagement and their role in literacy learning including the design of motivating and accessible reading tasks and assessments for students. I also research the preparation of and ongoing professional development of literacy teachers. I have published 4 books including Kids InSight: Reconsidering how to meet the literacy needs of all students, part of the International Reading Association’s (IRA) Kids InSight Series. I have published several articles in journals including the American Educational Research Journal, Reading Research Quarterly, National Reading Conference Yearbook, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Journal of Educational Research, Journal of Research in the Teaching of Science, Reading Teacher, and Journal of Reading. My research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Bush Foundation, and the U. S. Department of Education: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services.

Outreach and service are key components of my professional life. I work with literacy colleagues at the state and local levels in Minnesota, nationally, and internationally. I have served as president of the National Reading Conference, vice chair of the English Language Arts Early and Middle Childhood Standards Committee of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Associate Editor of The Reading Teacher, and associate editor of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching. I am currently an associate editor of The Educational Researcher, a publication of the American Educational Research Association.

Teaching is an important part of my work. For example, I co-designed a new preservice literacy class and accompanying practica called “Foundations of Literacy.” The class is often taught on site at a local elementary school. Participants learn about reading and writing processes and also work one-on-one with K-6 students. This experience has been helpful to new teachers as they study how children learn to reading, and the collaboration has also made a difference in the reading achievement of the K-6 students at the school. Watch the video clip below to find out more about this project.

(quicktime/iPhone version)

I enjoy teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and involving students in my research projects. I have been honored with two teaching awards, one at the university level for my work preparing preservice literacy teachers, and a second award at the departmental level for my work with graduate students in the area of qualitative research methodology. In 2004, I was awarded the University of Georgia’s College of Education Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award, and in December of 2007 I was named the University of Minnesota’s Guy Bond Chair in Reading. Listed below are selected publications and courses I teach, representing the range of my interests and expertise.

Selected courses taught

  • CI 5434—Professional Development and Evolving Practice in K-12 Reading (a course in the K-12 Reading Licensure Program)
  • CI 8148—Conducting Qualitative Studies in Educational Contexts
  • CI 8470—The Role of Motivation in Engaged Reading and Writing

Selected Publications

  1. Dillon, D. R., O’Brien, D. G., Sato, M., & Kelly, C. M. (November 2010). Professional development and teacher education for reading instruction. In M. L. Kamil, P. D. Pearson, E. B. Moje, & P. Afflerbach (Eds.),Handbook of reading research ( Vol. 4, pp. 629-659). Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers.

  2. Dillon, D.R., O'Brien, D. G., Kato, K., Scharber, C., Kelly, C., Beaton, A., Biggs, B. (2009). The design and validation of a motivating large-scale accessible reading comprehension assessment for students with disabilities Fifty-eighth yearbook of the national reading conference (pp. 277-293). Milwaukee, WI: The National Reading Conference.

  3. Thurlow, M. L., Laitusis, C. C., Dillon, D. R., Cook, L. L., Moen, R. E., Abedi, J., & O’Brien, D. G. (2009). Accessibility principles for reading assessments. Minneapolis, MN: National Accessible Reading Assessment Projects. Available on the World Wide Web at U.S. Department of Education (2006). Individuals with Disabilities Education. Developed by the National Accessible Reading Assessment Projects under grants H324F040001, H324F040002, and R324A060034 from the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Special Education Research.

  4. O’Brien, D. G. & Dillon, D. R. (2008). The role of motivation in engaged reading of adolescents. In K. Hinchman & H. Sheridan-Thomas (Eds.), Best Practices in Adolescent Literacy Instruction (78-96). New York, NY: Guilford.

  5. Dillon, D. R. (March 30, 2007). Minnesota Reads: An opportunity to strengthen literacy teacher preparation. Report and documents written for a meeting of all Minnesota higher education reading professors. University of Minnesota, Curriculum and Instruction Department.

  6. Vagle, M. D., Dillon, D. R., Davison-Jenkins, J. LaDuca, B., & Olson, V. (2006). Redesigning literacy preservice education at four institutions: A three-year collaborative project. Fifty-fifth yearbook of the national reading conference (pp. 324-340 ). Milwaukee, WI: The National Reading Conference.

  7. Moje, E. B., & Dillon, D. R. (2006). Adolescent identities as mediated by science classroom discourse communities. In D. E. Alvermann, K. A. Hinchman, D. W. Moore, S. F. Phelps, & D. R. Waff (Eds.),Reconceptualizing adolescent literacy, 2nd edition (pp. 85-106). Mahwah, New Jersey: Erlbaum.

  8. Dillon, D. R. (2005). There and back again: Qualitative research in literacy education. Reading Research Quarterly, 40, 106-110.

  9. Dillon, D. R., O'Brien, D. G., & Heilman, E. (2004). Literacy research in the next millennium: From paradigms to pragmatism and practicality. In R. Ruddell & K. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading, 5th edition. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. [Reprinted from Reading Research Quarterly]

  10. Dillon, D. R. (2003). In leaving no child behind have we forsaken individual learners, teachers, schools, and communities? Yearbook of the national reading conference (pp.1-31). Milwaukee, WI: The National Reading Conference.