The definition of literacy has evolved to include not only reading, but writing, speaking, listening and visual literacy, as well. So it made sense for West Virginia University professors Allison Dagen and Aimee Morewood to reinvent the College of Education and Human Services reading specialist certification program to reflect a more current delivery method for the degree program.
The nationally accredited Masters of Arts in Literacy Education will be be fully online when it is rolled out this fall. The program is the only online program of its kind in West Virginia and one of only a handful in the country. Dagen and Morewood hope the new delivery platform will entice more teachers to become reading specialists.
“There’s currently a shortage of reading specialists in West Virginia and a great need for them in this state,” Dagen said. “We are providing a terrific new program and we’re very excited about starting it this fall. This is a great advanced degree for all educators.”
Dagen, who was lead writer on some of the International Literacy Association standards, and Morewood developed the new program using the latest research in literacy education and incorporated new standards coming out in 2018 from the ILA, formerly known as the International Reading Association.
“Students are reading differently today,” Morewood said. “When we think about reading, we need to think about reading and understanding digital media, as well as traditional books.”
Dagen and Morewood developed a program that prepares graduates for all three roles identified by ILA.: interventionist, literacy coach, working with teachers, or reading coordinator, evaluating school-wide issues and creating policy.
“The reading specialist as interventionist is what we picture when we think of the Title I teachers, who work with the kids on skills,” Dagen said. That is a very common model in West Virginia.”
They also focused on preparing teachers to be leaders.
“Today’s teachers are part of the leadership,” Morewood said. “That’s how things are evolving in the profession. They are leading in different ways and most of it is informal.”
Instead of candidates traveling to Morgantown and living on campus for their reading specialist practicum, it is job-embedded, working with students at their own schools, providing more flexibility than the old model.
Morewood and Dagen recently received a Big 12 Faculty Fellowship Grant and spent part of the spring semester at other Big 12 schools, observing how those schools are addressing their online literacy specialist programs. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have a similar population and setting as West Virginia and Dagen and Morewood hope to work collaboratively with them.
They also regularly publish and present their research, including information about classroom reading and literacy practices.
“We are using all of our research to continue to improve our new Master of Arts in Literacy Education program at WVU,” Dagen said. “Right now, our candidates are mainly from West Virginia, but we hope to expand that to other states in the future.
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, WVU Online & Continuing Professional