Richard Anderson

Richard C. AndersonRICHARD C. ANDERSON is University Scholar and Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology and Psychology as well as Director of the Center for the Study of Reading at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Having earned his bachelor’s degree in American history (cum laude) from Harvard University, Anderson felt inspired to become a secondary social studies teacher, first earning his master’s degree in teaching and then his doctorate in educational psychology (both from Harvard University) while working with junior high and high school students in Concord, Massachusetts.

In addition to working as a research assistant at the Laboratory for Research on Instruction while at Harvard and then as a research associate at the Experimental Teaching Center at New York University, Anderson also served as an assistant superintendent in East Brunswick, New York public schools before joining the faculty at the University of Illinois. As a faculty member, educational researcher, and scholar, Anderson has dedicated more than 50 years to conducting influential research on children’s reading and vocabulary growth, classroom discussions that promote thinking, and related topics. In addition to his service as a professor at universities in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, Anderson has received teaching awards at the University of Illinois including recognition on the Outstanding Teachers list during most of the semesters he taught since the list was first compiled in 1970, Distinguished Career Teaching Award (2002), and the Outstanding Mentor Award (2001) for his dedicated work with doctoral students. As a member of the National Academy of Education (NAE, 1979) and past president of the American Educational Research Association (AERA; 1983-1984), he has also received numerous other awards and honors including the Palmer O. Johnson Award (AERA, 1972 and 1977); William S. Gray Citation of Merit (the highest honor of the International Reading Association, (IRA, 1992); Distinguished Contributions to Educational Research (AERA, 1994); Edward L. Thorndike Award (American Psychological Association (APA, 1997); and Sylvia Scribner Award (AERA, 2006). As of 2015, Anderson has published approximately 250 scholarly works (including at least four in press) that have been collectively cited more than 35,000 times (as of September 2016). His book, Becoming a Nation of Readers (1985, with Elfrieda Hiebert, Judith A. Scott, and Ian A. G. Wilkinson), is one of the most widely read books of all time in the field of literacy and has more than 2,000 citations. In his retirement, Anderson has continued his comparative analysis of learning to read alphabetic and nonalphabetic languages, specifically English and Chinese, as well as research examining children’s intellectual and social development in the context of classroom discussions.

For more information, visit Richard Anderson’s Website. To learn more about Richard Anderson from his family and friends, visit his Reflections. To view photographs from Richard Anderson’s personal collection, visit his Photo Gallery.

Visit the video below to watch a short overview of the interview with Richard Anderson. Otherwise, see all five of the full interviews with Richard Anderson below.

Video Interviews with Richard Anderson:

Born and raised in the small farming town of River Falls, Wisconsin, Dr. Richard C. Anderson describes his father and mother’s dedication to family and the community in their roles as a country doctor and homemaker. First expressing his interest in education when writing a high school essay about his future career as a college professor, Anderson recalls leaving home on a train with all of his belongings in a steamer trunk to accept a scholarship at Harvard University—the only university to which he applied. Feeling as though he “was in a foreign country” upon his arrival, Anderson recalls “not understanding a thing he read” in his first assignment, but soon discovering his passion for American history. In this clip, hear more from Dr. Anderson about what inspired him to become a classroom teacher and district administrator and his early experiences as an educational researcher and scholar.

Having served as a distinguished faculty member at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign for more than a half-century, Dr. Richard C. Anderson describes his commitment to teaching and dedication to students. Although he notes that he “can still give a good lecture on occasion,” Anderson much prefers to engage students in conversation, noting that we need “more space for student ideas.” Recalling a few of the most important themes from Becoming a Nation of Readers, one of the most widely read books in literacy, Anderson notes that the book “respects the complexity of a teacher’s job and how well most do it most of the time” and acknowledges that “there is no jiffy solution” to the challenges teacher face in meeting diverse students’ needs. In this clip, learn more about Dr. Anderson’s impact on the field of reading cognition, vocabulary growth and development, and Chinese language acquisition as his wife, Dr. Jana M. Mason, and former students also describe his pioneering work.

Reflecting on his work in collaborative reasoning, Dr. Richard C. Anderson describes the importance of engaging children in classroom discussions with their peers. He highlights the value of moral or ethical questions that prompt children to think and discuss problems in ways that also inherently improve their writing skills. Noting that even though most teachers can effectively lead such classroom discussions with a little practice, Anderson adds that teachers (and their principals) who struggle to consistently implement collaborative reasoning frequently describe feeling pressure to “cover the curriculum by getting through the textbook,” especially in the context of high-stakes testing and accountability. Watch this clip to hear more from Dr. Anderson about his extensive research on children’s use of collaborative reasoning and the imperative to inform policymakers who can further empower teachers to impact practice.

Describing dual lines of research in Chinese reading development, Dr. Richard C. Anderson has examined, for example, Chinese children’s representation of characters in their minds and differences in how American and Chinese children learn to read in their native language. Noting that Chinese parents have no tradition of reading to their children, instead often playing interactive games, Anderson describes efforts to develop a series of books written in Chinese that are now used in thousands of Kindergarten classrooms across China. Anderson, explaining that “you always need more research but at some point you need to act,” describes his experiences observing high-quality lessons using shared book reading in Chinese classrooms. Also characterized by his family and former students as an exceptional mentor, Anderson recalls his own sense of fulfillment in empowering others to reach their full potential. Watch this clip to hear more from Dr. Anderson about his commitment to mentoring his students and subsequent generations in his growing academic family.

Characterized as “trust[ing] children to be curious and teachers to lead rather than lecture,” Dr. Richard C. Anderson reflects upon his career of more than five decades, noting that he is “eager to reap the fruits of the research we have been doing on collaborative reasoning” in reference to studies underway. Despite having published more than 250 scholarly works, Anderson notes that he would still like to be part of a revolution that would improve schools so that they are “more intellectually stimulating, more conceptually rich, [and] more personally engaging for children.” He remains inspired by discovering “a really cool, new finding” and explains that his students continue to “given him a tremendous and stimulating ride into the future.” Watch this clip to hear more from Dr. Anderson about the perpetual policy stalemate on how to improve education, and his advice for graduate students and emerging educational researchers and scholars.

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