Judith A. Langer, internationally acclaimed scholar in literacy learning, is Vincent O’Leary Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus at the University at Albany, State University of New York. From 1987 until 2019 she was co-director of the federally funded Center on Literature Teaching & Learning immediately followed by the Center on English Learning & Achievement. She also funded and directed the Albany Institute for Research in Education.
Her work has had a strong worldwide impact on theory, policy, and practice. For example, her groundbreaking studies since 1980 explain essential differences in the strategies we use to make sense of literature and informational experiences, and provide underlying theory as well as guidelines for the different kinds of learning, instruction, and assessment practices appropriate to each. In addition to her many articles and books on this subject, the Annenberg Foundation developed three separate television series of 26 1-hour videos based on Langer’s research on literature. These are available online and satellite, and continue to be replayed on public broadcasting stations. In 2011 the English Journal said, [Judith Langer] pioneered the changes in the way we define the English/Language Arts curriculum.”
The “sociocognitive theory” she developed in the early 1980s underlies all her work on learning and instruction and is based on the belief that who the students are and what they have experienced both in and out of school lead us to expect differences in interpretation that, when discussed in cognitively engaged and collaborative classrooms, lead to enriched understandings for all. For example, one series of studies of schools that “beat the odds” has spawned much related research, while being used to inform school improvement efforts especially in low performing schools.
Langer has received many notable awards including an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Uppsala. She was also honored by Lund University, as one of 12 of the world’s “Imaginative Scientists.” Other honors include: Distinguished Benton Fellow, University of Chicago; Fellow and Scholar-in-Residence, Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio, Italy; Distinguished Visiting Scholar, University of Turku, Finland; Visiting Scholar, University of Trondheim, Norway. Beyond these, her work has received recognition from all continents.
She has also won the Albert J. Harris award for research on teaching students with reading difficulties, and been inducted into the international Reading Hall of Fame.
She has written very many articles and thirteen books. The two books that have had the greatest international impact are Envisioning Literature (it has been called a classic) and the more recent Envisioning Knowledge. In 2013 she received the David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English for Envisioning Knowledge. Her most recent book, Writing Instruction that Works: Proven Methods for Middle & High School Classrooms, co-authored with Arthur Applebee, has been very well received in this era of increased emphasis on standards of achievement.
Langer has been editor of the major research journal in her field, sits on six editorial boards, and has reviewed for 26 journals and many research agencies across the world.