by Claire Miller
Since 1997, College of Education Professor Peggy Albers has spent a fair share of her free time in an art studio, working with clay and creating unique pieces of pottery.
It’s a hobby that Albers finds very rewarding, not only as a creative outlet and stress reliever but as an activity that informs her work in the COE.
Albers, who teaches literacy and English education courses in the college’s Department of Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology, has done extensive research on integrating the arts into the teaching of English and has studied how students see and understand the visual texts around them – everything from billboards and advertisements to photos, paintings and other forms of art.
“Working in the studio helps me understand how we analyze visual information, not from a literacy perspective but from an artist’s standpoint,” she explained.
Sometimes, teachers can get a better sense of whether a student has understood a concept or a work by using a less-traditional means of assessment.
“Writing and speaking are the primary ways of assessing students’ literacy skills, but the pictures they draw can tell you a lot about what they know,” said Albers, who’s currently writing a book on the subject.
A former high school English and drama teacher, Albers takes this approach with her into her classes at Georgia State, where she uses a variety of media – video projects, podcasting, PowerPoint presentations, books and more – to engage her students in the material, and encourages them to do the same in their own classrooms.
She’s also working on two other books – one on how to build a professional career in higher education, and another on preparing doctoral students to successfully navigate the Ph.D. process.
Albers is no stranger to either of these subjects, having worked her way through the ranks at Indiana University and the COE, as well as chairing 15 doctoral committees and becoming a Ph.D. coordinator in her department.
“I really like working with doctoral students and helping them pursue their questions and research,” she said. “We have some of the finest students in terms of their commitment and dedication, and I think I have a knack for helping them determine what they really want to study and how they can investigate that.”
She knows the Ph.D. process can be a difficult one, but she works hard to ensure her students are prepared every step of the way. Since becoming the Ph.D. coordinator, Albers has created a listserv for doctoral students and developed a forum, called the Global Conversations in Literacy Research Project, for doctoral students as well as literacy scholars of all ranks to present their research to their colleagues and network with other scholars at Georgia State and beyond.
“Part of my job is to find them avenues for professional development, expand the potential of their research and to show them how to present themselves as scholars in the field,” Albers said. “We want to establish an international network of global, cutting-edge research.”
With her commitment to connecting with her students in the classroom and her dedication to helping them earn advanced degrees, it’s no surprise that she was one of the recipients of the COE’s 2011 Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award. This honor is given annually to a faculty member in recognition for and in appreciation of extraordinary dedication to teaching.
“I was just over the moon when I heard about this award,” she said. “It helped me remember why I do this work with doctoral and graduate students, and it’s a really lovely way to be recognized.”
Albers received the COE award on the heels of another prestigious honor: The 2011 Georgia Council of Teachers of English Professor of the Year Award, given to those who demonstrate creativity and innovation in their work and have significantly contributed to the field.
Both awards highlight Albers’ unique teaching style and keep her focused on guiding her students to become great teachers.
“That’s why we’re here – to work with students in very powerful and important ways and contribute to their scholarship, research and future careers,” she said.
For more information about the Department of Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology, visit http://msit.gsu.edu/index.htm.
To find out more about the Global Conversations in Literacy Research project, visit http://globalconversationsinliteracy.wordpress.com.