Skip to main content

Victoria J. Risko

Professor Emerita, Literacy Education, Department of Teaching and Learning

Victoria J. Risko, Professor Emerita, Vanderbilt University has been on the faculty for over 35 years, a member of the language, literacy, and culture area of the Department of Teaching and Learning. Vicki was the 2011-2012 President of the International Reading Association (IRA) and a member of IRA’s Board of Directors from 2002– 2005. Vicki, a former classroom teacher and reading specialist, received her B.S. in English and Elementary Education from the University of Pittsburgh, and her M.A. and Ed.D. in Reading Education and Learning Disabilities from West Virginia University. She conducts professional development sessions for teachers, literacy specialists, and literacy coaches and has worked with teachers throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

Vicki’s research focuses on teacher education and professional development, teacher reflection, reading comprehension and meaningful learning, and uses of cases and multimedia environments to enhance learning, especially the learning of diverse and struggling learners. Across a number of studies, Risko and colleagues examined how multimodal learning environments, “anchored” in cross-curricular instruction enhanced reading and writing development and content learning. These learning environments were established for students across the grades (e.g., Little Planet series for young children, Sherlock Holmes and Jasper in middle grades). These anchored instruction projects enabled teachers to differentiate instruction to build academic knowledge and optimize students’ experiential knowledge and interests.

Vicki and colleagues published investigations of the impact of teaching reflection as a problem solving process on enhanced instructional decision-making and a critical analysis of teacher education reflection research. She and co-authors completed critical analyses of published research on preparing teachers to teach reading, identifying features of teacher education programs that support prospective teachers' development in the areas of teacher reflection and applications of pedagogical knowledge within teaching situations. This work contributed to the IRA policy statement, Teaching Well (IRA, 2007).

Currently, Vicki and her colleagues at Vanderbilt University are conducting a series of investigations to examine reading comprehension instructional supports for English Learners. They are publishing research that documents the effects of Translate, as an instructional method that engages students’ in the use of their first language to support reading comprehension of texts written in English.

Vicki’s most recent book, Be that Teacher! Breaking the Cycle for Struggling Readers (2012) co-authored with Doris Walker-Dalhouse is published by Teachers College Press. She is author/coauthor of papers published in Reading Research Quarterly, The Reading Teacher, Language Arts, and Journal of Literacy Research among other journals, and research handbooks. Vicki has received teaching and research awards, including the NY Chancellors Award for Outstanding Teaching, a Distinguished Research in Education Award from the Association of Teacher Educators, the A. B. Herr Award and Laureate Award for distinguished contributions to reading education and research from the College Reading Association, and Literary Award for distinguished leadership and contributions to global literacy from IRA. In May 2011, she was inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame.