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Kathy Ganske

Professor of the Practice; retired, Department of Teaching and Learning

Kathy Ganske’s research interests focus on word study practices and vocabulary development, writing instruction, and teacher development/literacy change, especially in elementary classroom settings. Pursuing an abiding interest in helping teachers to leverage word study instruction to increase student learning and engagement, she is currently exploring a word study intervention in primary grades that aims to promote students’ knowledge of vocabulary, including academic vocabulary, as well as English orthography through cognitive engagement and talk. She’s also exploring non-traditional methods of developing children’s vocabulary knowledge. Another of her research interests is children’s writing development and ways to increase teacher’s knowledge and confidence for engaging students in effective writing instruction. Teachers as writers is a keystone of this latter work. A final area of her research relates to teacher change and professional development, especially as these relate to schools with high populations of students of poverty or students who are having difficulty achieving literacy success. Dr. Ganske’s research and scholarship draw on a rich background of classroom teaching experience across the elementary grades, her past involvement as a Fellow of the National Writing Project, and her professional development/coaching work with teachers.

She received her Ph.D. in Reading Education from the University of Virginia in 1994. Her work at the Curry School and McGuffey Reading Center was impactful in instilling in her the critical awareness that coming to understand each student’s literacy development is very empowering, as it enables teachers to make informed decisions about students’ literacy learning needs and to meet those needs, regardless of the curricular program. This insight led to her research and development of the Developmental Spelling Analysis—DSA, a means to enable teachers to more easily understand students' orthographic knowledge.

Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, she was a professor of literacy at Oberlin College in Ohio and at Rowan University in New Jersey. She is current chair of the American Educational Research Association Vocabulary Special Interest Group and a board member of Ride for Reading. Dr. Ganske is the author or coauthor/editor of numerous books on word study, writing, comprehension, and struggling readers and writers and of various articles, book chapters, and webinars.


Recent Publications


Word Sorts and More: Sound, Pattern, and Meaning Explorations, K-3 (2nd edition)

Word Journeys: Assessment-Guided Phonics, Spelling, and Vocabulary Instruction (2nd edition)

Write Now! Empowering Writers in Today’s K-6 Classrooms


Book Chapters:

“Best Practices in Vocabulary Instruction” (in press)

“Multigenre Projects: Building Knowledge, Motivation, Collaboration, and Writing Expertise in Grades 4-6”



“SAIL: A Framework for Promoting Next Generation Word Study” (2016, The Reading Teacher)

“Small-Group Word Study: Instructional Conversations or Mini-Interrogations?” (with R. Jocius, Language Arts).