October 13, 2014 — In December Penn GSE Professor Emerita Susan Lytle will receive the Literary Research Association’s 2014 Distinguished Scholar Lifetime Achievement Award.
The award recognizes Lytle’s decades of pioneering work in literacy, teaching and teacher learning and the influence she has had on the LRA membership.
In 1986, Lytle founded the Philadelphia Writing Project. Throughout her career, she used PhilWP as the main site for much of her research. It allowed her to interact with K-12 Philadelphia teachers on topics such as teacher professionalism, teacher knowledge and community, in relation to the field of literacy theory, research and practice.
During her time working with the School District of Philadelphia, Lytle vastly expanded her understanding of urban education and teacher practice and was able to effectively translate this understanding through her research, which has had significant impact in the fields of literacy, practitioner inquiry, and teacher learning.
She began her career as a public school English teacher in Massachusetts and California, in addition to volunteering with Peace Corps in Manila, Philippines. After arriving at Penn, she began supervising secondary English interns and went on to co-hold the Joseph L. Calihan Term Chair in Education in recognition of her collaborative research on teacher inquiry.
In the late 1970’s, Lytle met Marilyn Cochran-Smith, then a doctoral candidate at Penn GSE. Cochran-Smith went on to become an important research partner. They have written together since the mid-1980’s when Lytle was beginning her deep involvement with teachers in the School District of Philadelphia and Cochran-Smith was directing Penn GSE's master's program in elementary education. They used their sites of practice—with beginning and experienced teachers-- as the source of their inquiry—raising questions about what they (and others) were learning, and publishing research that reflected the dialectic of empirical and conceptual work. During their nearly three decades of collaboration, Lytle and Smith have co-authored numerous articles, as well as Inside/Outside: Teacher Research and Knowledge and Inquiry as Stance: Practitioner Research in the Next Generation, for which they have received national awards. Cochran-Smith, currently the Cawthorne Chair in Teacher Education for Urban Schools at Boston College, is a co-recipient of this year’s Distinguished Scholar Lifetime Achievement Award.
Lytle has also published widely in the field of literacy and is co-editor of the Practitioner Inquiry Series for Teachers College Press. The LRA Award is particularly meaningful to Lytle as students and faculty in the Reading/Writing/Literacy division have been active and significant contributors to the organization over many years.
PhilWP continues to be a space of exploration and inquiry with a network over 700 educators in the greater Philadelphia region. Lytle continues to support PhilWP in numerous ways, including serving as vice chair of the project’s advisory board.