Key Professional Appointments

ProfessorCurriculum and Instruction, University of Illinois, 2002 - present

Academic Leadership Program FellowCouncil on Institutional Cooperation, 2003 - 2004

Associate ProfessorCurriculum and Instruction, University of Illinois, 1997 - 2002

Center for Advanced Study FellowUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1997 - 1998

Assistant ProfessorCurriculum and Instruction, University of Illinois, 1991 - 1997

Faculty FellowCollege of Education, 1995 - 1996


Ph.D., Education, Ohio State University, 1990

M.A., Education, Ohio State University, 1975

B.S., Elementary Education, Kent State University, 1974

Awards, Honors, Associations

Recipient, Fulbright Scholar AwardInstitute of International Education, 2013 - 2013

Recipient, College of Education, Distinguished Teaching Career Award2010 - 2012

University Distinguished Teacher/ScholarUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2002 - 2003

Campus Award for Excellence in Guiding Undergraduate ResearchUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2001 - 2001

Campus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate TeachingHonorable MentionUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2000 - 2000

University Scholar AwardUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2000 - 2000

Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching AwardCollege of Education, 2000 - 2000

Distinguished Scholar AwardCollege of Education, 1999 - 1999

Outstanding ResearcherAmerican Educational Research Association, 1998 - 1998

Research & Service

My research interests are drawn from critical theory and applied to the history of literacy, trends and issues in reading research preservice literacy education. My research projects have focused on: the application of a critical pedagogy in preservice teacher education courses that use multicultural literature, the history of African American Literacy, and a critical history of literacy in the United States.

My current projects include a naturalistic study of a critically framed preservice literacy course and a ethnohistorical study of the Calhoun Colored School.

A goal for my current and future research is to apply understandings and knowledge through the application of critical theory to help create more democratic, emancipatory, and socially just schooling environments.


Willis, A. (2008) Reading comprehension research and testing in the US: Undercurrents of race, class, and power in the struggle for meaning.. Lawrence Erlbaum: Mahwah, NJ

Willis, A., Montovan, M., Burke, L., Hunter, C., Herrera, A., & Hall, H. (2008) On critically conscious research: Approaches to language and literacy research.. Teachers College Press: New York

Willis, A. (2007) Critical race theory and literacy. Encyclopedia of language and education Springer Science + Business Media: New York

Willis, A., & Harris, V. (2003) Afterword. Multicultural issues in literacy research and practice Erlbaum: Mahwah, NJ

Willis, A., Garcia, G., Barrera, R., & Harris, V. (2003) Multicultural issues in literacy research and practice.. Erlbaum: Mahwah, NJ

Willis, A. (2002) Literacy at Calhoun Colored School, 1892-1943 Reading Research Quarterly 37 (1), 8-44

Merchant, B., & Willis, A. (2001) Multiple and intersecting identities in qualitative research.. Erlbaum: Mahwah, NJ

Willis, A. (2001) Rocks in the brook: A teacher educator's self study. Reconceptualizing literacy in the new age of pluralism and multiculuralism JAI Press: Greenwich, CT

Willis, A., & Harris, V. (2000) Political acts: Literacy learning and teaching Reading Research Quarterly 35 (1), 72-88

Willis, A., & Johnson, J. (2000) A horizon of possibilities: A critical framework for transforming multiethnic literature instruction. Reading Online 4 (3) link >

Willis, A. (1998) (1998). Teaching and using multicultural literature in grades 9-12: Moving beyond the canon.. Christopher-Gordon: Norwood, MA

Willis, A., & Harris, V. (1997) Expanding the boundaries: A reaction to the First Grade Reading Studies Reading Research Quarterly 32 (4), 439-445

Willis, A. (1995) Reading the world: Contextualizing the school literacy experiences of a young African-American male Harvard Educational Review 65 (1), 30-49


Co-EditorAmerican Educational Research Association, 2010 - 2013

Vice PresidentVice President, Literacy Research Association, 2012 - 2012

Vice-President ElectLiteracy Research Association, 2011 - 2011

PresidentNational Conference on Research in Language and Literacy, 2008 - 2009

Funding Board MemberDissertation Fellowship Program, The Spencer Foundation, 2002 - 2003

Associate EditorThe New Advocate, 2002 - 2003

ReviewerInstitute of Education Sciences, 2002 - 2002


Tchg Diverse High School Stu Examines the curriculum and philosophy of teaching students in high school grades. Students will focus on a number of related topics including teaching a diverse student population, including all students in instruction, using technology for teaching high school English, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies and alternative means of assessing students' learning. Seminar content will be integrated with coursework in instructional technology, assessment, and special education with high school students. Coursework is integrated with a high school field experience. Course Information: 3 undergraduate hours. 3 graduate hours. Prerequisite: CI 402. Requires concurrent enrollment in EPSY 485 and SPED 405.

Tchg and Assessing Sec Sch Stu Emphasizes the practical application of theory and recommended practices for developing curriculum, teaching, and assessing learning in the middle and senior high school years. Course Information: 4 undergraduate hours. 4 graduate hours. Prerequisite: CI 403. Concurrent enrollment in EDPR 442 required.

Tchg Reading in Grades 4-12 Examines current literacy practices beyond the primary grades including factors related to reading comprehension, vocabulary development, fluency, and motivation. Includes issues related to diversity and ESL related to teaching reading. Course Information: 3 undergraduate hours. 2 or 4 graduate hours. Prerequisite: EPSY 201; junior standing or consent of instructor.

Issues and Development in Educ Seminar course on topics not treated by regularly scheduled courses; requests for initiation may be made by students or faculty member. Course Information: 2 to 4 undergraduate hours. 2 to 4 graduate hours. Approved for both letter and S/U grading. May be repeated to a maximum of 8 hours. Prerequisite: Junior standing.

Transformative Literacy Intensive examination of problems and trends in the subject fields. Course Information: May be repeated to a maximum of 8 hours.

Issues & Trends in Reading The timing of beginning reading, the influence of certain linguistic findings on methodology and terminology in instructional materials, and the influence of research on methodology are addressed in a way that provides a historical perspective for evaluating the merit of emerging issues and trends. Course Information: Prerequisite: CI 475 and CI 476 or equivalent, or consent of instructor.

Arlette Willis

Professor, Curriculum & Instruction



307 Education Building
1310 S. Sixth St.
Champaign, IL 61820

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