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Faculty & Research

Catherine Snow

Patricia Albjerg Graham Professor of Education

Catherine Snow

Degree:  Ph.D., McGill University, (1971)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Phone:  617.495.3563
Fax:  617.495.5771
Vitae/CV:   Catherine Snow.pdf
Office:  Larsen 313
Faculty Assistant:  Andrena Mason


Catherine Snow is an expert on language and literacy development in children, focusing on how oral language skills are acquired and how they relate to literacy outcomes. Her current research activities include a study of how Boston Public School early childhood classrooms are supporting children's development, and participation in a long-standing research-practice partnership (the Strategic Education Research Partnership, SERP) that is developing curricular tools to support teachers in introducing innovative classroom practices. Word Generation, a discussion-based academic language and literacy program developed by SERP, has been shown to improve middle-school literacy outcomes, in particular for students from language-minority homes. 

Click here to see a full list of Catherine Snow's courses.

Areas of Expertise
Morningstar Teaching Award, Harvard Graduate School of Education,(2004)

Honorary Degree, University of Nijmegen,(2003)

Carnegie Corporation of New York, Institute for Statewide Literacy Initiatives,(2002)

Charles A. Ferguson Fellow, Center for Applied Linguistics,(2001)

Spencer Senior Scholar Award,(1999)

American Educational Research Association (AERA) Grant

Sponsored Projects

Un Buen Comienzo, An Initiative to Improve Preschool Education in Chile - Phase III (2017-2018)
Fundacion Educacional Oportunidad

Since 2011, the UBC Project has been implemented in 110 schools in the VI Region and Metropolitan Regions. Through a 2-year professional development program that incorporates continuous quality improvement methods, UBC provides classroom teams and school leaders training and in-classroom coaching to maximize language instructional strategies, instructional time, effective interactions and attendance. Thus, the UBC + CQI Implementation is faithful to the original program design developed by the Fundación Educacional Oportunidad (OFE) and HGSE, with incorporation of new elements to strengthen the program: 1. Reinforcing the work with the school administrative teams to promote institutionalization of the UBC strategies. 2. Introduction of the ‘continuous quality improvement’ (CQI) approach to improve local relevance and sustainability. CQI requires regular collection, analysis, and transmission of data relevant to the implementation, testing and ongoing evaluation of the program. The evaluation activities are designed to provide feedback and guidance to the implementation teams, to evaluate impact and to assess learning and harvest successful innovations. This approach is novel in Chile and in education globally. 3. Innovation of content-related expertise related to instructional strategies, effective interactions and curriculum development. This grant will enable Chilean early childhood educators to benefit maximally from the research: 1. Extending the UBC-CQI work to the point where it can be continued with minimal external support in the 28 schools where we are now working. 2. Processing and reporting data from UBC-CQI classrooms to evaluate the effectiveness of the approach and factors related to variations in its effectiveness. 3. Developing professional development materials for introducing and implementing research-based approaches to ensure quality in the Chilean early childhood education context more broadly; one option is an online open-school type of resource, first in Spanish and then in English, potentially partnering with IHI or the Carnegie Foundation 4. Defining the parameters for establishing the Foundation as the Latin American Center of Expertise on best practices to improve Early Child Development through professional development using CQI

ExCEL P-3: Promoting Sustained Gains from Preschool to Third Grade (2016-2021)
Laura and John Arnold Foundation

MDRC is conducting the ExCEL P-3: Promoting Sustained Growth from Preschool to Third Grade Study which will study how instruction across K1, K2, and early elementary school grades can strength children’s cognitive and social emotional skills. Professors Catherine Snow and Lesaux will be responsible for: •Conceptualizing how to analyze the data collected about opportunities to learn within Boston Public Schools and community based (CB) classrooms to identify and distinguish supports for constrained vs. unconstrained skills (Snow) •Ensuring that the kinds of classroom fidelity and quality data collected are aligned with the goals and specifications of the 1st and 2nd grade curricula being implemented (Lesaux) •Strategizing to ensure that the data are collected and interpreted in ways that take into account the developmental trajectories of Dual Language Learners as well as native English speakers (Snow and Lesaux) •Participating in the writing of reports and manuscripts based on the findings (Snow and Lesaux) •Contribute expertise, review and provide feedback on the development of fidelity observation protocols and measures (Lesaux and Snow) •Participating in planning and carrying out data collection focused on child assessments (Snow and Lesaux)

Supporting Early Learning from Preschool Through Elementary School Grades: Research Network Proposal (2016-2021)

The research team will work in collaboration with Boston Public Schools to identify policies, classroom-level factors, and school experiences that are associated with children's school success during pre-k and early elementary school grades. The researchers will collect qualitative and quantitative data to address three issues: 1) How students' cumulative experiences within and across settings affect their development over time 2) How students' characteristics and skills interact dynamically with the settings in which they find themselves 3) How these interactions shape children's experiences and developmental trajectories. The researchers theorize that sustaining pre-k gains, optimizing learning in K–3 (regardless of pre-k experiences), and acquiring excellent academic, cognitive, and social-emotional skills by the end of third grade will depend on which skills have been targeted and how.

Investigating the Effectiveness of the iRead Shared Book Reading Intervention for Young Children (2016-2018)
Shenzhen iRead Non-Profit Foundation

iRead Foundation has appointed Professor Catherine Snow as the Principal Investigator to design and carry out evaluation for the effectiveness of this intervention. Si Chen, a postdoc fellow at HGSE supervised by Professor Snow, has been recruited as the Project Manager. The evaluation design, in brief, will coordinate with iRead to randomly assign 3,000 parents in an intervention group and 3,000 in a control group. Parents in the intervention group will receive books and training, while parents in the control group will wait for half a year. During the first half year, the research team will measure language, social and cognitive development of the children and book reading skills of parents in both groups to estimate the effectiveness of the intervention. The research team will also analyze user logs and self-report user experience to assess the fidelity of the program. The research team will focus on the following three questions: 1) Does iRead Intervention improve language skills (vocabulary and narrative) of young children? 2) Does iRead Intervention improve other developmental skills (social skills and cognitive skills) of young children? 3) Does iRead Intervention improve book reading skills of parents?

National Research and Development Center for English Language Learners (2012-2012)
University of Houston

Catalyzing comprehension through Discussion debate (2010-2015)
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences

Harvard Graduate School of Education will work with the Strategic Education Research Partnership and other partners to complete a program of work designed to a) investigate the predictors of reading comprehension in 4th-8th grade students, in particular the role of skills at perspective-taking, complex reasoning, and academic language in predicting deep comprehension outcomes, b) track developmental trajectories across the middle grades in perspective-taking, complex reasoning, academic language skill, and deep comprehension, c) develop and evaluate curricular and pedagogical approaches designed to promote deep comprehension in the content areas in 4th-8th grades, and d) develop and evaluate an intervention program designed for 6th-8th grade students reading at 3rd-4th grade level.The HGSE team will take responsibility, in collaboration with colleagues at other institutions, for the following components of the proposed work:Instrument development: Pilot data collection using interviews and candidate assessment items, collaboration with DiscoTest colleagues to develop coding of the pilot data so as to produce well-justified learning sequences for perspective-taking, complex reasoning, academic language skill, and deep comprehension.Curricular development: HGSE investigators Fischer, Selman, Snow, and Uccelli will contribute to the development of a discussion-based curriculum for 4th-5th graders, and to the expansion of an existing discussion-based curriculum for 6th-8th graders, with a particular focus on science content (Fischer), social studies content (Selman), and academic language skills (Snow & Uccelli).Curriculum implementation: HGSE investigators Fischer, Selman, Snow and Uccelli will be heavily involved in conceptualizing professional development, fidelity and quality of implementation instruments, and monitoring of implementation for the 4th-8th grade curricular enhancements.Evaluation of curricular enhancements: HGSE investigators Jones and Kim, together with a data manager and a small team of doctoral students, will conduct the design and analysis associated with the school-level random-assignment evaluation of the 4th-8th grade curriculum innovations. Harvard doctoral and master’s students will collect the data needed for the evaluation study, under the supervision of a project manager who is a SERP employee.Development/implementation of SARI intervention: HGSE investigator Jennifer Thomson will collaborate with Wheelock-based investigator Lowry Hemphill to expand and extend the SARI intervention for struggling readers, and to oversee the implementation of the program.Evaluation of SARI intervention: HGSE investigators Kim and Jones together with a data manager and a small team of doctoral students, will conduct the design and analysis associated with the student-level random-assignment evaluation of the SARI intervention. Production of papers and reports: The entire HGSE team, including the postdoctoral fellow, will take responsibility for conducting analyses needed to answer the central research questions, writing up reports and articles for publication, making presentations, and making the curricular and intervention programs shown to be effective publicly available.

Snow, C.E., Griffin, P., Burns, M.S. and the NAE Subcommittee on Teaching Reading. Knowledge to support the teaching of reading: Preparing teachers for a changing world. Jossey-Bass.,(2005)

Sweet, A. & Snow, C.E. (Editors). Rethinking Reading Comprehension. New York: The Guilford Press.,(2003)

Strickland, D., Snow, C., Griffin, P., Burns, M.S., and McNamara, P. Preparing our teachers: opportunities for better reading instruction. Washington, DC: J. Henry Press.,(2002)

Blum-Kulka, S. & Snow, C.E. (Editors). Talking to adults. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.,(2002)

Adger, C. T., Snow, C. E., & Christian, D. (Editors). What Teachers Need to Know About Language. Washington, DC, and McHenry, IL: Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems Co., Inc.,(2002)

Ready, T., Edley, C. Jr., & Snow, C.E. (Editors). Achieving high educational standards for all. Washington DC: National Academy Press.,(2001)

Verhoeven, L. & Snow, C.E. (Editors). Motivation and reading: Cultural and social perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.,(2001)

Burns, M.S., Griffin, P., & Snow, C.E. (Editors). Starting out right: A guide to promoting children’s reading success. Washington DC: National Academy Press.,(1999)

Snow, C.E., Burns, S. & Griffin, P. (Editors). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.,(1998)

Ninio, A. & Snow, C.E. Pragmatic Development. Boulder: Westview Press.,(1996)

Sokolov, J.L. & Snow, C.E. (Editors). Handbook of research in language development using CHILDES. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.,(1994)

Snow, C.E., Barnes, W.S., Chandler, J., Hemphill, L., and Goodman, I.F. Unfulfilled expectations: Home and school influences on literacy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.,(1991)

Conti-Ramsden, G. & Snow, C.E. (Editors). Children's language: Volume 7. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.,(1990)

Cazden, C. & Snow, C.E. (Issue editors). English plus: Issues in bilingual education. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 508.,(1990)

Snow, C.E. (Issue editor). The social context: Language development and language disorders. Topics in Language Disorders, Vol. 4, No. 4, September.,(1984)

Waterson, N. and Snow, C.E. (Editors). The development of communication. London: John Wiley.,(1978)

Snow, C.E. and Ferguson, C.A. (Editors). Talking to children: Language input and acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.,(1977)

Tervoort, B., van der Geest, A., Hubers, G., Prins, R., and Snow, C.E Psycholinguistiek (Psycholinguistics). Aula paperback 481, Amsterdam: Het Spectrum.,(1972)

Chair, RAND Reading Study Group,(2000-2002)

Editor, Applied Psycholinguistics,(1984-2002)

President, American Educational Research Association,(1999-2000)

Chair, Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children, National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences

Cofounder, Child Language Data Exchange System

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