Elizabeth Baker, who joined the MU faculty in 1996, is a professor of literary studies in the Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum in the MU College of Education. Inspired by her past work as a second-grade teacher in an economically disadvantaged school, Baker now seeks to help teachers transform their students’ lives through literacy. Her graduate students say that Baker is able to connect with them because of her varied teaching styles and interactive methods.
“Dr. Baker works closely with students to help them challenge themselves as well as develop intellectually,” said Stephen Witzig, who studied under Baker as a doctoral student before accepting a position as an assistant professor of science education at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. “She develops a classroom culture that is very exciting, facilitates teamwork and dynamic dialogues among students, and is very genuine and approachable. She routinely poses questions that make us stop and reevaluate a previously held idea; this creates an environment where we are happy to share and debate ideas openly and helps further develop our critical thinking skills.”
Baker believes that literacy is rapidly changing and has developed four graduate courses to help students understand the critical need to shift literacy instruction from traditional reading and writing skills to those required in a more technologically advanced culture. In these courses, she extensively uses transformative technology, such as social networks, emails, text messages and podcasts, to prepare her students for real-world classroom application.
“I am not sure how to succinctly capture the effective, innovative, insightful and varied pedagogies and technologies Dr. Baker employs in her courses,” said John Lannin, chair of the Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum. “Dr. Baker has more than 100 pages of collected comments from students who now teach at all levels of education about how her courses, her effective teaching methods, and her innovative uses of technology have revolutionized their understanding of literacy, literacy instruction and qualitative research methods.”
In addition to courses in her subject area, Baker also spearheaded a college-wide effort to prepare doctoral students to conduct qualitative research that resulted in a two-semester sequence of courses taken by students from a broad range of fields, including nursing, educational leadership, theater and social work. Baker received the Excellence in Teaching with Technology Award for Graduate Teaching from MU in 2010; national and international awards for excellence in teaching, learning and technology in 2011; and the highest award given by the University of Missouri System, the President’s Award for Innovative Teaching, in 2012.
“Betsy’s innovative use of technology, integration of cases into teacher education, and emphasis on assignments that are useful to her students beyond her courses have all led me to reflect on my own teaching practices in important ways,” said Deborah Hanuscin, an associate professor at the MU Science Education Center. “She also has encouraged me to think more broadly about how my own courses are part of a larger program of study, and how the work students do in my course prepares them for future successes as both teachers and scholars.”
Baker received a bachelor’s degree from Furman University in elementary education and a master’s degree and doctorate from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in reading education and literacy studies.