James Collins

Professor Emeritus

Professor Emeriti

 588 Baldy Hall
 (716) 645-5009
  (716) 645-3161
 jcollins@buffalo.edu


Writing and the Teaching of Writing
Reading/Writing Relations
Literacy Instruction for Struggling Learners
English Education
Reading, Writing and Learning
Research on the Teaching of Literacy

Jump to Publications

Jim regularly teaches a course called “Language, Cognition, and Writing” which focuses on reading-writing-thinking relations and how reading and writing can be brought together to improve learning. Jim also teaches formative and design research in the English Language Arts, language variation and literacy, and discourse analysis. Throughout his teaching, as in his research, Jim places emphasis on helping students who have difficulty with school-sponsored learning, especially literacy learning.

Jim’s Masters degree at the University of Massachusetts was supported by a fellowship on Teaching English to the Urban Disadvantaged, and this was the start of his career-long interest in helping students in low-performing schools. Jim developed a strong interest in literacy and the teaching of literacy during his ten years as a high school English teacher, and this interest has supported his research ever since. Jim taught in a large city in Massachusetts, and just about daily he would wonder why his students had so much difficulty using reading and writing as instruments of thought and expression. Since coming to the University at Buffalo in 1979, his pursuit of answers to that question has resulted in seven books and more than two hundred chapters, articles, papers, and research reports.

Increasingly over the past decade Jim has focused his research on reading-writing relations, and especially on how writing can be used to enhance learning and reading comprehension. With his colleague Jaekyung Lee, he received a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, for a study called “Writing Intensive Reading Comprehension” (WIRC) to examine the efficacy of using writing to improve reading comprehension in low-performing urban schools. In this research he developed and tested strategies presented in the form of thinksheets⎯step-by-step guides to writing about reading which teachers use interactively with students⎯to help fourth- and fifth-graders write about their reading.

What excites Jim most about his work is getting into schools and helping teachers solve real problems with the teaching and learning of literacy skills. In the four years prior to the WIRC research he led a project which helped urban teachers improve writing instruction using a method called “Six Traits” for its emphasis on six key aspects of writing: Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, and Conventions. This project was sponsored by the Western New York Regional School Support Center at Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services, and it trained more than 1,000 teachers.

Throughout his research and teaching Jim has worked with teachers who are focused and energetic, and the research problems he has targeted have been anchored in real classroom issues and concerns and real difficulties kids encounter.

Educational Background

  • Ed.D., University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Professional Interests

  • Writing and the Teaching of Writing
  • Reading Writing Relations
  • Literacy and Technology
  • Low-Performing Learners
  • Jim's most recent book is Building Struggling Students' Higher Level Literacy: Practical Ideas, Powerful Solutions, co-edited with Tom Gunning and published by the International Reading Association. His current writing focuses on reporting the results and implications of the Writing Intensive Reading Comprehension study.

Write 2 Read 2 Write
Jim was Principal Investigator on a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences for a study called "Writing Intensive Reading Comprehension" (WIRC). The study examined the efficacy of using writing to improve reading comprehension in low-performing urban schools. Jaekyung Lee was Co-PI on this project.

Related Links

At Rest

Jim enjoys running, hiking, woodworking, and watching the Red Sox. He especially enjoys his family and grandchildren.






Awards

Computerworld Smithsonian 1999 Information Technology Innovator's Award, Smithsonian Institution, April 12, 1999 (awarded to the Evans-Brant, University at Buffalo Apple Education Grant, co-directed by James L. Collins).

Distinguished Professor Award, Graduate Student Association of the Department of Learning and Instruction, 1997 and 2005.

Books

Collins, James L. & Gunning, Thomas G. (Eds.). (2009). Building Struggling Students' Higher Level Literacy: Practical Ideas, Powerful Solutions. International Reading Association.

Collins, James L. (1998). Strategies for Struggling Writers. New York: Guilford Publications, 1998.

Collins, James L. (Ed.). (1992). Vital Signs 3: Restructuring the English Classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann-Boynton/Cook, 1992.

Collins, James L. (Ed.). (1991). Vital Signs 2: Teaching and Learning Language Collaboratively. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann-Boynton/Cook.

Collins, James L. (Ed.). Vital Signs 1: Bringing Together Reading and Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann-Boynton/Cook, 1990.

Collins, James L. and Elizabeth A. Sommers (Eds.). (1985). Writing On-Line: Using Computers in the Teaching of Writing. Upper Montclair, NJ: Boynton/Cook.

Collins, James L. (Ed.). (1983). Teaching All the Children to Write. New York State English Council Monographs.

Selected Chapters and Articles

Collins, James L., & Madigan, T. (2009). Using thinksheets to improve higher-level literacy. In Collins, James L. & Gunning, Thomas (Eds.). Building Struggling Students' Higher Level Literacy: Practical Ideas, Powerful Solutions. International Reading Association.

Brutt-Griffler, & J. Collins, J. (2008). English as a multilingual subject: Theoretical and research perspectives. In V. Ellis, C. Fox & B. Street (Eds.), Rethinking English in Schools. London: Continuum Books.

Srihari, S., Collins, J., Srihari, R., Srinivasan, H., Shetty, S., & Brutt-Griffler, J. (2008). Automatic scoring of short handwritten essays in reading comprehension tests. Artificial Intelligence, 172, 2-3 (Feb. 2008).

Srihari, S. N., Collins, J., Srihari, R. K., Babu, P. & Srinivasan H. “Automatic Scoring of Handwritten Essays using Latent Semantic Analysis.” Document Analysis Systems VII, H. Bunke and L. Spitz (eds.). Springer, Nelson, New Zealand. February 2006, pp. 71-83.

Collins, Jim, Cook-Cottone, Catherine, Robinson, Judith, & Sullivan, Roberta (Robin) Technology and New Directions in Professional Development: Applications of Digital Video, Peer Review, and Self-Reflection. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 33. 2, 2004.

Blue, Elfreda. and James L. Collins, "Learning to Co-Construct Critical Learning Processes in an Urban School-University Partnership." Urban Education, 32, 5, January, 1998.

Collins, James L. "Reuniting Grammar and Composition." In R. L. Larson & H. T. McCracken with J. Entes (Eds.), Teaching College English and English Education, Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1998.

Collins, James L. "Strategic Writing Instruction." In Collins, James L. and Kathleen M. Collins, (Eds.), Handbook of Strategic Writing Lessons, Buffalo, NY: Graduate School of Education Publications, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1997.

Collins, James L. and Kathleen M. Collins, "Professional Development Resource Package" distributed with Writing Strategies for Struggling Writers, an international videoconference and subsequent professional development videotape. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1997.

Collins, Kathleen M. and James L. Collins, "Strategic Instruction for Struggling Writers." English Journal, 85, 6, 1996, 54-61.

Collins, James L. and Garland V. Godinho. "Help for Struggling Writers: Strategic Instruction and Social Identity Formation in High School." Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 11, 3, 1996, 177-182.

Collins, James L., "Basic Writing and the Process Paradigm." Journal of Basic Writing, 14, 2, 1995, 3-18.

Collins, James L. "Listening But Not Hearing: Patterns of Communication in an Urban School-University Partnership." In Hugh G. Petrie (Ed.), Professionalization, Partnership and Power: Building Professional Development Schools. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1995, 77-92.

Selected Newsletter Articles and Reviews

Collins, James L. "Review of Rebecca Rogers, A Critical Discourse Analysis of Family Literacy Practices: Power In and Out of Print." Anthropology and Education Quarterly, Volume 35, #2: June, 2004

Collins, James L. "Review of Ross M. Burkhardt, Writing for Real: Strategies for Engaging Adolescent Writers." Teachers College Record, Volume 106, #2, February, 2004; Online publication, www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=11159.

Collins, James L. "Review of Courtney B. Cazden, Classroom Discourse: The Language of Teaching and Learning." Teachers College Record, 195, 1, February, 2003; Online publication, www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=10937.

Selected Summary of External Funding

Writing Intensive Reading Comprehension: Effects of Comprehension Instruction With and Without Integrated Writing Instruction on Fourth and Fifth Grade Students' Reading comprehension and Writing Performance. Start September 2004, $1,500,000, USDOE, Institute for Education Sciences, Principal Investigator.

Six Traits Writing Initiative for Closing the Achievement Gap, Start-May 1, 2001, Continuing, $116,400, (four years), Western New York School Support Services, New York State Education Department, Project Director.

Project ReNewnal Through Technologies (PT3 Grant, Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology, Start June 2001, End May 2004, $410,724 (first year), USDOE, Co-author and Steering Committee member.

The Star and the Owl: An On-Line Writing Lab for Distributed Learning Among Five Stakeholders - Child, Parent, School, University and The Seneca Nation of Indians (Cattaraugus), August 1998 - June 1999. Apple Education Grant, Approximately $60,000 Equipment and service only, Co-Project Director.

Technology and Qualitative Research, June, 1998 - January, 1999. $6,000. Learning and Technology Roundtables, Office of the Provost, University at Buffalo, Co-Project Director.

Interdisciplinary Research on Sociocultural Perspectives in Literacy: A Pilot Study, June, 1996 -June, 1997, $19, 900. Multidisciplinary Research Pilot Project Program, Office of the Provost, University at Buffalo. Co-author.

Selected Presentations

Collins, J. L., (2009, December). Using thinksheets to scaffold reading, writing, and learning. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Reading Conference, Albuquerque.

Collins, J., Lee, J. & Phelps, D. (2009, June). Results of the writing intensive reading comprehension study. Poster session presented at the Institute of Education Sciences Research Conference, Washington, D.C.

Collins, J. L. (2009, March). Findings from the writing intensive reading comprehension study. Keynote address presented at the Kentucky Literacy Research Symposium, Lexington, KY. Contributors: Jaekyung Lee and Diane Phelps.

Collins, J. L. (2009, March). Bringing together reading, writing and learning: How to design and use thinksheets. Paper presented at the Kentucky Literacy Research Symposium, Lexington, KY. Contributor: Diane Phelps

Collins, J. L., & Lee, J. (2008, December). Findings from analysis of quantitative data in the WIRC study. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Reading Conference, Orlando.

Collins, J. L., Lee, J., & Phelps, D. (2008, December). Findings from analysis of qualitative data in the WIRC study. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Reading Conference, Orlando.

Collins, J., Lee, J. & Phelps, D. (2008, June). Final report of the writing intensive reading comprehension study. Poster session presented at the Institute of Education Sciences Research Conference, Washington, D.C.

Collins, J. & Lee, J, (2008). When Writing Intensive Reading Comprehension (WIRC) Works: Preliminary Results of Two-Year Experiments in Low-Performing Urban Schools. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Conference, New York, March 24, 2008.

Collins, J. & Lee, J, (2008, March). How Writing-Intensive Reading Comprehension (WIRC) Works: Insight from Qualitative Studies During Two Experiments. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Conference, New York.

Collins, J. (2007, June). Interpreting What the WIRC Data Tell Us About Reading-Writing Connections. Paper presented at the Institute of Education Sciences Research Conference, Washington, D.C.

Collins, J. L. (2006, December). Writing intensive reading, year 2: What the WIRC data tell us about reading-writing connections. Chair at the annual National Reading Conference, Los Angeles.

Lee, J., Collins, J.L., & Fox, J.D. (2006, December). How the WIRC intervention works: Evaluating evidence from the first large scale experiment. Paper presented at the annual National Reading Conference, Los Angeles.

Madigan, T.J., Collins, J.L., Brutt-Griffler, J., Babu, P., & Lee, J. (2006, December). Patterns of reading and writing connections in WIRC thinksheets and between thinksheets and literature. Paper presented at the annual National Reading Conference, Los Angeles.

Pontrello, C.M., Phelps, D.R., Collins, J.L., & Lee, J. (2006, December). Writing Intensive Reading Comprehension study: Examining fidelity. Paper presented at the annual National Reading Conference, Los Angeles.

Ryan, C.M., Crabbe, C., Collins, J.L. & Lee, J. (2006, December). Patterns of reading and writing connections in WIRC pre-and post-tests. Paper presented at the annual National Reading Conference, Los Angeles.