Jessica  Whitelaw Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Jessica Whitelaw

University of Pennsylvania

I began my career as a middle school and secondary literacy teacher and literacy coach where I sought inclusive pedagogies, collaborative learning communities, and ways to critically engage students in inquiry. I carry forward these interests to my university teaching and educational research where I explore the intersections of literacy, inquiry, critical theory and the arts.


Jessica Whitelaw is a former middle school teacher and literacy coach/co-ordinator who lectures in the Reading/Writing/Literacy division at University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. She received her B.A. from Mount Allison University in Canada; her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction/Literacy Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder; and her Ph.D. in Reading/Writing/Literacy from The University of Pennsylvania. Throughout her work in schools and the university she has been committed to working with teachers and students to engage the imagination and the arts as ways of informing and transforming a critical agenda. Her research and teaching interests include arts-based inquiry, literacy, critical feminist epistemologies, teacher learning, and literature for children and youth. She received the Outstanding Dissertation Award from The American Education Association’s Arts and Learning Special Interest Group in 2015 for her work examining intersections between the arts and literacy. Across her teaching and research she explores arts-based approaches to centering the arts in the social and intellectual activity of everyday school life with a commitment to inquiry, joy, and justice.

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    literacy education, the arts and learning, literature for children and young adults, teacher education, teacher learning and leadership, feminist epistemologies, critical pedagogy, social justice education, inquiry

Personal Interests

    picturebooks, literature, collage, painting and drawing, paper, the art of the book, sculpture, ceramics, architecture, fibre, childhood, youth, salvage, the environment


Featured Title
 Featured Title - Arts-Based Teaching and Learning in the Literacy Classroom - 1st Edition book cover


English Education

'Like new school’: (Re)framing literacy through art as story in an arts-based high school

Published: Oct 01, 2017 by English Education
Authors: Jessica Whitelaw

In this article I offer art as story as a pedagogical framework that challenges a pervasive de-aesthetification of English learning, expanding interpretive possibility and altering how students view the texts in and of their lives, framing more democratic, critical, and relational practices. Art as story frames a central role for the arts in English class, not just as a tool for engagement, pleasure, or as a conduit of learning transfer, but as the material for ongoing critical inquiry.


Beyond the bedtime story: In search of epistemic possibility and the innovative potential of disquieting picturebooks

Published: Jan 15, 2017 by Bookbird
Authors: Jessica Whitelaw
Subjects: Education, Literature, Art & Visual Culture

In this article I consider the innovative potential of disquieting picturebooks to catalyze critical inquiry. I examine five international picturebooks that take up sites of struggle in different locations and posit that each offers a different epistemic invitation to readers: embracing ambiguity; opening to hurt; pausing for interruption; witnessing resistance; and hearing silences.


Review of “The graphic novel: An introduction” by Jan Baetens & Hugo Frey

Published: Oct 15, 2015 by Bookbird
Authors: Jessica Whitelaw
Subjects: Literature, Art & Visual Culture

Literature for children and youth has undergone a shape-shifting in the past half a century borrowing features of the graphic novel in picturebooks and novels (Persepolis A Different Pond and Jane, the Fox, and Me are just two examples). In the spirit of the pioneering work of McCloud (1993) and Eisner (1985), this book provides a conceptual framing and lexicon that will be useful to readers interested in the influence of the graphic novel on children’s literature.