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Helen Johnson
Position: Professor
Research Interests: Language development and emergent literacy; language and literacy development in dual language learners; school-based prevention; home-school partnerships and parent education.

By training, I am a developmental psychologist whose doctoral studies focused on the links between language and cognition. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work in a variety of research and academic settings. Throughout, I have addressed two primary foci: 1) the fundamental structures and interactions through which children achieve communicative competence, and 2) the ways that research can inform and promote programs and policies related to education and social welfare. The courses that I teach within the Educational Psychology program reflect these two themes – Language and Communicative Development, Instructional Issues, and Developmental Psychopathology. Issues related to both communicative development and instructional issues are integrated in a seminar that I will offer this spring, Language Processes in Learning and Instruction.

As a “campus faculty member,” I have teaching responsibilities within the Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education at Queens College as well as at the Graduate Center. My work with pre- and in-service teachers at Queens College instills a highly applied, field-based orientation in my teaching and research.  One manifestation of this has been an increasing emphasis on the challenges of diversity for teachers and teacher educators. Several of the dissertations that I have or am currently supervising reflect this concern, while others address social-emotional processes operating within school settings, such as relational aggression and cyberbullying.

Currently I am examining instructional practices related to vocabulary learning and writing development, particularly in regard to second language and second dialect learners. Several student dissertations are connected to this work: Marisa Cohen’s dissertation examines the use of imagery interventions to facilitate fourth graders’ learning of vocabulary; Deborah Deitcher’s dissertation compares the effects of fiction and non-fiction shared book-reading on kindergarteners’ vocabulary learning; Caterina Almedral’s dissertation examines the impact of different types of teacher feedback on English Language Learners’ writing revisions and achievement.

Over the past two years, I have also initiated some research that addresses the inter-relations between educational and health disparities through an examination of health literacy in preschool children and their caregivers. Preliminary findings from this research have been presented at the Piaget Society, The Headstart National Research Conference, and the Citywide Infant-Toddler Conference. The latter two presentations were done jointly with students Danielle Guttman and Rachel Feigenbaum, who are now working with me on a manuscript for publication. In the future, I anticipate offering a seminar on health literacy, health communication and the psychology of prevention.