Research and Teaching Interests
My research and teaching is broadly focused on literacy education. I am particularly interested in young learners (preK-4) and the intersections of four areas: literacy pedagogy, children’s inquiry, children’s literary understanding of fiction and nonfiction texts, and visual literacy.
My diverse experiences as a Swarthmore student (’94), elementary teacher, researcher, and teacher educator have shaped my commitment to developing equitable educational spaces for all learners. Threaded throughout my teaching and scholarship is critical consideration of the ways in which theoretical frameworks, and concomitant educational policies and practices, for teaching and learning reading and writing shape what is considered literacy in certain contexts and, by implication, who is considered (il)literate.
For my dissertation research, I investigated the way fourth graders, who were marked struggling readers by district and state standards, initiated and reconciled sophisticated textual and conceptual inquiries when reading science information books in classroom discussion groups. This research points to the vast array of sense-making resources young children marshal during school literacy instruction and urges educators to build on these resources, rather than consider them a hindrance to teaching and learning.
As a teacher-educator, I work with teachers and teacher candidates to consider the ways in which various theoretical frameworks (e.g., literary, critical, feminist, cultural) provide lenses for understanding young students’ sense-making of traditional (i.e., books and illustrations) and nontraditional (i.e., digital and multimedia) texts in various contexts. My discussions with teachers energize my ongoing research on the role visual images play in learners’ understandings of literary and disciplinary knowledge and of self and others.
Papers and Presentations
Belfatti, M. A. (2012). Contesting nonfiction: Fourth graders making sense of words and images in science information book discussions. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
Aukerman, M., Belfatti, M. A., & Santori, D. M. (2008). Teaching and learning dialogically organized reading instruction. English Education, 40(4), 340-364.
McGuire, C. E., Belfatti, M. A., & Ghiso, M. P. (2008). “It doesn’t say how?”: Third graders’ collaborative sense-making from postmodern picturebooks. In L. R. Sipe, & S. Pantaleo (Eds.), Postmodern Picturebooks: Play, Parody, and Self-Referentiality. New York: Routledge.
Belfatti, M. A., & Ghiso, M. (2007, November). “Different people with different voices”: Collaborative sense-making from postmodern picturebooks in third grade literature group discussions. Paper presented at the National Reading Conference, Austin, TX.
Belfatti, M. A. (2006, December). Seeking certainty in the midst of a hermeneutic maelstrom: One student’s participation in dialogically organized literature group discussions. In M. Aukerman, M. A. Belfatti, C. E. McGuire, & D. M. Santori (symposium): Children as interpretive authorities in the middle elementary years. Paper presented at the National Reading Conference, Los Angeles, CA.
Aukerman, M., Belfatti, M. A., & Santori, D. (2005, November). Am I teaching comprehension? Questions and challenges as teachers move toward more dialogically organized reading instruction. Paper presented at the National Reading Conference, Miami, FL.