6 min read

On our podcast, Dr. Jeff Kloha, chief curatorial officer, interviewed Rev. Dr. Jennifer Jones Powell, full-time minister and adjunct professor of literacy education in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership at Radford University.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and space. To get the full interview, listen using the video player above or listen to the episode on our podcast, Today at Museum of the Bible, or on our YouTube channel.

Jeff Kloha: Jennifer, thanks for joining us today. What brings you to the museum?

Jennifer Jones Powell: I currently serve on a team—a wonderful group of people—who are planning the Educator Conference, which will take place here in July.

Jeff: Great. The Educator Conference is July 26–27, information is on our website. What's the focus this year?

Jennifer: The focus is archaeology, as well as historian work, in digging deeper into the world of the Bible.

Jeff: Excellent. So, literacy and the Bible—it's kind of a long history with that question and especially [since] the time of the Reformation [and] the move toward literacy so people could read the Bible. Is that still a relevant topic today? Is there any relationship between literacy and the Bible or any role that the Bible has in promoting literacy?

Jennifer: Sure. I think I will say for me personally, that was one of the reasons I went into literacy education. I saw a video clip of a woman who couldn't read very well and she cried and said, “I'd like to be able to read my Bible without having to depend on someone else to tell me what it says.” That fueled me to dig deeper into the world of literacy to empower people with the ability to do just that.

Jeff: I think a lot of people just take it for granted. So what are the realities today around literacy, the challenges?

Jennifer: It is a very real issue and sometimes we think because we all learn to read, it should be easy to teach. But, as it's been said in our field, reading is rocket science. It is a cognitive science, how the brain works, how the brain processes sounds and letters and puts those together to make meaning. And for some kids, we have to be really intentional in the way we approach teaching reading for that reason. 

. . .

Jeff: Some of your research has been in an area called, “Response to Intervention.” What is that and what's helpful about it?

Jennifer: Response to Intervention is often, in the educational world, referred to as RTI. RTI is a form of framework or an approach to student learning focused on making sure all students—not just the ones who are struggling, but [also] those that are kind of middle of the ground and those who are excelling—that everyone is on an upward trajectory in their learning. So, no one is getting left behind along the way. When a kid starts to go down, that's when an intervention is needed. An intervention is intended to disrupt that decline and push it back in the right direction. I guess the crux of RTI is that we don't want kids to fail before we jump in and start helping. I sort of equate RTI to putting a fence at the top of the cliff instead of an ambulance at the bottom. When we see that a child is starting to turn downward in their learning—in my case, literacy—then we want to jump in with some interventions. And that requires us to change the way we're teaching or change our approaches, maybe the texts that we're using to try to help get them back on track. And we monitor that really carefully. And when we see that they're back on track, then we shift again. It's a process of constant data collection and monitoring.

Jeff: Monitoring, knowing where students are at.

Jennifer: Yes. My research in the field has been really focused on teachers, school systems, and how knowledgeable they are about this framework and how they effectively put it into place because it involves a lot.

This excerpt is from an episode of Today at Museum of the Bible. Listen to the whole interview on SpotifyApple PodcastsiHeart RadioYouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts.

To learn more about this year’s Educator Conference hosted at Museum of the Bible, visit our page and see all the details.

Published June 27, 2024
6 min read