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Blaire Willson Toso

Blaire Willson Toso
Research Associate
Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy
Penn State
401D Keller Building
University Park, PA 16802


Research Interests
Blaire’s research interests focus on the ways that literacy, schooling and the accompanying discourses shape adult learners’ agency and literacy practices, and vice versa. Her work highlights how literacy and the added benefits of attending classes assist immigrant mothers in negotiating local institutions and communities. A further interest is the role adult and family literacy programs play in developing parent leadership and voice.


2010    Ph. D. Adult Education; Minor, Women’s Studies

The Pennsylvania State University, University Park

1989    Master of Arts, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

Monterey Institute of International Studies, Monterey

1987    Bachelor of Arts, Spanish Literature

University of California, San Diego


2010–Present  Research Associate

Goodling Institute for Research on Family Literacy, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

2008–2010      Literacy Specialist

Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy, The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, Pennsylvania

2005–2008      Research Assistant

Goodling Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

Other               Research and Training Specialist (UGLMRC, U of WI, Madison), Program Director/Instructor for ESL and Bilingual Education Licensure Program (Hamline University), Adult ESL Teacher, Curriculum Writer.

Professional Service

·         Editor, Conference Proceedings, National Conference on Family Literacy (2012).

·         Reviewer, Articles, Adult Basic Education and Literacy Journal (2011).

·         Reviewer, Articles, International Journal about Parents in Education (2011).

·         Reviewer, Grant Proposals, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (2011).

·         Reviewer, Paper Proposals, American Education Research Association Annual Meeting, Adult Literacy and Adult Education Special Interest Group (2011).

·         Reviewer, Paper Proposals, National Conference on Family Literacy, Research Strand (2011, 2012). 

·         Reviewer, Paper Proposals, Women’s Graduate Student’s Organization Spring Conference, PSU (January, 2010).

·         Reviewer, Paper Proposals, Pennsylvania Association for Adult Continuing Education Conference, Research Strand (2009; 2010; 2011).

·         Member, Scientific Committee, European Research Network about Parents in Education (2010-2011).

·         Member, Advisory Committee for Education, Peaks Foundation (January, 2011–ongoing).

·         Member, Diversity and Community Enhancement Committee (Undergraduate Engagement Sub-committee), College of Education, PSU (September 2010–ongoing).

·         Affiliate Member, Commission for Women, The Pennsylvania State University (January 2010–ongoing).

·         Reviewer, The Pennsylvania State University College of Education Faculty, Staff, and Students Awards, (March, 2010).

·         Member, Advisory Board, American Poverty.Org, September (2010–ongoing).

·         Discussion List Leader, The Importance of Social Interaction and Support for Women and Learners: Evidence from Family Literacy Programs. National Institute for Literacy Diversity Listserv (2009, September).


Prins, E. & Toso, B. W. (under review). Receptivity toward immigrants in rural Pennsylvania: Perceptions of ESL providers. Rural Sociology.


Toso, B.W. (in progress). Improving teacher quality: Professional development for adult basic education teachers.  White Paper prepared for the College of Education, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.


Toso, B. W. (in press).  “My girls are going to make it in the future”: Intertwined discourses of mothering, literacy, and desire. In A. Richey (Ed.), Mothering and literacies. Bradford, ON: Demeter Press.


Toso, B.W. & Gungor, R. (in press).  Parent engagement and parent leadership.  In B. Wasik (Ed.), Handbook on family literacy.  London, England: Routledge.


Toso, B. W. (2012, May).  Learner voice, agency and consequences: A play for three adult learners and a narrator. Paper to be presented at the 2012 Adult Education Research Conference, Sarasota Springs, New York.


Toso, B. W. (2012, March). Becoming literate subjects:  Five Mexican mothers’ stories. Paper to be presented at the 2012 National Conference on Family Literacy, San Diego, CA.


Toso, B. W. (2011, June). How Latina immigrant mothers enact agency and extend learning through family literacy. Paper presented at the European Research Network about Parents in Education, Milan, Italy.


Toso, B. W. (2011, June). Contradictions of agency, educational discourses, and learner changes:  Mexican women’s enactments of agency in family literacy and their community. Paper presented at the Adult Education Research Conference, Toronto, Canada.


Toso, B. W., Prins, E., Drayton, B., Gungor, R., & Gnanadass, E. (2009).  Finding voice: Shared decision making and student leadership in a family literacy program. Adult Basic Education and Literacy Journal, 3(3), 151-160.


Prins, E., Toso, B. W., & Schafft, K. (2009). It feels like a little family to me: Social interaction and support for women in adult education and family literacy. Adult Education Quarterly 59(4), 335-352.


Prins, E., & Toso, B. W. (2008). Defining and measuring parenting for educational success: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Parent Education Profile. American Educational Research Journal, 45(3), 555-596.