Faculty Profile

Jennifer Higgs

Assistant Professor

Jennifer Higgs is an assistant professor of Learning and Mind Sciences and Language, Literacy, and Culture. Her research focuses on digital tool use that supports learning and teaching, adolescents’ digital literacies, and teacher education in the language arts. Using sociocultural theories of learning and varied methodologies (including design-based research, case study, and survey research), Dr. Higgs investigates practices around digital tools as well as improvement of digital tool practices. She documents how digital technologies are used in and across school and non-school settings, and she works alongside teachers and young people to design interventions that support equitable learning and are attuned to local needs. What fundamentally drives her work is a desire to learn how the possibilities afforded by new cultural tools can support robust and socially just learning.

Prior to pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Higgs was a middle and high school English teacher in Virginia and Illinois public schools for five years and an English teacher in Japan for a year. Her research has been funded by the National Academy of Education, the Spencer Foundation, the Berkeley Center for New Media, and the James S. McDonnell Foundation. 

Research Interests

Digital technologies in teaching and learning; educational equity; digital literacies; classroom communication; pre-service and in-service English teacher education; social semiotics; spread and scale of educational innovations in the digital age; sociotechnical literacies and interdisciplinary computing education 


  • Ph.D., Education with a Designated Emphasis in New Media – University of California, Berkeley
  • M.S., Education and Social Policy — Northwestern University
  • M.A., English Literature — Northwestern University
  • B.A., magna cum laude, English — Cornell University

Select Publications​

  • Higgs, J. (2020). Digital discourse in classrooms: Language arts teachers’ reported perceptions and implementation. Research in the Teaching of English55(1), 32-55. 
  • Patterson Williams, A., Athanases, S. Z., Higgs, J., & Martinez, D. (2020). Developing an inner witness to notice for equity in the fleeting moments of talk for content learning. Equity & Excellence in Education, 53(4), 505-518.
  • Pearson, P.D., Cervetti, G.N., Palincsar, A.S., Afflerbach, P., Kendeou, P., Biancarosa, G., Higgs, J., Fitzgerald, M., Berman, A.I., & Hurt, M. (2020). Expanding our vision of the Science of Reading: Embracing reading for understanding. Literacy Today, 38(2), 26-28.
  • Cervetti, G., Palincsar, A.S., Pearson, P.D., Afflerbach, P., Kendeou, P., Biancarosa, G., Higgs, J., Fitzgerald, M., & Berman, A. (2020). How Reading for Understanding research complicates The Simple View of Reading invoked in the science of reading. Reading Research Quarterly55(S1). 
  • Pearson, P. D., Palincsar, A. S., Afflerbach, P., Cervetti, G., Kendeou, P., Biancarosa, G., Higgs, J., Fitzgerald, M., & Berman, A. (2020). Taking stock of the Reading for Understanding Initiative. In P. D. Pearson, A. S. Palincsar, G. Biancarosa, & A. Berman (Eds.), Reaping the rewards of the Reading for Understanding Initiative. Washington, DC: National Academy of Education.
  • Fitzgerald, M., Higgs, J., & Palincsar, A. S. (2020). New media, new literacies: Implications for Reading for Understanding. Washington, DC: National Academy of Education.
  • Coburn, C. E., Higgs, J., Morel, R.P., & Catterson, A. (2020). Spread and scale in the digital age: A conceptual framework. In M. Gresalfi & I. Horn (Eds.), Proceedings from the International Conference of the Learning Sciences (2507-2514). Nashville, TN: International Society of the Learning Sciences.
  • Patterson, A. D. W., Higgs, J. M., & Athanases, S. Z. (2020). Noticing for equity to sustain multilingual literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy63(4), 457-461.
  • Higgs, J. (2020). Designing for purpose-driven technology use among preservice English teachers. In P. M. Sullivan, J. Lantz, & B. Sullivan (Eds.), Handbook of research on integrating digital technology with literacy pedagogies. Hershey, PA: IGI Global Publishers.
  • Morel, R., Coburn, C., Catterson, A., & Higgs, J. (2019). The multiple meanings of scale: Implications for researchers and practitioners. Educational Researcher, 48(6), 369-377. 
  • Gutiérrez, K., Higgs, J., Lizárraga, J., & Rivero, E. (2019). Learning as movement in Social Design-Based Experiments: Play as a leading activity. Human Development62, 66-82. 
  • Vakil, S., & Higgs, J. (2019). It’s about power: A call to rethink ethics and equity in computing education. Communications of the ACM, 62(3), 31-33.
  • Gutiérrez, K., Cortes, K., Cortez, A., DiGiacomo, D., Higgs, J., Johnson, P., Lizárraga, J., Mendoza, E., Tien, J., & Vakil, S.* (2017). Replacing representation with imagination: Finding ingenuity in everyday practices. Review of Research in Education, 41, 30-60. *Second authors are listed alphabetically. 
  • Freedman, S. W., Hull, G. A., Higgs, J., & Booten, K. (2016). Teaching writing in a digital and global age: Toward access, learning, and development for all. In C. Bell & D. Gitomer (Eds.), Handbook of research on teaching (5th ed.). (pp. 1389-1449). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association. 
  • Schultz, K., Hull, G. A., & Higgs, J. (2015). After writing, after school. In C. MacArthur, S. Graham, & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Handbook of writing research (2nd ed.). (pp. 102-115). New York, NY: The Guilford Press. 
  • Higgs, J., Miller, C. A., & Pearson, P. D. (2013). Classroom digital interaction: High expectations, misleading metaphors, and the dominance of Netspeak. In K. E. Pytash, and R. E. Ferdig, (Eds.), Exploring technology for writing and writing instruction (pp. 239-260). Hershey, PA: IGI Global Publishers. doi: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4341-3 
  • Coburn, C. E., Catterson, A. K., Higgs, J., Mertz, K., & Morel, R. P. (2013). Spread and scale in the digital age: A memo to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University.
  • Stornaiuolo, A., Higgs, J., & Hull, G. A. (2013). Social media as authorship: Methods for studying literacies and communities online. In P. Albers, T. Holbrook, & A.S. Flint (Eds.), New methods of literacy research (pp. 224-237). New York, NY: Routledge. 

Professional Experience

Assistant Professor, School of Education, University of California, Davis, 2018-present 

Awards and Honors

  • 2018 – Division K Outstanding Dissertation Award, American Educational Research Association
  • 2016 – National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship (2016-2017 cohort)
  • 2016 – Peter Lyman Graduate Fellowship in New Media, Berkeley Center for New Media
  • 2014 – Fellow, Summer Institute for Preparing Future Faculty, University of California, Berkeley
  • 2014 – Russell Family Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley
  • 2012 – Finalist, Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) Big Ideas Contest (1 of 9 teams selected from 150+ submissions), University of California, Berkeley
  • 2011 – Lily Wong Fillmore Award, University of California, Berkeley
  • 2007 – Distinguished Thesis Award, Northwestern University  

Courses Taught at UC Davis

  • ED 180A/B/C: Computers in Education for English Language Arts and Social Science (preservice teacher education course)
  • ED 292: Digital Literacies (graduate seminar)
  • ED 205B: Ethnographic Research in Schools II: Field-based Research Projects (graduate seminar)
  • ED 185: Learning in a Digital Age (undergraduate course)

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