Robert F. Williams

Associate Professor of Education

 

Co-Chair, Education Department

Faculty, Linguistics Program

Chair, Cognitive Science Minor

Director, Senior Experience Program
 

Lawrence University
Appleton, Wisconsin

I've been a professor at Lawrence since 2004. I'm presently co-chair of the Education Department, where I teach courses in teacher education and education studies, supervise student teachers, and coordinate the teacher performance assessment (edTPA). I also teach courses in Linguistics and Cognitive Science and chair the cognitive science minor. In my research, I study how people construct meaning in instructional situations, collaborative problem-solving, and creative activity. For the next two years, I'm serving as Director of the Senior Experience Program.

This page presents an overview of my teaching and research. Here are some other links of interest:

-------------------------------- VITA --------------------------------

2010-present

Associate Professor, Education Department
Linguistics and Cognitive Science programs

Lawrence University
Appleton, WI

2011 (sabbatical)

Visiting Professor, Natural Media & Engineering
Human Technology Centre (HumTec)

RWTH Aachen University, Germany

2004-2010

Assistant Professor, Education Department

Linguistics and Cognitive Science Programs

Lawrence University
Appleton, WI

2004

Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive Science
Making meaning from a clock: Material artifacts and conceptual blending in time-telling instruction [text] [figures] [transcripts]

University of California, San Diego

2000

Master of Science in Cognitive Science
An ERP study of hemispheric asymmetries in joke comprehension [article]

University of California, San Diego

1996-1997

Visiting Lecturer, English

University of Passau, Germany

1993-1998

High School Teacher, German & English

Jefferson County Schools, Colorado

1992

Master of Arts in Curriculum & Instruction,
Secondary English and Foreign Language

University of Colorado, Denver

1985-1991

Systems Engineer

IBM Corporation, Denver

1985

Bachelor of Arts, German major

with highest distinction

Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN

1985

Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering

with highest distinction

Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN

------------------------------ COURSES ------------------------------

Fall 2013

Winter 2014

Spring 2014

FRST 100
Freshman Studies
 

EDUC 650

Student Teaching

 

EDUC 660

Advanced Methods in Teaching

EDUC 430
Educating All Learners
 
EDUC 431
Educating All Learners
in Music

EDST 180
Psychology of Learning
 
EDST 450
Topics in Education Studies: Educating for Creativity

 

TEACHER EDUCATION & EDUCATION STUDIES

 
EDST 180 Psychology of Learning (PSYC 180)
An investigation of how people learn. This course examines learning theories (behavioral, cognitive, constructivist, humanist) and their implications for the educational process in schools. Other topics include learning and the brain, the nature of expertise, the design of learning environments, and approaches to instruction that promote meaningful learning. Practicum of 20 hours required. Units: 6.
 
EDST 450 Topics in Education Studies: Educating for Creativity (new course)
In this course we'll explore the nature of creativity and the role of creative thinking in diverse areas of study, work, and everyday life. We'll also examine critiques of traditional education's impact on the development of creativity and look for approaches that show greater promise. From our shared readings and discussions, students will develop inquiries or projects of personal interest, which may involve fieldwork in local schools or community organizations. Units: 6. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing. A previous course in Education Studies is recommended but not required.
 
EDUC 430 Educating All Learners

This course for students in the Teacher Education Program focuses on two important aspects of K-12 teaching: (1) helping learners develop academic and disciplinary literacy; and (2) tailoring instruction to specific learning needs (for students with disabilities, English language learners, struggling readers, students with gaps in academic knowledge, gifted students, etc.). Practicum of 20 hours required in a subject area class that includes learners with special needs. Units: 6. Prerequisite: EDST 180 and junior standing.
 
EDUC 431 Educating All Learners in Music
This course for students seeking certification to teach music (choral, general, and/or instrumental) focuses on adapting music instruction to learners with disabilities. Practicum of 10 hours required in a music class that includes learners with special needs. Units: 3. Prerequisite: EDST 180 and junior standing.
 
EDUC 650 Student Teaching

Student teaching is normally taken during Term I, coinciding with the public school fall semester. A weekly seminar at Lawrence (EDUC 660) is required with this course. See department chair for prerequisites and for exceptions to the Term I requirement. Units: 18. Prerequisite: Senior standing and admission to the teacher certification program.
 
EDUC 660 Advanced Methods in Teaching
The seminar will engage students in critical reflection upon their student teaching experience. Concrete and theoretical problems having to do with teaching and learning will be explored (classroom management, assessment of pupil performance, curriculum design, instructional methods), as will issues having to do with educational policy and school organization. Units: 3. Prerequisite: Concurrent enrollment in EDUC 650 or consent of instructor.
 
 

LINGUISTICS & COGNITIVE SCIENCE

 
EDST 180 Psychology of Learning (PSYC 180)
An investigation of how people learn. This course examines learning theories (behavioral, cognitive, constructivist, humanist) and their implications for the educational process in schools. Other topics include learning and the brain, the nature of expertise, the design of learning environments, and approaches to instruction that promote meaningful learning. Practicum of 20 hours required. Units: 6.
 
EDST 345 Distributed Cognition (ANTH/PSYC 345)
Distributed cognition explores the role of the environment, artifacts, social interaction, and culture in human reasoning, problem-solving, and learning. Domains of study range from the sophisticated (ship navigation) to the everyday (time-telling). Emphasis is placed on studies of cognition in real-world settings. Units: 6. Prerequisite: sophomore standing.
 
LING 470 Cognitive Linguistics
Cognitive linguistics is a subfield of linguistics and cognitive science that studies conceptual structure, language, and meaning in relation to general cognitive mechanisms. Topics include cognitive and construction grammars, categorization, construal, image schemas, mental spaces, conceptual metaphors, and conceptual blending. Units: 6. Prerequisite: LING 150 or consent of instructor.
 
LING 545 Gesture Studies (EDST/PSYC 545)
Gesture studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines the use of the hands and other parts of the body in communication and cognition. In this seminar we discuss studies of gesture types, universals, and variations; gesture development; gesture production and perception; relations of gesture to thought and language (spoken and signed); and functions of gesture in human interaction, problem-solving, and learning. Units: 6. Prerequisite: one course in linguistics or psychology, junior standing or consent of instructor.
 

------- SAMPLE TUTORIAL & INDEPENDENT STUDY TOPICS -------

Education Studies

Theory and practice in second language acquisition
Motivation in language learning
Assessment in second language learning
Literacy acquisition in English language learners
Cultural identity and bilingual education
History of Waldorf education
Mood-dependent memory effects

 

Linguistics & Cognitive Science

Computational semantics
Artificial life and language evolution
Conceptual integration and motor learning
Cognitive models in political discourse
Linguistic study of humor
Embodiment and language
Natural language processing
Radial category structure of Russian prefixes
Cognitive linguistics and philosophical discourse

----------------------------- RESEARCH -----------------------------

My research explores embodied and conceptual aspects of everyday cognition and communication with a focus on teaching and learning. I analyze how people use talk, gestures, and representations to reason and solve problems and to guide the thinking of others. Domains I have studied include time-telling, counting, and everyday scientific reasoning. In my research, I gather data through ethnographic and quasi-experimental methods, and I analyze recordings of activity using a conceptual framework that blends distributed cognition, cognitive linguistics, and gesture studies.

Recent Papers and Talks:

Distributed cognition and gesture (2013). In C. Müller, A Cienki, E. Fricke, S. Ladewig, D. McNeill, & S. Tessendorf (Eds.), Body - Language - Communication: An International Handbook on Multimodality in Human Interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. [article] [book]

Constructing and coordinating representations in multiple gesture spaces (2012). Paper presented at the 5th conference of the International Society for Gesture Studies, Lund University, Sweden. Co-authored with Simon Harrison. [abstract] [slides]

Constructing a novel blend through gesture (2012). Paper presented at the 11th conference on Conceptual Structure, Discourse, and Language, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. [abstract] [slides]

Coordinating and sharing gesture space in collaborative reasoning (2011). Paper presented in the theme session "Within and across spaces: Towards multi-dimensional models of gesture space" at the 3rd conference of the Scandinavian Association for Language and Cognition, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. [abstract] [slides]

Gesture coupling body, mind, and world (2011). Cognitive Science colloquium at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, April 20. [abstract]

Gesture, conceptualization, and distributed cognition (2011). Plenary address for the workshop The Exbodied Mind: Motion in Communication and Cognition Research, RWTH Aachen University, Germany. [slides]

Image schemas in clock-reading: Latent errors and emerging expertise (2011/2012). Journal of the Learning Sciences special issue on modalities of body engagement in mathematical activity and learning, edited by R. Hall & R. Nemirovsky. [article] [journal]

Gesture in everyday scientific reasoning and explanation (2010). Paper presented at the 4th conference of the International Society for Gesture Studies, Europa University Viadrina Frankfurt/Oder. [abstract] [slides]

Distributed cognition (2008). In E. Anderman (ed.). Psychology of Classroom Learning: An Encyclopedia. Detroit: Macmillan Reference. [entry] [book]

Situating cognition through conceptual integration (2008). Paper presented at the 9th conference on Conceptual Structure, Discourse, and Language, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH. [abstract] [slides]

Functions of gesture during instruction: Conceptual mapping, anchoring, and blending (2008). Invited lecture at the Berlin Gesture Center, Berlin, Germany.

Path schemas in gesturing for thinking and teaching (2008). Paper presented at the 3rd conference of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association, University of Leipzig. [abstract] [slides]

Gesture as a conceptual mapping tool (2008). In A. Cienki & C. Mueller (eds.), Metaphor and Gesture [Gesture Studies 3] (pp. 55-92). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. [chapter] [book]

Guided conceptualization: Mental spaces in instructional discourse (2008). In T. Oakley & A. Hougaard (eds.), Mental Spaces in Discourse and Interaction (pp. 209-234). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. [chapter] [book]

Embodiment in learning to read a clock (2007). Presentation for the workshop on Research on Embodied Mathematical Cognition, Technology, and Learning at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Palo Alto, CA.

Counting and conceptual blending (2007). Paper presented at the 10th International Cognitive Linguistics Conference, University of Krakow, Poland.

Using mapping and anchoring gestures to establish common ground (2007). Paper presented at the 3rd conference of the International Society for Gesture Studies, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. [abstract] [slides].

Latent errors and conceptual change (2006). Paper presented at the 8th conference on Conceptual Structure, Discourse, and Language, University of California, San Diego.

The image-schematic structure of pointing (2006). Poster presented at the 2nd international conference on Language, Culture, and Mind, Paris, France. [poster]

Instruction as guided conceptualization (2006). Paper presented at the 2nd international conference on Language, Culture, and Mind, Paris, France.

Using cognitive ethnography to study instruction (2006). In S.A. Barab, K.E. Hay, & D.T. Hickey (eds.), Proceedings of the 7th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (vol. 2, pp. 838-844). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. [paper] [proceedings]

Lessons from a cognitive ethnography of time-telling instruction (2005). Learning Sciences colloquium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, September 30.

Student Research:

Potsch, E., & Williams, R. F. (2012). Image schemas and conceptual metaphor in action comics. In F. Bramlett (ed.), Linguistics and the Study of Comics (pp. 13-36). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. [chapter] [book]

Zheng, M., & Williams, R. F. (2012). Bending over backwards: Embodiment motivates language. Paper presented at the 11th conference on Conceptual Structure, Discourse, and Language, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. [abstract]

Herdeman, M., & Williams, R. F. (2010). Cognitive models and the partisan divide: A study of the debate over health care reform. Poster presented at the 10th conference on Conceptual Structure, Discourse, and Language, University of California, San Diego. [poster]

Miller, N. C., & Williams, R. F. (2010). Building a better oarsman: Conceptual integration and motor learning in rowing instruction. Poster presented at the 10th conference on Conceptual Structure, Discourse, and Language, University of California, San Diego. [poster]

Science Slam:

What you can do with your hands (besides the obvious) (2011). Public presentation of gesture research in the first Science Slam Aachen competition, Jakobshof/Aachen, Germany, May 11. [video]

 

A complete list of works can be found in my CV. For more information about any of these publications or papers, please e-mail me at the address below.

----------------------------- CONTACT -----------------------------

E-mail
robert.f.williams
at lawrence.edu

Office
Briggs 124
(920) 993-6276

Mail
711 E. Boldt Way SPC 22
Appleton, WI 54911