Supporting and Disrupting Together: The Windward Institute and the Haskins Global Literacy Hub Partnership
John J. Russell, EdD

The Windward Institute (WI or The Institute) is a division of The Windward School that is responsible for providing active outreach to the broader educational community. In keeping with this charge, the WI establishes partnerships with universities and researchers to provide a bridge between research and educational practice. Among these partnerships, the one that the Institute entered into with the Haskins Laboratories’ Global Literacy Hub has been particularly fruitful.  

Introduction to the Haskins Global Literacy Hub 

The Haskins Laboratories has formal affiliations with Yale University School of Medicine, the Yale Child Study Center, the University of Connecticut Institute for the Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and extensive national and international research partnerships.  

In order to efficiently utilize these resources to effect positive changes in language and literacy skills and develop scalable solutions to literacy problems at national and worldwide levels, President of Haskins Dr. Ken Pugh and Director of the University of Connecticut Institute for the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Dr. Fumiko Hoeft launched the Global Literacy Hub.  

As an extension of the Haskins Laboratories, the Hub is an international and interdisciplinary collaborative that brings together an unprecedented partnership of expert researchers, practitioners, educators, and education technology specialists from around the globe to solve one of the most critical issues—illiteracy—that is preventing people from escaping poverty, leading healthy and productive lives, and achieving their full potential. The mission of the Hub is to improve language and literacy outcomes for at-risk children, across languages and cultures. To that end, the Hub’s unique collaborative of experts has been disrupting the current, stagnant ecosystem—which is perpetuating unacceptable social outcomes—with new and scientifically rigorous approaches. These approaches have the potential to make a significant impact on several long-standing social challenges including: 

  • improving the sensitivity of early (birth to five) language assessment and intervention, 

  • delivering on the promise of neuroscience-guided reading instruction and/or remediation, 

  • scaling the solutions globally using education technology (EdTech), and 

  • training a new generation of educators and clinicians (across cultures) to work with these emergent approaches. 

The Partnership 

In January 2019, The Windward Institute was invited to join the Hub, and Dr. Russell, representing Windward, was appointed Associate Director of the Hub. The initial project of The Windward School/Haskins Laboratories Partnership was the in-school research study, Predicting Literacy Outcomes at The Windward School. This multiyear, ongoing study uses neurocognitive measures to better understand which instructional strategies work best for students, a critical step in moving toward individualized brain-based instructional programs. This cognitive and brain imaging research will also examine their potential to improve early diagnosis of language-based learning disabilities (LBLD) in at-risk preschool children. Additionally, this project provides invaluable professional development for Windward faculty as our teachers and clinicians work side-by-side with Haskins’s scientists in the two EEG labs that the School has established.  

An article describing the project has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Journal of Research in Reading, co-authored by Annie Stutzman, Danielle Scorrano, Najah Frazier, and Dr. Jay Russell of The Windward Institute; Haskins’s scientist Dr. Nicole Landi; and members of the AIM Institute. It describes the nature of researcher-practitioner partnerships and how in-school laboratories facilitate translational research in reading.   

In addition to this initial research project, the Hub has played a leadership role in a number of significant projects at the local, national, and international levels. Among them are: 

  • Allo Alphabet literacy intervention program 

  • APPRISE screening app 

  • Aprendo Leyendo curriculum in Argentina 

  •  “Ask a Brain Scientist” webinar series 

  • Ed tech research in Latin America 

  • Empower Reading literacy program 

  • Hearing loss treatment studies 

  • HEARS hearing assessment screening tool 

  • In-school neuroscience labs 

  • R.E.S.C.U.E. digital game 

In the short time since it was formalized, the partnership with the Haskins Global Literacy Hub has been a very effective tool for broadening the impact of the WI and promises to be a powerful mechanism to advance the mission of the WI: To increase childhood literacy rates by disrupting the educational status quo to save more lives.