Contact Information
Phone:  617/353-3318

Educational History

  • Ph.D. Linguistics University of California, Berkeley
  • M.A. Linguistics University of California, Berkeley
  • A.B. Human Language Stanford University


Dr. O’Connor’s research and teaching interests are in linguistics and applied linguistics. In 2013 she received an NSF/NEH Fellowship continue her documentation of Northern Pomo, an indigenous language of North America. In 2010-11 she received an NSF grant to support work on Medumba, a Grassfields Bantoid language of Cameroon. Within applied linguistics, her work centers on classroom discourse, particularly in mathematics and science classrooms, and the role of language in standardized assessments. She has published books, journal articles and book chapters on her linguistic and applied linguistic research. In addition to teaching in the Literacy and Language Cluster in SED, Dr. O’Connor also teaches in the Program in Applied Linguistics in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Courses Taught

  • CAS LX501  Linguistic Field Methods
  • CAS AN521  Sociolinguistics
  • SED LS751  Language Universals and Universal Grammar
  • SED LS726  Discourse Analysis
  • SED RS650  Foundations of Inquiry

Selected Publications

  • O’Connor, C., Michaels, S. and Chapin, S. (in press). “Scaling down” to explore the role of talk in learning: From district intervention to controlled classroom study. In Resnick, L.B., Asterhan, C. and Clarke, S.N. Socializing Intelligence through Talk and Dialogue. Washington DC: American Educational Research Association.
  • Michaels, S. and O’Connor, C. (in press). Conceptualizing talk moves as tools: professional development approaches for academically productive discussion. In Resnick, L.B., Asterhan, C. and Clarke, S.N. Socializing Intelligence through Talk and Dialogue. Washington DC: American Educational Research Association.
  • O’Connor, C., Maling, J. and Skarabela, B. (2013.) Nominal Categories and the Expression of Possession: A cross-linguistic study of probabilistic tendencies and categorical constraints.  In Borjars, K., Denison, D., and Scott, A. (Eds.) Morphosyntactic Categories and the Expression of Possession. John Benjamins. Pp. 89-121.
  • Chapin, S. and O’Connor, C. (2012). Project Challenge: Using challenging curriculum and mathematical discourse to help all students learn. Chapter 7. Dudley-Marling, C., and S. Michaels, (Eds.) High Expectation Curricula: Helping all students succeed with powerful learning. Teachers College Press. Pp. 113-127.
  • Franich, K., Barnes, J. & O’Connor, C.  (2012) Tone change and downstep in Medumba, a Grassfields language. In Michael R. Marlo, Nikki B. Adams, Christopher R. Green, Michelle Morrison, and Tristan M. Purvis (Eds.): Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference on African Linguistics. Cascadilla Press.  Pp. 33-46.
  • Noble, T., Suarez, C., Rosebery, A., O’Connor, M. C., Warren, B., & Hudicourt-Barnes, J. (2012). “I never thought of it as freezing”: How students answer questions on large-scale science tests and what they know about science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching.  Vol 49.6: 778-803.
  • Anderson, N., Chapin, S., and O’Connor, C.  (2011). Classroom Discussions: Seeing Math Discourse in Action, Grades K-6. DVDs, Facilitator’s Guide and CD of Reproducibles. First Edition. Math Solutions and Scholastic Publications.
  • Deal, A.R., and O’Connor, M.C. (2010). The Perspectival basis of fluid-S case-marking in Northern Pomo.  In Lima, S. (Ed.) Proceedings of SULA V: Semantics of Under-Represented Languages of the Americas. University of Massachusetts Occasional Papers 41. Pp. 173-188.
  • Resnick, L.B., Michaels, S., & O’Connor, C. (2010). How (well structured) talk builds the mind. In R. Sternberg & D. Preiss (Eds.), Innovations in Educational Psychology: Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Human Development. New York: Springer. Pp. 163–194.
  • Michaels, S., O’Connor, C., and Resnick, L. (2008). Deliberative discourse idealized and realized: Accountable talk in the classroom and in civic life.  Studies in Philosophy and Education 27: Pp. 283-297.
  • O’Connor, M.C. (2007).  External possession and utterance interpretation: a crosslinguistic exploration. Journal of Linguistics. Vol. 45.3. Pp. 577-613.
  • O’Connor, Catherine, and Sarah Michaels. “When Is Dialogue ‘Dialogic’?” Human Development. Karger AG, Basel, 2007. 275-85.
  • O’Connor, M.C. (2006).  The implicit discourse genres of standardized testing: What verbal analogy items require of test takers.  In J. Cook-Gumperz (Ed.),  The Social Construction of Literacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 264-287.
  • O’Connor, M.C. (2001). “Can any fraction be turned into a decimal?” A case study of a mathematical group discussion. Educational Studies in Mathematics, Vol. 46. pp 143-185.

Selected Presentations

    • Hawkes, R., Paquette, E., Goldman, N., Ngabeu, A., and O’Connor, C. (March, 2013). Animacy constraints on prepositional objects in a Grassfields language. ACAL 44: Annual Conference on African Linguistics. Georgetown University, Washington, DC. March 8, 2013.
    • Michaels, S. and O’Connor, C. (October, 2012). Complex texts, the Common Core, and academically productive conversations. Pre-Conference Institute: Meeting the Challenge of Making Complex Text Accessible for all Students, 56th Annual Fall Conference: Council of the Great City Schools. Indianapolis, IN, October 15-16, 2012.
    • Matthews, M.E., Anderson, N., & O’Connor, C. (April, 2012). Exploring efficacy in studies of discourse-intensive mathematics instruction. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Research Presession. Philadelphia, PA. April 25, 2012.
    • Michaels, S., and O’Connor, C. (September, 2011). Problematizing dialogic and authoritative discourse, their coding in classroom transcripts and realization in the classroom. Paper presented at ISCAR, the International Society for Cultural and Activity Research. Rome, Italy. September 7, 2011.
    • Franich, K., Barnes, J. & O’Connor, C. (June 2011). Tone change and downstep in Medumba, a Grassfields language. ACAL 42: 42nd Annual Conference on African Linguistics. College Park, MD. June 12, 2011.
    • O’Connor, C. and Michaels, S. (Sept., 2011). Scaling back to look forward: Exploring the results of an in vivo study of Accountable Talk. Socializing Intelligence Through Academic Talk and Dialogue—an AERA Research Conference. LRDC, University of Pittsburgh. September 24, 2011.
    • Michaels, S., O’Connor, C., Sohmer, R. (April 2011). Teacher orchestration of talk in a pedagogy of multiliteracies. AERA Presidential Session. Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. New Orleans, LA. April 9, 2011.
    • O’Connor, C. & Zaenen, A. (Symposium organizers). (January 2010). Towards a Linguistically-motivated Annotation Scheme for Information Status. (3-hour symposium included 6 presentations.) Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America. Baltimore, MD. January 9, 2010.
    • O’Connor, M.C. and A.R. Deal. (May, 2009). Evidentiality and the Interpretation of Fluid-S Case-marking in Northern Pomo. SULA-5. Semantics of Under-represented Languages of the Americas. Held at MIT, Cambridge, MA. May 15-17, 2009.
    • O’Connor, C. (June, 2008). Managing semiotic complexity and student participation. (La gestion de la complexité sémiotique et la participation des étudiants) NSF-funded “Pathways to Algebra” Conference, Evron-Mézangers, Mayenne, France. June 22-25, 2008.
    • O’Connor, C., Noble, T., & Suarez, C. (April 2008). Tampering with item-based difficulty: A foray into item revision. Symposium: Making Sense of Children’s Performance on Achievement Tests: The Case of the 5th Grade Science MCAS. Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. New York, NY.
    • O’Connor, C., and L. Resnick. (November, 2007). Creating intelligence: how (well-structured) talk builds the mind. Invited plenary address, the Learning and the Brain Conference, Nov. 18, 2007. Cambridge, MA.
    • O’Connor, C., Michaels, S., and Chapin, S. (April, 2007). Small-scale experimental studies of classroom talk: Seeking local effects in discourse-intensive instruction. Symposium: In Vivo Experimentation for Understanding Robust Learning: Pros and Cons (Kurt van Lehn and Ken Koedinger, symposium organizers). Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Chicago, IL.
    • O’Connor, M.C. (April, 2006). Logistic recreation: Modelling genitive alternations. Constructing Meaning: Stanford Semantics and Pragmatics Workshop. Linguistics Department, Stanford University.
    • O’Connor, M.C., A. Anttila, V. Fong (2004). Differential possessor expression in English: Re-evaluating animacy and topicality effects. Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, January 9-11, 2004. Boston, MA.
    • O’Connor, M.C., A.R. Deal (2004). Case-marking and clause type in Nez Perce: A corpus study of animacy and discourse dimensions. Annual Meeting of Society for the Study of Indigenous Languages of the Americas, January 9-11, 2004. Boston, MA.
    • O’Connor, M.C. (May, 2003). Implicatures and event frames: Interpretive consequences of the external/internal possession alternation. Conference on the Linguistic Encoding of Three-Participant Events: Crosslinguistic and Developmental perspectives. The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, NL. May 14-16.
    • O’Connor, M.C. (May, 2002). “Can any fraction be represented as a decimal?” A case study of position-driven discussion. Invited presentation, International Conference on Qualitative Research in Classrooms, sponsored by the Spencer Foundation and the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados, Mexico City, DF.

      Selected Grants

      • Spencer Foundation (#200500105), one year grant to develop a suite of open-source software tools that will enable researchers to easily transform text files of multi-party discourse into an XML format that can be coded, analyzed, and searched with a graphical user interface. ($27,000). C. O’Connor, PI. (2005-2006)
      • National Science Foundation (REC-0231893), three-year grant to conduct controlled study of the efficacy of focused classroom discussion on mathematics learning in middle school. C. O’Connor, PI; S. Chapin, Co-PI. ($733,000) (2003-2006).
      • National Science Foundation (BCS-0080377), grant to conduct a crosslinguistic study of interactions among pragmatics, semantics, and morphosyntax within determiner phrases. Three years: ($158,854), one year supplement ($31,000). C. O’Connor, PI. (2000-2003).

      Undergraduate Students

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