Leah Katherine Saal, Ph.D.

Leah Saal

Associate Professor of Literacy 

Literacy Education Program
Beatty Hall 121-5

“For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.”

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed


Louisiana State University
Ph.D., 2013, Curriculum and Instruction: Literacy
M.A., 2013, Educational Leadership, Research, & Counseling: Applied Educational Research Methodology & Evaluation
Ed.S., 2010, Curriculum and Instruction: Literacy and Special Education
M.S., 2007, Human Resource Education: Adult Education
B.A., 2005, Major: English, Minor: Political Science


Dr. Leah Katherine Saal is an associate professor of literacy at Loyola University Maryland, School of Education. She teaches graduate courses in literacy education and educational research and values service-learning as an authentic pathway to prepare students to become inquiring and reflective pedagogues in urban environs. Saal is informed by her ongoing experiences teaching with and learning from families, adults, and communities in and out of school settings in urban areas.

Research Interests

Saal’s engaged scholarly agenda focuses on the intersectionality of literacy and social justice. Her research includes two dovetailing strands: 1) the literacies of adults and older students in and out of educational programs and 2) the preparation and support of literacy leaders to work for social justice. In addition to her own scholarship, Leah Katherine serves on the Loyola Engaged Scholarship Committee and Clinical Centers Research Committee, as well as several international and national editorial review boards for adult and adolescent literacy/learning journals.

Honors and Awards

Exemplary Paper Award, Adult Literacy and Adult Education SIG, American Educational Research Association, 2021.

Early Career Engaged Scholar Award, Campus Compact Mid-Atlantic, 2019.

National Finalist for Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty, Swearer Center (Brown University) & Campus Connect, 2019.

Early Career Scholar Award, Adult Literacy and Adult Education SIG, American Educational Research Association, 2018.

Latin America SIG Highlighted Research, Comparative International Education Society, 2013.

J. Michael Parker Award for Adult Literacy Research, Literacy Research Association, 2012.

Selected Publications

Saal, L. K. (2021). Risk literacy: What can adult literacy education learn from the decision sciences? Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy, 3(2), 62-68. http://doi.org/10.35847/LSaal.3.2.62

*Smutny, N. D., & Saal, L. K. (2021). A “good game” of readers responding. The Reading Teacher74(5), 517–525https://doi.org/10.1002/trtr.1969

Schoenbrodt, L., & Saal L. K. (2021). LEADing the way: Perceptions of Self-Advocate Educators (SAEs) for law enforcement. Global Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities, 7(4), 1-4. https://juniperpublishers.com/gjidd/pdf/GJIDD.MS.ID.555718.pdf

*Blackwell, C. & Saal, L. K. (2020). Negotiating place and space through digital literacies. [Review of the book Negotiating place and space through digital literacies, by D. G. Piles, R. M. Rish, and J. Warner]. Teachers College Record. https://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentId=23515

Saal, L. K., & Shaw, D. J. (2020). Facilitating civic learning within adult literacy/education curricula. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 64(2), 221-225.https://doi.org/10.1002/jaal.1084

Saal, L. K., Yamashita, T., Shaw, D. J., & Perry, K. (2020). An exploration of U.S. adults’ information processing skills and political efficacy. Journal of Adult and Continuing Education, 26(2), 178-202. https://doi.org/10.1177/1477971419852750

Saal, L. K., Sulentic Dowell, M. M., & Meidl, T. D. (2019) Ethics of access: Provocative impacts of K-12 service-learning and community engagement policy. International Journal of Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement, 7(1), 1-19. https://doi.org/10.37333/001c.11487

Saal, L. K.
, Gholson, M., Machtmes, R., & Machtmes, K. (2018). Associations between adults’ numeracy skills and employment status: An analysis of PIAAC’s U.S. dataset. Washington, DC: National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), American Institutes of Research (AIR).

Saal, L. K. & **Minson, C. W. (2017). Working to learn together: Engaged scholarship addressing long-term unemployment. Adult Learning, 28(4), 167-170. https://doi.org/10.1177/1045159516687742

Saal, L. K. (2016). Equity in assistance?: Usability of a U.S. government food assistance application. Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice, 65(1), 283-299. https://doi.org/10.1177/2381336916661520

Saal, L. K., & Sulentic Dowell, M. M. (2014). A literacy lesson from an adult “burgeoning” reader. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 58(2), 135-145. https://doi.org/10.1002/jaal.325

*Graduate Student
**Community Partner

Recent Presentations

Schoenbrodt, L., & Saal, L. K. (2021, June) Using Self-advocate Educators (SAEs) with disabilities as patient actors in EMS and law enforcement training during challenging times. Poster presentation for 2021 Annual Meeting of American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Online.

Schoenbrodt, L., & Saal, L. K., & **Hayes, A. (2021, June). Learning to LEAD: Training law enforcement to interact with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Poster presentation for AJCU Justice in Jesuit Higher Education Conference, Georgetown University, Washington D.C., Online.


Schoenbrodt, L., Saal, L. K., **Chaney, P., **Camacho, E. & **Oliveira, R. (2021, April).  Using Self-Advocate Educators (SAEs) with disabilities as patient actors in EMS training. Webinar for the National Association of EMS Educators (NAEMSE).

Saal, L. K., Yamashita, T., Perry, K., & Shaw, D. J. (2021, April). Understanding literate citizenship: An exploration of the relationship between adult literacy and political efficacy-related information sources. AERA Annual Meeting, Online.


Saal, L. K., Yamashita, T., Perry, K., & Shaw, D. J. (2020, December). An exploration of the relationship between literacy and civic/political efficacy related information sources. Paper presentation at the 2020 Literacy Research Association Conference, Online.


Yamashita, T., Saal, L. K., Millar, R., Sahoo, S. & Cummins, P. (2020, November). E-Mail-related problem-solving behaviors across age groups: an analysis of log file data. Poster presentation at the 75th Annual American Gerontological Association of America Conference, Online.


Saal, L. K., Lee, V. J., Levine, B., & *Reinsburrow, A. (2020, April). Civic education for adults: Learning from the “highest performing” countries. Paper presentation at 2020 Coalition on Adult Basic Education, Online.

Saal, L. K. (2015-present). Coordinator, Adult Literacy Study Group, Literacy Research Association Conference.

*Graduate Student
**Community Partner

Professional Organizations/Affiliations

American Educational Research Association (AERA)
Literacy Research Association (LRA)
International Literacy Association (ILA)
American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE)
Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE)

Selected Grants and Funded Projects

National Center for Educational Statistics, American Institutes of Research (AIR), PIAAC Research Funding, Bridges and Barriers: Examining Differences in Information Processing Skill Performance of Black Adults in the U.S. Submitted August 2020/ Awarded October 2020 (Principal Investigator) [$10,000.00].

Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council, Lead Program EMS/FIRE Online Regional Model Expansion. Submitted May 2020/Awarded July 2020 (Co-Principal Investigator) [$26,933.00].

Horizon Foundation Changemaker Challenge, Project STEER: Strategic training for empathic emergency response. (Co-Principal Investigator) Submitted October 2019/Awarded November 2019 [$10,000.00].

Maryland Department of Disabilities/Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council/Ethan Saylor Alliance Grant. LEADing forward: Training self-advocate educators for first responders. (Co-Principal Investigator) Submitted July 2019/Awarded October 2019 [$99,912.00].

Maryland Department of Disabilities/Ethan Saylor Alliance Grant. Learning to LEAD: Training Self-Advocate Educators for Law Enforcement. (Co-Principal Investigator) Submitted December 2017/Awarded February 2018. [$45,000.00].

National Center for Educational Statistics, American Institutes of Research (AIR), PIAAC Research Funding, Associations between adults’ numeracy skills and employment status: An analysis of PIAAC’s U.S. dataset. (Principal Investigator) Submitted August 2016/Awarded December, 2016 [$10,000.00]