North Texas Daily

Education research wins national award

Education research wins national award

March 29
09:41 2013

Blessing Wokocha


In 1993, Louisiana native Jeanne Tunks arrived on campus as a doctoral student in curriculum, instruction and education research. After graduating in 1997, she began teaching as an adjunct professor and has been at UNT ever since.

Now as an associate professor, Tunks and her research team were recently recognized by the American Educational Research Association for a study about how non-fiction literature affects reading skills. They will travel to San Francisco for an award ceremony April 29.

Tunks said about 16,000 papers are submitted for review and only 1,300 are accepted.

The specific study focused on how to increase reading scores of 5th grade students based on the Lexile system, a standardized way to measure scores.

“I’m interested in our students and their mentor teachers doing action research,” Tunks said. “Whether teachers are doing research in their classrooms and whether interns are doing it with them. That’s really my research interest.”

The Denton Independent School District believed that the more nonfiction books a student read, the better. However, the study discovered that if a student read one nonfiction book above their reading level they were able to raise their Lexile scores.

“We came up with the idea because I was curious in checking if nonfiction reading affected students reading level rather than fiction,” fifth grade DISD teacher Vanessa Arispe said.

UNT alum Codi Potter was part of the award-winning team before graduating last spring.

“All of our undergraduate students do action research and what I do is I support them,” Tunks said. “And since I’m a member of AERA I nominated she and her teacher for this award and since we’re all partners in it, we won the award together.”

Potter is currently a kindergarten through 5th grade special education teacher in Elgin, Texas, but while she was at UNT she worked alongside Arispe, her mentor, who teaches at Wilson Elementary in Denton.

“She [Tunks] was my methods course teacher my last year at UNT and she asked me one day and I agreed to do the research because I knew it would be a great opportunity,” Potter said. “She probably knew I’d be willing to put the work in.”

The research took 15 weeks. The biggest challenge for Potter was writing about the research in the paper she had to submit for the conference.

“It helped me in my own project,” Potter said. “It honestly helped me get a job. We’ve won quite a few awards and it was a great opportunity, one of those opportunities that keeps on giving.”

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