North Texas Daily

Study finds new learning methods

Study finds new learning methods

April 01
20:58 2013

Andrew Freeman / Staff Writer

Post-doctoral research assistant Mary Amanda Stewart earned the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award from Phi Delta Kappa International for her dissertation on literacy skills learned by four Hispanic students through social media outlets and mediums such as TV or movies.

The research studied four Hispanic high school students in the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw Independent School District who spoke Spanish as their native language, and studied how outside elements, such as social networking, part-time jobs and entertainment helped their English literacy.

In her dissertation, Stewart expressed a worry that the students’ outside learning may not be enough to help them graduate.

“The classroom setting is too focused on TAKS, a test for native English speakers,” Stewart said. “There seems to be a gap for [trans-national] 16-to-17-year-olds who want to graduate. They’re nontraditional students as it is.”

Students must pass all TAKS before they’re 21-years-old, Stewart said, and many international students come into high school late.

“I feel they’re skills are often overlooked,” Stewart said. “We need people who possess bilingual and transnational skills, yet we’re pushing them away.”

Her doctoral chair, teacher education and administration professor Carol Wickstrom, said Stewart’s work is “cutting edge.”

“There is research needed in regards to students who need this kind of learning,” Wickstrom said. “Her category, using workplace literacy and Facebook, really speaks to the literacy people are using today, and that’s what researchers are looking for.”

Wickstrom wrote the letter of recommendation for the reward, and was Stewart’s advisor throughout the entire process.

“The dissertation is outstanding,” Wickstrom said. “[Phi Delta Kappa] is a group that recognized the diligent work that Mandy put into her dissertation, and that makes the difference when writing a good dissertation.”

Stewart graduated last August, and her research took place over the last spring semester.

Because of her dissertation award, she was able to publish a summary of her work in Phi Delta Kappa’s magazine.

“I was able to share what I was learning with thousands of people,” Stewart said. “For me, it’s about trying to affect change. I want my work to help create a better world.”

Stewart said that in the modern age, literacy isn’t  always  recognized and people need additional skills.

“We need people who possess bilingual and transnational skills, yet we’re pushing them away,” she said.

Stewart will be appearing on Univision, Hispanic television, tomorrow, to speak on the matter.

“We just have to show people that these international students have more assets than deficits,” Stewart said. “All we have to do is change their outlook.”

An article can be found on her website,

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