DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Bethany Hendrickson, a recent graduate of the University of North Texas and a teacher at Denton's Stephens Elementary School, earned the 2015 Claudia A Balach Teacher Research Award for work she conducted while she was a student at UNT. The award is given by the Professional Development School Research Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association.
"My goal was to help struggling readers," said Hendrickson, who received the award while student teaching. "I am beyond humbled that I won an award for this."
In her study of second-grade students using e-books in the classroom, every student's reading skills were improved.
The Claudia A. Balach Teacher Researcher Award is annually awarded to school district personnel who honor the true spirit of school-university collaboration. Kimberly Griffith, a second-grade teacher at Stephens Elementary, served as Hendrickson's mentor teacher last spring. Both Griffith and Hendrickson will be honored at the AERA annual meeting in Chicago in April 2015.
"It was great working with Bethany," Griffith said. "We needed research data to show growth for students seriously lagging their peers in literacy development, and the tools second-grade teachers were using in the classroom were not working. Bethany's research gave us that data, and allowed us to use that data to expand the use of e-books in our school."
While Hendrickson was student teaching in Griffith's classroom in Stephens Elementary's Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities, she was required to conduct an Action Research project. Hendrickson said the background knowledge she learned in her education classes at UNT gave her the tools to successfully implement the project for which she was honored.
"The education program at UNT is stellar," she said.
She learned that 11 second-grade students were not progressing in their reading skills, "even after best practices interventions, including guided reading and reading recovery," she said.
"We wondered if this was an anomaly. We wanted to help these struggling readers, which led to this research," Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson conducted her research using Raz-Kids, a web-based program that can be accessed on any computer or tablet. The program was used primarily in the classroom on four computers and in the school computer labs, but some data was derived from student use of the program at home.
"I found that the use of electronic books in the classroom was very successful," Hendrickson said. "The students that made the biggest gains were the ones that were struggling readers."
In the six-week study, every student in the classroom improved in at least two of the four areas tested: words correct per minute, accuracy, retelling and comprehension. Hendrickson's results caused the entire grade to purchase the program for this school year.
"The greatest reward is the ongoing impact for the students who participated in the study and future students," Hendrickson said. "I am so excited to see students' lives changed for the better through improving reading skills.