Stephen F. Austin State University

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SFA elementary education majors present study at Las Vegas research conference

February 24, 2016 - University Marketing Communications
Pictured from left, Stephen F. Austin State University seniors Haleigh Pickett, Dani Quade, Dr. Vicki Thomas, assistant professor of elementary education at SFA, and senior Lindsey Palat recently presented research at the Ethnographic and Qualitative Research Conference in Las Vegas. Their research focused on the effects of play-based learning on English Language Learners.
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin State University students enrolled in the James I. Perkins College of Education recently presented research at the Ethnographic and Qualitative Research Conference in Las Vegas.

Dr. Vicki Thomas, assistant professor of elementary education at SFA, explained this two-day national conference serves as a forum for presentations and engagement of ideas in qualitative research.

"Part of our university's vision is to provide students with transformative experiences such as opportunities for students to conduct research and showcase their work. This experience offered our students time for sharing ideas and presenting the results nationally with qualitative research experts in a variety of fields."

SFA senior elementary education majors Dani Quade, Haleigh Pickett and Lindsey Palat conducted a study using qualitative and quantitative data titled, "Using Play-Based Learning with English Language Learners."

"We utilized a constructivist approach to teaching and implemented lessons in a school with a high population of English Language Learners," Pickett said. "Using play-based learning instruction, we taught students how to compose and decompose numbers using Legos."

Pickett explained they used Legos as a hands-on activity for students to physically see that when one decomposes something, one takes it apart much like subtraction. Then, when one composes something, one is building on to it like addition. The activity provided students a more visual insight of addition and subtraction.

Mentoring professors Thomas and Dr. Tingting Xu, assistant professor in elementary education, guided the students through the research process. Forty students participated in the study to determine the effects play-based lessons had on learning versus traditional lesson delivery.

The researchers used pre- and post-tests to measure students' ability to compose and decompose numbers for both the control and experimental groups. Pickett said the test results showed a significant increase in the post-test results for the students who were taught using the play-based method.

Furthermore, the exit interviews with the students who used play-based learning more frequently used the words "math" and "fun" than students who received the traditional lessons.

"We were amazed at how much more enthusiastic the responses were from the experimental group, and to hear them say, 'Math is fun' was exciting," Pickett said.

Quade, Pickett and Palat gave a presentation at the conference describing their study and its results. Pickett said the experience was rewarding and it gave her a great feeling of accomplishment knowing their work was being recognized from people all over the country. Thomas also praised the students' work.

"These students exceeded far beyond the requirements for our program. They each took responsibility for their roles in the research and were fantastic ambassadors for our university," Thomas said. "But most of all, they were able to see the effects of play-based lessons on student learning, which is a topic very dear to their hearts."

SFA's Office of Student Engagement Programs and the dean's office in the College of Education helped fund the trip.