Advancing Early Childhood Education

Margarita Cuervo named Chancellor's Student Research Scholar

PhD student Margarita Cuervo poses with mentor Peggy Lisenbee, PhD

Literacy and Learning PhD student Margarita Cuervo was named a Chancellor's Student Research Scholar. Cuervo's research on pre-kindergarten classroom instructional interactions associated with phonological awareness and vocabulary knowledge is an important contribution to early childhood education.

Cuervo's study investigated on-track benchmark classroom scores of phonological awareness (PA) and vocabulary knowledge across time at the beginning, middle and end of the Pre-K year. She also examined the association between Pre-K classroom instructional interactions that supported PA and vocabulary knowledge.

Her research revealed that direct instruction of PA skills led to significant growth in children's PA knowledge across the Pre-K year. However, no significant growth was found in children's vocabulary. Cuervo's findings emphasize the importance of back-and-forth conversations with novel words to increase children's vocabulary knowledge.

Pre-K children benefit from incorporating PA skills in learning new vocabulary words. Teachers can advance PA knowledge by employing frequent words utilized in children’s vocabulary in PA instruction. Analyses also showed that instructional support classroom interactions did not moderate Pre-K classroom scores of vocabulary and PA. The classroom teacher-children instructional interactions may not be sufficiently high or effective to moderate the vocabulary and PA scores from the beginning to end of the Pre-K year. Pre-K teachers can benefit from professional development in effective instructional interactions that advance PA and vocabulary knowledge. 

Through this research, Cuervo learned important aspects of the research process and enhanced her collaboration skills through guidance of her mentor, Peggy Lisenbee, PhD, and committee members, Aaron Norton, PhD, and Lin Moore, PhD.

Lisenbee supported gathering and integrating existing research related to children's phonological awareness and vocabulary knowledge while Moore taught Cuervo how to incorporate theoretical frameworks of Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner to guide research. Norton was instrumental in creating structural equation modeling autoregression, cross-lag and moderation research design. 

Cuervo was grateful for the opportunity to present her research and learn from others at the TWU Creative Arts and Research Symposium and for the recognition she received as a Chancellor's Student Research Scholar. She is determined to instill her love of learning and research insights in her current and future students.

Page last updated 4:07 PM, July 14, 2023