College of Education prioritizing student research...

College of Education prioritizing student research to better prepare educators, impact change

Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Education is working to make student research more of a focus and priority, with students such as Alisha Arwood, left, and Lori Klukowski presenting their projects at a college event. (MTSU graphic illustration by Stephanie Wagner)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Education is working to make student research more of a focus and priority. 

Bonnie Barksdale
Dr. Bonnie Barksdale

“Research in education is vital to ensuring that we are giving our children and young people the highest quality of education for their future and to make sure our teachers feel confident in providing that for them,” said Bonnie Barksdale, assistant education professor and active researcher who helps support research within the college.

“Our new dean is very supportive of this, which will help the COE to make this more of a selling point and strength for new and returning students.”

Dean Neporcha Cone, who took the helm of the college last summer, said the COE values research at all levels and is committed to empowering students to positively impact the lives of students and families. 

Dr. Neporcha Cone, dean, College of Education (Submitted photo)
Dr. Neporcha Cone

“We know that research strengthens writing and oral communication, critical thinking skills and leadership skills … skills that are needed to find solutions to complex, real-world problems facing many communities,” Cone said. “We believe that research is a driving force behind connecting academia to the world. The COE is continuing to examine and implement different support mechanisms to assist students and faculty who are interested in conducting research.”

Barksdale said the COE faculty currently support student research opportunities through conference presentations, opportunities to collaborate with faculty and other students, class assignments and projects, and participating in MTSU’s annual research exposition, known as “Scholars Week,” with a college-level poster presentation event held recently at the College of Education building.

Alisha Arwood, Middle Tennessee State University master’s education student, recently presented her work on phonics instruction via Zoom at the college’s March 12 research exposition, part of the college’s larger push to make student research a focus and priority. (Submitted photo)

Alisha Arwood, a master’s student in the Literacy graduate program and an elementary teacher with 12 years in the classroom, was able to share her work at the event via Zoom. 

“This is my first time ever conducting research; it has been exciting,” said the Kingsport, Tennessee, native who pursued her MTSU degree in hopes of moving from classroom teaching to a literacy coach position within her district.

“I have received support from Dr. Stacy Fields with designing and implementing my research project…. (and) learned that the research process is not as daunting as I expected,” Arwood said. “When I see that my research has changed my students’ lives for the better, then the work was worth it! I see myself continuing to perform action research in my classroom to positively impact my students year after year.”

Thirty-three total students participated — five undergraduates, two master’s students and 22 doctoral students presented their projects in person while one master’s student and three doctoral students presented their work online. Barksdale added that other faculty on the event committee included Jim Rost, chair, Joan BoulwareNatalie GriffinHolly Hebert and Angela Hooser and, though not on the committee, Seth Jones and Mia Zeller also assisted. 

Barksdale also emphasized their efforts in providing the same opportunities for virtual and on-the-ground students. 

As a former middle school science teacher, Lori Klukowski, fourth year Ph.D. student in the Mathematics and Science Education Ph.D. program, wants to work at the university level to help better prepare future math and science teachers for the classroom. 

Lori Klukowski, Middle Tennessee State University doctoral education student, recently presented her work on supporting middle school science, technology, engineering and math teachers at the college’s March 12 research exposition, part of the college’s larger push to make student research a focus and priority. (Submitted photo)

“My Ph.D. advisor is Dr. R. Seth Jones in the Womack Educational Leadership Department of the COE,” said Klukowski, originally from Lascassas, Tennessee. “Dr. Jones is studying how to support middle school math and science teachers to coordinate their instruction around data and statistics…. He works in partnership with teachers to improve their instruction, and I appreciated his focus on working with teachers to develop their curriculum.”

Klukowski’s project centered on how middle school teachers are asking students questions in the STEM subject areas of science, technology, engineering and math that also involve data and statistics.

“I have become a much better communicator through the research process,” she said. “The ability to speak and write clearly and concisely are important skills for educators.”

Klukowski added she has received ample research support throughout her time in the program. 

“I worked with Dr. Kim Evert and Dr. Angela Hooser in the COE as a beginning graduate student. They provided mentorship as I began engaging in educational research. I am Dr. Jones’ research assistant, and his National Science Foundation CAREER grant pays for my tuition and stipend…. The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs also provided free poster printing for my poster presentations during Scholars Week.”

Learn more about the opportunities at the College of Education at

— Stephanie Wagner (