Psychological Science and Social Justice
Psychology major Sophie Bittner ’22 has always been passionate about using psychology to promote individual and social well-being. Her summer scholar research project was completed with her faculty advisor, her professor Robert Weis. She investigated how college students’ access to college accommodation has changed. The research was presented at two of her professional conferences and was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Psychological Injury and Law.
Students with psychological conditions such as ADHD, learning disabilities, and autism spectrum disorders may have access to accommodation at colleges and universities in order to receive an equitable education. Adjustments can include additional exam time, testing in alternate settings, and access to technology to reduce the barriers to learning these students often experience.
Bittner analyzed US Department of Education data to examine student access to accommodation over the past decade. She found that student access to accommodation increased over time, but this increase was seen primarily at America’s most expensive and private institutions. , a 162% increase in eight Ivy League schools and a 292% increase in the top eight liberal arts colleges identified by US News. In contrast, student access to accommodation at most community and technical colleges remained low and stable over time.
“Our findings show that students with disabilities who need the most academic support are the least likely to receive it,” Bittner says. “Social and economic factors should not interfere with a student’s ability to obtain the attention they need.”
Bittner and Weis presented information directly to people working in the university’s disability office at professional conferences in Chicago and Cleveland. “I am grateful to have been able to share this research with people who are sympathetic to these issues,” she says. “It has been very rewarding to share our findings with people who can actually use this information to help students with disabilities.”
Bittner enjoyed a balance of instruction and autonomy during her summer scholarship experience. “My supervisor and I collaborated at each stage of the research process. I had the opportunity to complete each part of the project myself and receive assistance and feedback from my advisor. This combination of freedom, structure and support was , was really beneficial for my learning.”
“This project further strengthened my belief in the importance of research in psychology. rice field.”
Read the results of the Denison Neuropsychology Lab research and other findings.