Students on Judith Pena-Shaff's Psychology Research Team received the Award of Excellence for an outstanding poster presentation at Eastern College Science Conference (ECSC)


Contributed by Bernard Beins

Senior applied psychology major Callie Lehrer received the award for the poster “Perceptions become a reality: Students’ perceptions of disciplinary practices.” This study was a collaborative effort involving psychology students Seren Ozkan, Andrew Fisher, Heather Morihara, Katherine Twitchell and Stephanie Strzepek all students in Dr. Pena-Shaff research team.

The study examined middle school students’ perceptions of school disciplinary practices and school climate, the relationship between these perceptions, and the relationship between these perceptions and participation in accelerated classes. Participants consisted of more than 800 students from two middle schools in central New York.

The study revealed that although students had overall positive perceptions of their school environment and disciplinary practices, Black students were more likely to perceive differential treatment by teachers and in the administration of disciplinary practices than White and Asian American students, who perceived more favorable treatment for students of their own racial group.

Black students were also less likely to be enrolled in accelerated classes. The study showed that 15% of the variability in Black students’ perceptions of suspension practices could be explained by how they perceived teacher as being respectful of students’ diversity, a school climate variable.

Likewise, 17% of the variability of their perceptions of teacher treatment could be explained by how they perceived their relationships with adults at school, another school climate dimension.  These results have important implications as students’ perceptions of their school reality influence how students feel about and behave in school.