When Jessica Armytage Scott, ’04, couldn’t find the answers she was looking for to help her deaf and hard of hearing students, she delved into research to find solutions. That led her to Harvard University, where she recently earned her doctorate in Education and has now been selected to receive the university's Jeanne S. Chall Doctoral Student Research Award.
Her journey into the field began shortly after graduating from Flagler College, when she took a job teaching high school English at the Alaska State School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. There she found her students struggled with reading, a challenge that often plagued like students elsewhere. Scott wanted to know why, and embarked on graduate studies where she explored the factors influencing reading comprehension scores of deaf and hard of hearing students at the middle and high school levels.
Scott’s research revealed that while academic English appeared to play a role in the reading comprehension scores of this population, American Sign Language (ASL) proficiency predicted these scores above and beyond the contribution of academic English and silent reading fluency. The findings may have implications on instruction and language use for deaf and hard of hearing students.
The alum attributes her initial interest in the field to her time at Flagler.
“I would never have accomplished any of this without Flagler College, to be perfectly honest,” she said. “Although I had taken ASL as a language in high school, I knew nothing about Deaf Education, and Flagler provided me with an incredibly strong foundation in this area. Dr. Finnegan, Dr. Crutchfield, and Dr. Williams still are a huge influence on me today in terms of my Deaf Education beliefs and knowledge.”
In July, Scott gave two presentations at the International Congress on Education of the Deaf in Athens, Greece. One was presented with Finnegan on international partnerships in deaf education, while the other focused on her dissertation. She will be presented with the Harvard award this fall.