The effects of curriculum designed to enhance empathy skills of sixth grade students
Hintzman, Cynthia S. Fahser
University of Wisconsin--Stout
MetadataShow full item record
The purpose of this study was to determine whether curriculum designed to enhance the empathy skills of sixth grades students could be effective in raising the students' scores on an instrument designed to measure student attitudes on four subscales of empathy. This study focused on measuring the four components of empathy: perspective taking, fantasy, empathic concern, and personal distress. The research objectives of the study were designed to: l)analyze the effect gender had on empathy skills, 2) measure the extent to which age of students effected their empathy skills, 3) analyze the effect family living situation might have on a student's empathy skills, 4) determine how ethnicity and school background might effect empathy skills, 5) measure the effectiveness of curriculum designed to improve empathy skills of sixth grade students. The study was conducted using six sections of family and consumer education classrooms at Menomonie Middle School in Menomonie, Wisconsin. The research instrument contained two parts. Part I gathered demographic information used to make comparisons. The demographic section gathered information on age, gender, ethnic background, living situation, age, and previous school attended. Part II measured attitudes of students on 22 statements using a Likert-type scale. These 22 items were further analyzed by grouping them into 4 subscales: perspective taking, fantasy, empathic concern, and personal distress. A pretest was administered to both experimental and control groups. A treatment was provided to the experimental group in the form of curriculum designed to enhance empathy skills of these sixth grade students. The control group received standard curriculum. A posttest was given to both groups at the conclusion of the treatment period - approximately one week after the pretest. The data was collected and analyzed using frequency counts and percentages for all items. Mean scores were also used in both parts of the survey. F-tests and ANOVA tests were used to determine differences between pretest and posttest results. The results indicated that females had significantly higher scores on the empathy test than males did in two of the subscale scores, various individual items and in the total score. Living situation, number of siblings, age of the student and ethnicity of the student had significance in only selected items on the instrument and did not show significant results on the subscales or total score. The effect of the treatment on the experimental group versus the control group as shown on the posttest was minimal also. The total empathy score did show a slight rise in the experimental group's posttest score. This study illustrates the need for empathy education in our schools. The researcher recommends a longer treatment period with whole school involvement. Empathy development is an important moral, social, and emotional component of an individual's well-being.