Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Developing Empathetic Responses in Third-Grade Students through Multicultural Literature
by Gordon, Linda Kim, Ph.D., Florida Atlantic University, 2019, 302; 13812325
Abstract (Summary)

This study utilized an action research design with qualitative methods to explore the transformative potential of a multicultural literature curriculum within a general education setting. Providing young students with opportunities to develop perspective taking and empathetic responses to others who are different, offers the critical potential for reducing prejudice. Based on Allport’s (1979) contact theory, originally written in 1954, multicultural literature served as indirect contact, providing access to characters who were different from the students. 

The design included the researcher’s classroom and a teacher cohort of five thirdgrade teachers interacting with a total of 103 students in a public charter elementary school in South Florida. The selection of third graders was purposeful by the developmental window of social perspective taking identified by Selman (1980). Each teacher utilized the multicultural book set to conduct interactive read-alouds along with critical questions to support the students in understanding the settings and problems and therefore the perspective of the diverse characters. We gathered data from student work samples, audio tapes, cohort meetings, teacher journals, researcher journals, and critical friend meetings. Computer-assisted qualitative data analysis aided in the organization and handling of the quantity of data as Glasser’s (2008) constant comparative method was applied to coding through the action research recursive cycles.

Emergent themes and patterns from the data demonstrated positive development in the depth of discussion through improved emotional vocabulary and new understanding of mixed emotions. The variety of storylines offered new knowledge of social justice issues such as immigration, refugees, religious tolerance, slavery, and poverty while developing vocabulary to engage in reading and discussion. The indirect contact experiences with diverse characters and the lessons provided practice in perspective taking and emotional empathy skills. This study contributes to the body of literature using multicultural literature for empathy and perspective taking development and adds to indirect contact studies for prejudice reduction by focusing on younger students and being conducted within an authentic school context.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Schoorman, Dilys
Commitee: Baxley, Traci P., Vaughan, Michelle, Willems, Patricia P.
School: Florida Atlantic University
Department: Curriculum and Instruction
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: DAI-A 80/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Multicultural Education, Elementary education, Curriculum development
Keywords: Contact theory, Empathy, Multicultural literature, Perspective taking, Prejudice reduction, Third grade
Publication Number: 13812325
ISBN: 9781392273609
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