The Role of Empathy in the Knowledge Building of Eighth Grade Girls as they Reflect on their Experiences with Literature

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Abstract

This study focused on the role that empathy played in the knowledge building of 7 eighth grade readers. Participants met for twenty sessions over the course of a school year to reflect upon their experiences empathizing with characters in their favorite works of literature. These reflections led to the generation of social and moral themes. The girls worked to advance these themes by extending, contesting, and evaluating ideas presented. In this community, the girls’ attempts to empathize with characters were foundational for analyzing actions and intentions of people. Empathy was also used as a tool in their talk. As the girls justified their positions on issues presented, they asked each other to imagine perspectives very different from their own. This resulted in new self knowledge because hearing different perspectives led them to expand their thinking. Results suggest a role for developing student’s capacity for empathy in Language Arts instruction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-86
JournalScientific Study of Literature
StatePublished - Dec 21 2016

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