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Engendering Empathic Development and Prosocial Responses in Elementary School Students Through a Humane Education Program Open Access

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This study examined the impact of the Washington Animal Rescue League's (WARL) Humane Education Program (HEP) on 4th grade students. The objective was to develop models for best practices in humane education and to serve as the impetus for future empirical research studies. Of the 59 participants, 47 participants were from the three 4th grade classes that participated in the WARL HEP and thus were in the treatment condition and the 12 participants in the comparison group were from the 4th grade class that did not participate in the WARL HEP. Empathic development was examined by conducting Mann Whitney and Kruskall Wallis tests on the participants’ scores on the Index of Empathy for Children and Adolescents (IECA; Bryant, 1982) and a four item IECA subscale related to the mission of the WARL HEP. Results from the Kuder- Richardson 20 (KR- 20) analysis of reliability conducted on the IECA subscale indicated that the subscale had sufficient reliability (Cronbach’s alpha= .503). A basic interpretive qualitative analysis (Merriam, 2002) utilizing the constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967 as cited in Cresswell, 2007) was employed to analyze the participants’ journals. The prosocial themes of empathy, reciprocity, justice and fairness that emerged within the qualitative analysis of the participants’ journals coupled with the endorsement of empathic beliefs towards both humans (IECA Item 6: M= .79, SD= .412; IECA Item 14: Mean= .87, SD= .345) and animals (IECA Item 11: M= .98, SD= .139; IECA Item 16: Mean= .87, SD= .345) by almost all participants suggested that the WARL HEP resulted in positive outcomes for the participants and effected the desired outcomes aimed for within the mission of the WARL HEP. The increased knowledge regarding the effectiveness of humane education programs will afford more children the help they need through the provision of such programs as well as positively impact the schools and communities in which the children reside.

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