Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Curriculum and Instruction

Document Type



This study explores how empathy exists, as an experience, in an English Language Arts classroom. The research was conducted in an 11th grade classroom during an instructional unit with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible as the anchor text. The study relies upon Transactional Reader Response Theory (Rosenblatt, 1988) to justify the exploration of the aesthetic, evocative nature of a text. Narrative inquiry methodology was used to collect and assemble the instances of empathy as inspired by the play. Guided by Doll’s (1993) premise of the classroom as an ecological, open system with multiple contributing forces, data was collected through classroom observation, student interviews, teacher interviews, classroom artifacts, the classroom textbook, and the researcher’s personal reflections to re-present the classroom ecosystem. These data points were assembled to describe how empathy was experienced in a particular time and place.

The analysis of this data finds the presence of empathy in five categories: mentalizing empathy, identification empathy, situational empathy, moral empathy, and embodied empathy. These facets of empathy existed unstably throughout the unit, sometimes harmoniously, sometimes in conflict, and almost certainly in messy disequilibrium. Pedagogical strategies for fostering empathy through these categories are also collected and recounted. The findings of this study imply that while engagement with empathy enriched the reading experience of the participants, empathizing itself is unpredictable and not always pleasant undertaking. The study suggests that exploring and experiencing empathy is an enriching reading endeavor to be appreciated as an aesthetic experience, not for a utilitarian purpose.

Committee Chair

Bach, Jacqueline