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«Copyright by Pamela Vivien Loomis Geneser The Dissertation Committee for Pamela Vivien Loomis Geneser certifies that this is the approved version of ...»

-- [ Page 1 ] --

Copyright

by

Pamela Vivien Loomis Geneser

The Dissertation Committee for Pamela Vivien Loomis Geneser certifies that this is

the approved version of the following dissertation:

Children Learning From Children of the Past:

A Study of Fifth Graders’

Development of Empathy With Historical Characters

Committee:

Sherry L. Field, Supervisor

Mary Lee Webeck

O. L. Davis, Jr.

Mary Black

James Bruseth

Children Learning from Children of the Past:

A Study of Fifth Graders’ Development of Empathy with Historical Characters by Pamela Vivien Loomis Geneser, B.A.; M. A.

Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of The University of Texas at Austin in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy The University of Texas at Austin August 2005 Dedication Dedicated to my cousin, Kirk Mitchell, to my children, Allison and Ben and to my Mother, Pamela Woods Loomis Acknowledgements Special heartfelt thanks go to my advisor, Dr. Sherry Field, for her infinite wisdom, kindness, generosity and, above all, humor. I am deeply grateful to Dr. Field.

I would also like to express my gratitude to the other members of my committee.

Thank you to Dr. O. L. Davis, Jr. for many years of guidance and counsel, untold hours of assistance with my graduate school journey, for nurturing my family during a vulnerable time and for the blessed intangible quality that you bring to every encounter that I have ever witnessed-your incomparable faith in all of us.

Thank you to Dr. Mary Black for your important role in the process. Thank you for opening doors for me along the way and for encouraging me to hold fast to my dream.

Thank you to Dr. Mary Lee Webeck for many hours of fun, hopeful conversations and wonderful sage advice. You are a continuous source of inspiration.

Thank you to Dr. Jim Bruseth for providing a ray of hope with powerful words of encouragement. Your support was vital and your timing was superb.

And thanks and love go to Oscar Mink who is with us all in spirit.

Many friends and family members also deserve acknowledgement for providing

encouragement and support. I would like to thank all of the members of these families:

Ben-Moshes, Bloods, Dooleys, Edwards, Genesers, Jensens, Japkos, Joneses, Kalishes, Loomises, Lorenzes, Maguires, Mitchells, Montanas, Noelkes, Parkers, Smiths, Thompsons, Villanaccis, Wolters and Wimberleys. Heartfelt thanks go to Lynda Abbott, Carolyn Appleton, Barbara Chaffe, Joe Courage, Jana Jones, Manice Massengale, George and Cynthia Mitchell, Susan Montana, Jim Parker, Gail Ryser, Scott Snell, Cinthia Salinas, Claudia Sydney, Cynthia Thompson and Lisa Thompson. I send divine thanks to Elizabeth Geneser, John Geneser, Raymond Loomis and Clinton Woods.

–  –  –

Empathy with historical characters provides a gateway into the development of historical thinking in children. When young students look into the lives of other people, especially children who lived long ago, they are motivated to investigate facts that are relevant to understanding the context of the times and can begin to perceive aspects of the events from a historical perspective.

A research study with fifth grade elementary students was conducted to determine how these students could develop historical thinking skills using both primary and secondary sources. The students engaged in a background study of the first French colony in the state of Texas, Fort Saint Louis, which existed from 1685 until 1689. The researcher and students focused on the lives of four French children who lived with Karankawa natives after the demise of the adult members of the settlement. Using information about the history of the French settlement, as well as literature that describes

–  –  –

engaged in discussions about the saga of the Talon children. With this knowledge, the students prepared a script and produced the setting for a drama to share the story of the French colony with the student body. Tape recordings of the group discussions as well as interviews with the individual participants before and after the study comprise the data for analysis of the development of empathy.

While the information is almost the same as in the textbook, students are more motivated to learn facts about an historical era when they are engaged in lessons that encourage active involvement. By participating in historical simulations, discussing the lives of children who lived with Native Americans and helping with the creation of a drama, the students were able to advance their historical thinking skills and to develop empathy with the historical characters.

–  –  –

Question 1: What is the role that empathy appears to play in the development of historical thinking with this group of fifth grade students?

Question 2: How do children learn empathy?

Question 3: How can educators influence the formation of empathy?

Conclusion…………………………………………………………………. 129 viii Chapter Five: Findings and Implications ………………………………………. 130 Findings from the Study. …………………………………………………… 130 Limitations of the Study…………………………………………………….. 137 Implications. ………………………………………………………………... 141 Recommendations…………………………………………………………… 152 Conclusion of the Research Study………………………………………… 154 Appendixes A. Letter to parents ………………………………………………………... 157 B. Pre- and Post-Unit Interviews. ………………………………………… 159 C. KWL Chart. …………………………………………………………… 161 D. Personal Timelines. …………………………………………………… 162 E. Artifact Classification. ………………………………………………… 163 F. Artifact Identification………………………………………………….. 164 G. Primary Source/ Secondary Source Bingo……………………………... 165 H. La Salle Bingo…………………………………………………………. 166 I. Crossw Puzzle Clues………………………………………………… ord 168 J. Talon Family Timeline ………………………………………………… 169 K. Review for the Script. ………………………………………………… 172 L. Script for the Play…………………………………………….……….. 173 M. Transcripts of the Discussions. ……………………………………… 178 N. Historical Thinking Skills…………………………………..…………. 223 O. History Club Calendar ……………………………………………… 225 References. ………………………………………………………………………… 227 Vita ………………………………………………………………………………… 245

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History education in the United States has departed from the goal of teaching merely the stories that depict our country’s heritage to an emphasis on historical thinking skills. Rather than employ history primarily as a “fundamental tool for socializing the large numbers of immigrants then pouring into the country” (Brophy and VanSledright, 1997), the new purpose of pre-collegiate history education is to give students perspectives on their own life experiences so that they can see themselves not only as a part of the past, but also as a window to the future (Hoge, 1988). The emphasis in history instruction has moved from the "what"--dates and facts-- to the "how"-which is historical thinking skills (Davis, Jr., and Yeager, 2001). Intrinsic to this theory, and the topic of this dissertation, is the concept of perspective taking, or empathy, with historical characters.

Empathy is essential to the understanding of history (Ashby and Lee, 1987;

Barton, 1997; Davis, Jr., Foster and Yeager, 2001; Downey, 1995; Knight, 1989; Levstik and Barton, 1997; Seixas, 1996; Shemilt, 1987; Wineburg, 2001). It is also important in getting along with others in daily life, and in learning to understand what is strange and different in another person whether they share the same home, classroom, community or planet. For school-aged children to understand history, they need to develop an ability to see the world through the eyes of its participants and to understand that there are multiple perspectives on the past. The core concept of this project is an investigation of the theme of empathy with historical characters.

Statement of the Problem The overall problem to be addressed is the need for curriculum and instruction that will call attention to the deeper components of historical understanding, such as empathy, while continuing to satisfy the required standards. New curriculum standards have highlighted the need for effective instruction in social studies, and there has been a corresponding increase in attention to social studies education (Nash, 1996).

Achievement tests have been revised to include more social studies questions.

The additional content calls for a stronger focus on the role of instruction in history education. Research studies highlighting new methods for teaching history should be utilized in the future in designing curriculum, instructional strategies, and methods of educational assessment. Each of these components must match students’ understanding with their ways of learning history. The drive to reinforce the importance of history in the social studies curriculum has been supported by the National Council for History in the Schools (Nash, 1996). These guidelines state that students need to interpret, analyze, and evaluate the data and to develop empathy for people who lived in the past (Nash, 1996).

Purpose of the Study The purpose of my study is to investigate the development of empathy with historical characters in a small group of fifth grade students by documenting their contributions to discussions and analyzing their input. Results from this study could be used to help provide a framework for elementary social studies researchers and practioners for the development of children’s historical thinking skills, specifically the development of empathy. I will show how the role of instruction influences the progress of these skills with activities designed to promote feelings of empathy.

Rationale The rationale for highlighting empathy is that empathy plays an important role in the definition of historical thinking concepts. My study serves to solidify what other researchers have found in similar studies with different age groups. However, this study is significant because no studies of fifth grade students that specifically address the development of empathy have been published. The lessons and activities that were used in the study were designed to facilitate empathetic responses and to promote empathetic knowledge, meaning that certain responses that reveal historical comprehension are inherent to an environment that facilitates empathy.

The student population of this study was unique because the participants were self selected and had made a long-term commitment to the project with parental support.

Therefore, it differed from classroom studies in which the students are required to participate for a grade. In this small group the students had elected to join the History Club as an after-school activity. As a result, they were motivated by preference rather than requirements. Examples of the motivating factors include interest in the historical figures that lived at Fort Saint Louis, especially the Talon children, a desire to participate in the production of a play and curiosity about the native tribe, the Karankawa. The students had prior knowledge of me as a teacher/researcher due to the pilot study that was conducted on the same campus in the previous semester. Furthermore, I am quite familiar with this particular historical topic.

The format of the sessions differed from a regular classroom setting in that the size of the group, the frequency, and the duration of the meetings, biweekly sessions sixty to ninety minutes long, allowed for intensive interactions. Each session featured extended conversations that were informal, open-ended, and relevant to the topic. Connections that were made among the students and observed by the teacher augmented the data analysis.

Also, other teaching duties or classroom management issues did not distract me nor was I limited by the schedule. Sessions could go over the allotted time without penalty since the students merely returned to their after-school care providers on the school campus.

This paper describes what one teacher/researcher experienced with a small group of self-selected history students. Subsequent studies could look at students who were not comparably motivated. It is reasonable to assume that similar findings might be possible with another fifth grade group if they were given activities that encouraged the development of historical empathy. History educators need to know more about what motivates students to learn history, which activities work best for the development of empathy, and how to implement effective curriculum. Ultimately, the findings from the study are relevant to teachers, researchers, practioners, and curriculum developers.

Research Questions:

The research questions that guided this study were:

• What is the role that empathy appears to play in the development of historical

–  –  –

• How can educators influence the formation of empathy?

Research Question One:

What is the role that empathy appears to play in the development of historical thinking with this group of fifth grade students?



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