Abstract 8- Volume 3, Number 2, Summer 2008

Social Studies Research and Practice

Volume 3, Number 2, Summer 2008



Displaying Historical Empathy: What Impact Can a Writing Assignment Have?

Sarah Brooks
University of Virginia


This study explored the development of historical empathy in the social studies classroom by addressing the following question: Does the manner in which students are asked to express their historical conclusions impact their ability to exhibit empathy? The results of two different types of writing assignments were examined in order to determine whether one is more likely to encourage the display of historical empathy: text written in the first person from the perspective of a historical agent or text written in the third person about the perspectives of historical agents. Data, in the form of student writing samples and interviews, was collected over a two-week period in an eighth-grade social studies classroom. The findings suggest that the way in which students are asked to articulate their historical conclusions can indeed encourage or inhibit their ability to exhibit empathetic regard.

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About the Author(s)…

Sarah Brooks is a doctoral student at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education. Prior to undertaking graduate work, Sarah taught social studies at the middle school level in New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Virginia. Her research interests include the teaching and learning of history and the history of social studies education in America. She can be reached at sbb4t@virginia.edu.