Summer 7-12-2016



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Karen Moroz

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Sherry Knutt

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Nicole Cahill


The research question addressed in this project was, how can text­based debates increase empathy in upper elementary students? It explores research around critical literacy, social­emotional learning, and debates with a specific focus on alternative perspectives and empathy development. The researcher combines research around different forms of debate, argumentation and collaborative reasoning, to create a text­based debate protocol. The action research studies the impact on students’ empathy development for characters found in read aloud texts through participation in weekly text­based debates and written reflections. Students debated two opposing perspectives regarding a character’s personality and wrote reflections in which they explained both perspectives and if or how their thinking had changed as a result of their debate. Reflections were scored using a rubric and pre­ and post­assessments were compared to determine growth. The findings demonstrate that exploring alternative perspectives through text­based debates can increase the empathy students have for the characters in read aloud texts.

Research Methodology

Action Research


Character Education, Literacy, Debate

Included in

Education Commons