Measuring Empathy – A University of Alberta Study

This guest blog comes from Stefanie Martin, a 4th year undergraduate Animal Health student at the University of Alberta. Stefanie has worked for and volunteered with a number of animal welfare organizations over the past six years. We are pleased that she’s willing to share her most recent research project with us.

Measuring Empathy

Humane education is a widely accepted approach to teaching that inspires kindness, compassion, and empathy towards all living things. To help elementary teachers incorporate humane education into their classroom, the Alberta SPCA has created a free humane education program called AnimalTales. This grade-specific, four-week book program includes stories, discussion questions and activities that are complementary to Alberta Education’s Program of Studies.

Let’s find out what works best!

Research is ongoing into the effectiveness of humane education. I hope to add to this research by evaluating the AnimalTales book program. There are a number of questions about the program that can be explored, such as, when are students most receptive to information on compassion and empathy? Does participating in a humane education program inspire empathy in the long term? My goal is to start finding the answers to these questions.

I am an undergraduate student attending the University of Alberta in the Animal Health program. As part of my research, I am helping the Alberta SPCA evaluate their AnimalTales program to discover what effects this program has on empathy levels in children. We plan on achieving this through two simple surveys designed to measure empathy. Students complete pre- and post-program surveys and answer questions such as “Is it okay to adopt a pet knowing you can’t take care of it?” and “If a dog bites someone, is it the dog’s fault that the person got hurt?” By comparing the surveys, we will know if the students have a better understanding of the feelings of animals and if their empathy has increased towards all living things. With this information, the Alberta SPCA will be given insight into the best way to implement their program to make the biggest difference.

You can participate in this study if you sign up to participate in the AnimalTales program!

E-news Sign Up

Subscribe to our monthly e-news for activities, ideas and information on integrating humane education into your classroom!