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Evaluating Interactive Social Justice Education: The Relationship Between Responsive Fiction and Social Empathy

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The theorists who developed Social Justice Education (SJE) claim that its goals are: to critically analyze how oppression operates on an individual, cultural, and institutional level, to harness empathy and respect for others, and, ultimately, to commit to working for lasting change. However, the literature lacks research on how to evaluate such programs. Social empathy—empathy that takes into account contextual understanding and social awareness—is associated with higher engagement in social action. I used a mixed method design to analyze the affect SJE has on participants. I analyzed Tomorrow, a social justice program on mental health in high school, by having participants take the Social Empathy Index (SEI) before and after the workshop. They then participated in a group interview. Participants were randomly assigned to facilitated or online versions of Tomorrow to assess the differences between the pedagogies. The coding scheme consisted of subscales of empathy, four dimensions of knowledge, and engagement established through grounded theory. Using a paired t-test between pre- and post- SEIs, a significant difference between social empathy after participating in Tomorrow was established. However, no difference was found between the online and facilitated conditions. Participants reported an understanding of new perspectives related to mental health and social justice. This study not only analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of Tomorrow but also proposes a novel and robust method for creating and evaluating SJE in the future.

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  • 06/04/2019
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