The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 509–521 | Cite as

Effects of Empathy-based Learning in Elementary Social Studies

  • June Lee
  • Yunoug Lee
  • Mi Hwa KimEmail author
Regular Article


Schools in South Korea are experiencing problems such as bullying and school violence, so solutions are needed. Developing students’ empathy could reduce or prevent these problems. Thus, the purpose of this study was to apply an empathy-based learning model to elementary social studies classes and document its effects on students’ empathy at school and academic engagement. The participants were 54 fifth-grade students from two classes in Korea (27 in the experimental group and 27 in the control group). The experimental group was placed in a social studies class using the empathy-based learning model, while the control group was placed in a different class taught in a traditional way. Quantitative data measuring students’ empathy at school and academic engagement were analyzed using independent sample t tests and covariance analysis. A teacher and students from the experimental group also participated in written interviews to provide more in-depth perspectives about the model. Qualitative data were analyzed by referring to Creswell’s (A concise introduction to mixed methods research, Sage Publications, Thousands Oaks, 2014) data analysis spiral methodology. The analysis was conducted through data collection, data transcription, data reading, classification, and interpretation based on this method. The results showed that empathy-based instruction had stronger positive effects on students’ empathy and academic engagement than traditional lecture-oriented instruction. Interviews with experimental group students and the teacher indicated that they were satisfied with the empathy-based class and acknowledged the importance of empathy. This suggests a positive influence of the empathy-based learning model on students in social studies. Implications and future directions are discussed.


Empathy-based learning Elementary school students Social studies education Empathy at school 



This work was supported by Hankuk University of Foreign Studies Research Fund of 2018.


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Copyright information

© De La Salle University 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of EducationHankuk University of Foreign StudiesSeoulKorea
  2. 2.Department of Educational TechnologyHanyang Cyber UniversitySeoulKorea

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