Students participating in service-learning classes experience many benefits, including cognitive development, personal growth, and civic engagement. Student development of empathy is an understudied area, especially with respect to how students develop empathy through interactions in their service-learning placements.?
This article describes a project designed to pilot teaching tools (e.g., self-assessment, reflective writing) related to empathy development in 12 undergraduate students. This study examined changes in level of student empathy across the semester, critical incidents linked to such changes, factors that enhanced or challenged empathy development, and student metacognition related to empathy. Findings suggest that certain experiences, such as observing the emotional experiences of others or being given more responsibility at a community site, might prompt changes in level of empathy for service-learning students.
Strategies for integrating findings from this pilot project into other service-learning courses and future directions for empathy research are also described.