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(Sherman 2008)

Title:  Dissertation: Classroom-based Empathy Training:  An Evaluation of program effects in an Elementary School 
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Publication: Dissertation 
Authors:  Kimberly Sherman
Date:   2008
University of Rhode Island

Universal classroom-based social skills and violence prevention training is currently a topic of widespread interest. Although there is a growing body of empirical support for some existing social skills programs, less is known about contributions of specific program components to intervention outcomes. Empathy training is one common component of social skills curricula that has been subject to relatively little research. The current study is a single-school quasi-experimental investigation of Second Stepempathy training effects on 57 first- and fourth-graders. 

Dependent variables included self-reported empathy, teacher-reported social skills, teacher-reported problem behaviors, and fourth-graders' self-reported social skills. The study also explored teachers' use of social-emotional teaching strategies, assessed with a brief self-report frequency measure, and their perceptions of program effects and procedures, solicited in follow-up interviews. Results suggest that intervention and comparison students, as a group, did not differ in pre-post effects on quantitative measures of empathy, social skills, or problem behaviors. 

However, additional exploratory analyses suggest that first grade intervention students may have maintained pre-intervention levels of teacher-reported social skills, while first grade comparison students declined. Intervention teachers reported an increase in use of social-emotional teaching strategies and positive perceptions of program effects and procedures. Strengths and limitations of the study as well as implications for future research and practice are discussed. 

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