Developing a measure of historical empathy in middle and high school (paper)

May 5, 2023

This initial efficacy study investigates the impact of a supplemental digital history curriculum (two online games and associated curricular materials) on Grade 8-10 students’ history learning. Our exploratory research question highlights the potential mediating effect of historical empathy on student outcomes. We posit that by actively engaging students in a first-person roleplaying game which presents varying perspectives from the past, students will develop their historical empathy: a process that elicits one's cognitive and affective engagement with historical figures to better understand how they thought, felt, and acted within specific socio-historical contexts (Endacott & Brooks, 2013).

In the instrument selection process, the research team was unable to find a single existing instrument that would measure historical empathy. Instead, in our pilot, we used two measures – the Historical Perspective Taking assessment (HPT; Hartmann & Hasselhorn, 2008) and The Basic Empathy Scale (BES; Jolliffe & Farrington, 2006) – that we believed would approximate historical empathy. Results from our analysis and feedback from our experts urged us to consider a different approach. Guided by theory, we iteratively designed, developed, and pilot-testing a new historical empathy measure that was rooted in the three core tenets of historical empathy put forth by Endacott and Brooks. In this presentation, we will discuss our comprehensive process of instrument development that began with revisions to a validated instrument and ultimately culminated in a newly developed historical empathy measure to be implemented in our upcoming randomized controlled trial.