Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)


Curriculum & Instruction

Committee Chair

Melanie Shoffner

Committee Co-Chair

Tara Johnson

Committee Member 1

Janet Alsup


In this study, 8th grade Language Arts students read the young adult novel, Torn. The study then looked to explain why the students empathized with some characters in the novel over others and the implications the findings could have in regards to classroom practice. The objective of the research was to develop an understanding of why students empathize with particular characters over others in order to inform future studies of empathy development in adolescents. In order to achieve this, the study employed the methodologies of grounded theory and action research to build upon the existing literature about empathy and young adult literature. The study found the three main reasons students empathized with characters were shared experience, shared personality traits, and shared values. For teachers looking to help their students in their development of empathy, it would be beneficial to use literature reflective of student and adolescent experience, namely young adult literature, and to incorporate reader response strategies.