Gabriel Velez, Tasneem Mandviwala, Rebecca Frausel: Narrative, Perspective Taking, and the Story Exchange: Fostering Empathy and Cultivating Positive Classroom Environments

We propose to experimentally test whether a feasible, low-time, and low-cost intervention—the Story Exchange—improves high school students’ empathetic feelings and classroom interpersonal environments. We hypothesize that this intervention increases individual empathy, perspective taking, and socioemotional skills, which in turn creates more productive and positive social and learning environments. The Story Exchange is an intervention model developed by the nonprofit Narrative 4. In it, students from the same classroom are randomly placed into pairs and privately share short personal narratives. They then share these stories with the class. Rather than tell their own story, students share their partner’s story in the first person. Thus, the exchange uniquely combines two frequently utilized interventions that have been shown to impact empathetic feelings: sharing stories of personal experience and taking another’s perspective. The proposal is for an experimental research project that builds on a pilot study with ninth grade students in a disadvantaged area. Our pilot study found evidence for increased empathy immediately following the intervention. Gains were maintained 10 days later for those with low starting empathy scores. We propose to extend this pilot study to a more comprehensive
evaluation and determine which components encourage gains in empathy and emotional intelligence (e.g., story point-of-view, story content, partner relationships). This has rich theoretical importance for harnessing storytelling to foster productive classroom environments and cultivating empathy in youth. The intervention has the potential to reveal modes for supporting disadvantaged youth toward long-term academic and employment trajectories that reflect feelings of belonging and empathy.


Gabriel Velez

Comparative Human Development


Tasneem Mandviwala

Tasneem Mandviwala

Comparative Human Development


Rebecca Frausel

Comparative Human Development

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