Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-31-2022

Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Dr. Julie Alemany

Committee Member

Dr. Katrina Pann


empathy, compassion, kindness, prejudice, parenting styles


A case study was conducted with 14 students who took a 16-week college humanities course at a regional university in the state of Florida. The core subjects of the course were kindness, compassion, and empathy. The instructor’s approach to teaching included methods akin to those of transformational learning. Data were collected from 14 weeks of reflective journals, semistructured interviews, and compassionate parenting modules written by the participants as final assignments. Findings indicated that transformative learning practices supported participants’ reflection and identification of acquired beliefs and new learning about kindness, empathy, and compassion. Participants also described perceived benefits of kindness for self and others, as well as how vulnerability facilitated peer bonding and empathy, confirming previous research about how kindness, empathy, and compassion can be cultivated. Participants’ reflection on caregivers’ parenting styles and practices and how caregivers expressed compassion included participants’ intention to parent with compassion in the future. Self-compassion was perceived as essential to protect themselves from excessive emotional involvement with others, and active listening was identified as a compassionate practice. All of the students successfully integrated topics from the class lessons and offered insights about themselves and others gained during reflective group exercises in their final papers with parenting practices they deemed compassionate.

Findings suggested that personal experiences influence content and design of a parenting program and invite more research about the effectiveness of transformative learning. The study also suggests an enhanced cognitive understanding of empathy could prompt the intention to raise children with compassion. Therefore, adding the study of empathy to the content of parenting programs and using transformative pedagogies could contribute to a heightened awareness of individuals’ assumptions about parenting and make caregivers more receptive to reconsidering parenting practices. Future research can expand and build upon existing compassion-focused interventions and transformative learning practices to build a new generation of empirically based parenting programs with an emphasis on self-awareness, empathy, reduction of prejudice, and prevention of intergroup conflict.


0000 0001-6532-8523

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