FICTION, EMPATHY, AND GENDER DIVERSITY: EXPLORING THE IMPACT OF USING A NOVEL IN A CHILD AND YOUTH CARE CLASSROOM
To better understand how using a novel in a child and youth care classroom impacts empathy in relation to gender diversity, a qualitative study was constructed. Data were gathered using an online questionnaire administered to child and youth care practitioner students. These students had engaged with the novel Scarborough (Hernandez, C. . Scarborough: A novel. Arsenal Pulp) in a course about foundational therapeutic knowledge. The study sought to identify: (a) what perceptions and emotions were evoked by engaging with the narrative of a young person exploring gender; (b) what, if any, aspects of empathetic connection emerged in relation to this exploration; and (c) what, if any, connections were made to the theoretical material taught in the course. The study incorporated child-and-youth-care-specific and critical social theory frameworks, and theorized about evocative objects and the concept of empathetic distress. The findings suggest that novel-based teaching can elicit from students, or help them express, higher-order empathy in relation to gender diversity, and that a narrative about the struggle to live as one’s genuine self is one possible pathway towards achieving this empathetic connection. Additional research is needed to investigate these preliminary findings and to address bias in the existing literature on adult education and the use of fiction.
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