Date of Award

Summer 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Hengtao Tang


The purpose of this action research study was to evaluate the effect of a robotics-based intervention on empathy for students enrolled in secondary English and literature courses. Empathy, as a concept, is an integral component of reading comprehension and student motivation. A decline in reported individual levels of empathy among young adults can negatively influence longitudinal academic and career success. Robotics present a promising method in which to impact student learning in K-12 environments. Student manipulation of Wonder Workshop Cue robots in designed challenges was integrated within literature content standards for English III. The outlined study measured the impact of that intervention. The study measured student empathy levels pre- and post-intervention and gathered information related to student perceptions of the intervention.

The study used a mixed methods action research approach to impact empathy with a robotics intervention centered around Washington Irving’s contribution to American Romanticism and early American literature. The study featured 13 students enrolled in English III at Sleepy Hollow High School during the fall semester of the 2021-2022 academic year. These students used robotic manipulatives to complete challenges featuring details from the text. The Interpersonal Reactivity Index was issued pre- and post-intervention. A Personal Reflection Survey was issued post-intervention. Behavioral observations and one-on-one interviews were conducted.

Quantitative findings indicated that overall scores on the Interpersonal Reactivity Index were significantly impacted. Scores on the subscale of Fantasy were also significantly impacted. Additionally, scores on the Personal Reflection Survey indicated that participants understood the concept of empathy and the purpose of the intervention. Qualitative findings indicated that participants displayed an awareness of struggle during the intervention and responded to the struggle with empathy. Participants also developed an understanding of the robotics as an experience of embodied cognition.


© 2022, Susan K. Porter-Voss