This project sought to identify whether undergraduate education at the University of British Columbia may contribute to students’ ability to represent and empathize with the perspective of others, and if so, whether these changes differ by discipline. The value of a university education is frequently articulated in terms of citizenship—roughly, the tools and disposition to understand and contribute to a pluralistic society (e.g., Harlap et al., 2008). If this is true, then university education may have an effect on students’ tendency to understand and empathize with others (empathic concern & perspective taking) and perception of the meaningfulness of their own lives as contributing citizens. We explored this question by sampling students across years at the University of British Columbia and comparing mean trait levels of meaning in life, empathic concern and perspective-taking across students in 4 years of university at UBC.
This report represents the findings from the Arts Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund project “Cultivating citizenship skills through teaching and learning in the humanities.” The research project draws on existing literature and further develops a conceptualization of global citizenship cultivation in undergraduate education. This report’s primary function is to relate this conceptualization to survey data from UBC undergraduate students and qualitative data gathered through focus group discussions with UBC alumni. In short, we sought insights into how current and former students understand the contribution of their university degree and associated experiences in affecting them as global citizens.
For a university-wide study of positive/negative change from year 1 to year 2 in empathic concern and perspective-taking, see also here.