Theses and Dissertations

Backpacks for Success: Interpersonal Reactions of Preservice Teachers in an Equity-Based Simulation

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Instructional Design and Development

Committee Chair

Joél L. Billingsley Ph.D.


Empathy was identified as the initial variable of interest in the Backpacks for Success Simulation (BPSS). BPSS is a simulation exercise designed by Dr. Joel L. Billingsley in 2019. This simulation had its first debut at the 2019 Southeastern Regional Robert Noyce Conference. BPSS was used as an equity exercise to foster awareness for K-12 teachers and post-secondary educators. The purpose of this dissertation study was to build on the knowledge of BPSS intervention by conducting a mixed methods study that assessed participants empathic experiences in the BPSS. The Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) survey was used before and after the simulation to quantitatively assess if there was a change in four dimensions (Empathic Concern, Perspective-taking, Fantasy, and Personal Distress) of empathy as a result of the BPSS. Open-ended survey questions were added to the end of the IRI survey. This data were used to learn more about the participant’s experience in BPSS. Throughout the simulation, participants wrote notes and placed them in each group’s Backpack. This data were collected throughout the simulation and were used to phenomenologically assess participants’ experience with BPSS. Participants were 32 pre-service teachers from a secondary teacher preparation program attending a southern university. Participant’s self-reported as studying social studies, english, science, and special education while pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The group consisted of males and females that identified as White, African American, and multiple races. The IRI quantitative data showed there was no significant difference in participants’ empathy before or after the simulation. Additionally, subscale measures revealed one significant difference on the Perspective-Taking (PT) subscale. This difference indicated participants’ saw a decline in their ability to take perspective from the beginning of the study. Although there was no significant difference in the Empathic Concern (EC) subscale, it is worth noting that the sample of participants were already high in EC entering the study. The qualitative data indicated participants' had an array of experiences that fell within a continuum of resistance to the simulation to emerging toward empathy. This mixed research design led to a meta-inference that indicates participants can take on the perspective of others but decline in their ability to perspective take as the simulation progresses. Simultaneously there is a slow rise in the amount of empathic concern that the participants experience toward the end and completion of the BPSS. Findings from this study indicate a need to further explore empathy in the student teacher relationship and build upon Instructional Design implications to foster more xiii empathic atmospheres for learners of marginalized communities.

This document is currently not available here.