Melanie Wagner, PhD, is a 2014 graduate of the PhD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Melanie Wagner at her Dissertation Defense, May 2014

Left to Right : Dr. Jon Wergin, Committee Member, Dr. Melanie Wagner, Dr. Carol Baron, Dissertation Chair


humane education, violence prevention, violence intervention, at-risk youth, empathy development, BEI, Bryant Empathy Index, adolescents, juvenile offenders, animal protection, animal welfare, educational leadership

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This descriptive and comparative study examined the current landscape of humane education program evaluation and data analysis through a survey of humane educators across the country. Results of the humane education survey show that data collection and evaluation are occurring in humane education programs but these efforts do not capture and measure empathy, the primary goal of most humane education programs. Humane educators reported they felt the profession is progressive and relevant to a broad host of purposes, from building positive relationships with animals to playing a role in the larger social justice scheme. They also suggested that the field is in need of leadership and clearer direction and that they want more rigorous humane education evaluation practices. This study also examined the potential effects of humane education violence prevention and intervention programs on youth from at-risk environments. Students who participated in the violence prevention and intervention programs, TLCTM or jTLCTM, between 2001 and 2014 at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Los Angeles (spcaLA) took pre and post surveys that identify their attitudes towards animals, others, and self. Paired survey data, totaling 395 TLC TM and jTLCTM students, were archived and, for this dissertation, were digitized from their original paper and pencil format. In September 2013 the pre and post surveys for these programs were changed to collect data that focused on changes in empathy, using the Bryant Empathy Index (BEI) (Bryant, 1982). Seventy-one BEI surveys were included in this study’s analysis. Data were analyzed using descriptive and comparative statistics. The mean scores increased significantly on knowledge scales and subscales for the participants in TLCTM or jTLCTM, across all cases and variables of gender and school level. Mean scores increased significantly on attitude scales and subscales for the jTLCTM participants, across all cases and gender. Mean empathy scores increased for two of the three BEI subscales for TLCTM or jTLCTM participants across all cases and the variable of gender. Significant increases in attitudes varied by program, gender, and school level. jTLC™ students had the most prominent increase in attitudes, possibly due to their lower pretest means. The research found significant increases in empathy for all participants in the TLCTM or jTLCTM. The TLCTM and jTLCTM program participants showed a significant increase in mean scores on the empathy scale. Females and males showed significant increases on the BEI as well. The electronic version of this Dissertation is at the OhioLink ETD Center,