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An exploration of the relationship between social perspective taking and positive outcomes for schools
thesisposted on 28.02.2017, 01:10 authored by Kendall, Kristy Lee
Adolescence is a time of change, exploration and exuberance (Coon, 1995). The changes that occur during adolescence includes physical, emotional and cognitive growth. It is a time where individuals become more accomplished at understanding themselves and others. Social perspective taking involves reasoning about others, and understanding what they think, feel or believe; it involves stepping into their 'mental shoes' and taking their perspective (Gallese & Goldman, 1998). Recent research has linked the ability to take another's perspective with learning, achievement and relational outcomes (Gehlbach, Brinkworth & Wang, 2012). It is this finding that has sparked the interest of educators in terms of tapping into an ability that may not only support the educational process, but enhance it. Interventions to help people engage in social perspective taking more often can not be developed however, until we understand when people engage in (or fail to engage in) social perspective taking in the first place (Gehlbach et al., 2012). This thesis was conducted to investigate whether or not a relationship exists between social perspective taking and age and gender. The relationship between social perspective taking and areas related to school success, namely academic outcomes, classroom behaviour and social standing, was also explored. A mixed method approach was used to gather data from participants aged 12-17. The participants were asked to report on their academic ability, classroom behaviour and social standing, along with describing their social perspective taking behaviours in terms of confidence, motivation and importance. A small number of participants were also interviewed to gain a more in depth view of their own personal understanding of the social perspective taking processes. The research revealed that there was a significant relationship between gender and the propensity with which one engaged in social perspective taking as well as the importance placed upon it. Female participants reported engaging in social perspective taking more often than male participants and believed it was more important than their male counterparts did. In terms of factors related to educational outcomes, a significant relationship was found between self-rated academic ability and confidence in taking another person's perspective, as well as the importance placed upon it. This same relationship was found with self-rated behaviour. The research found that those with higher self-rated academic ability and behaviour have more confidence in social perspective taking and place more importance in it as a skill in social interactions. A significant relationship between social standing and confidence in social perspective taking was also recorded. No significant relationship between social perspective taking and age was found. This study has identified and discussed the relationships between motivational factors when taking another's perspective and factors that are integral for school success. The important consideration now is how educators respond to these findings. Through the exploration of social perspective taking in the context of this thesis, the findings suggest that social perspective taking may be improved by providing feedback to individuals as a means by which to increase their confidence in social perspective taking when displayed in an academic context. The potential of teaching social perspective taking in schools may be in improvement in academic performance, behaviour or social standing. Whatever the future of educational practices, social perspective taking holds new potential for shaping young adults, by harnessing them not only with a greater academic and behavioural competency, but also with a more holistic social conscience as well.