RESEARCH: EVALUATING EFFORTS TO
ENCOURAGE CHILDREN'S KINDNESS AND CARING
ABSTRACT. Humane education
includes instructional approaches to teaching
children kindness toward animals. Although
efforts to teach children to be caring probably
began within the first human social groups,
formalized programs aimed at fostering
children's compassion and responsibility toward
people and animals are a more recent phenomenon,
emerging in the United States not much earlier
than a century ago. This article describes what
has been evaluated in humane education programs,
why such programs are being scrutinized, how
programs have been evaluated (with a listing of
the shortcomings of some evaluations and
suggestions for improvement), and where programs
and their evaluations should be directed in the
future. The focus is on preschool and elementary
grade programs. After a discussion of historical
perspectives, recent approaches to implementing
and evaluating humane education are reviewed.
Special attention is given to the issue of
whether teaching children to be caring toward
animals has effects that are generalizable to
human-directed empathy. Suggestions are offered
for future research on this relatively neglected
topic in child psychology.
in the special sphere of humane education as
well as in the more general sphere of moral
education is a neglected and thus backward
branch of pedagogics. (Teutsch, 1982, p. 238)
efforts to teach children kindness and caring
probably began within the first human social
group, formalized programs aimed at fostering
children's compassion and responsibility toward
people and animals are a more recent phenomenon,
emerging in the United States not much earlier
than a century ago. If such programs are in
their infancy, their evaluation is still in a
neonatal period. Yet all signs point to a
healthy future development of the field of
humane education. In this article, I describe
what has been evaluated in humane education
programs, why such programs are being
scrutinized, how programs have been evaluated,
with a listing of the shortcomings of some
evaluations and suggestions for improvement, and
where programs and their evaluations should be
directed in the future. My focus is on preschool
and elementary grade programs.
Definitions and Areas of Emphasis
(1989) defined humane education as "an attempt
to develop altruism and a sense of compassion in
a world where all other pressures are in
opposition to it" (p. 74). This definition
includes an action component related to
fostering prosocial behavior and an affective
component related to empathy and sympathy. Arkow
(undated) articulated components of humane
education as defined by the American Society for
the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. These
components include animal needs and rights,
empathy toward humans and animals, respect for
all forms of life, even those that some may find
difficult to love or like, and the
interdependence of humans and animals. Listing
other definitions of humane education would
highlight their diversity, yet common threads in
the fabric of these educational efforts would be
evident. Instilling, reinforcing, and enhancing
young people's knowledge, attitudes, and
behavior toward the kind, compassionate, and
responsible treatment of human and animal life
are examples of the shared components of most
humane education programs.
Areas of Emphasis Within
(1899,p. 227) stated that "children who are
taught to be kind to animals and to each other
make good citizens." Humane education programs
can be categorized according to their relative
emphasis on interpersonal relations or
interspecies relations. The Child Development
Project (Battistich, Watson, Solomon, Schaps, &
Solomon, 1991) uses a variety of educational
interventions, including cooperative learning,
opportunities to rehearse helping, and examples
of prosocial values, to foster positive
interpersonal relations within classroom and
home environments. Programs that emphasize
interspecies relations include Project WILD
(Western Regional Environmental Education
Council, 1986), which restricts its coverage to
nondomestic animals, some humane society
programs that primarily address issues related
to pet care, and programs like People and
Animals (Savesky & Malcarne, 1981) that are
broader in scope and focus on farm animal, wild
animal, and pet animal issues.
(1922,p. 176) said that "children who are taught
to love and protect dumb creatures will be kind
to their fellow men when they grow up." One of
the explicit assumptions of humane education
programs that focus on inter-species relations
is what Finch (1989) referred to as
transference. This concept, which could also be
labeled generalization, suggests that teaching
children to be attentive to animal needs and to
treat animals with kindness, compassion, and
care will, in turn, affect the way children will
treat each other. It is clear that programs such
as People and Animals and Operation Outreach-USA
(Golden, 1992) aim to enhance interpersonal
relations through emphasis on interspecies
relations, a goal subscribed to in the earliest
attempts at humane education in the United
States (Arkow, 1992). Attempts to assess such
generalization will be discussed later in this
Variations in Program
the focus of this article is on humane education
programs developed and implemented by animal
welfare organizations, mention must also be made
of a program developed by the Western Regional
Environmental Education Council. Project WILD
has as its goal "to assist learners of any age
in developing awareness, knowledge, skills, and
commitment to result in informed decisions,
responsible behavior, and constructive actions
concerning wildlife and the environment upon
which all life depends" (Western Regional
Environmental Education Council, 1986, p. vii).
Project WILD is reminiscent of early programs
designed to create objective appreciation for
wildlife through nature study (Guyer, 1905;
Hodge, 1900) and to instill positive attitudes
and reverence for life (Guillet, 1904; Hodge,
1899). Its objectives relate to children's
understanding, for example, of the similarity of
human and animal needs, issues related to
habitat, and knowledge of the effects of
pollution, littering, and crowding on the
quality of nondomestic animal life. Although
more circumscribed in focus than the National
Association for Humane and Environmental
Education's (NAHEE) People and Animals and the
Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals' Operation Outreach-USA,
Project WILD shares with these programs their
supplementary and curriculum-blended features.
Animal Welfare Organization
Operation Outreach-USA, a program of the
American Humane Education Society (Golden,
1992), uses literacy skills development within a
cumulative, curriculum-blended approach to teach
children respect for all living things. This
objective is designed to be achieved by
introducing children to classic literary works,
thereby coupling cognitive (reading ability) and
affective (prosocial attitudes and empathy)
goals. NAHEE's People and Animals curriculum
guides have as their objectives the following
(as described by Savesky & Malcarne, 1981):
assist children in developing compassion, a
sense of justice, and a respect for all living
creatures; 2) provide the knowledge and
understanding necessary for children to behave
according to these principles; and 3) foster a
sense of responsibility on the part of children
to affirm and act upon their personal beliefs.
objectives incorporated in People and Animals
make explicit the general cognitive, affective,
and behavioral outcomes that are desirable as a
result of implementation of the program. These
objectives (and those of other humane education
programs) are praiseworthy and would, no doubt,
be endorsed by most human and animal welfare
organizations. There may be less consensus about
methods of achieving these objectives,
especially where controversial issues, like
trophy hunting, are involved. Yet it has often
been humane educators who are in the forefront
of distinguishing education from indoctrination
(see Finch & Soltow, 1991, p. 25).
vehicles through which such objectives are
approached are quite varied. They include direct
physical contact with farm and pet animals
(George, 1992) and exposure to animals in
zoological parks (Kaufmann, 1992), lessons about
animal behavior (Zawistowski, 1992), and
exposure to classic literature including animal
protagonists (Golden, 1992). These vehicles may
be present in the home and family life of many
children in our culture. However, the greatest
attention in this domain has been given to
socialization outside the home (Eisenberg,
1992), especially school-based humane education
programs. These programs range from brief,
one-time classroom visits by a humane educator
(Vockell & Hodal, 1980) to programs spanning an
entire school year (Ascione, 1992).
Evaluating Humane Education: Process and
research on children's relations with animals,
including reference to teacher-implemented
humane education, is mentioned in documents
prepared before the beginning of this century
(Angell, 1884), systematic research in this area
is a recent phenomenon. What was perhaps the
first study of child-animal relations was not
notable for its emphasis on fostering positive
relations. I refer here to Watson and Rayner's
(1920) study of little Albert, in which creating
fear of an animal was the object. Before 1980,
only a few scattered research reports focused on
fostering positive child-animal relations;
included among these are Mary Cover Jones's
(1924) work in the counter-conditioning of fear
of rabbits, and Bandura, Grusec, and Menlove's
(1967) study using modeling to eliminate fear of
dogs in young children.
study that concentrated directly on prosocial
behavior between children and animals was
conducted by Sprafkin, Leibert, and Poulos
(1975), in which they used the modeling of
rescue behavior (Jeff rescuing one of Lassie's
puppies in the serialized TV program) in
assessing first graders' willingness to help
puppies in distress. In the classic study,
"Learning Concern for Others," by Yarrow, Scott,
and Waxler (1973), opportunities to be kind to
animals were prominent among the pictures,
dioramas, and behavioral incidents used to
measure and train children in prosocial
behavior. Although they did not directly assess
such behavior, even Hartshorne, May, and Mailer
(1929) mentioned kindness to animals as an index
of children's dispositions to be of service.
of animals, especially pets or companion
animals, in the psychological and social
development of children has been the focus of
numerous calls for increased research attention
(e.g., Levinson, 1983; Westerlund, 1982).
Heeding these calls are researchers whose
efforts have been aimed at the study and
enhancement of children's attitudes toward the
care of, treatment of, and respect for animals.
Developmental changes in the quality of
children's humane attitudes have been assessed
by Kellert and Westervelt (1983); Rheingold and
Emery (1986) have explored the roots of such
attitudes in the second year of human life;
Fogel, Melson, and Mistry (1986) have included
values and attitudes toward animals as
underlying one of the many forms of nurturance
that children may display; Kanner, Feldman,
Weinberger, and Ford (1987) included pet-related
items in their measures of uplifts and hassles
in early adolescence; and Bryant (1985) has
explored how relations with companion animals
may relate to children's empathic tendencies
toward people. Other evidence of revitalized
attention to this area is the number of
child-related articles included in the 1985
special issue of the journal, Marriage and
Family Review, which focused on pets and the
companion animals are an integral part of the
environment of many children in the United
States. Pet ownership has been found to be
significantly more common in families with
school-aged children and adolescents than in
families without children (Albert & Bulcroft,
1988). In samples from California and
Connecticut, children reported pet ownership
ranging from 52%, for kindergartners, to 75%,
for fifth graders (Ascione, Latham, & Worthen,
1985). Higher rates of pet ownership in a sample
of older children have been reported by Bryant
(1990). The numbers confirm the importance of
attending to the human--companion animals
relation (Kidd & Kidd, 1987; National Institutes
of Health, 1988).
study of the role of child-animal relations
potentially pervades most of the significant
domains of developmental analysis (Poresky,
Hendrix, & Woroby, 1988) and, historically, is
represented in the early developmental
psychology literature (e.g., Bucke, 1903; Hall &
Browne, 1904; Lehman, 1927). In 1870, the
Pedagogical Society of Berlin, Germany (Dennis,
1972) conducted a study of thousands of
6-year-olds entering Berlin schools. A number of
the questions asked of these children, to gauge
their understanding of various concepts, related
to the children's knowledge of various animals.
The authors of the report noted that of 10,000
children tested, approximately 6,000 understood
what a swan was, 4,000 knew what a zoo was, and
only approximately 2,500 knew what a rabbit was.
Stanley Hall, in his 1883 report on a study of
the contents of children's minds (Dennis, 1972),
incorporated some of the questions that had been
used in the Berlin study. For example, he found
that 10% of kindergarten children tested knew
what a beehive was, 50% could identify a frog,
and 72% knew what a cow was. In addition, only
7% of the children knew that "leathern things
come from animals," 31% knew the origin of
woolen things, and 80% were able to identify the
source of milk. Hall complained of the
methodological difficulties in scoring responses
as correct when interviewing children. For
example, in describing some of the children's
responses, he said, "A worm may be said to swim
on the ground, butchers to kill only the bad
animals .... but when hams are said to grow on
trees or on the ground... or wool as growing on
hens... the deficiency is obvious" (p. 121).
are also more recent attempts to assess
children's knowledge and attitudes about
animal-related issues. These studies are
primarily descriptive and in some cases examine
the correlates of children's knowledge and
attitudes. Westervelt and Llewellyn (1985)
focused on fifth- and sixth-grade children's
beliefs and behaviors regarding wildlife; Kidd
and Kidd (1985,1990) have examined, across
significant age spans, children's beliefs and
attitudes about pets, focusing on
cross-sectionally derived developmental changes
in attitudes and their relation to parental
attitudes. Arreola (1989) surveyed first-
through fifth-grade children on their knowledge
about and attitudes toward a variety of animal
control concepts. An especially exciting
development in this field is the emergence of
cross-cultural research, including evaluations
of educational programs in Costa Rica (Zuman,
1993) and assessments of attitudes toward animal
welfare and environmental issues in East German
and Russian youth (Szagun & Pavlov, 1993).
Research on School-Based
Eisenberg (1988,p. 16) wrote: "Although there is
very little research concerning the teaching of
humane attitudes towards animals to children, it
appears as if there is a need to do so." In a
number of studies, researchers have attempted to
assess educative efforts to enhance children's
attitudes toward the humane treatment of
animals. Some of these studies focus on animals
in general, and others emphasize the treatment
of companion animals.
with evaluations of Project WILD (Western
Regional Environmental Education Council, 1986)
as an example of a school-based program that is
restricted to the study of nondomestic animals.
Charles (1988) has summarized Project WILD's
effects in terms of teacher evaluations, studies
of changes in knowledge and attitudes, and
anecdotal evidence of children's behavioral
change. Although this is a widely disseminated
program and one to which participating teachers
devote considerable instructional time
(Gilchrist, 1991), evidence of Project WILD's
effectiveness is not extensive. Fleming (1985)
evaluated Project WILD in kindergarten through
fifth-grade classrooms in Lee County, Florida,
using pretest and posttest instruments of
moderate to good reliability. However,
significant positive changes attributable to the
Project WILD curriculum were found only on the
assessment of knowledge. Statistically
significant differences were not found on the
Decker, and Taylor (1990) completed a similar
study in Colorado with sixth and seventh
graders. Although psychometric information about
the assessment instruments was not provided,
gender differences were found. Boys performed
significantly better on the knowledge measure,
girls performed better on the attitudinal
measure. However, there were no statistically
significant differences between Project WILD and
control classrooms. The authors attribute this
result to the pervasiveness of wildlife and
environmental issues in the modern classroom,
making it more difficult to assess the effects
of supplemental programs like Project WILD.
and Hodal (1980) focused on the impact of
"typical 'one-shot' humane education programs"
on a measure of children's humaneness. The
programs consisted of a single school visit by a
humane educator coupled with the provision of
printed materials and posters. Third- through
sixth-grade classes received either a visit (of
unspecified duration but presumably the length
of one class period) and print material
(referred to as the intensive treatment) or
print material alone (light treatment), or
neither (control classrooms).
the children in this study were not pretested,
they were posttested on two forms of the
authors' Fireman test, designed to assess the
degree of children's favorable attitudes toward
animal life (children are asked to select, from
a list of inanimate possessions and pets, which
they would attempt to rescue from a burning
home). Vockell and Hodal (1980) reported that
the two treatment classrooms' mean scores
exceeded that of the control group for one form
of the Fireman test but not for the other.
Neither treatment condition was judged superior.
One problem not addressed was why the control
groups' performances on the two presumably
equivalent tests differed so greatly (.99 for
the Johnny form and 1.68 for the Billy form).
Furthermore, without pretest information it was
possible that the various groups differed
significantly in their humane attitudes prior to
the implementation of the programs.
Nevertheless, the authors concluded that the
similarly designed study, Fitzgerald (1981)
compared a variety of school-based interventions
in 16 fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms and
included the important design feature of
pretesting children. The four conditions were
(a) repeated treatment (RT), in which a master
teacher presented four humane education lessons
over a 2-month period (once every 2 weeks); (b)
intensive treatment (IT), in which the
information contained in RT was covered in a
single class session; (c) light treatment (LT),
which involved the provision of reading material
without any direct instruction; and (d) a
control condition, in which no humane education
classrooms were pre- and posttested using the
Fireman test. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA)
indicated that the mean score for the IT
condition was significantly more humane than
mean scores for any of the three other groups
(RT, LT, and control). The three other groups
also did not differ significantly from each
other. Fitzgerald concluded that a focused
classroom presentation conducted by a master
teacher could have a positive impact on
children's humane attitudes.
(1983) investigated two forms of humane
education and their effects on animal-related
attitudes using seven eighth-grade classrooms.
Two classrooms were given reading material and
media presentations (PRINT); two were provided
both presentations along with lectures delivered
by the instructor (LECTURE); and the remaining
three classrooms served as a control group. The
instruction in the PRINT and LECTURE groups
lasted for 3 school weeks for a total of
approximately 14 hr of in-class instruction. All
children were pre- and posttested on an
instrument tapping animal-related attitudes.
Using analysis of variance (ANOVA), Cameron
found that the mean posttest attitude scores of
the PRINT and LECTURE groups were more positive
than the control group's mean score. Although
the PRINT and LECTURE groups did not differ, and
the LECTURE and control group did not differ,
the PRINT group mean score was higher than that
of the control group.
study demonstrated that a more intensive
intervention can have a positive impact on
children's attitudes toward animals even with
children older than those studied by either
Vockell and Hodal (1980) or Fitzgerald (1981).
One limitation of this study, however, was that
the attitude instrument developed by Cameron
included only three items (of the 25 total)
clearly related to the care and treatment of
companion animals (pets). Also, in studies of
this nature, the individual who provides the
instruction should not conduct the assessments
(to avoid potential bias). That was not the case
in this study (nor in a more recent study by
(1981) studied a small group (33 children) of
third and fourth graders to assess the effects
of drama and role playing on children's empathy
and prosocial behavior toward humans and
animals. One third of the sample received
dramatization and role-playing experience
related to human victims of distress, one third
with animal victims, and the remaining third
were read The Girl of the Sacred Dogs, with
discussion focused on the story content rather
than on role taking.
condition lasted for 1 hr. All the children were
then posttested (no pretests were given) on
three measures: (a) story resolution in which
either a human or animal victim of distress was
the subject, and the child's response was scored
for helping and empathy; (b) the Fireman test,
and (c) children's willingness to volunteer time
at either a children's hospital or an animal
shelter (the number of hours mentioned was the
found that children trained to role play animal
distress scored higher on the Fireman test than
did children in the other two groups. Children
in both treatment groups had higher scores on
the animal version of the story-resolution test
than children in the control group did and
expressed a greater willingness to volunteer at
a children's hospital than did members of the
control group. Willingness to volunteer at an
animal shelter was higher for the group trained
to role play animal distress than for the other
two groups. Although this study provided
important information regarding the relation
between empathy for humans and for animals, an
issue also addressed by Bailey and Doescher
(1991) and Meison (1991), the absence of
pretesting makes interpretation problematic.
evaluation of school-based humane education
efforts sponsored by the Massachusetts Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Hein
(1987) reported the effects of a single humane
education presentation on second graders and a
series of three presentations on third, fourth,
and fifth graders on children's attitudes toward
the treatment of animals. As described in the
report, the presentations comprised less than 3
hr of total instruction. Hein found that,
compared with a no-intervention control group,
children receiving humane education in the
second, third, and fourth grades demonstrated
statistically significant increases in humane
attitudes. No effects were obtained for fifth
cautioned that changes obtained at the second
grade level could be attributed to large
increases in humane attitudes for a small number
of children, and that changes for third and
fourth graders were restricted to attitude scale
items directly related to the specific
instruction provided (i.e., changes may have
resulted from teaching to the test). One of
Hein's recommendations was that substantially
more intensive instruction is needed in humane
education to effect practically significant
changes in attitudes.
the National Association for Humane and
Environmental Education's (NAHEE) curriculum
guides, Ascione, Latham, and Worthen (1985)
assessed the effects of a school-based
intervention, implemented by teachers, on
children's humane attitudes. Seventy-seven
teachers and their 1,800 pupils (kindergarten
through sixth grade) were randomly assigned to
either an intervention condition (E group) or a
no-intervention condition (C group). Children
were pre- and posttested on a Primary Attitude
Scale (PAS; Ascione, 1988b) or Intermediate
Attitude Scale (lAS; Ascione, 1988a) depending
on their grade level. These instruments
assessed attitudes toward companion and
noncompanion animals. Teachers implemented
NAHEE's curriculum over the course of the school
year and reported that, on the average, 10 hr
were spent on humane education material. Results
showed that mean PAS posttest scores were higher
for E-group kindergarten and first graders than
for C-group children.
the direction of the E-C group difference was in
the expected direction for second graders, this
difference was not statistically significant. No
gender differences were found in the PAS
analysis. For the IAS, significant grade and
gender differences were found (mean humane
attitude scores were higher for girls and higher
for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders than for
third graders) and a treatment (E vs. C) effect
that approached significance (p <.08).
Subsequent analyses showed that E-group third
graders at one site (California) and fourth
graders at the other site (Connecticut) had
higher scores for humane attitudes than C-group
children at those grades and sites.
of this study demonstrated that children's
attitudes toward the treatment of animals could
be measured reliably in a developmentally
sensitive manner. The attitude scales developed
were also sensitive to gender and grade
differences, and to a relatively weak
educational intervention. Given that only 10
total hr of instruction were devoted to this
program over the entire school year, a question
that needed to be addressed was whether a more
intensive intervention would produce more
dramatic and consistent increases in children's
animal-related attitudes (a point stressed in
(1992) assessed the impact of a year-long,
school-based humane education program using
NAHEE's People and Animals curriculum with KIND
News (a weekly-reader-type newsletter coveting
animal-related issues) as a supplement.
Thirty-two classrooms were involved, with
separate analyses for younger (first and second
grade) and older (fourth and fifth grade)
pupils. Assignment of the volunteer teachers'
classrooms to the experimental group (E), which
implemented the curriculum, or to the control
group (C) was random. The effect of the program
on children's attitudes toward animals as well
as generalization of effects to human-directed
empathy (Bryant, 1982, 1987a, 1987b) were
assessed. In contrast to teachers in the
Ascione, Latham, and Worthen (1985) study,
teachers in the experimental group reported
spending an average of nearly 40 hr of
instructional time, over the school year, on the
humane education curriculum.
ANCOVAs, it was shown that the program enhanced
the animal-related attitudes of children
differentially, depending on grade level. For
younger children (first and second graders),
there was no significant difference between E
and C group attitude means; however, qualitative
analysis suggested that greater enhancement of
attitudes occurred for first-grade E-group
children than for C-group children at that grade
level. In contrast, no difference between E and
C groups was evident for second graders. No
differences were present on the generalization
measure of empathy.
older children (fourth and fifth graders), there
was a significant difference between E- and
C-group attitude means qualified by grade
level--there was greater enhancement of humane
attitudes for E-group than for C-group fourth
graders (see Figure 1 for posttest data) but no
significant difference for fifth graders. On the
generalization measure of empathy, posttest
means for the E group were significantly greater
than means for the C group regardless of grade
(1992) identified three issues that should be
addressed in follow-up research. First, one
important question that must be asked of humane
education research is the duration of the
changes that occur as a result of educational
interventions. This issue has both research and
practical significance, because children may
encounter humane education sporadically rather
than consistently across their school years. If
program-enhanced attitudes are maintained across
at least a school year, more cost effective
programs could be developed (e.g., implementing
concerted humane education at every other grade
level), especially in areas where resources are
issue is the relation between having a pet and
children's attitudes toward animals. Although
pet ownership, per se, was not found to be a
significant factor by Ascione (1992), future
research should examine the quality of the
relation between child and pet. See examples of
this approach with children by Poresky (1990),
Poresky and Hendrix (1990), and Poresky,
Hendrix, Mosier, and Samuelson (1987).
future researchers should directly address the
relation between children's humane attitudes and
their actual treatment of companion and
noncompanion animals. One area of focus should
be on children who may be at risk for
mistreating animals. Much of the information
available on this issue is anecdotal or based
primarily on retrospective reports by adults
(Ascione, 1993). I am currently exploring the
use of the attitude scales incorporated in this
project with children who have engaged in animal
maltreatment, an issue of both historical
(Jersild, 1954) and current interest (National
Advisory Mental Health Council, 1990, section on
Conduct Disorder). This research would focus on
the potential screening use of these scales and
their value as pre-post measures of intervention
these issues were examined in a follow-up study
by Ascione and Weber (1993). Because the effects
of the humane education curriculum were clearest
for fourth graders in the Ascione (1992) study,
this description of the follow-up focuses on the
results for that grade level.
and Weber were able to locate and re-test over
80% of the original sample 1 year after the
earlier study was completed. Fourth graders from
both the experimental (E) and control (C) groups
were assessed on the measures of humane
attitudes (lAS), human-directed empathy (B-I),
and, for children with companion animals, the
quality of their relations with their pets (as
reported by parents). Analyses of the follow-up
data showed that E-group fourth graders still
had a more humane attitude mean score than
C-group children (see Figure 1 for follow-up
data). When the quality of children's relations
with pets was considered in the analyses (as a
covariate), intervention effects were shown to
have generalized to human-directed empathy. This
is the first demonstration of the relatively
long-term maintenance of effects of a humane
education program and, although the effects were
clearest for only one grade level and the study
warrants replication, the results are
Humane Education Evaluation: An Agenda
for Future Research
experience of French and English schools during
many years has shown that children taught
kindness to animals only, become not only more
kind to animals, but also more kind to one
another. (From a paper by George T. Angell,
President of the Massachusetts Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Director of
the American Social Science Association,
presented before the National Association of
Superintendents of Public Schools at their
annual meeting, Washington, DC, February 14,
been difficult to locate the research on which
George Angell based his remarks, but it is
encouraging that we are beginning to assemble
data that may eventually validate Angell's
observation. We need to acknowledge, however,
that this validation may be more difficult to
accomplish than we initially presumed. This is a
condition not unique to humane education--one
has only to examine current dialogue about the
questionable effectiveness of other school-based
programs like D.A.R.E. for drug education,
Channel ONE for education on current events, and
programs dealing with sexuality. Evaluation in
real world settings is a complex and challenging
closing, I would like to focus on some
suggestions for future research on the
evaluation of humane education programs
implemented in school settings. These remarks
address the way we assess humane education
outcomes, characteristics of the children who
are involved in this research, how humane
education programs are implemented, the need to
move beyond assessing knowledge and attitudes
alone, and the relation of humane education
outcomes to broader societal issues that affect
we measure humane education effects? It is clear
that there is a need for continued research on
developing reliable and valid tests of humane
education program outcomes, especially for use
with preschool and early elementary grade
children. In fact, what is sorely needed is a
form of assessment common to a variety of humane
education programs (e.g., People and Animals and
Operation Outreach-USA) that could be used
across a wide age span. The Intermediate
Attitude Scale used in Ascione (1992) and
Ascione and Weber (1993) holds some promise in
this regard because it has been shown to be
reliable with older children (second to third
graders and older) and with adults (Weber &
Ascione, 1992). However, continued attention to
this issue by other researchers is needed.
do assess humane education programs, we must be
sensitive to the potential for examiner bias to
affect our results. It is surprising that there
continue to be studies that use testers who are
not naive as to the tested children's classroom
experience with humane education. Deliberate
attempts to influence outcomes are not being
suggested; rather, we know that subtle,
unconscious effects may occur and can distort
our findings. These effects can easily be
controlled for and would substantially improve
the quality of outcome data.
we assess? One question we should be addressing
is whether the children we have studied in
humane education programs represent the
economic, ethnic, and cultural diversity that
exists in our country. Have we focused our
attention on children from middle and upper
income families and neglected to examine humane
education effects with children from
impoverished environments? How do the messages
conveyed in humane education programs affect
children who grow up in frightening and violent
environments? Broadening our research samples
will help us address these issues and, in turn,
feed back to the development of humane education
program content as well as methods of
should be considered in implementing humane
education programs? Humane education programs
that are to be formally evaluated should
obviously be comparable to typical programs
implemented in schools. However, when
evaluations are to be conducted, we should take
care to document the quantity and quality of the
intervention. For example, in one study
(Ascione, 1992), 1 asked teachers to report on
the amount of time spent on humane education,
but I did not include assessment of the quality
of instruction or its consistency with
curriculum guidelines. A related issue is
assessing the effects of variations in teacher
preparation for humane education, including
comparisons of preservice and in-service
documentation also needs to occur in the
so-called control classrooms or comparison
groups we use in such research. As humane and
environmental issues become more "mainstreamed,"
determining the effects of supplemental programs
may become more challenging.
additional consideration related to program
implementation is the duration of programs. It
is noteworthy that in many other curriculum
areas, instruction is cumulative across grades.
Yet most humane education evaluations have
examined programs lasting no longer than one
school year. If health, sexuality, drug, and
citizenship education require years of
instruction to be effective, is this not also
the case with humane education? We cannot use an
inoculation model and assume that if humane
education is "covered" in the third grade, the
effects will last till adulthood. We need
longitudinal studies that follow children
exposed to multiple years of humane education.
These studies will allow for a more realistic
assessment of intervention effectiveness.
ABCs--Two Bottom Lines
one hundred years of humane education efforts,
many people still do not take proper care of
their pets, and shelters see the results.
(Jasper, J. M., & Nelkin, D., 1992, p. 67)
that there are complex interrelations between
attitudes, behaviors, and cognitions (Olson &
Zanna, 1993), yet most humane education
evaluations have focused on affective and/or
knowledge change, with little attention to
action. This is understandable, as attitudes and
knowledge are easier and less costly to measure.
We must be willing to expend the energy and
resources to determine whether children who
experience humane education in fact behave more
kindly toward animals, act more responsibly in
caring for pets, engage in cruelty less
frequently, take action on behalf of threatened
species, support habitat preservation for
wildlife, and so forth.
(1922,p. 35) stated, "If he is bad enough to
ill-treat his dog, he will ill-treat his wife
and children." To a certain degree, we have more
information about the relation between violence
toward animals and family violence (Ascione,
1993) than we do about the beneficial effects of
humane education. As noted by Finch (1989),
humane education should also address general
issues of moral education that are related to
social problems like child maltreatment and
delinquency. The pioneers of humane education
efforts acknowledged this responsibility
(Angell, 1884); it is a responsibility that
requires attention more urgently than ever.
pedagogy is ever to become adequate to the needs
of the soul, the time will come when animals
will play a far larger educational role than has
yet been conceived, that they will be
curriculized, will acquire a new and higher
humanistic or culture value in the future
comparable with their utility in the past.
(Hall, 1904, p. 228)
young child, there is no gap between his soul
and that of animals. (Hall, 1904, p. 221)
of this article appeared in Ascione (1992) and
are reproduced with the permission of the editor
of Anthrozoos. Teresa Thompson and Claudia Weber
assisted with bibliographic work and Karen
Ranson prepared the manuscript. Their
professional efforts are sincerely appreciated.
correspondence to Frank R. Ascione, Department
of Psychology, Utah State University, Logan, UT
84322-2810. E-mail: FRANKA@FS1.ED.USU.EDU.
- Evaluation of Operation
Outreach-USA has not been included, because
their program has not been in existence long
enough to be the subject of evaluation
studies. Evaluation of the program's effects
on reading ability and attitudes was planned
- Psychometric information
on these scales can be found in Ascione
FIGURE 1. Pretest, posttest, and follow up mean
attitude scores for the eight classrooms (four
experimental and four control) participating in
an evaluation of humane education. Higher scores
on the attitude measure (IAS) reflect more
humane attitudes. Pretest and posttest data are
derived from Ascione (1992) and follow-up data
from Ascione and Weber (1993). IAS/PRE and
Poresky/Past covariates are described in Ascione
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April 11, 1996
R. ASCIONE, Department of Psychology, Utah State