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Teacher Altruism: A Key to Promoting Student Gains
Unformatted Document Text:  known as the bystander effect wherein the diffusion of responsibility negates individual action to respond to a person in crisis. The research on altruism and acts of selfless giving has helped researchers develop multiple theories about why people choose to perform altruistic acts. One theory is that altruistic tendencies are biological in that self-sacrificing behavior may be performed with the unconscious idea that this behavior will be reciprocated for the helper’s benefit in the future. Evidence supporting this hypothesis comes from monozygotic and dizygotic twin studies, (Eisenberg et al, 1999) and through observations of infant emotional responses to others where babies reflect signs of distress in caregivers (Zahn-Waxler, Radke-Yarrow, Wagner, & Chapman, 1992). As an elaboration of this hypothesis, the kinship genetics theory suggests that in a crisis people are more likely to aid relatives than non-relatives because of the preservation of one’s genetics in the gene pool (Science News, 1977). However, the biology hypothesis does not explain why a person would help a stranger who may never have the occasion to reciprocate helping. Another hypothesis comes from Social Learning theory. This theory posits that children learn to be altruistic through multiple social interactions including: adult role modeling of ideal behaviors, dialectically through conversation designed to stimulate cognitive formation and development of altruistic ideas, through role playing, and instruction that increases children’s perceptions of their own competencies for helping others (Konecni & Ebbesen, 1975). In addition, Eisenberg and Fabes (1998) found that parenting style and social context may impact the development of prosocial behaviors that have an altruistic base. Evidence for the validity of Social Learning Theory in describing altruism comes from research by Simmons and Sands-Dudelczyk (1983) who found that children’s helping behaviors are directly related to the socialization process in their immediate environment, specifically, the type of school they attended. The study was conducted at three different types of preschools: Montessori, Transactional Analysis, and a traditional public school. Researchers put children in a room alone and then sent in a confederate child (part of the research team) who acted distressed about losing a necklace in the room where the subject was. The confederate child then “found” the necklace behind a box which she could not move without another person’s help. The subjects then had to choose, of their own volition, if and how they would help the confederate child. The researchers found that the type of help children offered to the confederate child was directly related to the repertoire of behaviors they had gleaned from their school environment. Specifically, children who attended the Transactional Analysis school were most likely to offer spontaneous help, children from the Montessori school were most likely to wait for a specific request for help from the confederate child, and students from the traditional school were most likely to try finding an adult to help the confederate child rather than directly assisting the child themselves. The researchers believe that the differences in responses correlated with the socialization of children in their respective education environments (Simmons & Sands-Dudelczyk, 1983). Further evidence supporting the Social Learning theory of altruism comes from research by Konecni and Ebbesen (1975). These researchers found that children have a greater response to adults who behave altruistically (role modeling) versus adults who merely preach about altruism. Similarly, Bryan and Walbek (1970) found that children learn more and respond more positively to role modeling than didactic instruction on altruism. They also concluded that parents and adult role models help train children to

Authors: Robinson, Edward., Robinson, Sandra., Curry, Jennifer. and Hayes, Grant.
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known as the bystander effect wherein the diffusion of responsibility negates individual
action to respond to a person in crisis. The research on altruism and acts of selfless giving
has helped researchers develop multiple theories about why people choose to perform
altruistic acts.
One theory is that altruistic tendencies are biological in that self-sacrificing
behavior may be performed with the unconscious idea that this behavior will be
reciprocated for the helper’s benefit in the future. Evidence supporting this hypothesis
comes from monozygotic and dizygotic twin studies, (Eisenberg et al, 1999) and through
observations of infant emotional responses to others where babies reflect signs of distress
in caregivers (Zahn-Waxler, Radke-Yarrow, Wagner, & Chapman, 1992). As an
elaboration of this hypothesis, the kinship genetics theory suggests that in a crisis people
are more likely to aid relatives than non-relatives because of the preservation of one’s
genetics in the gene pool (Science News, 1977). However, the biology hypothesis does
not explain why a person would help a stranger who may never have the occasion to
reciprocate helping.
Another hypothesis comes from Social Learning theory. This theory posits that
children learn to be altruistic through multiple social interactions including: adult role
modeling of ideal behaviors, dialectically through conversation designed to stimulate
cognitive formation and development of altruistic ideas, through role playing, and
instruction that increases children’s perceptions of their own competencies for helping
others (Konecni & Ebbesen, 1975). In addition, Eisenberg and Fabes (1998) found that
parenting style and social context may impact the development of prosocial behaviors
that have an altruistic base.
Evidence for the validity of Social Learning Theory in describing altruism comes
from research by Simmons and Sands-Dudelczyk (1983) who found that children’s
helping behaviors are directly related to the socialization process in their immediate
environment, specifically, the type of school they attended. The study was conducted at
three different types of preschools: Montessori, Transactional Analysis, and a traditional
public school. Researchers put children in a room alone and then sent in a confederate
child (part of the research team) who acted distressed about losing a necklace in the room
where the subject was. The confederate child then “found” the necklace behind a box
which she could not move without another person’s help. The subjects then had to
choose, of their own volition, if and how they would help the confederate child. The
researchers found that the type of help children offered to the confederate child was
directly related to the repertoire of behaviors they had gleaned from their school
environment. Specifically, children who attended the Transactional Analysis school were
most likely to offer spontaneous help, children from the Montessori school were most
likely to wait for a specific request for help from the confederate child, and students from
the traditional school were most likely to try finding an adult to help the confederate child
rather than directly assisting the child themselves. The researchers believe that the
differences in responses correlated with the socialization of children in their respective
education environments (Simmons & Sands-Dudelczyk, 1983).
Further evidence supporting the Social Learning theory of altruism comes from
research by Konecni and Ebbesen (1975). These researchers found that children have a
greater response to adults who behave altruistically (role modeling) versus adults who
merely preach about altruism. Similarly, Bryan and Walbek (1970) found that children
learn more and respond more positively to role modeling than didactic instruction on
altruism. They also concluded that parents and adult role models help train children to


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