Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Secondary Education

Major Professor

Michael J. Berson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Edward Kissi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Carolyn Ellis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eugenia Vomvoridi-Ivanovic, Ph.D.


empathy, Holocaust education, social studies, testimony


This qualitative interview study explores the perceptions of five USC Shoah Foundation Master Teachers who integrate IWitness in teaching about the Holocaust. The study focused on the perceptions of teachers as their students interact with survivor and witness testimony in IWitness as well as how IWitness provides a framework for moral education in comparison to other primary sources. Data gleaned from this study demonstrates the influence of personalized learning through testimony-based education on the development of empathy in secondary students. As IWitness is a new resource that engages students with Holocaust survivor testimony in innovative ways, this study fills a gap by analyzing teacher perception of a resource that places students at the intersection of multi-literacies and citizenship education.

Findings of this study suggest that the personalized nature of engaging with testimony in IWitness promotes student development of empathy through the interpersonal connections that students form with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust. Participants suggest that by engaging students on the affective continuum of historical empathy, students demonstrate greater historical understanding and levels of care for the content and for people in society.