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Enhancing student empathy through the taxonomy of significant learning

Theresa Billiot (Department of Marketing, Woodbury University, Burbank, California, USA)
Lukas P. Forbes (Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA)

Journal of International Education in Business

ISSN: 2046-469X

Article publication date: 16 October 2020

Issue publication date: 20 May 2021




The purpose of this paper is to use Fink’s (2013) taxonomy of significant learning in a retail marketing class to help rural, price-sensitive students develop empathy toward high-end urban customers while becoming self-directed learners.


Using a 16-week pilot course, students developed a gaming prototype and learned about the challenges of targeting those from a higher socioeconomic status.


Results indicate that educators using Fisk’s taxonomy of significant learning might be able to positively influence the empathy that individuals on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum might feel toward higher-end customers. In addition, qualitative data reflects how a majority of students acknowledged empathy as their weakness but data also reveals how students plan to become continuous learners to improve their empathy in the future.


This paper has two key contributions. First, it shows how using a creative style of teaching within a marketing classroom can influence a key characteristic that buyers would need to successfully engage with higher-end clients. Second, it uses a new technique (gaming) in which to do so.



Billiot, T. and Forbes, L.P. (2021), "Enhancing student empathy through the taxonomy of significant learning", Journal of International Education in Business, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 130-143.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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