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Toolkit for "Empathy for the 'A'"

Empathy and academics need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, a focus on empathy can increase student achievement. This toolkit for “Empathy for the ‘A’” shows teachers how to build empathy into their practice with a few adjustments to the things they already do.    

Students learn much more than academics at school. Through what they model, whether explicitly or more subtly, educators teach their students about morals, values, attitudes and feelings. “Empathy for the ‘A’” shows how greater emphasis on teaching empathy can result in academic gains. This toolkit offers suggestions for building empathy in the classroom by enhancing or modifying five areas of common teacher practice.

 

Essential Questions

  1. How does teaching empathy affect student achievement?
  2. How can teachers focus on empathy in the classroom?

 

Student Feedback

How to build empathy:

  • Monitor the ratio of praise to criticism in your feedback.
  • Give specific and non-judgmental feedback when students stumble. 
  • Praise frequently and publicly when students do well. Focus on concrete performance and behavior. 
  • Ask for feedback from your students.

Related Resource:

“Measures of Effective Teaching: Student Feedback” from the TeachingChannel

 

Using Games in the Classroom

How to build empathy:

  • Integrate social, emotional and moral goals into learning objectives.
  • Set collective goals that students can only meet together, cooperatively. 
  • Set goals that relate to helping others.

Related Resource:

“6 Awesome Cooperative Classroom Games” by Loriana Romano, Lisa Papa and Elita Saulle on TeachHUB

 

Curriculum Planning

How to build empathy:

  • Put yourself in students’ shoes. Maybe even shadow a student for a day.
  • Listen more and talk less when spending time with students one-on-one.
  • Model empathy by visibly expressing compassion and concern for others.
  • Relinquish the need to hold (and provide) all the answers.

Related Resource:

“A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days—a sobering lesson learned” by Grant Wiggins

 

Setting Goals

How to build empathy:

  • Integrate social, emotional and moral goals into learning objectives.
  • Set collective goals that students can only meet together, cooperatively.
  • Set goals that relate to helping others.

Related Resource:

The Teaching Tolerance Anti-bias Framework

 

Building Relationships

How to build empathy:

  • Put yourself in students’ shoes. Maybe even shadow a student for a day.
  • Listen more and talk less when spending time with students one-on-one.
  • Model empathy by visibly expressing compassion and concern for others.
  • Relinquish the need to hold (and provide) all the answers.

Related Resource:

“AE Action Research Guides: Shadow a Student” from Authentic Education