- Teachers can take a note from psychology research and actively teach empathy in the classroom, including cognitive empathy, where students can understand another’s perspective, and affective empathy, where they actually share another’s emotional response.
- Authors, curriculum developers and researchers Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers write for Edutopia that teachers can model empathy, they can incorporate lessons about point of view into the classroom, and they can use literature to help students see different perspectives.
- Wilson and Conyers designed the HEAR strategy to help students become effective listeners — halt, engage, anticipate, replay — and they recommend developing metacognitive awareness to analyze one’s own feelings as well as abilities around empathy.
As states shift from an emphasis on near-exclusive test-based accountability under No Child Left Behind to a broader accountability system under the Every Student Succeeds Act, districts are putting more emphasis on social-emotional learning. This allows for a more holistic education for students, preparing them not just to be successful on tests, but to develop the communication, collaboration and emotional self-regulation skills they’ll need in life.
Joseph Coulson, president of the Great Books Foundation and a former teacher, highlights the value of fiction in teaching social emotional skills. He contributed to a Harvard University study that found individuals who immerse themselves in the mental life of fictional characters perform better on “theory of mind” tasks, which address a level of empathy. While there is a lot of pressure on schools to focus on nonfiction comprehension and analysis, fiction is still important.