How teachers can create more empathetic learners


How teachers can create more empathetic learners intermediate phase teaching

In today’s modern age, we need empathy if we’re going to play our part in making the world we live in a much better place for all. At The IIE’s Varsity College, our #NewWorldThinking approach to teaching and learning contributes to students with stronger problem solving and critical thinking skills, opening up a world of opportunities for them when they enter the working world. It also means paying close attention to other aspects of ourselves that might need work. Those studying intermediate phase teaching have an important role to play. Creating a more empathetic class of learners means transforming individuals and communities for the better. By doing so, this has a ripple effect with a much wider impact too.

With empathy being defined as the ability to identify, understand and relate to someone else’s feelings, those pursuing intermediate phase teaching and a senior teaching degree should commit themselves to driving empathy in the classroom and in life. It’s important to note that psychology recognises two approaches to empathy:


Shared Emotional Response

This is also known as affective empathy and refers to when you share someone else’s emotions. For example, your friend ran a race and won. When she crossed the finish line, she threw her hands up in the air with happiness. When you ran to her from the crowd, you threw your arms up too. Another example would be smiling at someone when they smile at you.

Perspective Taking

This is referred to as cognitive empathy and describes when you are able to imagine yourself in someone else’s situation. For example, your friend’s dog passes away and although you haven’t ever lost your dog, you know how sad you would feel if it had happened to you. By placing yourself in someone else’s circumstantial shoes, you are more empathetic towards what they are going through.

How can those studying senior secondary teaching go on to be successful educators that help their students learn empathy? Here are four ways that they can do just that.

  1. They can act as role models
  2. Much like most mannerisms that educators strive to teach their students, actively displaying the habit or act themselves is a sure way to get learners to follow suit. If teachers make an effort to show that they understand and care for the feelings of those around them, it’s only a matter of time before those being taught do the same.

  3. They can teach students about point of view
  4. Getting students to understand differences in points of view is essential for empathy. By teaching them that there can be more than one emotion towards a situation or more than one solution to a problem, learners are more likely to consider others and how they think and feel. This is certainly a key towards greater problem-solving and critical thinking, especially in the outside world when students go on to encounter all different kinds of people.

  5. They can teach them to listen with intent
  6. Whilst we can all hear, few of us actively listen to what other people are trying to say. Where empathy is concerned, teachers should emphasise the difference between hearing and listening so that learners are always seeking to find the meaning of what is being said. In doing so, they are more likely to pick up on emotional cues that illustrate how someone else is feeling. This will further reinforce empathy towards others.

As teachers encourage empathy at school, they are able to create more chances for success both in the classroom and beyond. It’s why empathy is a skill that deserves the spotlight in schools worldwide. Before you can start teaching students important skills, you need to make sure you’re equipped with ones you need to stand out. For more on the IIE Bachelor of Education in Intermediate Phase Teaching at The IIE’s Varsity College and how it promotes the #NewWorldThinking employers want, please click here .

Varsity College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE). South Africa’s leading private higher education provider that’s registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training, and accredited by the British Accreditation Council (BAC).

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