Podcast: The role of empathy in connecting with students

Mr David O’Sullivan – Academic Skills Coordinator

To connect with students, educators need to meet student needs in a professional and nurturing way. Educational providers have aimed to do this in many ways, for example, by changing the hours of classes and the availability of teaching and support staff. The use of empathy as a strategy is a compelling idea. Empathy is an effective tool in creating a connection with students and a tool that can drive educational direction. This tool has been harnessed in teaching medicine, business, and social science with profound benefits. For example, medical staff, so exposed to the needs and issues of patients, can often withdraw from any connection or attempt to understand patients. This withdrawal can lead to poor medical outcomes. Empathy training aims to create professional borders while still providing protective care.

This podcast will examine empathy in building relationships, keeping professional distance, and seeking ethical and best outcome solutions while creating learning environments that suit student needs. In addition, empathy-based teaching strategies give a sense of ownership or belonging in a discipline while allowing experimentation and calculated risk-taking for both student and teacher. The importance of examining this topic has its foundation in recent research. Research has shown that empathy and learning capacity in students is linked. It has also shown that fear of failure, a factor in students engaging in contract cheating, can be reduced with empathetic environments and may decrease recidivism in those who have been found cheating in assessment tasks. This podcast will discuss the evidence and speak to academics and skills advisers about empathy’s role in the classroom. The downfalls and weaknesses of empathy in the classroom will also be considered. Overall, empathy can help achieve the understanding of others, can help work toward student success, provide an engaging and worthwhile educational experience, and promote diversity in education and sensitivity to best practice outcomes while being a tool to understand students and diffuse conflict.

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