Mini-Conference Recap: Teaching with Empathy (Not Sympathy) for Inclusion and Equity
Inclusive and equitable teaching provides opportunities for success for students from ALL identities.
The first point that Dr. Hodgson makes is that empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy can be described as feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune, while empathy is a way of connecting with other people that shows you understand their experience (even though you may not understand exactly how it feels for them).
Instructors high in teacher empathy do not lower standards; they identify and remove obstacles to learning.
Below are 3 steps Dr. Hodgson endorses to bolster greater empathy in your classroom:
- Provide opportunities to get to know your students
- Adopt a Growth Mindset
- Design course policies that reflect a deep understanding of students’ personal and social situations.
Provide opportunities to get to know your students
Dr. Hodgson recommends that you reach out to students first by sharing something about yourself early in the semester. You might also consider creating a reflexivity statement to share with your students. For more information on what a reflexivity statement is/looks like go to minute marker 9:55 of the presentation. Lastly, Dr. Hodgson suggests that you ask students about themselves: their likes, dislikes, hobbies, strengths, and most importantly, any obstacles they foresee to their learning over the semester.
Adopt a growth mindset
A growth mindset is the belief that every student who comes into your class can learn anything that they want to learn.
Will you have a classroom that allows any student, regardless of background, to succeed if they are willing to persevere, ask questions, and work hard?
Design course policies that reflect a deep understanding of students’ personal and social situations.
Course policies that demonstrate empathy include:
- Posting notes, assignments, class materials at least 5-7 days before deadlines.
- Provide students structure by having assignment deadlines but have a flexible deadline policy.
- Allowing students to resubmit assignments or retake tests.
Check out the video on the OTL YouTube page to watch the 30-minute conference session. For more resources on the topics of empathy and inclusive learning environments, check out OTL’s resources page.
Mark your calendar for the 2022 Teaching and Learning Mini-Conference to be held May 24, 2022. We will see you there!
About the Author:
Holly DeVries is a graduate assistant in the Office of Teaching and Learning and is pursuing her M.Ed. in clinical mental health counseling at NDSU. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead and has worked in the music industry on both East and West Coasts before returning to the Midwest. Holly is passionate about diversity and inclusion and is specifically interested in LGBTQ+ advocacy.