What Teachers Say About Empathy

This project was a non-experimental descriptive study to describe elementary teachers' beliefs of cognitive empathy development in students and the incorporation of empathy development into the curriculum. This concept was important because empathy is considered a "pro-social" behavior which has been positively related to social emotional learning (SEL); increased levels of SEL are known to decrease negative behaviors in elementary aged children while increasing positive behaviors (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor & Schellinger, 2011). The incorporation of SEL has been more prevalent in recent times as new research highlights the importance. Students do not typically learn at school through autonomous efforts, rather a collaboration with teacher(s) and peers. Teachers believed interactions with other humans to be the most significant in terms of empathy development. The study population (n=33) was composed of those that teach at an elementary level (kindergarten through sixth grade) within the Portland Metro area. The thoughts and viewpoints of elementary school teachers on empathy and empathy development were measured with a 45-item anonymous survey. The majority of teachers believed there was more of a social benefit than academic benefit to empathy development. Three quarters of the sample strongly believed empathy was a valuable skill, which may explain why half of the sample fully supported empathy development being iv incorporated into the curriculum. With all of this said, at the end of the day the majority of teachers do not feel it should be their responsibility to teach empathy to students. This study helped highlight teachers' beliefs of empathy incorporation as it is reflected in recent research Durlak et. al., (2011).