A Focus on Empathy, Not Punishment, Improves Discipline

New research at Stanford University encouraged middle school teachers to take on an “empathetic mindset” when students were being disciplined. The study found that the number of pupils who were suspended across the academic year halved, from 9.6% to 4.8%….

A crucial part of teaching young people is to create positive relationships with students, said Okonofua and Walton, particularly students who are struggling. But some school environments have “zero-tolerance” policies concerning student behavior. In turn, this exposes some teachers to a “default punitive mindset.”

“It is heartbreaking,” Walton said. “Teachers are caught between two models, a punitive model that says you have to punish kids to get them to behave and an older model that goes to the heart of the profession, which says that teaching is all about building strong relationships with children, especially when they struggle.”


Grace Smith