To reduce student suspensions, teachers should try being more empathetic

By Emily Underwood

 

One group of math teachers completed a short online exercise emphasizing empathy, which included readings about research that showed how caring relationships with adults contributed to student success. It also included writing prompts in which teachers shared their insights about empathy in the classroom.

 

For example, one teacher wrote: “I feel I need to earn my students’ respect and trust. I know many of them have had poor experiences with past teachers so I need to prove to my students that I am there for them and will not let them fail.” A second group completed a similar exercise. But instead of empathy, they read and wrote about the importance of technology to student development.

 

In contrast, only 4.6% of students whose math teacher had completed the online exercise on empathy were suspended, the team reports today in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.