Using Theatre and Drama to Increase Empathy in Students

There are very few “provable” things in arts education, but one thing that has been “proven” over the years in educational research is that theatre education increases empathy in students.

Empathy, or the ability to understand another person’s feelings or circumstances, is a critical skill for an actor. It is how we are able to portray people who are very different from ourselves. We must imagine what it would be like to undergo the circumstances of the play in order to honesty represent those emotions and conditions on stage in a believable way.

Empathy in the classroom does not need to rise to the level of believable impersonation, but increased empathy is very helpful to students as they relate to each other and to their worlds. By integrating drama into the classroom, teachers can help students increase their empathy and meet non-arts curricular goals as well.


Joan Weber Director, Education Division, Creativity & Associates