AACTE Award Winner Discusses Empathy in Culturally Responsive Teaching

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Have you seen the JTE Insider blog managed by the Journal of Teacher Education (JTE) editorial team at Michigan State University? This blog is available to the public, and AACTE members have free access to the articles themselves in the full JTE archives online–just log in with your AACTE profile here.

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Chezare Warren, assistant professor at Michigan State University, received AACTE’s Outstanding Dissertation Award in 2014 for his study Empathic Interaction: White Female Teachers and Their Black Male Students, which was completed in 2012 at the University of Illinois at Chicago. (Reminder: AACTE is seeking submissions for the 2019 Outstanding Dissertation Award now through August 20.)

Warren’s ongoing research on the topic is featured in an article, “Empathy, Teacher Dispositions, and Preparation for Culturally Responsive Pedagogy,” which appears in the March-April 2018 issue of JTE. The article is summarized in this abstract:

Culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP) offers elaborate empirical and theoretical conventions for becoming an effective teacher of diverse youth. Empathy has been found to improve classroom teachers’ capacity to (re)act or respond to youth in ways that produce evidence of CRP. However, there are too few instructive models in teacher education that help connect teacher candidates’ knowledge of students and communities to development of efficacious physical habits, tendencies, and trends in observable behavior or teacher dispositions. The application of empathy operationalized through perspective taking is one such model useful to preparing teacher candidates to make professional decisions that produce evidence of CRP. Engaging teacher candidates in perspective taking–adopting the social perspectives of others as an act and process of knowing–invites them to obtain (and reason with) new knowledge of students and the sociocultural context where she or he will teach. Recommendations for modeling and practicing perspective taking in teacher education are discussed.

A recent video interview highlights Warren’s research related to the role of empathy in culturally responsive pedagogy, which he explained as follows: “We have this strong literature base in culturally responsive pedagogy–or ‘asset pedagogy,’ the most recent iteration being ‘culturally sustaining pedagogy’–and [I’m] trying to figure out how it is that we help teachers, both in-service and preservice, connect their pedagogy or their teaching practice to students’ cultural experiences and frames.”

He says one inspiration for investigating empathy as a mechanism for teachers to achieve this connection was an article by sociologist Eileen O’Brien that he read in graduate school.

“As a graduate student, you’re reading all this stuff you’ve never read, and you’re having all these explosions in your brain,” he says. “Part of the epiphany of the revelations I felt like I was having were connected directly to my practitioner experience [as a Chicago Public Schools teacher] in real time.”

Learn more about how Warren turned his inspiration into a fruitful line of research in his video interview. And remember to send other inspiring doctoral research our way by August 20!

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Kristin McCabe

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