Empathetic Instruction

Patricia Cantor

Summer 2019

Throughout this summer of CPLC, I’ve spent hours talking with colleagues about teaching and learning and done lots of reflecting on my own—most of it during the commute to and from Concord. Unfortunately, I haven’t been organized enough to record my car-ride reflections or immediately jot down my thoughts upon arriving home or on campus. What I have done is make a lot of lists of what I want to remember, investigate, act on, and come back to. So, in recognition of my highly developed capacity for creating detailed and ambitious To-Do lists, this synthesis and reflection is in the form of such a list, organized around some takeaway messages that that I want to keep in mind as I tackle Tackling a Wicked Problem this fall.

Be inclusive
  • Interpret “inclusion” in the broadest possible sense of the word.
  • Continue to think about and strive for accessibility.
  • Start with accessibility, but don’t stop there. Think about how to promote participation and engagement.
  • Try to apply the Universal Design for Learning principles—offer students multiple means of engagement,
    representation, and action and expression.
  • Exercise empathy! Consider any possible barriers to students’ access and participation and work to eliminate or get around those barriers.
Learn from and with others.
  • Be open to others’ perspectives.
  • Remember the value (and the joy) of collaborating, exchanging ideas, sharing questions, being challenged, and being confused together.
  • Rely on the support of others to make it easier and more exciting to take risks, try out ideas, and even fail—and support others in the same way.
  • Give the students space and time to pursue their interests and determine the direction of their own learning.
  • Reflect, alone and with others.
  • Acknowledge and appreciate what I’m learning from others.
Cultivate the students’ sense of belonging.
  • Focus on building and sustaining a welcoming, encouraging, respectful community of learners.
  • Be explicit, in my words and actions, about the value of community and how it supports our learning.
  • Be positive in my interactions with students.
  • Remember that trust is essential. Always err on the side of trust—believe the students. Be worthy of their trust.
  • Exercise empathy! Consider what it’s like to be a first-year student—how scary it can be to make a mistake, try
    new things, do something you’re not good at. Create a safe environment so learners feel supported and able to take risks.
  • Remember that co-regulation supports the development of self-regulation*— which is why trust is essential.
  • Notice and name when students are practicing the Habits of Mind—draw their attention to their own efforts and
  • Get to know and appreciate each student.

* See Rosanbalm, K.D., & Murray, D.W. (2017). Caregiver Co-regulation Across Development: A Practice Brief. OPRE Brief #2017-80. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, US. Department of Health and Human Services.


zine collage page of the chapter


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Cluster Learning at Plymouth State: A Community-Based Approach to Pedagogy Copyright © 2019 by Patricia Cantor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book