Empathic Interaction: White Female Teachers and Their Black Male Students
thesisposted on 13.12.2012, 00:00 by Chezare A. Warren
Scholars of culturally responsive pedagogy advocate the use of empathy by teachers for building strategic relationships with students, maintaining high academic expectations, and supporting professionally informed perspectives of students, their communities, their families, and their cultural background. This research examines the utility of empathy for improving how White female teachers negotiate interactions with their Black male students. The setting for the study is two large, comprehensive high schools in a predominately Black high school district. The study includes four White female teachers, school administrators, and a group of Black male students from each high school. The researcher employs semi-structured interviews of teachers and administrators, focus groups with the Black male students, classroom observations, quantitative survey methods, and the administration of an established empathy instrument (Interpersonal Reactivity Index, Davis, 1980) to assess teachers for empathy in two specific domains (empathic concern and perspective-taking). Findings suggest that empathy is most useful for helping teachers establish trusting relationships, build strong classroom communities. Empathy also beneficial for increasing teachers’ willingness to take risks and be flexible, and it facilitates teachers’ ability to design and enact proactive interventions. Implications for this study include considerations for the preparation and professional development of teachers to effectively teach across race, class, and gender difference. Additionally, recommendations are made to teacher educators and school leaders for how they might identify and support in-service and pre-service teacher’s development of an empathetic disposition.