Sep 9 • 3 min read

This is part one of a six-part series on using empathy in the classroom. 

What makes you an effective teacher? Is it your knowledge of a subject or your passion? Your skill managing a classroom, creating innovative assignments or conveying information clearly?

It is probably all of these. But as a professor of strategic management at Temple University’s Fox School of Business for nearly 20 years, I argue that empathy is a defining characteristic of an effective teacher. 

As a society, we understand empathy as an emotional perspective that allows us to feel the experience of others’ points of view. Empathy typically involves “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes” to develop a sense of how they experience the world. In short, empathy involves listening, observing and acting in a deep and respectful way. 

For learners, empathy generates connections—to people, experiences and ideas. It sparks the imagination and makes learning relevant and memorable. 

As we all struggle with the realities of racial injustice, political polarization and the fear and anxiety of navigating a pandemic, it seems particularly important to bring empathy to our classrooms and our lives. 

My colleagues and I have taught a variety of undergraduate, graduate and executive courses in which students learn experientially by consulting for clients, serving on boards of nonprofit organizations, helping to launch entrepreneurial ventures or working on live case studies. In doing so, we have become increasingly convinced that empathy is the key to a student’s ability to grasp and retain new concepts and skills. 

We hope that by sharing our experiences, educators will be able to think about how they already do and might find new ways to use empathy in their own teaching and learning. 

Throughout the next five weeks, Joan Allatta, Dave Nash, Bert Verhoeven and I will share our collective experience, backed by research, that demonstrates why empathy is an essential element of the classroom. This series will introduce a number of tools for developing and using empathy in the classroom to 

  • improve student engagement. 
  • gain an appreciation for others’ experience.
  • develop insight from evidence.
  • absorb theoretical concepts.
  • develop financial intuition, even when uncomfortable with financial ideas or numbers.
  • tackle numerical analysis with more imagination.

Each week, we’ll share resources, tips and examples of how incorporating empathy into the classroom has helped us to become more effective teachers. Our examples are drawn from our experiences as business professors—a set of disciplines not necessarily known for empathy. By illustrating how empathy improves engagement and learning “even” in business education, we hope to inspire the use of empathy across many disciplines.

Join us each week to learn more. 

This series is sponsored by the Fox School’s Translational Research Center (TRC), Fox Management Consulting (FMC), Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL), Department of Strategic Management and Fox Experiential Education; Temple University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT), and Flinders University’s New Venture Institute (NVI).

Active EmpathyApplying EmpathyBert VerhoevenCenter for Innovation in Teaching and LearningCenter for the Advancement of TeachingDave NashEmpathyEmpathy and EngagementEmpathy and Imagination for ResearchEmpathy for Financial IntuitionEmpathy in the ClassroomFox Experiential EducationFox Graduate ProgramsFox Management ConsultingJoan AllattaLeadership SkillsNew Venture InstituteResearchTL HillTranslational Research CenterUndergraduate