Soft Skills Series: Teaching Empathy

For many of us, the month of December is about helping others and giving. Our team has decided to get into the spirit of the season by featuring a blog that relates to this theme every Monday this month. What does that mean exactly? We have been inspired by the forward-thinking bulbs that many of our university partners are creating in order to help their university learners (as well as instructors and admins in some cases) succeed in the world through the development of much needed soft skills. Sometimes that is as simple as teaching first-year university attendees how to live away from home, and sometimes it's more about learning empathy for people who look and behave differently from us.

The Question
For many young people, entering college or university means exposure to individuals from backgrounds and cultures that are different from the ones that many of them have grown up in. This can often lead to culture shock that can be difficult to navigate. How can universities mitigate the negative perceptions and experiences that can often arise from this type of culture shock and instead promote a culture of empathy and acceptance?

The Solution
Empathy is becoming increasingly important in a world that is becoming more interconnected and diverse every day. San Diego State University has decided to use a proactive approach by implementing a diversity training initiative via PlayPosit's interactive video platform. The program focuses on understanding different cultures and perspectives. However, their efforts don't stop there. The initiative is also directed at instructors, staff, and other employees of the university. This approach creates an environment in which everyone who is associated with the university carries a sense of responsibility for their actions and is educated on the importance of equity, respect, and understanding others.

Creating an environment that encourages empathy while discouraging violence, discrimination, and other negative consequences that can stem from the culture shock of being exposed to new individuals has a positive impact on individuals and the institutions that sets them up as leaders in campus culture innovation.

  1. Click here to request a demo.
  2. San Diego State University's Dr. Douglas Fisher called PlayPosit out as his favorite education tool in Episode 101 of Teachers on Fire with Tim Cavey. 
  3. Candace Jesse Stout (1999) The Art of Empathy: Teaching Students to Care, Art Education, 52:2, 21-34, DOI: 10.1080/00043125.1997.11650892
  4. McAllister, G., & Irvine, J. J. (2002). The Role of Empathy in Teaching Culturally Diverse Students: A Qualitative Study of Teachers’ Beliefs. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(5), 433–443.
  5. Salmon, Sara. (2003).Teaching Empathy: The PEACE Curriculum. Children and Youth; Bloomington Vol. 12, Iss. 3,  (Fall 2003): 167-173.