BCS founding principal, Dale Truding, shared this article with me recently. With our theme of empathy this year, I thought this read was quite fitting. Posted in MindShift and written Thom Markham, In Our Connected World, What If Empathy Is Learning? is well worth the read. As educators, we have known for years the important impact emotion has on learning. To that end, we all can tend to believe that empathy helps learning. From the earliest work of Eric Jensen around brain-based learning, emotions can drive cognition. Taking this notion a step further in this article, Markham outlines his argument that doesn’t just help “empathy is learning.” Markham contends that “it’s time to match the emerging science with the tempo of the times and upend established ‘truths’ around learning. It’s time to act on the assumption that knowledge is flowing through students, not being delivered to them, and that the chief skill is openness. That means, for the foreseeable future, empathy is learning.” How? Read, really read, the article whose key points are noted below. Here’ how…
Promote a Holistic, Non-Brain Centric View of Learning: “All the emotions associated with empathy, such as openness, humility, gratitude, and compassion, affect the heart positively.” Remember Jensen? Emotion drives learning.
View Empathy as the Foundation: “acknowledging empathy’s fundamental role in cognition and achievement.”
Turn Empathy into an Outcome: “Empathy is the first step in the design process. Empathetic behavior makes teams function better and can be identified in teamwork rubrics as active listening, open body posture, kind critique, and similar behaviors that can be assessed.” Post this Design Thinking Process and note the process in your classroom (in your home) as an everyday tool for solution finding.
Continue to Personalize Learning: “Many choices equal many paths equal multiple ways to become educated.” There is no one way!
Recognize Teachers as Co-creators: “Teachers will inevitably begin to apply their subject expertise to real-world demands for solutions, innovation, and problem solving. That’s really the outgrowth of an empathic model of learning: To make a positive difference in the world.” It is those service learning opportunities in which you involve your students that help them problem solve, innovate and solution find.
Get Students Out of the Classroom and into the World: Service learning, “learning while doing, in service to the greater good.” As our BCS Mission statement reads: “BCS is a dynamic and collaborative learning community. We cultivate an engaging environment that embraces all students and empowers them to pose questions, integrate resources, synthesize, evaluate and apply their knowledge to positively influence our diverse and ever-changing world.” Let’s be sure to continue to act on our BCS Vision, Mission, Values & Beliefs!
Check out this 20-minute video The Heart-Brain Connection: The Neuroscience of Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning where neuroscientist Richard Davidson presents his research on how social and emotional learning can affect the brain. If Davidson concludes that “Social emotional learning changes the brain,” then empathy is learning, right? I welcome your thoughts on this.