Supportive student-teacher relationships can improve student engagement, behavior, and learning. In contrast, antagonistic relationships can generate harmful cycles: students misbehave; teachers punish students; students respond by acting out or disengaging. These cycles lead to suspended students, frustrated teachers, disrupted classrooms, and lost learning time.
Numerous studies show empathic teaching leads to better, more equitable outcomes for all students, with pronounced impacts for students of color and students with disability status. Teachers who were randomly assigned to learn empathic teaching practices became better equipped to support positive behavior: their students' suspension rates dropped by 50%.
When teachers have positive relationships with students, they report higher levels of job satisfaction and greater confidence in their ability manage the demands of their job. Both are key predictors of teacher retention and effectiveness.
Empathic Instruction makes it simple for districts to put this powerful research into practice at scale and to track impact.
“[EI] definitely causes you to pause, to think, “What am I doing to resolve conflicts? How am I doing it?... How could I make it better?”
“I would totally recommend [EI] because I think as educators we need constant refreshers to bring us back….We're only humans. So I think constantly reminding yourself of what you need to do or change is okay.”
“I love this PD. I feel like it's very useful for all teachers, not just new teachers.”
Article by Drs. Okonofua and Walton, “How to Cut Disparities in School Suspension Rates: An empathic mindset in teachers cuts racial disparities in suspension rates.” (2022)
Dr. Okonofua in an interview with Melissa Harris-Perry (2015)
Article by David L. Kirp. "Don't Suspend Students. Empathize." (2017)
Article by Sarah D. Sparks. "How Feeling Respected Transforms a Student's Relationship to School" (2016)
Article by Rebecca Klein. "The Key to Reducing School Suspensions? Treat Kids With Empathy, Says Study" (2016)
See the Empathic Instruction Research & Media List for more media coverage and links to scientific studies.
The Empathic Instruction Guide provides a quick overview of the research, service options, and implementation steps and timelines.