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Cultivating Empathy in Your Classes

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PWR instructors Donna Hunter and Emily Polk collected a series of materials to help instructors cultivate empathy and compassion in their classes. Below are several resources that they have curated, ranging from in-class activities to instructional content. Their work was funded by the Open XChange grant program.

In-Class Activities

The Empath, the Sweetheart, and the Critic Class Activity: This in-class activity is designed to teach students to consider views and arguments that complicate their own thinking when researching and writing.

Practicing Empathy: Story Exchange: This in-class activity invites students to write down and share a personal and defining story with a classmate.

Promoting an open-minded environment for class discussion and writing: Adapted from a text by Peter Elbow, this handout lists eight strategies for helping students listen carefully and even open themselves up to changing their minds.

Writing towards empathy: letter writing assignment: An assignment developed for Donna Hunter's upper-division course on empathy, ethics, and compassion meditation, students write a letter to a person with a viewpoint that troubles them or is opposite to their own.

Resources & Readings

Community Guidelines: Fostering Inclusive Discussions of Difference (by Danica Savonick at HASTAC): This list of community guidelines, developed by HASTAC Scholar Danica Savonick, helps instructors create a set of guidelines with their students to cultivate an open, empathic classroom environment.

Culture of Empathy: Edwin Rutsch, the foremost teacher and archiverer of empathy resources, developed the materials for this website.

Teaching Empathy: This is a curated set of resources from Edwin Rutsch that filters his materials related to teaching empathy.

Facebook Group: Faculty Learning Community: Engaging Lived Experiences Empathetically: This Facebook group, organized by Donna Hunter and Emily Polk, invites faculty to work together to discuss and share resources on engaging lived experiences empathetically.