Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Opinion
Education Opinion

Study: Reduce Suspensions With Empathy

By Matthew Lynch — June 06, 2016 2 min read

Empathy can change lives, and a recent study proves just that.

It’s proven that students who get suspended from school are more likely to drop out and land in jail. School suspensions, which statistically impact students of color the most, can push kids out of schools and into the criminal justice system.

There are ways teachers can lessen their dependence on school suspensions, according to researchers from Stanford University. According to the researchers, when teachers approached students with an empathetic mindset, the rates of school suspensions decreased.

Stanford psychology postdoctoral fellow and study researcher Jason Okonofua said that the teachers weren’t told to refrain from suspending students. Instead, teachers’ mindsets were refocused and teachers did things they already knew were better.

According to the study, an empathetic mindset is one that has a good teacher-student relationship and points out that it’s critical for students to learn self-control. The opposite is a punitive mindset, in which teachers aim to gain control of the classroom through punishment.

Researchers went into five diverse California middle schools and asked 31 math teachers to participate in 25- and 45-minute online exercises. Some teachers read articles that emphasized the empathetic mindset, and even that simple activity dramatically reduced the suspension rates of their students.

The study also looked at 1,682 of the teachers’ students. Of those students, around 5 percent whose teachers read about empathetic mindset were suspended during the school year, and about 10 percent whose teachers did a control exercise were suspended. A teacher’s behavior can change a child’s year, the study shows.

Okonofua explains that students are less likely to be suspended by any teacher in any part of the school if they have even one teacher who is more empathetic towards them. Through tweaking one part of the school day, the children’s entire social world and how they felt about school changed.

Jahana Hayes, Connecticut educator, wants teachers to teach empathy to their students from an early age. She explains that we spend time teaching kids to be high achievers and self-sufficient, but feels the skill they really need is to understand how to use knowledge to improve the human condition.

Hayes was recently named National Teacher of the Year.

Empathy is a quality that can take a person far in life. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another goes a long way. I am not surprised by the results of the study and think that Hayes’ suggestion to teach students and teachers greater awareness of others’ feelings and emotions is key to cultivating healthy relationships based on compassion—and ultimately help lead to greater success.

The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read