Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Empathy as the Central Idea for Learning

On February 4th and 5th, Hazen faculty engaged in several professional development opportunities to expand their knowledge of current educational philosophies and practices that meet the needs of all students. 

One of the main themes over the two days was the idea that teaching and learning needs to start from a place of empathy. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. President Theodore Roosevelt is quoted as saying “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” 

Brene Brown captures the idea of empathy in this video:

Trusting relationships and empathy is part of our central vision here at Hazen. Hazen teachers' reflections on the importance of empathy and the power of relationships: 

"Empathy is the start of the design process. Knowing something about the experience being had by the person (or people) for whom we are designing a proposed solution -- and caring about it -- is the essential precondition." -HUS Teacher 

"The importance of connecting learning new material with daily life experiences. Promoting dialogue, listening, empathy, creativity, and support. Development of interpersonal skills." -HUS Teacher 

"Understanding what the other person truly needs is the key to helping them" -HUS Teacher

This leads me to think about how we empathize with our students and their needs as learners. If we consider the number of students experiencing trauma and our high percentage of free and reduced lunch students (60% ish), we need to consider how this impacts our practice, as well as how these factors impact students' readiness for learning. 

Here is something to consider for our practice: Research from Eric Jensen on the brain: 

"Teachers should teach in small chunks, process the learning, and then rest the brain. Too much content taught in too small of a time span means the brain cannot process it, so we simply don’t learn it. Breaks, recess and downtime make more sense than content, content and more content." Jensen goes on to say: "Here’s the guideline: the less background the learner has and the greater the complexity of the content, make the time chunk of content shorter (use 4-8 minutes). The greater the background knowledge, the less the complexity, the longer you can make the “input” stage (8-15 min. is acceptable). Under no condition, should there be more than 15 consecutive minutes of content input. Share this with your colleagues. But share it in a small chunk, and then allow time for processing it." 

From: https://feaweb.org/brain-based-learning-strategies (Lots of great info in this article)