Understanding Preschool Teachers’ Perspectives on Empathy: A Qualitative Inquiry

  • Peck N
  • Maude S
  • Brotherson M
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Abstract

Empathy is a trait and skill necessary for teachers working with children and for partnering with families. This qualitative study focused on how teachers expressed empathy in the context of early childhood education. Diversity has increased in the United States and as diversity increases, the need for teachers to be able to empathize with children and families who are different from themselves also increases. Empathy in early childhood education partnerships is valued; however, the role of empathy in parent-teacher partnerships in early childhood is not well understood. Eighteen inclusive preschool teachers participated in interviews to understand teachers' values, beliefs, and language in relation to empathy and parent-teacher partnerships. Teachers whose statements conveyed empathy described their relationships with families in a positive way. One theme, expressing sincere empathy, and four sub-themes emerged that described how teachers express empathy with children and families in early childhood education. The sub-themes included (1) embrace inclusion as a philosophy, (2) be relaxed and balanced, (3) accept and respond to family culture, and (4) engage in meaningful communication with families. The interpretations of these themes provide an understanding of the complexities of empathy in parent and teacher partnerships. Implications for the development of empathy in preservice and in-service professional development are discussed.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Early childhood
  • Empathy
  • Preservice teacher education

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Authors

  • Nancy Farstad Peck

  • Susan P. Maude

  • Mary Jane Brotherson

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