Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Empathy in the Early Childhood Classroom: Exploring Teachers' Perceptions, Understanding and Practices
by Kim, Hyojin, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2017, 257; 10286796
Abstract (Summary)

This qualitative study was designed to explore teacher understanding of empathy and its expression in their relationships and interactions with young children within the context of early childhood caring and education. Empathy is a crucial aspect of positive relationships and is related to positive outcomes in teaching and caring. An underlying assumption of this study is increased knowledge of how teachers understand empathy for the purposes of caring, teaching, and interacting with young children will shed light on how they internalized it, biases or deficits they hold, and why and how they are or are not effective in showing empathy toward young children. Although the needs for empathy in early childhood caring and education is clear, recent research has been focused mostly on the empathic ability of elementary or middle school teachers. In the present study, data were collected through interviews and classroom observations; thematic, constant comparative, and first and second cycles of coding and analysis were utilized. Three South Korean preschool teachers participated in this qualitative case study focused on exploring teachers’ perceptions, understanding, and practices (e.g., language, attitudes, and behaviors) in relation to empathy. This study revealed that the teachers expressed empathy toward children, albeit it was most often ‘pretend empathy.’ The findings also revealed how teachers recognize the conditions and climates that support, as well as challenge teachers’ empathic concerns and interactions. Five major themes along with multiple subthemes were identified, including: (1) meaning of empathy and its role; (2) acts and expressions of teacher empathy; (3) empathy in context; (4) discourse of empathy; and (5) factors stimulating or diminishing teacher empathy. Also uncovered was an increased understanding of teacher empathy and the various contexts that affect it, including personal and social-cultural factors. Implications and recommendations are offered for policy makers, school administrators, teacher educators, preservice/in-service teachers, and future research.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McMullen, Mary B.
Commitee: Buzzelli, Cary A., Estell, David B., Kunzman, Robert
School: Indiana University
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 78/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Early childhood education, Teacher education
Keywords: Caring, Empathy, Teacher empathy
Publication Number: 10286796
ISBN: 978-0-355-06397-4
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