Empathic Pedagogy

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Education and Human Services


Educational Foundations

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

David Kennedy

Committee Member

Mark Weinstein

Committee Member

Megan Laverty

Committee Member

Tony W. Johnson


This dissertation examines empathy in light of pedagogy. It calls for educators to utilize pedagogical systems that support intersubjective empathic development.

The first chapter explores the history of the concept of empathy, which is fraught with discord. I claim that adherence to ontological dualism and discrete subjectivity have problematized both our understanding of empathy, and our beliefs about the nature of self. In order to overcome the problematic theories of empathy, we must reinvision both self and the self/other relation. I then examine the self as an intersubjective being and I redefine empathy as the means by which subjects interact within a field gestalt.

The second chapter examines Hoffman's developmental theory in light of my redefinition of self and the self-other relation. I highlight the need to focus on intersubjective empathic development by utilizing Daniel Stern's research, which allows me to reexamine the developmental process in terms of interpersonal relations. This is followed by an examination of the impact of various parental disciplinary practices on the further development of empathy and prosocial behavior.

The third chapter provides a narrative exploration of the history of moral education in American schools. My review of the literature indicates that schooling environments have not been conducive to the development of empathy. I argue that our longstanding adherence to communitarian authoritarianism, the disciplinary practices and efficient school environments promoted during the rise of industrialization, and our current idealization of the materialistic, consuming individual collectively challenge the actualization of schooling environments conducive to the development of empathy.

I open the fourth chapter exploring the existent research on empathy in the educational literature. I argue for educators to focus on the importance of pedagogical systems which foster empathy. I then examine how dialogue, as indicated in the second chapter, helps to foster the growth of empathic proclivities. This is followed by a call for a dialogically-based empathic pedagogy which supports child and adolescent development. I conclude by arguing that Community of Inquiry, the pedagogical system used in the Philosophy for Children program, is an ideal empathic pedagogy because it provides multidimensional support to intersubjective empathic development.


Print version available at Sprague Library.

Full text available at ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global

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