Exploring Empathy Embedded in Ethics Curricula: A Classroom Inquiry

Susan Gair

Abstract


Empathy is considered to be a crucial ingredient in social work practice. Research on empathy is abundant although literature describing the teaching and learning of empathy, and in what contexts empathy might be taught best, is less common. The primary aim of this exploratory, classroom-based research undertaken in 2011 was to explore empathy with second year, social work students, thereby building on previous research, and linking it to education and practice. The findings suggest students may acquire a conceptual and definitional understanding of empathy by early in their course, but may need more proactive support to transform that learning into deeper empathy. A key speculation underpinning this exploratory inquiry, that cultivating empathy within an ‘ethics’ unit might prove more potent than within a ‘skills’ unit, was not supported. The need for further research into empathy, particularly cross-cultural empathy, is a recommendation of this research.

Keywords


Empathy, ethics, social work education, social work practice

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