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Discipline & Empathy

April 27, 2016

A little empathy goes a long way when it comes to improving discipline problems in school.



Can empathy stop troublemakers? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A short training program for teachers that encourages empathy significantly lowers discipline problems in school, according to a new report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Stanford psychologist Jason Okonofua and his colleagues report that after teachers at five middle schools in three school districts completed the activities, suspension rates were cut in half. Okonofua says just one class with an empathetic teacher changed student behavior.

JASON OKONOFUA (Stanford University):

That led to student to be less likely to get in trouble in any of their classes, by having just one teacher that treated them differently. It wasn’t that that one teacher was less likely to discipline them; it was less likely that that student would get into trouble generally.


The students reported feeling more respected and less hostile, and less motivated to act up. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.