SATURDAY 18th February
Kieran Donaghy

Over recent years empathy has become something of a buzzword. Numerous articles have argued that empathy in individuals is essential to healthy social and emotional functioning, and contributes to the enrichment of civic society and education. However, the concept of empathy, which is a complex construct, is usually not defined clearly and is rarely discussed in depth. In this plenary we will start by exploring what empathy is, its neurological foundations, and its three main components: cognitive empathy, affective empathy, and empathetic concern.

I will draw on general education literature to present what research findings suggest about the role of empathy in education. I will then draw on language education literature and research to support my argument that empathy is particularly important in language education. We will try to determine whether there is an empathy deficit in language teaching and look at hindering factors that may make it challenging to embed a culture of empathy in the profession.

Moving from theory to practice, we will explore how we could explicitly develop empathy as a skill among learners, teachers, and teacher trainers. We will explore how a variety of techniques and approaches from diverse sources can be used to help to embed a culture of empathy in language education.

In sum, this talk aims to show that empathy is central to successful language learning and to making language teaching a more compassionate and fairer profession.