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Tuesday 21 April
Embedding a culture of empathy in English language teaching
with 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 neurologi

cal 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. I will propose that in contemporary language classrooms, which focus on communicative competence, cultural diversity and the centrality of social interactions, positive teacher-learner and learner-learner relationships and positive group dynamics are vital. We will try to determine whether there is an empathy deficit in language teaching and look at hindering factors which 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, teacher trainers and researchers. We will explore how a variety of techniques and approaches from diverse sources such as cognitive behavioural therapy, humanistic education, the Slow Education movement, literature, drama and the visual arts 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.

Marie Delaney  

Kieran Donaghy is a freelance writer, conference speaker and trainer. He was a full-time classroom teacher for 30 years and now trains teachers at The School for Training, his small specialist teacher development institute in Barcelona. He also writes books for students and teachers of English as a foreign language. He is the author, co-author and co-editor of several books on the use of images in language education including, Film in Action, How to Write Film and Video Activities and The Image in English Language Teaching. His materials website Film English has won a British Council ELTons Award, the MEDEA Award and an English-Speaking Union Award. Kieran is the founder of the Image Conference and the co-founder of the Visual Arts Circle. He was awarded fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts in 2017. You can find out more about him at his website.

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