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Empathic Pedagogy: Community of Inquiry and the Development of Empathy

Author(s): Matthew Schertz

Journal: Analytic Teaching and Philosophical Praxis
ISSN 0890-5118

Volume: 26;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 8;
Date: 2006;
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Many Philosophy for Children advocates argue that the practice of communal philosophical dialogue develops students' judgment making skills and facilitates that growth of reasonable subjects (Pritchard, 1996; Lipman & Sharp 1978; Lipman, 1991; Sprod, 2001, Sharp and Splitter, 1995). While these are appropriate avenues for exploring the moral education potential of the program, the literature can be further enriched by examining how Community of Inquiry supports the development of empathy. Previously I argues that any empathic pedagogy must provide students with a means on engaging across the boundaries of the subject in an intersubjective gestalt-i.e. is must allow for peer mediated inquiry-based interactions that support the sharing of affective states (Schertz, 2004). Given this conceptualization of empathic pedagogy, in this piece I will claim that Community of inquiry is a crucial and paradigmatic means for promoting the further development of empathy. In order to reinforce the developmental soundness of the methodology, I will discuss it in light Martin Hoffman's (2000) empathic modes, which are distinct processes that promote the growth of what Hoffman calls the "mature empathizer" (pg. 63). Community of Inquiry enables students to conjointly explore philosophical concepts, personal anecdotes, and stories through a discursive structure that allows for and encourages the facilitation of these empathic modes through a dynamic system of interlocking subjectivities. The methodology enables students to direct their chosen discourse and promotes an intersubjective gestalt, allowing children to engage each other in affective communication in a discursive context that is also cognitive and metacognitive.
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