Seton Hall University

Empathy in the Classroom  

Paula FranzesePaula Franzese, the Peter Rodino Professor of Law at Seton Hall University School of Law, has published "The Power of Empathy in the Classroom." She presented her research and recommendations to fellow faculty amidst much acclaim as part of this year's Petersheim Academic Exposition.

Nationally renowned for her excellence in teaching, a recent book named Professor Franzese one of the "best law teachers in the United States." The book, What the Best Law Teachers Do (Harvard University Press), profiles the pedagogical approach that renders her a "dazzlingly effective model of rigor, hard work, creativity and humility."

In "The Power of Empathy in the Classroom," Paula Franzese goes further, and shares with her readers the philosophical, cognitive and behavioral science underpinnings to her approach as well as specific tools she uses in her "dazzlingly effective" teaching method.

Named an "Exemplary Teacher" by the American Association of Higher Education, Franzese makes clear that the key to effective teaching is empathy:

"Without empathy, we are teaching content instead of students. With empathy, we are better able to discern when a student is lost and when another has just made a connection. We see when a class member is engaged or disengaged. We see where our students are and where they could be. Empathic teaching helps us to reach the whole class, including those at the margins and those who appear to be either left out or left behind. It requires that we call our students by name and ask that they put down their laptops and cell phones so that the power of human connectivity can do its work."

Franzese works to tailor her approach to individual students and their learning styles, whether visual, auditory or kinesthetic. The use of mixed modalities in this manner has been shown to enhance learning throughout the classroom.

To engage students in empathic teaching Professor Franzese enlists a number of strategies and pedagogic tools, including story-telling, actual or simulated client interaction, role-playing to reenact situations, the inclusion of multi-disciplinary referents, play, and exercises designed to help students sharpen a range of cognitive and emotional perceptions essential to effective communication strategies and fully integrated material proficiency.

In addition, Franzese prepares herself through a series of exercises designed to better enable her to cultivate the awareness and affirmation necessary to connect with her students through empathy.

Having demonstrated and deconstructed her pedagogical expertise on teaching as both art and science at workshops and colloquia across the country, Franzese remarked of the opportunity to present at the Petersheim Exposition, "It's good to be home. It's good to share again with my fellow faculty what I have learned and what has worked so well to fulfill the promise that is our students. Seton Hall has always been a home for the mind, heart and spirit. Empathic teaching is just one more way we make that happen."

"The Power of Empathy in the Classroom" appears in the latest edition of Seton Hall Law Review.

Categories: Law

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  • Michael Ricciardelli
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