Learning to Work with Parents: The Significance of Empathy and Communication in the Professional Development of Pre-Service Teachers




Whitlock, Tivy Nobles

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The purpose of this qualitative case study was to learn the role of empathy in pre-service teacher self-reflections on their beliefs about parents to help them develop communication skills that will better prepare them for building healthy teacher-parent relationships. The study used a socio-cultural theoretical lens to investigate the experiences of future teachers engaged in a professional development mentoring model created within a university teacher preparation program. The study draws from the direct statements of 29 undergraduate pre-service teachers in the second semester of their first year of school. This is a case study within an existing primary qualitative study in which empathy was a strong recurring theme. Archival data was used to further expand on the topic by investigating a new research question and taking the existing primary study to the next level. Data was analyzed to evaluate the influence of empathic communication within five themes: (1) welcoming, (2) vulnerability, (3) perspective taking, (4) willingness, and, (5) awareness of bias. Findings revealed that empathic communication was significant in building teacher-parent relationships. The study is intended to add to the body of scholarly work improving school-family partnerships and shape further research leading to improved curriculum design within teacher preparation programs that better prepare pre-service teachers to build empathic thinking and strengthen communication skills necessary to work with parents; and, therefore, help more children be successful in school and in life.


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communication, empathy, parents, pre-service teachers



Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching