Compassion as Pedagogy

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Ann Frost, LSJ, Sociology, UW Seattle



Over the past two years I have developed and implemented an approach to teaching that relies on compassion as pedagogy. When I teach my goal is to encourage students to step outside of their personal experience and view the world through a new perspective to study crime and punishment, media and society, politics, and other topics I teach. When the pandemic and a movement for racial and social justice coincided in 2020, I decided to adjust my approach to teaching to incorporate a demonstration of radical compassion for all people, including my students. This approach would be thorough and far-reaching. Not only would I push my students to critically engage with concepts with compassion for those who are different from them, I would apply this standard to myself in engaging with my students. I have developed and honed this approach over the past two years. This has involved allowing accommodations to all students and not requiring them to provide extensive justification. It has included allowing students to turn in late assignments without penalty. It has encouraged students to take an active part in their learning by creating a safe, welcoming space for students to share experiences and viewpoints while being open to viewpoints of classmates. Student response has been overwhelmingly positive. Students do not take advantage of my flexibility, but rather appreciate the structure I provide and are grateful for my willingness to accommodate them when the difficulties of life make it necessary. Students have expressed their gratitude for my willingness to see them as whole people, rather than just students. They have demonstrated that this approach creates circumstances in which they can thrive in my classes, rather than just get by under rigid expectations.



How does incorporating compassion towards students impact their learning outcomes and experience of a course.


Employed the pedagogy in class over 7 quarters and recorded observations and outcomes.


Students thrive in courses that employ this pedagogy and get much more out of the course than simple mastery of academic material.


The pedagogical style can be applied in all courses and subjects.