School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Kenneth Tierce


Affective Empathy, Behavioral Empathy, Cognitive Empathy, Teacher Empathy




The purpose of this study was to understand the experience of teacher empathy for middle school students at two Christian academies in central Alabama. Extant studies have contributed to the theoretical, empirical, and practical understanding of teacher empathy, but few have captured the voices of middle school students to understand their lived experiences; no studies have explored the topic in Christian academies. The theories guiding this study were Rogers’ theory of self and subsequent theories about student-centered pedagogy. The central research question was focused on the perceptions of teacher empathy as voiced by middle school students in Christian academies. Four research sub-questions were designed to dissect teacher empathy along cognitive, affective, and behavioral lines. Data collection in this transcendental phenomenological study included individual interviews with 10 students purposely selected from two schools, a focus group session with six of the participants, and letters written to hypothetical future middle school teachers. Data analysis followed Moustakas’ process of bracketing, open coding, and thematic analysis, yielding major themes of teacher engagement, means of empathy, immediate impact, and long-term impact. Findings revealed middle school students perceived teacher empathy as a relational process that positively impacted their personal and academic growth. A major implication for decision-makers is the necessity to prioritize relational cultures; administrators at Christian academies should also prioritize the inclusion of distinct Christian elements like prayer and scripture. The implication for teachers is the necessity to build ongoing, nonjudgmental, and transparent relationships that lead to functional, fundamental, and profound empathic opportunities.

Included in

Education Commons