Waikato Journal of Education

How to Cite

Grove O’Grady, A. (2022). Performing empathy: Using theatrical traditions in teacher professional learning. Teachers and Curriculum, 22(2), 17–24. https://doi.org/10.15663/tandc.v22i2.410


The challenge of learning to be a teacher in a pandemic stymied world calls for focus and access to pedagogies of critical empathy to ensure the wellbeing of students is paramount in classrooms K to 12. Additional to facilitating the development of skills and competencies in curriculum disciplines, teachers are required to meet the emotional and social needs of their learners and prepare them to be active citizens in an increasingly complex and chaotic world. Making certain all students in their care are nurtured in environments that establish emotional safety and growth is a central tenet in the practice of all good teaching. Empathy, it seems is at the forefront of our western thinking given its prevalence in common parlance and language. Superficially, this is no bad thing. Kindness, being more humane, thinking of others and reflection, are all arguably positive attributions or ways to behave to better and create a more humane society. However, empathy needs to be activated conceptually in productive and transformational ways, to be defined, problematised and critiqued. Grounding this work in the affordances of drama rich pedagogies (Ewing, 2019) and by drawing on the work of Maxine Greene (1995) and Stanislavski (1936), this article argues that creating a coherent and empathic classroom requires a praxis of critical empathy, facilitated by careful attendance to methods and processes steeped in and informed by theatrical traditions. In addition to a theoretical and contextual positioning of the work, this article will elucidate the method of practice undertaken in a research project, developed to inform the practice of teachers and educators.


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