A recent article by Steven Meyers published in College Teaching suggests that they do. Meyers proposes that caring is an important dimension of effective college teaching. Despite the fact that students are acutely aware of whether their professors care about them, professors do not necessarily prioritize this aspect of teaching. Below are some suggestions from Meyers to demonstrate to your students that you care about them.
- Use personal examples or talk about experiences had outside of class
- Get into conversations with individual students before or after class
- Provide feedback on students’ individual work through comments on assignments
- Ask questions to solicit students’ viewpoints or opinions
Meyers, S. (2009). Do your students care whether you care about them? College Teaching 57.4, 205-210.
Additional Resources / Ideas
An even more recent Chronicle of Higher Education (July 31, 2011) reports on recent studies of US college students and empathy – “Why Should We Care?” by Paul Anderson and Sara Konrath: http://chronicle.com/article/Why-Should-We-Care-What/128420/. There are at least two ways, the authors point out, that teachers can positively – and in everyday ways – inculcate empathy:
“Studies have shown that empathy can increase when students are trained to improve their interpersonal skills or ability to recognize others’ emotions. It can also improve after role-playing exercises involving another person’s feelings or situation, after observing the misfortunes of others, and after exposure to highly empathetic role models.
“Educators concerned about declining empathy should think about how to include some of these techniques in their classrooms. Besides the obvious social benefits, research also links empathy in students with better academic outcomes. Just as empathetic doctors and therapists have patients with better outcomes, empathetic instructors get better results from their students, even on objective measures such as multiple-choice tests.”