Activating empathy: Language teacher education through a Chinese course

Mr. Weiming Liu & Dr. Ann Devitt


The qualitative research project reported here provided a description of part of a language teacher education programme. The role of empathy was emphasised as an attribute in 16 trainee-teachers’ professional development through a Chinese language taster course. Chinese was chosen as an exotic language. Peer teaching was implemented in order to maximise trainee-teachers’ engagement in the course. The project was designed to increase trainee-teachers’ awareness of their school pupils’ learning activities and strengthen their attachment to their pupils. Trainee-teachers’ empathetic development involved their motivational reasoning, affective empathy and cognitive empathy. Data sources in the current paper included student weekly reflective journals and final group reports. The authors attempted to attest the activation of empathy as an approach to language teacher education and examine the rationale for choosing Chinese in such a setting. The results from this project also suggested the possibility of creating contexts in which Chinese language teachers may exercise their empathetic dispositions.

Keywords: Empathy, Peer Teaching, Chinese Language, Language Teacher Education

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