What You Need for a Caring Classroom

Daniel Goleman and Peter Senge outline three kinds of empathy kids need for success at work and in life.

By Daniel Goleman and Peter M. Senge

More than three decades of research shows that telling our kids they are smart and praising achievement is not the way to get results. A new article in Scientific American, “The Secret to Raising Smart Kids,” suggests that “focusing on ‘process,’ rather than intelligence or talent, produces high achievers in school and in life.” This process consists of personal effort and effective strategies.

One process we are talking about today is building empathy into the classroom setting, and how developing emotional intelligence is key to success inside and outside of the classroom.

Empathy and Academic Success

The key to compassion is being predisposed to help—and that can be learned.

There is an active school movement in character education and teaching ethics. But I don’t think it’s enough to have children just learn about ethical virtuosity, because we need to embody our ethical beliefs by acting on them. This begins with empathy.

There are three main kinds of empathy, each involving distinct sets of brain circuits. The first is cognitive empathy: understanding how other people see the world and…