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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Elizabeth McEneaney

Subject Categories

Other Teacher Education and Professional Development | Secondary Education and Teaching


The limited research concerning empathy within secondary education continues to focus on student empathy, rather than shifting the gaze to teacher empathy. Moreover, while teacher empathy is generally conceptualized as an innately positive quality, skill, or disposition, the research (while limited) suggests that empathy without deep understanding of social and structural inequity has demonstrated risk. Teachers who, for example, develop and express empathy across lines of difference without knowledge of systemic inequality (particularly about how inequity shows up in schools) have the potential to oversimplify or overidentify with an “other’s” experience (Boler, 1999). This can lead to the false confirmation of biased ideas or regressions to color-blind ideologies, which reproduce harmful hegemonic beliefs and dominant ideas. For white teachers especially (who make up ~85% of the teaching population), many of whom have grown up, been educated, and gone on to work in predominately white spaces, the development of a more critical form of empathy is necessary. This dissertation theorizes a new vision of empathy, which the author refers to as critical empathy. It then explores the experience of twelve, white secondary educators as they participate in a researcher-facilitated critical, dialogic professional development series, which was conducted over the course of one academic year. Data from these PD sessions were analyzed using a mix of constructivist grounded theory and critical discourse analysis, and results are discussed in the form of two, separate articles. Findings suggest that when the PD environment is structured as a third space and facilitated through the lens of intergroup dialogue, teachers are able to develop greater degrees of critical empathy. This indicates the need for more research concerning the ways in which white secondary teachers are exposed to and have access to PD that provides the space, time, and training needed to develop their critical consciousness, and thus move towards more culturally responsive pedagogies.