A Master of Arts thesis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages by Alaa Tamimi entitled, “The Effects of Emotional Decoding on Eliciting Empathetic Responses in Language Teachers: An Idiodynamic Case Study”, submitted in May 2020. Thesis advisor is Dr. Tammy Gregersen. Soft copy is available (Thesis, Approval Signatures, Completion Certificate, and AUS Archives Consent Form).
This thesis explores the effects of emotional decoding on enhancing the empathetic responses of a male in-service English second language (ESL) teacher as its case study. Although research has validated the positive implications of empathy in teaching and learning, few studies scrutinize the extent to which the construct of empathy can be facilitated or at best learned and more specifically, how. This intervention case study explores a retrospective empathy enhancement tool necessitating the case study participant to observe video data of himself as he interacts with learners in an authentic ESL classroom and rate his levels of empathy on a moment-to-moment, idiodynamic timescale. The respective rating produces a chart of the dips and spikes of his self-rated empathy. With graph in hand, he then reassesses instances of teacher-student interaction and stops the filmed data in those places where self-reported low levels of empathy had been recorded. At this stage he is requested to pause to read the emotion of the learner during the given interaction and to deliberate on how his response may have changed subsequent to naming the learners’ emotion. The study is the first of its kind to employ an idiodynamic investigation on the power of increasing teacher awareness of learner emotion during classroom interaction. Following the treatment period, the case study participant indicates a heightened awareness of empathy and what an empathic response entails. He also highlights the value of the empathy enhancement process as a potential teacher training tool. This thesis suggests that an idiodynamic approach leads to a retrospective empathy-building process as it encourages the language teacher to self-reflect over their own pedagogical practice in light of naming learner emotion and deliberating more empathic responses and in doing so, a greater awareness of learner emotion is brought to bear.