How Can We Best Promote a Culture of Compassion in Schools?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Jenny Gu
Submitted: March 2022

In recent decades, there have been increasing calls to cultivate compassionate cultures in school settings. Much of this is driven by the wealth of research linking greater compassion with a range of positive psychological outcomes in both children and adults, including improved wellbeing, mental health, and interpersonal relationships. However, relatively little attention has been paid to how we can best promote a culture of compassion in schools. The aims of the current essay are twofold. First, relevant psychological theory and research in the field of compassion are summarised. Specifically, key theoretical conceptualisations and definitions of compassion, normative developmental trajectories of core compassionate capacities, and individual differences in the development and expression of compassion are explored. Second, insights derived from compassion theory and research are used to present evidence-informed recommendations for how we might best promote a culture of compassion in schools. It is argued that efforts to build compassionate cultures should take a multifaceted, developmentally sensitive, and inclusive and systemic whole-school approach. Such an approach should embed principles and practices to develop both compassion for the self and for others throughout the school community and curriculum. Further research is needed to evaluate such an approach and to additionally clarify, strengthen, and extend the different strands of compassion theory and research which underpin this approach. The essay concludes with implications for educational psychologists.

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To cite this work, please use the following:

Gu, J(2023, 23 January). How Can We Best Promote a Culture of Compassion in Schools? University of Southampton Educational Psychology research blog.