Teachers’ social–emotional competence is crucial for promoting a positive learning environment to the students. However, the research on teachers’ social–emotional abilities is very limited. This study examined the relationship between emotional abilities and self-efficacies and empathy among teachers, hypothesizing that teachers’ self-efficacy belief mediates the relationship between the other two variables. We found a strong positive association between the three social–emotional competencies, and direct and indirect (via teachers’ self-efficacy) effects of emotional self-efficacy on empathy. These results suggest that teachers’ belief in the ability to regulate their emotions contributes to teachers’ empathy in both ways.
This study is based on a convenience sample of 312 teachers from several schools that agreed to participate in a study about their teaching practices. The sample consisted of 71% females and 29% males, with a mean age of 40.6 years and mean years of teaching experience of 14 years. 53% of the participants graduated from a general college, 32% from university, and 14% from a teaching college (e.g. a 3-years college for teachers in Israel). 51% of the teachers in the sample are elementary school teachers, 35% are high-school teachers, and 14% junior high-school teachers. To assure that the participants from different contexts do not differ significantly in sense of main research variables, we performed comparisons between different schools and graduate institutions. These comparisons revealed no significant differences between participants.
The data were collected by research assistants in 10 schools in northern and central Israel. The assistants explained to the participants that the purpose of the study was to deal with attitudes and perceptions of teachers and that participation was voluntary and anonymous. 350 questionnaires were distributed in total and 312 were filled and returned to us, with the refusal rate amounting to about 11%. Completing the questionnaire lasted 20 min on average. All participants were assured that the data will be kept confidential and used only for research purposes.
Caring teachers set the tone for strong and supportive relationship between teachers and students. These relationships are fundamental for the healthy development of students in schools and are positively associated with students’ academic performance, achievements, social functioning, school engagement, and learning motivation. Interestingly, behavioral problems and dropping from school are often negatively associated with teachers who care. The aim of this study was to examine how teachers self-beliefs in their emotional and teaching abilities will contribute to their empathy toward their students. Findings of this research indicated that when teachers feel confident about their emotional and teaching abilities, they tend to be more caring toward their students. These findings support the notion that in order to enhance teachers’ empathy and contribute to the student–teacher relationship, teachers’ positive self-beliefs must be in the focus of teachers’ training.