Empathic Framing during Concept Development in Book Club Discussions in a Service-Learning Teacher Education Class


  • Peter Smagorinsky The University of Georgia
  • Lindy L. Johnson The College of William & Mary




Empathic framing, service-learning, sociocultural theory, book clubs, diversity education, concept development, Vygotsky


This study investigates the emergence of empathic framing in a small group of university students’ discussions of equity-oriented concepts in a service-learning course. Empathic framing refers to the making of emotional connections that enable one to experience the world from another’s perspective, particularly when they are from different cultures, means of socialization, and life experiences. The study used collaborative coding for both concepts and empathic framing in six discussions of three scholarly books devoted to different equity concerns focused on the phenomenon of teacher-student reciprocal burnout, the differential experiences of affiliative or ‘jock’ students and disaffiliative or ‘burnout’ students, and African American speech and its political consequences. The findings identify examples of empathic framing in the six discussions, with most instances occurring in the two books that include narrative accounts of people experiencing oppression and inequity; the final volume, centered on textuality more than human action, produced a single instance of empathic framing recruited from outside the book’s contents. The study suggests that empathy can serve as a beginning point to concept development toward more equitable teaching and school culture, and can be available for formal academic learning when it is combined with worldly experience such as that available in service-learning courses.

Author Biographies

Peter Smagorinsky, The University of Georgia

Peter Smagorinsky is Distinguished Research Professor emeritus, The University of Georgia, USA; and Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Universidad de Guadalajara, MX. His research applies sociocultural theory to literacy teaching and learning and related issues.

Lindy L. Johnson, The College of William & Mary

Lindy L. Johnson is Associate Professor, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA, USA. Her research draws on sociocultural theories of mediated action and social semiotic theories of multimodality to investigate the increasingly multi-modal nature of digital technologies, and the emerging social practices and activities that arise from these technologies.


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How to Cite

Smagorinsky, P. ., & Johnson, L. L. (2022). Empathic Framing during Concept Development in Book Club Discussions in a Service-Learning Teacher Education Class. Language and Sociocultural Theory, 8(2), 206–238. https://doi.org/10.1558/lst.18853