VEST Speaker Series: Hunter Gehlbach

Leveraging social perspective taking to improve relationships: The detective work of deciphering the complex minds of others

  • - EDT
  • Ridley Hall 302

In the wake of COVID, educators and parents appreciate the crucial role of relationships in learning more keenly than ever. Despite broad agreement regarding the import of relationships in schooling, researchers have developed relatively few reliable approaches for improving these social bonds. In this conversational talk, we will explore social perspective taking—the process of discerning the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of others—as a foundational building block of relationships and a promising focal point for interventions. Specifically, we will discuss a hypothesized theory of how the social perspective taking process unfolds with particular attention to the parts of the process which might be amenable to intervention. With this theoretical grounding in place, we will then examine the results of an intervention to encourage teachers to take the perspective of a focal student of their choosing. Ultimately, we will contrast idealized visions of how social perspective taking should work in theory against messy, real-world pragmatics (alongside a healthy appreciation of how scholars’ changing approaches to conducting science complicates matters further). Our aspirational goal is for everyone to leave the conversation with at least one new idea for how to improve social relationships in schools.

Hunter Gehlbach is a Professor of Education, the Director of the PhD program, and a recovering Vice Dean at Johns Hopkins University, as well as the Senior Research Advisor of Research at Panorama Education. An educational psychologist by training and a social psychologist at heart, his primary interests lie in improving the social side of schools, environmental education, survey design, and open science.

In addition to academic writing, Gehlbach strives to reach broader audiences through publishing in outlets such as the Baltimore Sun, the Behavioral Scientist, and the Hechinger Report. He currently serves on several boards (e.g., Educational Psychology Review and the Journal of Educational Psychology editorial boards; the 7 Mindsets and Annenberg Institute’s Research Partnership for Professional Learning advisoryboards) as well as being a member of the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ Standing Questionnaire Committee. A former high school teacher and coach, Gehlbach taught at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education (2006-2015) and UCSB (2015-2019), before joining the faculty at Johns Hopkins in 2019.

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  • Virginia Education Science Training (VEST) Fellowship Program