Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning: Conferences

Empathy and the Teaching of Writing

The 26th Annual Summer Conference of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning of the National Council of Teachers of English
YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, CO, June 15-18, 2023

“If we see each other in each other’s eyes…the walls of Jericho can come tumbling down!”
Barack Obama

Download the conference flyer.

Register through the conference registration page.

Remember 2008? When the walls of divisiveness seemed to be tumbling before our very eyes? Before the congealing of the now seemingly overwhelming movement to “Make America Anti-Empathic Again”? And the determined erection of so many new political and psychological walls between us?

AEPL’s first in-person gathering since 2019 seeks to bring together teachers of writing whose classroom experience has taught them to believe ineluctably that the cultivation of empathy in intimate spaces—in communicative classrooms, and in the contemplative writing process itself—can be saving and healing, both for individuals and, ultimately, for the larger world.

We will come together—both for encouragement and for comfort—in just such an intimate space: a gathering of great-hearted teachers, leaping at the chance for both deep learning and deep succor, amidst the spectacular natural surroundings of the Colorado Rockies.

The conference will be keynoted by Lisa Blankenship and Eric Leake, who are compiling an edited collection Empathy and the Other: Difference, Connection, and the Teaching of Writing.

But perhaps more than in any prior AEPL conference, YOU, our participants, will have the starring roles. Sharing the practices of empathic connection that have been shaped in your own writing classroom that call out to be shared with other teachers and students. And that, if shared widely enough, may one day make empathic connection more the norm than the exception in our world: one day bringing the walls of Jericho definitively down!

To submit a proposal for a 75-minute concurrent session (preferred format) or for a 20–30 minute paper or short teaching demonstration, send an approximately 250-word abstract to (Be sure to include a description of participant writing and interactive activities that will directly involve empathic awareness and create the kind of intimate space AEPL is known for.) Early consideration (a month before early bird prices expire): December 17. Regular consideration: January 15. Later proposals will also be considered.

Questions/topics you might entertain presenting on (though certainly do not limit yourself to these):

How to help students write to understand personal and cultural differences, including (but certainly not limited to) empathic anti-racist and anti-sexist pedagogies? How to help students see that writing itself is fundamentally an empathic activity: demanding empathic understanding of others, the world, and one’s own thought processes?

How to empathize with challenging students: either as writers (including those experiencing various kinds of writer’s block) or simply as people? How to empathize and work with those with an anti-empathic stance against the “touchy-feely” or “social-emotional” learning? How to empathize with ourselves amidst the many struggles of teaching, especially in the deeply troubling times in which we are now living? How to use community writing to promote social empathy? What IS “empathy,” philosophically, scientifically, and spiritually considered?

What empathic ideas and practices originating in spiritual and religious traditions can be transferred inoffensively to the democratic writing classroom?

Register through the conference registration page. $195 until January 15, 2023; $245 Jan 16–April 14; $295 after April 15; $50 discount for students, adjuncts, retirees, K–12 teachers, and for multiple attendees from the same organization. Registration is refundable, minus a $50 processing fee, until April 14. Current paid AEPL membership is required of all attendees upon registration. Register for rooms at the spectacular Y of the Rockies (registration link coming soon) or by calling 888-613-9622. 

Direct all questions regarding any aspect of the conference (including room sharing to cut total costs for room and board to as low as $200) to

Announcing the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning Symposia Archive

Paid AEPL members and honorary scholars may now access archived materials and recordings from AEPL's online symposia by going to the AEPL Symposia Archive website and entering the password they should have received. If you not have received this password, please contact membership director Jonathan Marine with your payment receipt or confirmation of your honorary scholarship status.