In this article we describe a qualitative research method, the “Method of Empathy-Based Stories” (MEBS) and ponder its value in classroom teaching. Our research question is as follows: What is MEBS and what are its possible uses in research and teaching? We gathered empathy-based stories written by students (N = 15) and analysed them with thematic analysis. The dominating themes in writings were the threat of climate change and various coping strategies. MEBS allowed students to describe their ways of thinking and acting, and to take part in the discussion. In general, the use of MEBS can generate hypotheses and interpretive horizons and stir questions yet to be asked. The main purpose of using MEBS in qualitative research and in teaching is to inspire qualitative researchers’ and research participants’ interpretive imagination.


MEBS, Method of Empathy-Based Stories, Non-Active Role Playing, Qualitative Research Methods, Teaching

Author Bio(s)

Elina Särkelä is a doctoral student in the Faculty of Educational Sciences in the University of Helsinki, Finland. She is also a teacher of biology and geography. Her research interests are related to possibilities to promote social justice in education. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: elina.sarkela@helsinki.fi.

Juha Suoranta is a Professor of Adult Education, School of Social Sciences, Tampere University, Finland, where he teaches sociology. His recent books are C. Wright Mills’ Sociological Life (2017) and Paulo Freire: Educator of the Oppressed (2019, forthcoming) in Finnish. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: juha.suoranta@tuni.fi.


We dedicate this article to the memory of Antti Eskola (1934–2018), a founder and developer of method of empathy-based stories (MEBS). We would like to express our warm acknowledgments to students who participated in our research and to M.Sc. Sirkka Staff and M.Sc. Eija Kujansuu for their support for this article.

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