Understanding the Perspectives of Empathy among Engineering Faculty Members

Bala Vignesh Sundaram, Nadia N. Kellam, Shawn Jordan

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

Abstract

In higher education, studies have shown that teacher empathy can lead to better student learning outcomes, diverse and inclusive learning environments, as well as less teacher burnout. In engineering education, research on empathy has recently gained significant interest and most of this research is focused on developing and fostering empathy among engineering students. Teacher empathy is a relatively new direction yet to be taken in engineering education. In this study, we are interested in developing a preliminary understanding of the views about teacher empathy among engineering faculty. The research question that guides this work is, how do engineering faculty members define, understand, and value teacher empathy? We used the Model of Empathy Framework [1] as a lens to understand the perspectives of the faculty members. While the framework is developed specifically to understand various attributes of empathy among engineers and engineering students, we used this framework to better understand empathy among engineering educators. The framework is made up of three mutually dependent dimensions: skills, orientation, and being. The skills dimension includes empathic skills that can be learned such as perspective taking, mode switching, and affective sharing. The orientation dimension concerns one's proclivity for being empathetic and includes aspects such as an epistemological openness and reflective values awareness. The being dimension aligns with one's values and morals as engineers and citizens and how these morals and values define and guide our actions and behaviors. Interviews were conducted with three assistant professors and one professor and these interview transcripts were thematically analyzed using in-vivo, concept, and thematic codes. The Model of Empathy Framework informed the development of concept and thematic codes. Participants demonstrated attributes of the skills and orientation dimensions of empathy when expressing their views on teacher empathy. This pilot study demonstrates the usefulness of the Model of Empathy Framework for engineering educators, while also showing some preliminary understandings of how engineering educators define, understand, and value teacher empathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)

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