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A Pilot Study of the Development of Empathy within a Service-learning Trip from a Qualitative Perspective

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Holistic Assessment and Teaching in Service-learning Environments

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Linjue Wang The Ohio State University

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Linjue Wang is currently a graduate research associate in engineering education department at The Ohio State University, USA. She received her B.E. in Built Environment & Equipment Engineering from Tsinghua University, China. She has various service learning experiences as volunteer and curriculum designer in high schools from undeveloped areas in China. Her research interests now focus on service-learning and community engagement, as well as empowering engineering education in high schools in rural areas.

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Turhan Kendall Carroll The Ohio State University

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Turhan Carroll is currently a graduate research associate in the engineering education department at The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH. He received BS degrees in Physics and Applied Mathematics from North Carolina State University. He also worked for approximately 7 years as an engineer performing research in magneto-photonics. His research interests now focus on broadening participation in engineering via the use of informal education.

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David A. Delaine The Ohio State University

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Dr. David A. Delaine is an Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University Department of Engineering Education. Within this newly formed department he strives to creatively impact society through investigating the intersections of engineering, education, and social need through research on community engagement and collaborative processes within informal learning. He has obtained a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Drexel University, in Philadelphia, USA and served as a Postdoctoral Fulbright Scholar at the Escola Politécnica da Universidade de São Paulo. Dr. Delaine is a co-founder and past president of the Student Platform for Engineering Education Development (SPEED) and has served two terms as an executive member of the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies (IFEES) as a Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion. He is investigating university-community engagement as empowerment settings and working to further the research agenda of the global community of practice within Diversity and Inclusion in Engineering Education. His research laboratory aims to support an inclusive, global pipeline of STEM talent and to unify the needs of the engineering education stakeholders in order for engineering education to more accurately reflect societal needs. Diversity and inclusion, university/community engagement, informal learning, action research, and student led initiatives fall within the scope of his academic endeavors.

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Qualitative outcomes of a pilot study which seeks to investigate the ways and extent to which service-learning impacts the development of empathy in undergraduate engineering students are presented. Service-learning is an experiential education pedagogy in which students engage in activities designed to tackle community needs within structured opportunities to promote learning and development. Community service, teamwork, problem-solving, and reflection are common elements within service-learning activities. This educational approach can provide students with real-world scenarios that connect classroom theory and knowledge to community needs.

A brief literature review on service-learning within engineering education, is presented alongside brief background on the meaning of empathy. This is followed by initial qualitative findings around a service-learning trip within an undergraduate engineering course involving 13 student participants. The findings indicate service-learning in a foreign community can serve as a platform for the development of empathy in engineering undergraduates. The development of empathy can be fostered within three main findings: group dynamics, interactions with the community, and individual interpretation of the service-learning experience through self-reflection. This paper concludes with a discussion on how these three findings collectively influence the development of empathy in students. This paper provides a qualitative approach to contextualizing the development of empathy as a learning outcome for engineering educators interested in service-learning.

Wang, L., & Carroll, T. K., & Delaine, D. A. (2018, June), A Pilot Study of the Development of Empathy within a Service-learning Trip from a Qualitative Perspective Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29711

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