Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation
To develop innovative solutions that fit end-users, engineers must understand the end-users’ needs. This user-centered aspect of engineering innovation has been highlighted in recent design thinking literature, where the construct of empathy has received increasing attention. Anecdotal support has been found for the benefits of empathy in engineering, and many engineering design thinking courses today teach engineering students to empathize with end-users. However, transitioning from anecdotal to evidence-based education requires being able to measure and track the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that educators attempt to impart on students. Thus, this study measures the development of empathic tendencies and innovation attitudes in students, and explores correlations between the two.
Data was collected by administering a self-report survey in January and June 2017 to 237 students participating in a global multidisciplinary design thinking course. The survey included subscales for empathic tendencies, innovation self-efficacy, and innovation interests. The responses were analyzed for differences in distribution between the two surveys, as well as for correlations between items. It was observed that the students’ empathic tendencies and confidence in experimenting and associative thinking grew (p < 0.03). Furthermore, the empathic tendency scores displayed weak but statistically significant correlation with interest towards planning and research activities (p < 0.05, τb > 0.2). This study is among the first to quantify the development of empathy and innovation attitudes in engineering education. The results indirectly repeat prior research on the development of innovation capabilities in the scope of individual engineering courses. However, there are some limitations regarding the applicability of the utilized survey instruments, thus requiring further research with larger amounts of data and a mixed-methods approach to generalize the results.
Surma-aho, A. O., & Björklund, T. A., & Holtta-Otto, K. (2018, June), Assessing the Development of Empathy and Innovation Attitudes in a Project-based Engineering Design Course Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/29826
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