Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
Community Engagement Division
Having empathy is an important skill that allows engineers to design for users with a variety of different wants, needs, and perspectives. The purpose of this study was to examine changes in engineering students’ development of interpersonal empathy as they progressed through a 10-week Rehabilitation Engineering course. Empathy is composed of five affective and cognitive constructs: affective response (AR), affective mentalizing (AR), self-other awareness (SOA), emotion regulation (ER), and perspective-taking (PT). These five constructs must co-occur to bring about the full expression of empathy. During the course, 24 students worked with clients from the local community to design a solution to meet their rehabilitation needs. In addition to the projects, student assignments included reflection prompts, four hours of community service, and several empathy “immersion” experiences (i.e., wearing a blindfold while trying to complete basic tasks). Seven students opted to participate in the study, all in their 4th or 5th year in either biomedical or mechanical engineering. Students completed pre- and post-course surveys aimed to measure changes in self-reported levels of empathy. One student participated in a personal interview, aimed at understanding the different ways in which the course activities influenced his development of empathy. All seven students who participated in the study reported an increase in empathy. Students’ perspective-taking and self-other awareness had the highest pre- to post- course increase. Despite the limitations of a small sample size, there is some indication that participating in a rehabilitation engineering course positively influences students’ development of empathy.
Cooper, L. A., & Johnston, A., & Hubbard, E. H., & Self, B. P. (2020, June), Development of Empathy in a Rehabilitation Engineering Course Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34457
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