New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
In the past decade, there has been an increasing focus on the ethical content of designed artifacts, including the ways in which engineers and technologists are responsible for considering ethical issues relating to the end user or context for which they are designing. Creating sustainable post-secondary ethics education has been an increasing focus in engineering and technology education scholarship, with the goal of developing students’ ability to understand and make ethically-sound design decisions through evidence-based instructional strategies.
In this study, we focus on the ways in which a transdisciplinary educational experience might encourage the development of empathic ability by documenting the activities of undergraduate technology students as they sought to develop an off-the-grid toilet for the “developing” world. Students were exposed to multiple instructional strategies that encouraged them to reconsider their notion of “difference” as it might apply to their semester-long design project. We present several themes of instructional strategies that emerged from instructors and students, and contextualize these strategies in relation to the students’ development of empathic ability. The students in this course struggled to develop empathy that had practical implications for their design activity, suggesting the need for a larger shift in the ability of students to create empathically-driven action. We found that a substantial change in empathic ability also requires a certain amount of vulnerability and ability to position-take (i.e., taking the position of another), indicating the need for “safe spaces” that challenge student perspectives while also encouraging trust and honesty.
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