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Observing Empathy in Informal Engineering Activities with Girls Ages 7-14 (RTP, Diversity)

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

12

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37531

Download Count

93

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Paper Authors

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Susan M. Letourneau New York Hall of Science Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-8115-6063

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Susan Letourneau is a Senior Research Associate at the New York Hall of Science. She collaborates with educators and designers to develop and study museum experiences that emphasize play, exploration, and creative expression as avenues for STEM learning. She has over ten years of experience conducting interdisciplinary research on children's learning and caregiver-child interactions in science centers, children’s museums, and other informal settings.

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Dorothy Bennett New York Hall of Science

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Ms. Bennett currently serves as Director of Creative Pedagogy at the New York Hall of Science, responsible for developing and implementing new initiatives that reflect NYSCI’s core pedagogical approach known as DESIGN, MAKE, PLAY —a child-centered approach to STEM learning that inspires curiosity and playful exploration, builds confidence with new skills and tools, and fosters creative problem solving and divergent thinking. Drawing on 30 years of experience in informal and formal education, she helps translate this approach into practice by creating professional development experiences for our young museum facilitators and K-12 educators, developing apps to stimulate STEM learning beyond the walls, and designing exhibit and program experiences to inspire our diverse audience of English Language Learners. Prior to NYSCI, Ms. Bennett conducted foundational work in gender equity and design-based STEM education through EDC’s Center for Children and Technology, Bank Street College of Education, and Sesame Workshop, collaborating with national and international partners such as IBM, the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, higher education schools of engineering, and k-12 educators nationwide to create hands-on design experiences and digital media that invite diverse learners into STEM.

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ChangChia James Liu New York Hall of Science Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-1173-6817

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Dr. Liu's work focuses on motivation in informal learning environments. His recent projects include developing and evaluating STEM-related programs, curriculums, and activities for children and their families, and conducting research on museum educators and their professional development.

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Yessenia Argudo New York Hall of Science

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Yessenia holds a master of public health in community health education from CUNY School of Public Health and Public Policy. She has worked in various areas within public health including respectful maternal care, sexual and reproductive health, nutrition and global health. Her belief that “knowledge is power” has fueled her career choices and led her to join NYSCI as a research and development assistant. She will be using her experience with qualitative research to investigate the impact of STEM learning within NYSCI. Yessenia hopes that her research will work towards decreasing engagement disparities based on gender.

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Kylie Peppler University of California, Irvine

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Dr. Peppler is an associate professor of Informatics & Education at University of California, Irvine who engages in research that focuses on the intersection of arts, computational technologies and interest-driven learning. Dr. Peppler earned an NSF early CAREER award for her work on how e-textiles and other computational construction kits popularized through the Maker movement can deepen learning and broaden participation across a range of STEM fields. Dr. Peppler’s studies have been published in leading journals in the fields of education, technology and the arts, including Science Education; Computers & Human Behavior; Mind, Culture & Activity; British Journal of Educational Technology; Journal of Science and Educational Technology; Review of Research in Education; and Learning, Media & Technology, among others. Dr. Peppler currently sits on the Editorial Boards for the International Journal for Computer Supported Collaborative Learning and Computer Science Education.

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Anna Keune Ruhr-University Bochum

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Anna Keune is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Ruhr-University Bochum. Anna received her Ph.D. from the Indiana University School of Education in 2020 where her research on fiber crafts as context for computational learning won the University Distinguished Dissertation award. With a background in new media art and design, Anna's research interests lay at the intersection of STEM learning and technology design with an aim toward equitable STEM education. She has experience with participatory design of digital and tangible learning tools with educators and youth across the European Union and the United States. Anna's research has been published in leading journals in the field of education, including the British Journal of Educational Technology, Computers in Human Behavior, and Mind, Culture, and Activity.

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Maggie Dahn University of California, Irvine Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-5982-8169

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Maggie Dahn is a postdoctoral researcher at University of California, Irvine in the Connected Learning Lab and Creativity Labs. She received her PhD from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies in 2019 with support from an NAEd/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship. Maggie engages in design research to study how art making processes support learning, voice, and identity development.

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Katherine McMillan Culp New York Hall of Science

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Katie McMillan Culp is Chief Learning Officer at the New York Hall of Science. She is a developmental psychologist with twenty years experience leading research and development initiatives and applied research studies focused on equitable, high quality teaching and learning for all young people. At the New York Hall of Science, Dr. Culp leads collaborative, multidisciplinary teams to design, develop, implement and study experiences, tools, and media that help highly diverse groups of young people discover their own identities as scientists and engineers. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education and the Intel Foundation. Dr. Culp is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Amherst College (1988) and holds a PhD in developmental psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University (1999).

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Abstract

Background: Recent research and policy shifts in engineering education have argued that empathy is a core skill that engineering students must cultivate in order to identify, understand, and scope complex problems with social and ethical implications (Walther et al., 2020; Hynes & Swenson, 2013). Reframing engineering education to emphasize empathy can also offer more inclusive introductions into the field for girls, who remain underrepresented and are more engaged in the engineering design process when solving problems to help others (Capobianco & Yu, 2014). Yet, few studies have examined the role that empathy plays in supporting girls’ engagement with the engineering design process at the pre-college level. In this study, we drew on research in psychology and neuroscience, which defines empathy as a multifaceted process that includes emotional, cognitive, and prosocial responses (Decety & Jackson, 2000), to develop methods for observing empathy and its relations to engineering practices among girls ages 7-14.

Research approach: This design-based research project involved testing six engineering activities that used narratives to evoke learners’ empathy for the users of their designs (e.g., designing something to care for a pet, help a grandparent, or protect an astronaut landing on a planet). Participants included 245 girls (ages 7-14) who participated in the activities in a science center in the US. We used open-coding of field notes from the first three activities to determine how facets of empathy identified in the literature (emotional, cognitive, and prosocial) were expressed in girls’ verbal and nonverbal behaviors, and how these behaviors related to specific engineering practices (e.g., problem scoping, ideation, testing, iteration) (Moore et al., 2014). We then iteratively revised this set of indicators by using them to guide observations and interviews in subsequent activities, refining definitions as needed to obtain interobserver agreement, and discussing emerging findings with researchers, advisors, and activity developers. The final set of indicators was then used to recode the entire dataset (obtaining interrater reliability of over 85%), and to guide an external summative evaluation.

Results: Empathy indicators developed through this process included: emotional expressions of compassion and concern for the users of one’s designs; cognitive perspective-taking, evidenced by imagining how someone might use one’s designs; prosocial responses, evidenced by verbally expressing a desire to help others or taking action to ensure others’ comfort or safety through their design decisions; and calling upon familiar experiences to understand the problems others were facing or solutions that would help. Both our analyses and the summative evaluation showed that expressing these empathy indicators deepened girls’ engagement in engineering practices, particularly problem scoping and iteration, by promoting user-centered thinking (Authors, under review).

Implications: This research bridges disciplines to understand how 7-14-year-old girls express empathy within the engineering design process. By providing tools for capturing both empathy and engineering practices in this age group, this work could allow educators and researchers to design interventions that are targeted toward the intersections between these two processes, resulting in more inclusive approaches to engineering education that invite girls to tackle socially relevant problems.

Letourneau, S. M., & Bennett, D., & Liu, C. J., & Argudo, Y., & Peppler, K., & Keune, A., & Dahn, M., & Culp, K. M. (2021, July), Observing Empathy in Informal Engineering Activities with Girls Ages 7-14 (RTP, Diversity) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37531

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