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Understanding the Perspectives of Empathy Among Engineering Faculty Members

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

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July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

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Student Division Technical Session 1

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Bala Vignesh Sundaram Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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Bala Vignesh Sundaram is a PhD student in Engineering Education Systems and Design department in Arizona State University. His research interest is in exploring the potential benefits of teacher empathy in engineering classrooms.

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Nadia N. Kellam Arizona State University

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Nadia Kellam is Associate Professor in the Polytechnic School of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University (ASU). She is a qualitative researcher who primarily uses narrative research methods and is interested more broadly in interpretive research methods. In her research, Dr. Kellam is broadly interested in developing critical understandings of the culture of engineering education and, especially, the experiences of underrepresented undergraduate engineering students and engineering educators. In addition to teaching undergraduate engineering courses and a graduate course on entrepreneurship, she also enjoys teaching qualitative research methods in engineering education in the Engineering Education Systems and Design PhD program at ASU. She is deputy editor of the Journal of Engineering Education.

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Shawn S. Jordan Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus Orcid 16x16

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SHAWN JORDAN, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He teaches context-centered electrical engineering and embedded systems design courses, and studies the use of context and storytelling in both K-12 and undergraduate engineering design education. He received his Ph.D. in Engineering Education (2010) and M.S./B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Purdue University. Dr. Jordan is PI on several NSF-funded projects related to design, including an NSF Early CAREER Award entitled “CAREER: Engineering Design Across Navajo Culture, Community, and Society” and “Might Young Makers be the Engineers of the Future?,” and is a Co-PI on the NSF Revolutionizing Engineering Departments grant “Additive Innovation: An Educational Ecosystem of Making and Risk Taking.” He was named one of ASEE PRISM’s “20 Faculty Under 40” in 2014, and received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Obama in 2017.

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In higher education, studies have shown that teacher empathy can lead to better student learning outcomes, diverse and inclusive learning environments, as well as less teacher burnout. In engineering education, research on empathy has recently gained significant interest and most of this research is focused on developing and fostering empathy among engineering students. Teacher empathy is a relatively new direction yet to be taken in engineering education. In this study, we are interested in developing a preliminary understanding of the views about teacher empathy among engineering faculty. The research question that guides this work is, how do engineering faculty members define, understand, and value teacher empathy? We used the Model of Empathy Framework [1] as a lens to understand the perspectives of the faculty members. While the framework is developed specifically to understand various attributes of empathy among engineers and engineering students, we used this framework to better understand empathy among engineering educators. The framework is made up of three mutually dependent dimensions: skills, orientation, and being. The skills dimension includes empathic skills that can be learned such as perspective taking, mode switching, and affective sharing. The orientation dimension concerns one’s proclivity for being empathetic and includes aspects such as an epistemological openness and reflective values awareness. The being dimension aligns with one’s values and morals as engineers and citizens and how these morals and values define and guide our actions and behaviors. Interviews were conducted with three assistant professors and one professor and these interview transcripts were thematically analyzed using in-vivo, concept, and thematic codes. The Model of Empathy Framework informed the development of concept and thematic codes. Participants demonstrated attributes of the skills and orientation dimensions of empathy when expressing their views on teacher empathy. This pilot study demonstrates the usefulness of the Model of Empathy Framework for engineering educators, while also showing some preliminary understandings of how engineering educators define, understand, and value teacher empathy.

Sundaram, B. V., & Kellam, N. N., & Jordan, S. S. (2021, July), Understanding the Perspectives of Empathy Among Engineering Faculty Members Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37971

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