Sneha Tharayil, University of Texas at Austin asked Johannes Strobel, University of Missouri

PostedTuesday, April 25, 2017 at 4:13 PM

How can empathetic engineering engage young learners in engineering? Should PCEE have a focus on empathetic engineering and ethics?
Dr. Strobel,

I came across an  article on which you're a co-author on (although to my dismay, I can't seem to access it through my institution's online library database, but I've requested a scan) :

Hess, J., Strobel, J., & Pan, R. (2016). Voices from the workplace: Practitioners' perspectives on the role of empathy and care within engineering. Engineering Studies, 8(3), 212-242. 

As I'm progressing through my doctoral studies in STEM Education, this is actually becoming my main area of research interest: empathetic engineering and service-learning engineering for precollege students. However, I'm struggling to find much research or theory specifically on what this focus of engineering education looks like at the P-12 level. I'm therefore always excited to find other voices interested in this! So, I'm curious to get your thoughts on this, do you think this is a potentially good model for PCEE too? What issues do you foresee with adopting such an approach at the P12 level?
4 Answers
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  • Johannes Strobel , University of Missouri
    Posted Friday, May 19, 2017 at 2:16 PM
    sorry it took so long to answer...
    Empathy can be tied to many elements of the engineering design cycle: 
    - How do you know that something is not working, not working as intended or if there is a need? Defining need and approaching design from a human-centered (and not user-centered) perspective is touching on an aspect of acting emphatic - perspective taking: what does it mean to stand in somebody else's shoes and realizing that somebody else's shoes are not my own.  
    - Similar in checking to see if my model or prototype is meeting that need - requires to check in with intended users.
    - In the testing: especially in human-centered design (products intended to be used by humans) - setting up appropriate testing is a lot more complex. I could just test the functionality of a product or object that I designed. Testing if it meets the need or the intent requires authentic test situations and requires me to understand the context.
    - Participatory design elements in which end-users are involved in the design is another element.
    In my own design of learning modules, I try to provide authentic learning experiences and use this framework: Strobel, J., Wang, J., Dyehouse, M., & Weber, N. (2013). Conceptualizing authenticity in engineering education: A systematic literature review. Computers and Education, 64, 143–152.
    I hope this helps and I would love to continue our conversation.
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