A Model of Empathy in Engineering as a Core Skill, Practice Orientation, and Professional Way of Being

TitleA Model of Empathy in Engineering as a Core Skill, Practice Orientation, and Professional Way of Being
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsWalther, J, Miller, SE, Sochacka, NW
JournalJournal of Engineering Education
Date Published2017
Publication Languageeng
ISBN Number10694730
KeywordsAttitudes , Core , discipline , EMPATHY , ENGINEERING , ENGINEERS , professional , PROFESSIONALISM , SOCIAL , transdisciplinary
AbstractBackground Engineers are increasingly being asked to empathically engage with a broad range of stakeholders. Current efforts to educate empathic engineers, however, are hindered by the lack of a conceptually cohesive understanding of, and language for, applying empathy to engineering. Prior studies have suggested that research informed by long‐standing traditions in other fields may provide the rigor, conceptual clarity, and expertise necessary to theoretically ground the education and practice of empathy in technical disciplines. Purpose This study examined three research questions: What are current understandings of empathy in engineering and engineering education? How do these understandings compare with conceptions of empathy in social work, a professional discipline that defines empathy as a core skill and orientation of its practitioners? What can engineering educators learn from social work to inform the education of empathic engineers? Scope/Method This article presents the findings from a sustained, four‐year, interdisciplinary dialogue between engineering education and social work education researchers. This effort included an examination of productive tensions and similarities between the two fields, a critical synthesis of the literature on empathy in each discipline, and the development of a context‐appropriate model for empathy in engineering. Conclusions We propose a model of empathy in engineering as a teachable and learnable skill, a practice orientation, and a professional way of being. Expanding conceptions of empathy in social work, this model additionally emphasizes mode switching and a commitment to values pluralism.
NotesWalther, Joachim 1; Email Address: jwalther@engr.uga.edu Miller, Shari E. 1; Email Address: semiller@uga.edu Sochacka, Nicola W. 1; Email Address: sochacka@uga.edu; Affiliation: 1: University of Georgia; Source Info: Jan2017, Vol. 106 Issue 1, p123; Subject Term: EMPATHY; Subject Term: ENGINEERING ethics; Subject Term: CORE competencies; Subject Term: PROFESSIONALISM; Subject Term: ENGINEERS; Subject Term: ENGINEERING education; Subject Term: DISCIPLINE; Subject Term: ATTITUDES; Author-Supplied Keyword: empathy; Author-Supplied Keyword: professional skills; Author-Supplied Keyword: social responsibility; Author-Supplied Keyword: social work; Author-Supplied Keyword: transdisciplinary; Number of Pages: 26p; Document Type: Article