Document Type


Publication Date

June 2017

Publication Title

American Society for Engineering Education




Empathy is a diverse and complex phenomena by which humans relate their experiences to one another. This work explores empathy as a resource for engineering educators attending to student emotion within an engineering design environment. Our research setting takes place in a 3-credit pedagogy seminar (EDCI488E) for undergraduate engineering peer educators who are teaching concurrently in a first-year engineering design course (ENES100). The pedagogy seminar is modeled after the Learning Assistant Program developed at University of Colorado-Boulder. The seminar focuses on engineering content and pedagogy relevant to teaching engineering design (i.e. design thinking, reflective decision-making, and teamwork and collaboration). Our research analyzes for how empathy impacted peer educators’ teaching practices in the seminar. Using field notes, coursework, and videotapes of the pedagogy seminar, we analyzed the peer educators’ speech, gesture, and actions in video-recorded data. We present a case study of a role play activity in the seminar in which peer educators simulated giving feedback and critique to ENES100 students during a design review. We specifically analyze how a focal peer educator utilized empathy to recognize a tension between productive student learning and student emotion. Empathy supported the focal peer educator in developing new teaching moves that responded to the pseudo-student’s emotions. Our analysis focuses on identifying features of her empathetic practice, and how such features could support a variety of teaching moves.


This article was originally presented at the 2017 ASEE Annual Conference Exposition, Columbus, Ohio, and can also be found online at this link. © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education

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