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Posts Tagged ‘empathy

Introducing Design Thinking to Elementary Learners

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Design thinking is an approach to learning that includes considering real-world problems, research, analysis, conceiving original ideas, lots of experimentation, and sometimes building things by hand. The projects teach students how to make a stable product, use tools, think about the needs of another, solve challenges, overcome setbacks and stay motivated on a long-term problem. The projects also teach students to build on the ideas of others, vet sources, generate questions, deeply analyze topics, and think creatively and analytically. Many of those same qualities are goals of the Common Core State Standards. (What Does ‘Design Thinking’ Look Like in School?)

I use the following activities to introduce elementary students to the design thinking process. The ultimate goal is for the learners to work on their own, self-selected problems in which they will apply the design thinking.

Introducing the general design process to elementary student occurs through showing the following video about the engineering process:

The Task: Build the Highest Tower

The Goal

The goal of this activity is to have learners practice a simple version of the engineering design process.

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Source: http://slideplayer.com/slide/9058715/

The Task

In teams of 3 to 4 members, learners are asked to build the highest tower out of 50 small marshmallows and 50 spaghetti noodles.

The Process

As a team, ask learners to sketch out possible solutions

Design thinking requires that no matter how obvious the solution may seem, many solutions be created for consideration. And created in a way that allows them to be judged equally as possible answers. Looking at a problem from more than one perspective always yields richer results. (Design thinking… what is that?)

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Prototype and test ideas

After brainstorming and sketching possible designs, learners begin the process of building this spaghetti-marshmallow towers.

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Revisit the design process

After some time prototyping, a time-out is called so learners can reflect on what is working and not working. Learners are encouraged to see what the other groups have created to spark new ideas.

Design thinking allows their potential to be realized by creating an environment conducive to growth and experimentation, and the making of mistakes in order to achieve out of the ordinary results. At this stage many times options will need to be combined and smaller ideas integrated into the selected schemes that make it through. (Design thinking… what is that?)

Return to the building and testing process

Next Step: Introduction to Empathy

As a design thinker, the problems you are trying to solve are rarely your own—they are those of a particular group of people; in order to design for them, you must gain empathy for who they are and what is important to them. As a design thinker, the problems you are trying to solve are rarely your own—they are those of a particular group of people; in order to design for them, you must gain empathy for who they are and what is important to them. (from the d-school)

The second part of the introducing elementary-level learners to the design process is introducing them to empathy and its connection to the design process.

The Goal

To have learners discover and explore the elements of empathy as it relates to design.

The Process

Introduction to Empathy

For younger kids (but even the 5th and 6th graders seemed to enjoy it):

Warm-Up: Great Egg Drop

Preparation and introduction:

Learners are asked to draw a face on an egg and are given the following directions: “Pretend the egg is alive – has thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Your job is to use the straws to create a protective covering for the egg so it will not crack when dropped from a 10 foot height. Address the following questions prior to building your egg structure:

  • What do you think your egg is feeling about his or her upcoming drop?
  • What do you need to make your egg’s journey less stressful?
  • What can you do to reassure your egg that everything will work out okay?
  • What forces do you need to consider in order to keep your egg safe? Consider gravity, rate of descent, impact.

Example Responses from a 6th grade group:

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The Task

To begin, assemble groups of 4 or 5 and give each group various materials for building (e.g. 5-20 straws, a roll of masking tape, one fresh egg, newspaper, etc.)  Instruct the participants and give them a set amount of time (e.g. 30 minutes) to complete building a structure, with the egg inside in which the structures are dropped from at least 10 feet in elevation and then inspected to see if the eggs survived. The winners are the groups that were successful in protecting the egg. (http://www.icebreakers.ws/medium-group/defend-the-egg.html)

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Delving Deeper: An Environment for a Gamibot

Lead learners through the following steps:

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  • Develop the Backstory for the Gamibot: Report via a Blog Post or Voki
  • Create an Environment for the Gamibot Out of Natural and Art Materials. Make sure it fits your Gamibot’s backstory creating an environment that is tailored for your Gamibot. Be ready to explain why it fits your Gamibot.

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Squishy Circuits: Designing for a Human Being

The Goal

To put everything together by creating a design for another human being.

The Task

Learners design a squishy circuit product based on the specifications given to them by a classmate – the client from all of the available colors of Play-Doh (conductive clay), modeling clay (insulating clay), and LED lights.

The Process

Lead learners through the following steps:

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  • As partners, decide who will be the designer and who will have a product designed for him or her – the client.
  • As a designer, find out the following from the client:
    • What do you want me to build?
    • What size do you want it to be? It needs to be scaled in some way. (Note: learners are given graph flip chart paper with 1″ squares and taught about scale, e.g., 1″ = 1′, 1″ = 2′, etc.)
    • What color Play-Doh? Modeling clay? LED lights.
  • Construct the design while your client gives you feedback. The client is not permitted to touch the Squishy Circuit during the design process.
  • After completion, roles are switched.

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Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

September 25, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Empathy: A Top Skill of the Effective (and Loving) Educator

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Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn.   Alice Miller

I have a fitness teacher.  She knows fitness, she knows how the body works.  She knows how to break down the exercises and how to teach them.  What she doesn’t know is each participant’s body.  She assumes she knows what is best for all of the students.  In other words, she lacks empathy for those in her class.  Some tolerate her, others do not go to her class because of her lack of empathy for her students.  But these are adults, children in public school education do not have such a choice. So this post is a call to action to highlight and become intentional in bringing teacher empathy into the classroom.

What is Empathy?

Daniel Pink in a Whole New Mind describes empathy:

Empathy isn’t sympathy- that is, feeling bad for someone else. It is feeling with someone else, sensing what it would be like to be that person  Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position and to intuit what that person is feeling—to stand in their shoes, to see with their eyes, to feel with their hearts—it is a stunning act of imaginative derring-do, the ultimate virtual reality, climbing into another’s mind to experience the world from that person’s perspective.

A Rationale for Empathy

Given all the pressures placed upon teachers in today’s schools, I think, not necessarily due to all of fault of their own, some educators overlook the reverence they should take in relating to and interacting with their learners.  Jonathan Kozol in Ordinary Resurrections so beautifully stated:

Good teachers don’t approach a child with overzealousness or with destructive conscientiousness. They’re not drill-masters in the military or floor managers in a production system. They are specialists in opening small packages. They give the string a tug but do it carefully. They don’t yet know what’s in the box. They don’t know if it’s breakable.

. . . and . . .

Human beings are precious. Their values, thoughts and independence are very important to them. When dealing with another person one has to know that one is “walking on holy ground.” Defining empathy skills in practice – Carl Rogers and unconditional regard

Empathy for one’s students should be a top concern of educators and intentionally used as a primary instructional strategy.

Empathy and the Educator as a Design Thinker

Given the recent popularity of design thinker, some educators are looking at and proposing that educators using design thinking to design the learning experiences in this classrooms.  As Grant Wiggins notes in Beyond teacher egocentrism: design thinking:

The learning is the center of our world, not the teaching. And until we see that we are in the business of designing and causing learning instead of merely in the business of teaching, we will fail to cause optimal learning. Great care has been given to thinking through the goal of the learning and the conditions that have to be in place if optimal engagement and active learning, in a group of diverse students, is to occur.

Many describe empathy as the first step of effective design thinking.  “One of the core principles of design thinking is its focus on human values at every stage of the process. And empathy for the people for whom you’re designing is fundamental to this process” What is Design Thinking?

I would go as far as saying that empathy is necessary for designing all facets of teaching: setting up the classroom, selecting curriculum, choosing and implementing classroom management strategies, and teaching each individual learner as unique individuals.

Benefits of Empathy in Teaching and Learning

Finally in terms of benefits to teaching, learning and the classroom environment, empathy is a necessary precursor in order for the following to develop:

  • Foundation of the teacher-student relationship:  With educator empathy, the learner feels as though the educator has a genuine interest in and really understands him-her.
  • Individualized, differentiated, and personalized education:  There is absolutely no way an educator can tailor instruction to the meet their learners’ needs, interests, desires without empathy.
  • Meeting the social emotional needs of the students:  “Addressing the host of unmet social and emotional needs that students carry into the classroom demands that teachers be able to look below the surface and understand what’s driving a particular set of behaviors” (Unleashing Empathy: How Teachers Transform Classrooms With Emotional Learning).
  • Modeling empathy to increase empathy by the learners: When educators walk the talk of empathy, students can see empathy in action and develop those skills for themselves. ‘Ultimately, creating empathy comes down to leading children by example. “We have to model what we want them to do”‘  (Creating Empathy in the Classroom).

Educators inherently know that empathy is important to the operation of their classrooms and the success of their students. Educators must meet the needs of each of their students, no matter their background. At the core of this educational mission is the teacher’s ability to empathize with these students, moving beyond the teacher’s perspective to those of the children he or she encounters. Beyond this there is also the argument that empathy itself should be a goal of education; students should leave the classroom or school environment equipped with skills to build meaningful relationships with their peers  (Empathy in the Classroom)

educator empathy

Related Posts:

 

Finally in terms of benefits to teaching, learning and the classroom environment, empathy is a necessary precursor in order for the following to develop:

  • Foundation of the teacher-student relationship:  With educator empathy, the learner feels as though the educator has a genuine interest in and really understands him-her.
  • Individualized, differentiated, and personalized education:  There is absolutely no way an educator can tailor instruction to the meet their learners’ needs, interests, desires without empathy.
  • Meeting the social emotional needs of the students:  “Addressing the host of unmet social and emotional needs that students carry into the classroom demands that teachers be able to look below the surface and understand what’s driving a particular set of behaviors” (Unleashing Empathy: How Teachers Transform Classrooms With Emotional Learning).
  • Modeling empathy to increase empathy by the learners: When educators walk the talk of empathy, students can see empathy in action and develop those skills for themselves. ‘Ultimately, creating empathy comes down to leading children by example. “We have to model what we want them to do”‘  (Creating Empathy in the Classroom).

Educators inherently know that empathy is important to the operation of their classrooms and the success of their students. Educators must meet the needs of each of their students, no matter their background. At the core of this educational mission is the teacher’s ability to empathize with these students, moving beyond the teacher’s perspective to those of the children he or she encounters. Beyond this there is also the argument that empathy itself should be a goal of education; students should leave the classroom or school environment equipped with skills to build meaningful relationships with their peers  (Empathy in the Classroom)

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Related Posts:

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/69392086@N06

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 28, 2014 at 9:18 pm

A Culture of Kindness: 26 Acts of Kindness – 2013

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Why on earth would a rational person give money to charity–particularly a charity that supports strangers? What do they get?

A story.

In fact, every time someone donates to a good cause, they’re buying a story, a story that’s worth more than the amount they donated.

It might be the story of doing the right thing, or fitting in, or pleasing a friend or honoring a memory, but the story has value. It might be the story that you, and you alone are able to make this difference, or perhaps it’s the story of using leverage to change the world. For many, it’s the story of what it means to be part of a community.  Seth Godin http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/11/what-do-we-get-when-we-give-to-a-good-cause.html

This Seth Godin quote provides a solid rationale why adults give to charities.  Kids and young people don’t have nor do many of them think about charity in terms of dollars and cents.  A precursor to giving both time as a volunteer and money as an adult, I believe, is creating a culture of kindness and giving in kids’ home and school lives.

We need to create a “culture of kindness,” encouraging a spirit of generosity and love where differences are accepted and celebrated, rather than targeted. In a culture of kindness, students stand up for and next to one another, all for one and one for all.  A dedicated effort to teach, advocate, and model kindness will work much better than efforts to punish meanness. Michael Josephson http://whatwillmatter.com/2012/04/commentary-establishing-a-culture-of-kindness/

One of the best ways to create a culture of kindness is to model and live one.  Last year, in response to the Sandy Hook travesty, Ann Curry propose 26 acts of kindness to honor the 26 children and teachers killed at the elementary school. My post of last year’s acts, Living a Life of Kindness: #26acts.  I plan on making this a yearly occurrence and posting about it – hopefully to inspire others to add a little more kindness into their own and their kids’/students’ lives. (Note: I actually have been doing acts of kindness for years especially around the holidays when I get a break from my college teaching.  I never told anyone of these acts as they are personal and I don’t do them for any need of acknowledgement.  But as I’ve stated, I hope telling this story inspires others to be proactive in their acts of kindness.)

Below are the beginning of my 2013 list as a response to Black Friday – they are my stories of giving kindness.  They begin with acts that were not financial based and then with acts of giving money to charities.

#1 – Clerk with Autism

I went to the local Hastings to buy my brother some books for the holidays.  I asked for a specific genre – WWII – because this topic is a passion for my brother, who has Aspergers.  I explained this to her.  She said that she has Asperger’s, too.  I told her that she was doing well as a clerk and she said sometimes it is hard for her.  That night there was a special event at the mall.  The center of the mall was set up to host live bands and some of the local restaurants were giving away free appetizers.  I explained this to the clerk who did not know of the event.  I asked her if she had a break to go check out the event.  She said she did not as she was only on 5 hour shifts.  At the same time, two of the young Hastings clerks, early twenties possibly, were going on break and headed towards this event.  The clerk asked them as they were leaving, “Can you get me some food?”  They totally ignored her.  As soon as I finish paying for the books, I headed to the event, grabbed several appetizers, went back to Hastings, and handed her the food.

#2 – Birthday Party for Kim

20131106_165623Kim is a very sweet and dedicated spin bike instructor.  She is giving is time, energy, and resources . . . goes way beyond what one expects or gets from a fitness instructor.  She told us a birthday was coming up.  I got party decorations and a decadent chocolate cake and set up the spin room prior to class.  She celebrated through three of her classes.

#3 – An Unexpected Hug

I take a pottery class at the local community college.  There about 15 in the class including an older woman from Germany.  She is abrupt in her comments and thoughts; and lacks the humor that most of the rest of us have in the class.  She is not well-liked due to this.  I have somewhat befriended her talking to her about her pots.  We had a long break coming due to Thanksgiving.  She was leaving and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving.  I asked her for a hug before she left expecting a little, slight embrace.  The opposite occurred.  She gave me a strong, long, caring hug – such an unexpected treat.

#4 – Donated to Save the Children disaster relief efforts for Typhoon Haiyan right after the typhoon.

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#5 – Supported the amazing Black Girls Rock by Tweeting about their sheros show and purchasing a t-shirt.

#6, 7, 8, 9, 10 – Donated special gifts through Save the Children – 2 goats, school clinic, clean water clinic, community book bank, 14 week supply of ready to use food

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#11 – Selected a Donors Choose program for a local classroom teacher to buy books, The Fault in Our Stars and Thirteen Reasons Why, for her teen students.

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#12 – Another donation to help with those in the Philippines affected by the typhon

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#14 – Donation to help in Haiti’s Beyond the Borders to help end childhood slavery there.

#15 – Donated to Indiegogo project – Afrimakers: Empower makers in Africa to develop sustainable projects and use making to solve local challenges and create an exchange of best practices between locals.

#16 – Gave a Hug & a Chocolate Treat

I have a fitness instructor who is amazing in fitness but lacking in social skills.  She often runs her group fitness classes like a drill sergeant – making everyone be there on time and yelling about form the whole time.  Many don’t take her class due to this.  But I like her routine, so I put up with her “meanness”.  That day someone in class mentioned it was her birthday.  After class, I took a deep breath and went up to her to give her a hug.  During her barely touching me hug, I said that I appreciated her classes and was happy I got to take them.  That day I went to the local bakery and bought her chocolate brownies and gave them to her as a birthday/Christmas present a few days later.  She seemed genuinely appreciative.

#17 – Donated to Be K.I.N.D. to a Girl in Malawi. Provide a School Scholarship.

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#18 – Ceramic Sponges to My Pottery Buds

Bought and gave out specialized ceramic sponges to my pottery buddies.

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#19 – Toys for Tots Zumbathon

Attended a Zumbathon where the entrance fee was a toy for tots.

20131214_122444FYI – I bought the Black and Decker kids’ toolkit seen in the front.  It supports my belief that kids’ toys and play should involve creating, making, innovating.

#20 – Holiday Treats for My Brother and His Family

I have been disconnected with my youngest brother and his family for about three years – no calls, presents, or cards.  It was not precipitated by anything.  It just happened.  I bought and am sending his family a basket of baked treats for a local bakery for Christmas.

#21 – Donated and Supported (through Tweets) to Project for Awesome

Donated to get a t-shirt and a signed copy of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (score! in many ways).

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#22 – Donated to Pencils of Promise to Help Build a School

2013-12-17_1917#23 – Helped 80-something Betsy learn how to shape a pottery bowl

I rented some studio space at Santa Fe Clay for the month of December because the college where I do pottery is closed for the winter break.  Studio space costs some $$$ – it has as such become a place where retired and a bit wealthy patrons make pots.  I have been going in a few hours several days a week.  I tend to just focus on my work.  I did notice a woman probably in her mid or late 80s working on some bowls and asked her about it.  She told me that she made pots in her 20s and wanted to get back into it.  She explained that it was NOT like riding a bike and that she was struggling a bit.  I have a great handmade wooden tool, called a rib, that’s great for shaping bowls.  As she was working on a bowl, I asked her if I could shape her bowl to show her how.  She watched intently and asked some questions.  I told her to try the rib on her next bowl.  When she got to the point of shaping with my rib, I went over and talked her through using it.  Her bowl looked good – much better than the bowls she made earlier – and showed me as such.  She thanked me and said it was probably the best tip she’s gotten since going back to pottery.  A little bit of my time made a difference for her AND for me as the gift in giving is priceless.

#24 – Donated to Unicef USA as an end of year matched donation

2013-12-31_1037#25 – Donated to Save the Children

2013-12-31_1115#26 – Donated to International Rescues

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Parting shot . . .

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Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 1, 2013 at 10:42 pm

Empathy and Global Stewardship: The Other 21st Century Skills

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Due to the interest of my post The Other 21st Skills, I decided to individually discuss each of the skills or dispositions I proposed that are in addition to the seven survival skills as identified by Tony Wagner.  This post focuses on empathy and global stewardship.

2013-05-22_1535Empathy has always been valued as an important skill to possess as a human being, so what makes it a 21st century skill?  I was recently asked by Steve Hargadon during a short video interview, “Is global education important?  If so, why?”  My response was, “Given that we are now living in a hyper-connected world, we can no longer plead that we don’t what is going on in other parts of the world.  Look at the recent incidents of the uprising in Egypt and Syria.  Global events are being streamed and tweeted in real time.  Global empathy and stewardship need to be part of the education of children.”  This is also why I have chosen to group empathy and global stewardship together.

The general hope is that teaching empathy might lead to greater social harmony, altruistic action, social justice, and interpersonal and intercultural understanding. If we’re to reverse the increasing disregard for human suffering in this country and around the world, with the growing gap between rich and poor, empathy education — if it could be successful and massive — could make a major difference.  The problem is never too much empathy. The problem is not enough. Empathy education needs to move beyond volunteerism and toward social transformation. One has to have the kind of empathy that really understands you don’t just give people handouts; what you do is transform the system so the people themselves can be transformed. While empathy is not itself sufficient, it is necessary for greater social justice to come about (Teaching Empathy to the ‘Me’ Generation).

Some of the characteristics or dispositions related to empathy include:

  • Curiosity about others
  • Observing verbal and nonverbal behavior in others
  • Active listening
  • Finding similarities between oneself and others
  • Seeing the world from another’s perspective
  • Identifying the emotions of another

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I always think of empathy as this kind of sacred space. When someone’s in a deep hole, and they shout out from the bottom and say “hey, I’m stuck, it’s dark, I’m overwhelmed” we look and climb down, and say,  “I know what it’s like down here, and you’re not alone.”

This quote is taken from the following animated video, The Power of Empathy.  It provides a good introduction to bringing empathy into the learning environment.

Teaching perspectives is the best way to learn about a people and only when you teach perspectives can you teach creativity because creativity comes from exposure.  Only when you are creative can you imagine yourself in the shoes of someone different from you. Perspectives and creativity engender empathy – much needed in this world.  Raghava KK from Coloring Outside the Lines-A National Geographic Video

2013-07-28_1115The following RSA video, The Six Habits of Highly Empathic People, discusses the importance of empathy for creating social change and a revolution of social relationships, which, in turn, leads to increased desire to engage in global stewardship.

Bringing Empathy into the Schools

The Start Empathy initiative shares research, case studies and inspirational stories, and is building a network of schools committed to building empathic, encouraging environments in school settings. They’ve developed a road map for navigating a course to empathy:

Empathy_Poster_Finalhttp://www.edutopia.org/blog/empathy-back-to-school-supply-homa-tavangar

Empathy and Global Stewardship

As stated in the beginning of this post, empathy plus hyper-connectivity should naturally lead global stewardship.  “True and faithful stewardship resides not with the few, but with the whole community. It calls for the redistribution of power in ways appropriate to the gifts, talents, and passions of the people” (Review of Peter Block’s Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest).

The state of Washington engaged in a think tank for education for sustainable communities.  One of results was the creation of a list of characteristics that define folks who are equipped for sustainable futures:

  • As life-long, life-wide and life-deep learners, they:
    • Welcome new ideas
    • Seek new knowledge
    • Makes informed decisions
  • As community contributors, they:
    • Lead a healthy, responsible lifestyle
    • Support well-being and diversity of others
    • Contribute time and resources
  • As global citizens, they:
    • Understand how natural and human systems interact
    • Respect interdependence of life on earth
    • Solve problems collaboratively
  • As co-creators of tomorrow, they:
    • Embrace diversity, change, and communication
    • Choose life-affirming values
    • Pursue innovative productivity

From:  http://www.e3washington.org/about-e3/e3-comprehensive-plan/vision-2025.html

These characteristics are in line with skills and characteristics of those related to empathy and global stewardship.

Integrating stewardship into learning contexts is important because it affirms that:

  • Stewardship is a fundamental part of everyone’s learning,
  • Stewardship is a form of civic responsibility and of comparable value to other primary learning such as the acquisition of content knowledge.
  • Stewardship contributes to sustainable development in real life contexts. (How Can Teachers Foster Stewardship Behavior in their Students?)

A Connection Between Empathy and Design Thinking

Design thinking and doing is entering into many educational settings.

Classrooms and schools across the world are facing design challenges every single day, from teacher feedback systems to daily schedules. Wherever they fall on the spectrum of scale—the challenges educators are confronted with are real, complex, and varied. And as such, they require new perspectives, new tools, and new approaches. Design Thinking is one of them. (http://www.designthinkingforeducators.com/design-thinking)

David Kelley, founder of IDEO and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (otherwise known as the d.school), believes that empathy is at the core of design thinking and being an effective designer.

Being an incredible designer isn’t necessarily about having a great aesthetic sensibility or coming up with out-of-the-box ideas. The basic premise of design thinking revolves around empathy, being understanding of what other people want, and how the world is put together from a social and emotional point of view. (http://www.empathy.ws/References/Experts/David-Kelley.htm)

A Connection Between Empathy and Grit as 21st Century Skills

Grit as a 21st century skill was discussed in a previous post.  Criticism has been leveraged against skills such as grit and resilience stating they are hegemonic concepts.  See Katie Osgood’s post  Paul Tough Is Way Off-Base. And Stop Saying “Grit”.

Osgood stated:

They need to be taught empathy, justice, and solidarity in order to go out and refuse to participate in a social system which concentrates all the wealth in the hands of an elite few.  They should be taught of privilege, oppression, and the legacy of racism. They need to fight against a system which allows racism and segregation to continue uncontested.  They should be inspired to humbly join the communities in their fight for social justice.

But it my belief that these skills become a type of synergy where the whole is greater than the individual parts.  Grit and resilience become the foundations from which empathy can arise and be more fully actualized.  Grit and resilience are important to be able to develop the empathy skills to fight against a system that covertly (and sometimes overtly) supports hegemonic principles.

Resources for Educators

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

July 28, 2013 at 11:35 pm

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