Learning Empathy in Non-design Disciplines


Empathy is a crucial element of design thinking. Today, an increasing number of students from non-design backgrounds are being introduced to the principles of design thinking. However, due to their diverse training backgrounds, these students often encounter challenges, particularly in understanding empathy. Few empirical studies have explored the learning experiences of non-design discipline students regarding empathy in Chinese higher education. This article aims to investigate how non-design discipline students learn and comprehend empathy in Chinese universities. This research selects two groups of non-design discipline students from two project-based design courses at universities in mainland China. Group A consists of seven students with a social science background, while Group B comprises seven students with an engineering background. Data is collected through semi-structured interviews and documentation. Group A involves seven students, while Group B also includes seven students participating in interviews. Additionally, interviews with their teachers provide insights into their learning experiences. Documentation encompasses teachers' teaching materials, students' design projects, and related design learning materials. Thematic analysis is employed in this study. This research explores the significance of learning empathy for helping non-design discipline students grasp the essence of design. When teaching design to students in non-design disciplines, empathy serves as the foundation for achieving a genuine understanding of design. Learning empathy influences non-design discipline students, encouraging them to engage in real-life observations for inspiration in their design work and prompting them to question their assumptions throughout the design process.

Author Information
Li Yating, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong SAR
Henry Ma, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong SAR
Elaine Wong, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong SAR
Shen Qianhui, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong SAR

Paper Information
Conference: ACEID2024
Stream: Learning Experiences

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon