Building empathy through a design thinking project: A case study with middle secondary schoolboys

Australian Institutes for Educational Research
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Issues in Educational Research, 2021, 31, (2), pp. 440-457
Issue Date:
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Adolescents' empathy is an essential socio-emotional concept that helps mediate friendships and family relationships. Year 10 boys, aged 14-15 years, were invited to participate in a five-day experiential education program (Design Week) based on a social equity challenge using a Design Thinking concept. Students worked in small groups, mentored by experts. Student groups developed innovative solutions to support women who experienced domestic and family violence. As a key outcome, students' empathy measured by the Comprehensive State Empathy Scale increased significantly from a baseline of 63% to 75% at post-test, representing a large effect size (d= 1.06). Six empathy subscale factors were also significantly increased (p= <0.05). The program was feasible and was rated by teachers and students as engaging, relevant to learning, and learning about complex social issues. This paper presents a case study of the Design Week program, shown to be worthy of further testing with secondary school adolescents.
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