Problem of Practice: Empathy Report



Last week I was able to identify my Problem of Practice for our semester-long project in CEP 817.  That problem being math curriculum.  I will be designing a new math curriculum that is student-centered, data-driven, and a curriculum that promotes success amongst our second grade students.  With that being said, the first stage in designing deals with empathy.  Empathy is the foundation of any project.  The designer must put themselves in the shoes of their users in order create something that appeals to the user specifically.  There are many means that can accomplish this.  There are several users that are involved in the development of a new math curriculum; the students, team teachers, curriculum directors, prior and future grade level teachers, and administrators.  Because the students are they main user in this project, I am targeting my empathy research toward them, but will also look at the other users as well later.   I chose to conduct an interview with a few of my students and then I did some observations.  Let’s take a look at those research methods and findings.

First of all, I conducted a simple interview with a few different students, at varying levels academically.  I wanted to get a feel for their school experiences, the things they liked about school, and what types of things motivated them.  While I thought that these questions would differ with the different level of student, the answers to my questions were very similar.  They all enjoyed school, and a few of their favorite things included lunch, recess, PE, using the SMART Board, and using the computer lab and tablets.  None of these answers really surprised me, but reiterated what I initially assumed, when I thought about my school days and what I enjoyed or disliked. This really told me a lot about the kids in my class as I begin to think deeper about their answers and prompt more Who? What? When? Where? and Why? questions, such as Why is that your favorite subject?  What makes it your favorite?  What do you enjoy?  and better yet, What don’t you like about the other areas of school?  These questions provided answers such as things being “more fun”, “We get to do activities”, “We don’t have to sit in our seats”, “We get to play”, etc.  This was extremely thought-provoking in the design of a new math curriculum.

Secondly, I was able to observe my students.  I observed them in their special classes, and in my classroom.   I observed a math lesson that didn’t involve anything but a worksheet, and then a lesson that was tech-based with opportunities to “play”. My observations were very enlightening and definitely showed engagement across all levels.  Something that caught me by surprise was a student that normally struggles to sit still in the normal classroom setting, has focus issues, and is very defiant when it comes to school work of any kind, was the epitome of what a “good” student should look like during the tech-based lesson and when he was given the opportunity to play.  Not only was he engaged, but he also scored just as high or higher than many of the other students.  Amazing!

While I still intend to do so, I would have liked to put myself in the position of the user.  I think this is one of the best way to conduct empathic research for designing.  However, the two research methods I chose were the most feasible for what I was doing, and seemed to give me the most quality information that is beneficial to my design.  I’ve learned so much about my own teaching, about my students, and what it takes to appeal to kids.  I’ve learned that math should be multi-dimensional and include things like opportunities for the the students to play, manipulatives, edible creations, reciprocal teaching, and technology, everyday and in every lesson.  While it may take more on the part of the teacher initially in creating these lessons, the rewards are well worth it.   I look forward to learning more from by students in the creation of this newly designed math curriculum.

empathy 2

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