Transforming Lives, Inspiring Change. Empathy Mapping: a tool for enhancing outcomes for all students

Kirsty Wagstaffe & Sally Laurie (University of Northampton)

Monday, April 3, 2023 11:00 AM - 11:45 AM

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Session Outline

As Personal Academic Tutors (PATs), at the University of Northampton (UON), we strive to understand our students’ perspectives, and concerns to facilitate change and foster Changemaker values. The Changemaker values of critical thinking, employability, social and personal transformation are at the heart of everything we (at UON) do (Maxwell & Irwin, 2020). As the only AshokaU Changemaker campus in England we are dedicated to contributing to creating a better world for all (Ashoka, nd). The UON PAT policy focuses on four strands; belonging, understanding of different communities, employability and raising aspirations, alongside giving students a sense of agency over their own development (UON, 2022). UON PATs are academic staff teaching on the student's programme, they take an active role in working within an integrated learner support system including counselling, learning development, Changemaker and residential support amongst others.

This conference workshop will introduce attendees to the ‘empathy mapping’ activity used as part of a UON staff development workshop for tutors developed by 4 experienced PATs. Empathy mapping, described as a ‘tool to find the why behind someone’s needs and wants’ (Munro, 2020) is used extensively within businesses. The Changemaker Team at UON uses the tool to assist students to explore topics that need an innovative idea to assist in social change. The PAT workshop facilitators have developed the tool to enable PATs, both experienced and those new to the role, to understand the why behind students sometimes hidden wants and needs. Sessions are not programme specific as we have found that a prescriptive approach to managing PAT sessions and their role does not work. Different cohorts, year groups, subjects, and groups within them respond differently, one size does not fit all.

The empathy mapping activity takes a student centric approach that develops discussion and sharing of approaches between PATs to provide support that aids students with their sense of belonging and ‘mattering’ (Felton & Weston, 2021) while supporting the development of the whole person through looking at the transferable skills that can be enhanced through a higher education experience.

Participants in the workshop will explore the empathy mapping approach through discussion on the separate sections of the map to discuss both similarities and differences of their students with those of other institutions. Attendees will be leaving the workshop with a deeper understanding of students and the personal and academic issues that may get in the way of their university experience. Through sharing thoughts with others, a greater understanding of the nuances between the different groups of students will be developed. Attendees will explore the unseen pressures that are on students and see how this may impact their behaviour, motivation and learning and the role of the tutorial process in transforming and empowering students.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
I5 - The characteristics, needs, and experiences of major and emerging student populations
R1 - Build advising and tutoring relationships through empathetic listening and compassion for students, and be accessible in ways that challenge, support, nurture, and teach
R2 - Communicate in an inclusive and respectful manner
R3 - Motivate, encourage, and support students to recognize their potential, meet challenges, and respect individuality
R4 - Plan and conduct successful advising and tutoring interactions
P1 - Create and support environments that consider the needs and perspectives of students, and respect individual learners
P2 - Appreciate students’ views and cultures, maintain a student-centred approach and mindset, and treat students with sensitivity and fairness