Friday, November 20, 2015

Reframe to create empathy

Over the past few days my Facebook feed has been dominated by the attitudes of people towards migrants following the recent atrocities in Paris.  There are some people who seem to think that by closing their borders to migrants, countries will remain safe. There are others who point out the benefits of migration, the consequences of not allowing innocent people to flee from hostilities, and who point out that religions encourage us to take care of our neighbours.  Of course this is just one example, but whatever the situation it is usually possible to look at it from different angles and perspectives, and in so-doing come up with more imaginative and creative solutions.

A few summers ago, when I did the Design Thinking for Educators workshop at the Henry Ford Learning Institute in Detroit, I learned that the first stage of the design process is empathy.  It's important to start with this because it allows you to put aside your own wants and needs that will bring you to what could be the ideal solution for you, but not necessarily for the wants and needs of another person. Walking in someone else's shoes is important so that you design a solution for them. Basically when you empathise you change your frame of reference by shifting your perspective to that of the other person.

Empathy forms part of both the IB Learner Profile and the PYP Attitudes.  The learner profile caring describes people who show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of others.  The attitude of empathy encourages students to "imagine themselves in another's situation in order to understand his or her reasoning and emotions, so as to be open-minded and reflective about the perspectives of others."

Being able to reframe situations is also an essential life-skill.  Our students will need to be able to reframe themselves and the way they view things to adapt and thrive in a world that is changing.

Image by Ronald Tan 

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