Cultivating Inclusivity: A Systematic Literature Review on Developing Empathy for Students in STEM Fields Conference

Lunn, SJ, Bell-Huff, CL, LeDoux, JM. (2022). Cultivating Inclusivity: A Systematic Literature Review on Developing Empathy for Students in STEM Fields .

cited authors

  • Lunn, SJ; Bell-Huff, CL; LeDoux, JM



  • As demand for qualified workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields continues to rise, there is a need to not only consider how to improve engagement and retention, but also an opportunity to strive towards broadening participation. To create a more equitable workforce, and in particular, one that encourages the enrollment and persistence of underrepresented minorities, pedagogy centered around cultivating inclusivity is key. Along these lines, empathy as a construct can play a crucial role in aiding students to consider the impact of their own decisions and behaviors on others and society. Given the necessity of embedding the concept of empathy within post-secondary education, we sought to understand how others have approached empathy in curricula, projects, and practice. We applied Zaki's model of empathy- which triangulates "sharing," "thinking about" and "caring about," as the theoretical framework guiding the inquiry - and performed a systematic literature review. We sought answers to the following research questions: 1) How have educators integrated empathy development into learning activities in STEM?; 2) What pedagogical approaches have been shown to promote empathy of students in STEM?; and 3) How have scholars approached the development of different kinds of empathy in classrooms? After querying Google Scholar, analyzing more than 10,000 publications, and applying the inclusion/exclusion criteria, we identified 63 articles that centered on empathy development in STEM education, and specific learning activities or courses working to achieve this goal. The results were defined in terms of the patterns observed, topics assessed, and contributions made to the existing body of knowledge. Although there may be a range of approaches employed, such as through storytelling or role play, embedding empathy can not only shape students' internalization of the concept, and the resultant shift of mindset, but it can also be critical to formulating their connection to the discipline and their exchanges with others. The publications obtained, and subsequent analysis, can be of tremendous value towards understanding how departments can create more inclusive curricula and environments. The conclusions from this analysis highlight the relevance of empathy and offers educators and academia ideas about how to foster compassion in students, as well as potential implementations which could enhance teaching in STEM fields.

publication date

  • February 20, 2022