Story-Driven Learning in Biomedical Engineering: Quantifying Empathy in the Context of Prompts and Perceptions Conference

Lunn, SJ, Bell-Huff, CL, LeDoux, JM. (2023). Story-Driven Learning in Biomedical Engineering: Quantifying Empathy in the Context of Prompts and Perceptions .

cited authors

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



  • Storytelling can be valuable for developing empathy and enhancing communication, allowing individuals to make connections with themselves and others. In this work, we sought to understand the potential of story-driven learning, the process of developing stories to connect defining moments of the past and consider future goals, within the context of engineering. We describe a required, non-traditional undergraduate course that employs this pedagogical approach for biomedical engineering students to encourage them to integrate, reframe, and make meaning of their diverse experiences. We then detail our study, where we sought to explore: 1) how unique story prompts may elicit different aspects of empathy, in terms of sharing, thinking about, and caring about others; and 2) how students' self-perceptions of empathy correspond to external evaluations of empathy from stories shared. We quantitatively assessed aspects of empathy in (n = 20) students' stories submitted around four specific prompts using the External Evaluation of Empathy Rubric (EEER). The empathy observed in these stories was then compared to the students' self-reported empathy, as measured using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). Our findings illustrate that encouraging students to think about their future and their goals often yields the highest scores for emotional, cognitive, and action-oriented components of empathy. Prompting students to describe confronting or responding to a failure led to more self-focused stories, where students were less likely to describe any kind of societal-level change. The data also provided evidence for relationships between internal and externally evaluated empathy, with a significant and large positive relationship for the cognitive aspect. We hope that this research will encourage other educators to see the value of story-driven learning and to employ this innovative approach to future lessons and activities. In addition, we suggest that the selection of story prompts can be important and may impact the empathy components elicited.

publication date

  • June 25, 2023