Fostering empathy in highly diverse postgraduate group work
It is enriching to learn from people from different backgrounds, but oftentimes, the perceived differences clash with each other and people find it very difficult to settle the conflict. Forming a team of three (I, Fatima Gaw, Anal Thakkar), we uncovered the social gaps and barriers rooting from the innate diversity in postgraduate group work, determined the role of empathy in the process, and explored solution ideas by rapid prototyping.
The final concept addresses the need for psychological safety by encouraging open and honest conversations between members through an interactive button. The sheep character represents the willingness to be vulnerable around other people and is intended to lessen the seriousness of the forthright manner of the discussion.
Push the button if you want to say something candid and genuine to your group mates, may it be an appreciation, a comment, or a feedback. At least one group mate should press the same button to confirm that you can speak your mind.
We approached three groups of postgraduate students from the University of Sydney and invited them to participate in the experiment. One notable finding is the feeling of catharsis that people felt after expressing their honest thoughts to each other. It is as if these emotions and ideas have been lingering in them, causing heaviness that they are not cognizant of.