Empathy Mapping

Empathy Mapping, High-Impact Strategy for Learning from Multiple Perspectives

Creative problem-solvers learn to articulate their voice, represent those they’re designing for, and factor in teammate perspectives.

By Doris Wells-Papanek, MEd

Director, Design Learning Network

According to John Hattie (2014), “It is a common finding that people will quickly extend a level of empathy to people they perceive as similar to themselves, but not to those seen as different. It is also known that although young children will express empathy for others, they still have immense difficulty seeing the world from another’s perspective. A person who is able to exercise self-control and maintain significant long-term social relationships with others are more likely to identify with successful models and use emulation as a personal guide. These individuals hesitate to respond impulsively, rather take other people’s views into account before settling. They adjust their social world through listening and accommodating, rather than forging their own agendas.”

Hattie, John, and Gregory C. R. Yates. 
VisibleLearning and the Science of How We Learn. Routledge, 2014. Print.

From a student’s perspective, what level of impact might empathy mapping
have on their learning experiences and outcomes?

KC2016 Design Learning Challenge, Step 3) Explain, March 5 KCAI-Hosted Culminating Event

Empathy Mapping from Multiple Perspectives

Empathy mapping offers learners the opportunity to not only share their voice, but that of others who are involved within the problem set – including similar and/or differing habits of mind. Students reflect on what they are thinking and feeling, hearing and seeing, saying and doing, alongside the person or entity they are designing for, followed by taking into account the perspectives of their teammates.





Mindset Disposition

From my personal perspective…

Given the problem set, what matters the most to each perspective?

What are all concerned thinking and feeling at this time?

What are all hearing and seeing at this time to each perspective?

What are all saying and doing at this time?

Now describe the mindset disposition from each perspective.

From the person’s perspective you are designing for…

From your teammate’s perspective as a collective…


Empathy Mapping in Action

Countless pages could be written regarding mindset dispositions, habits of mind, and empathy mapping alone. In an effort to try out these high-impact design learning strategies – consider engaging your students in the following activity:
  • Select a collection of historical people of significance from curriculum – perhaps an artist, author, politician, mathematician, or scientist. Someone who changed the world for the better via their mindset disposition and decisions. The goal is to redesign their life to be even more impactful.

  • Provide learners/teams with short pieces of text, articles, or compelling images to make sense of multiple perspectives by way of emotional tags, time, and/or place. Representational clues and/or literary inferences often serve as sparks and insights into differing mindset dispositions.

  •  Ask students to write and/or illustrate a narrative story based on what they have learned so far about the person of significance they have selected. The goal is for learners to bring the person to life by redesigning their persona (key aspects of character) and expand upon their legacy.