Measuring the impact of an interdisciplinary learning project on nursing, architecture and landscape design students’ empathy

Autoři: Samantha Donnelly aff001;  Suzanne Dean aff002;  Shohreh Razavy aff003;  Tracy Levett-Jones aff002
Působiště autorů: School of Architecture, Department of Design, Architecture and Building, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia aff001;  School of Nursing, Faculty of Health, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia aff002;  School of Life Science, Faculty of Science, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia aff003
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(10)
Kategorie: Research Article


Domestic violence and refuge services in Australia

In Australia and internationally, domestic violence is a major cause of homelessness for women and children and yet provision for accommodation for this user-group is not well documented or understood. When designing emergency accommodation, the concerns, preferences, and perspectives of individuals who access refuge services must be sought in order to create spaces that are conducive to the needs of this diverse and vulnerable group. An empathic ‘lens’ can provide meaningful insights that can inform the design of refuge services specifically targeted at addressing these needs. This paper describes an authentic interdisciplinary learning experience for nursing, architecture and landscape students at a university in Sydney, Australia, and presents the results of a study designed to measure the impact of this initiative on participants’ empathy towards women and children who access refuge services as a result of homelessness and/or domestic violence. Empathy levels were measured using the Comprehensive State Empathy Scale, a validated measurement tool.

An authentic interdisciplinary learning experience

The learning experience consisted of collaborative meetings with stakeholders from the refuge sector, fieldwork, individual research, exchanging ideas and problem-solving in teams. Students then developed design guides for refuges that demonstrated their emerging understanding of the specific needs and perspectives of the issues faced by women and children who had experienced violence and found themselves homeless. Pre-post Comprehensive State Empathy Scale results indicated that the empathy levels of nursing and landscape students increased and those of architecture students decreased, however, these results were not statistically significant.

Building empathy in teaching and learning

The significance of the results from this study include an ability to compare the changes in empathy in students working collaboratively on a project and to ascertain possible reasons for this using a validated measurement tool. As empathy is one of the strongest negative correlates of prejudice, authentic teaching and learning activities, such as the one described in this paper, have the potential to positively impact the lived experience of women and children leaving situations of domestic violence.

Klíčová slova:

Allied health care professionals – Emotions – Human learning – Children – Learning – Nursing science – Women's health – Domestic violence


1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, (2018), Specialist Homelessness Services annual report 2017–18, Canberra, AIHW. [20/7/2018]. Available from

2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016 Canberra, ACT: Australian Bureau of Statistics; 2016 [20/7/2018]. Available from:

3. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 [cited 8 Nov 2017]. In 4906.0—Personal Safety, Australia, 2016: Key Findings [Internet]. Canberra, ACT, Australia. Available from:

4. Baker CK, Cook SL, Norris FH. Domestic violence and housing problems: a contextual analysis of women’s help-seeking, received informal support and formal system response. Violence Against Women. 2003; 9:7, 754–783. doi: 10.1177/1077801203009007002

5. Australian Human Rights Commission, Fact sheet: Domestic and family violence—a workplace issue, a discrimination issue, 4 Dec 2014.

6. Everson N, Levett-Jones T, Lapkin S, Pitt V, Van Der Riet P, Rossiter R et al. Measuring the impact of a 3D simulation experience on nursing students’ cultural empathy using a modified version of the Kiersma-Chen Empathy Scale. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 2015; 24, 2849–2858 doi: 10.1111/jocn.12893 26178187

7. Levett-Jones T, et al. Measuring the impact of a point-of-view disability simulation on nursing students’ empathy using the comprehensive state empathy scale. Nurse Education Today. 2017; 57:75–81. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2017.09.007

8. Everson N, Levett-Jones T, Pitt V. The impact of educational interventions on the empathic concern of health professional students: A literature review. Nurse Education in Practice. 2018; 31:104–111. doi: 10.1016/j.nepr.2018.05.015 29852474

9. Hess J, Fila N. The manifestation of empathy within design: findings from a service-learning course, CoDesign, 2016;12:1–2, 93–111, doi: 10.1080/15710882.2015.1135243

10. Everson N, Levett-Jones T, Pitt V, Lapkin S, Van Der Riet P, Rossiter R et al. Analysis of the empathic concern subscale of the emotional response questionnaire in a study evaluating the impact of a 3D cultural simulation. International Journal of Nursing Education Studies, 2018;15:1, 1–14.

11. Nowak M, The Complicated history of Einfuhlung, ARGUMENT: Biannual Philosophical Journal, 1/2011, No. 2, 301–326

12. Garramone V. Einfühlung and architecture: About language from things to design criteria, Archi-DOCT, July 2013; 1:1,73, Available from

13. Lanzoni S. Empathy: a history, New Haven: Yale University Press; 2018, 8

14. Davis MH. Empathy. In: Stets JE, Turner JH, editors. Handbook of Sociology and Social Research, New York: Springer; 2006. pp. 443–466

15. Krznaric R. Empathy: Why it matters, and how to get it, New York: Ebury; 2015

16. Bloom P. Empathy and its discontents, Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 2017; 21:1, 24–31, doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2016.11.004 27916513

17. Zurek PP, Scheithauer H. Towards a more precise conceptualization of empathy: An integrative review of literature on definitions, associated functions and developmental trajectories. International Journal of Developmental Science. 2017;11:3–4, 57–68. doi: 10.3233/DEV-16224

18. Courtney-Pratt H, Levett-Jones T, Lapkin S, Pitt V, Gilligan C, Rossiter R et al. Development and psychometric testing of the Satisfaction with Cultural Simulation Experience Scale. Nurse Education in Practice. 2015; 15:6, 530–536. doi: 10.1016/j.nepr.2015.07.009 26320780

19. Dean S, Foureur M, Zaslawski C, Newton-John T, Yu N, Pappas E. The effects of a structured mindfulness program on the development of empathy in healthcare students. NursingPlus Open. 2017; 3:1–5. Available at

20. Batt-Rawden SA, et al. Teaching empathy to medical students: an updated, systematic review. Academic Medicine. 2013; 88:8, 1171–1177 doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318299f3e3 23807099

21. Fuertes J., Anard P., Haggerty G., Kestenbaum M & Rosenblum G. The Physician–patient Working Alliance and patient Psychological Attachment, Adherence, Outcome Expectations, and Satisfaction in a Sample of Rheumatology Patients. Journal of Behavioural Medicine. 2015. 41 (2): 60–68

22. Reynolds WJ, Scott B. Do nurses and other professional helpers normally display much empathy? Journal of Advanced Nursing, 2000;31: 226–234. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.2000.01242.x 10632813

23. Rees-Lewis J. Patient views on quality care in general practice: Literature review, Social Science & Medicine. 1994; 39:5, 655–670, doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(94)90022-1

24. Wagner K & Blower J. Animating architecture: empathy and architectonic space. Art in Translation, 2014;6:4, 399–435, doi: 10.1080/17561310.2014.11425537

25. Lifchez R. Teaching a social perspective to architecture students, Journal of Architectural Education, 1978;31:3, 11–15, doi: 10.1080/10464883.1978.10758135

26. Ghajargar M, Longo L, Gargiulo E, Giannantonio R. Empathy workshop: When project team and pilot users exchange experiences. The Design Journal. 2017; 20:sup1, S3837–S3848, doi: 10.1080/14606925.2017.1352887

27. Batson C.D. (2009). "These things called empathy: eight related but distinct phenomena". In Decety J. & Ickes W. (Eds.), The Social Neuroscience of Empathy (pp. 3–15). Cambridge: MIT press.

28. Mestre MV, Samper P, Frías MD, Tur AM, Are women more empathetic than men? A longitudinal study in adolescence, The Spanish Journal of Psychology. 2009;12: 1.

29. Furnham A. Response bias, social desirability and dissimulation. Personality and Individual Differences. 1986;7, 385–400. doi: 10.1016/0191-8869(86)90014-0

30. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016 [cited 8 Nov 2017]. In 4906.0—Personal Safety, Australia, 2016: Key Findings [Internet]. Canberra, ACT, Australia. Available from:

31. Feder GS, Hutson M, Ramsay J, Taket AR. Women exposed to intimate partner violence: expectations and experiences when they encounter health care professionals: a meta-analysis of qualitative studies. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:1, 22–37. doi: 10.1001/archinte.166.1.22 16401807

32. Hegarty KL, et al. Women's evaluation of abuse and violence care in general practice: a cluster randomised controlled trial (weave). BMC Public Health 2010; 10:1, 2

33. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2017 [cited 12 February, 2018]. Specialist Homelessness Services 2015–16. Available from:

34. Phipps M, Dalton L, Maxwell H, Cleary M. Women and homelessness, a complex multidimensional issue: findings from a scoping review, Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, 2019; 28:1, 1–13, doi: 10.1080/10530789.2018.1534427

35. Pettigrew T, Tropp L. How does intergroup contact reduce prejudice? Meta-analytic tests of three mediators, European Journal of Social Psychology, 2008, doi: 10.1002/ejsp.562

Článek vyšel v časopise


2019 Číslo 10
Nejčtenější tento týden