Teaching and Learning with Virtual Reality to Foster Empathy and Reduce Prejudice - Pre Conference Workshop

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This workshop contributes to the conference’s “Sub-Theme I: Social Justice and Inclusion”.
The focus of the workshop is to explore division and difference within social justice contexts with the innovative use of VR.

Its objectives are to:
• understand the development of VR technologies and the role they can play in fostering empathy and reducing prejudice;
• examine how VR has been used within initial teacher education in Northern Ireland to explore contested narratives of the past (Bloody Sunday);
• reflect on opportunities and address challenges where the deployment of VR technologies may be used to promote perspective-taking; and
• use digital tools to create an immersive VR resource as a template for future practice.

VR is described as the ‘ultimate empathy machine’; its immersive characteristics create a sense of ‘being there’, eliciting profound perceptual and physiological responses in real world contexts (Reuda and Lara, 2020). A key strength of VR lies in its capacity to promote perspective-taking and reduced prejudice towards other groups (Herrera et al. 2018). In Northern Ireland, such experiences of VR have been used with pre-service teachers to explore narratives of contested spaces and places (Taggart et al., 2021). Almost a quarter of a century since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland remains a highly segregated society, notably in school provision (Selim 2015, p17). Today, many societies face challenges in dealing with difference and this has implications for how teachers approach contentious and sensitive issues. Curated VR experiences with pre-service teachers were found to elicit emotional responses and challenge perceived narratives related to a defining event in NI’s troubled past (Taggart et al., 2021).

Drawing on the Northern Ireland example, this hands-on workshop will introduce participants to teaching and learning about social justice using VR; it will provide an opportunity to learn fundamental skills in VR design and curation (participants will need to use personal laptops). The workshop is designed to encourage open dialogue about the possibilities and challenges of using VR in a range of educational settings. The facilitators will begin the workshop by presenting their work with pre-service teachers in Northern Ireland and participants will have the opportunity to experience this VR session. Participants will reflect on their own context and needs and will develop a sample VR resource that can be used as a building block for future work.

Herrera, F., Bailenson, J., Weisz, E., Ogle, E., and Zaki, J. (2018). Building long-term empathy: a large scale comparison of traditional and virtual reality perspective-taking. PLoS ONE 13:e0204494. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0204494
Rueda J and Lara F (2020) Virtual Reality and Empathy Enhancement: Ethical Aspects. Front. Robot. AI 7:506984. doi: 10.3389/frobt.2020.506984
Selim, G. (2015) “The Landscape of Differences: Contact and Segregation in Everyday Encounters.” Cities 46: 16-25
Taggart, S., Roulston, S. & McAuley, C., (2021) In: Dealing with the Legacy of Conflict in Northern Ireland through Engagement and Dialogue. Glencree Journal 2021 Dealing with the Legacy of Conflict in Northern Ireland through Engagement and Dialogue. pp.221-237.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCIES 2023 Conference Programme
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 18 Feb 2023
EventComparative and International Education Society - Grand Hyatt Hotel, Washington DC, United States
Duration: 14 Feb 202322 Feb 2023


ConferenceComparative and International Education Society
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityWashington DC
Internet address


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