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    Success Story of Dr. Debarshi Roy, SEAB-Empathy Diagnostic Systems Founder. He Focuses on Developing Empathy in Schools

    “School leaders, the influencers of thousands of young minds and their destinies, need to understand the enormity of their roles and design school systems to create confident and bright citizens of tomorrow.” – Dr. Debarshi Roy, Founder of SEAB-Empathy Diagnostic Systems.

    Dr. Debarshi Roy, FRSA, is a behavioral scientist and founder of SEAB-Empathy Diagnostic Systems. His current research interests include complex adaptive behavioral systems and the design of intelligent empathic behavioral intervention models for social systems. His recent publications include “Skinned Knees and ABCs – The complex world of schools” (Routledge, 2020) and “Empathy-Driven School Systems: Nature, Concept, and Evolution” (2021). Dr. Roy is a member of the American Psychological Association and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London.

    Dr. Debarshi Roy shares his success story, his mission, and his opinion on behavioral systems in schools with Business Upside India. Here is an edited excerpt of the interview.

    Edited Excerpt of the Interview 

    Business Upside [BU]: Why did you Focus on Developing a Diagnostic System for Empathy in Schools?

    Debarshi Roy [DR]: Schools are complex systems where many entities repeatedly interact over time. When students interact with their peers and the adults in school, the interactions affect their behavior, which determines school outcomes. Complex systems are best managed through a network of feedback loops, and feedback from students helps adults within the school system better understand students. Empathy, defined in its fundamental form as a human urge to feel with the other, helps elicit feedback from students and make real sense of the feedback. Thus, empathy is a fundamental and irreplaceable aspect of a functional and positive school system.

    Given the argument that empathy is essential to school systems, school operations and outcomes must be evaluated on the empathic nature of the school systems. Schools must identify areas of strength and weaknesses so that interventions might be designed to improve the current functioning state. When I began working on the School Empathy Audit Battery, there were no dedicated diagnostic tools to measure empathy in school organizations worldwide. In fact, as of today, SEAB-Empathy Diagnostic System is the only tool in the world that measures empathy within school organizations. The tool consists of the SEAB psychometric instrument and a set of AI and machine learning algorithms to analyze the results and produce automated analytical reports. The tool was pilot tested among some very prominent Indian schools this year, and the results and the school authorities’ feedback have been very positive.

    [BU]: Why do you Believe Empathy is Essential to being a Responsible and Supportive Student Community Member?

    [DR]: A responsive and supportive student community member must prioritize and understand the reasons for student behavior. More often, we find schools manage student behavior through easy but harmful methods of punishment and rewards. If a student submits her homework on time, she is rewarded, and if she fails to submit the homework, she is punished without any thought as to why she failed to submit her work. The same is the case for performances in examinations; the cause for performance is almost never explored. Empathy helps school leaders and teachers to understand situations from the students’ point of view and design interventions and processes to help the students. It is essential for the healthy and positive growth and development of students.

    [BU]: What Functions should School Authorities Perform to Assist Kids in Managing Difficult Emotions Like Despair, Rage, and Frustration?

    [DR]: School authorities frequently encounter despair, rage, and frustration among children. Such behavioral outcomes often result from the pressures the unforgiving, competitive education system exerts on young minds. However, such behavior might also find its cause in other issues like family problems. It is sometimes noted that such behavior is punished as insolence; such actions worsen the situation.

    India has witnessed a surge in student suicides in recent years. In addition, anxiety disorders and performance anxiety is common too. It is important to know that many depressed or stressed students do not show any outward signs of depression or stress within their behavior, making matters more complicated for the school authorities.

    There are several ways to help students with stress and despair. The first step is to identify students who are overtly or covertly stressed and depressed, whether they show any outward signs or not. It is possible only with the minute observation of the children and looking for a change in behavior pattern as feedback for action. When a behavior has been identified as not the child’s normal behavior, the teacher/counselor should begin interacting with the child to find out the cause for such behavior.

    A child presenting with rage or frustration should not be punished but helped to calm down before steps are taken to help mitigate the problem troubling the child. Many times it might involve regular interactions with the parents. Some schools resort to blaming and shaming the child while shifting the onus onto the parents. It is an unempathic approach that makes matters worse.

    [BU]: How would you Define Psychological Safety in School?

    [DR]: In my opinion, the best definition of psychological safety was provided by Kahn (1990), wherein he defined psychological safety as “being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career.” Thus, psychological safety is a state where one can make mistakes without fear of consequences. In other words, one can fail without being branded a failure.

    [BU]: What Role does Psychological Safety Play in Schools?

    [DR]: Psychological safety is of utmost importance in schools and should be prioritized, especially in the context of the unforgiving, competitive school environments that I had mentioned earlier. The fear of making mistakes is very common among school children; that hinders creativity and leads to levels of self-confidence. A child scared of making mistakes will be scared of trying or exploring something new. Moreover, psychological safety is an outcome of empathic school systems. When school systems are empathic, they help to enhance psychological safety among the students.

    [BU]: What Benefits can Psychological Safety bring to the Campus Community?

    [DR]: As I pointed out earlier, psychological safety enhances creativity and creative explorations and encourages divergent thinking that explores alternate/divergent solutions to problems. Moreover, psychologically campuses are positive and collaborative places where learning takes place as a joint effort and leads to deeper thinking and a better understanding of the subjects at hand, enhancing student confidence and optimism about the future.

    [BU]: What does Organizational Behavior in Education mean?

    [DR]: Organizational behavior describes the behavior of individuals and groups within an organizational setup. Since formalized education most often takes place within organizational setups like schools, colleges, and universities with rules, regulations, culture, and norms, organizational behavior within educational institutions is an important field of study.

    [BU]: Why is Knowledge of Organizational Behavior Crucial for Educational Leaders?

    [DR]: Organizational behavior within educational institutions influences student outcomes. Students are influenced primarily by three aspects of organizational behavior in educational institutions: leadership, culture, and justice system. School leadership sets the tone for school culture and the justice system. Thus, school leaders, the influencers of thousands of young minds and their destinies, need to understand the enormity of their roles and design school systems to create confident and bright citizens of tomorrow.

    [BU]: How do Behavioral Systems, Psychological Safety, Empathy in the Classroom, and Student Motivation Relate to One Another?

    [DR]: Schools are essentially complex behavioral systems where numerous entities interact iteratively with each other, and these interactions influence individual behavior and school outcomes. An empathic school behavioral system seeks to create a system where children are the main focus of all process design. It is possible by creating an empathic school leadership that will encourage empathic school culture and an empathic justice system that is not based on retribution but is largely restorative. Psychological safety is an outcome of empathic school systems and student motivation to succeed is an outcome of enhanced psychological safety in schools.

    [BU]: Why should Educational Institutions Foster a Supportive Culture for Students?

    [DR]: The primary objective of any educational institution is to support students and help them onward in their success rather than as hindrances to the children’s growth. Thus, fostering a supportive culture is essential to the very idea of educational institutions.

    Also Read: Grovention Co-Founder Shobhit Saxena Shares the Secret Behind his Company’s Success

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    Josie Patra
    Josie Patra is a veteran writer with 21 years of experience. She comes with multiple degrees in literature, computer applications, multimedia design, and management. She delves into a plethora of niches and offers expert guidance on finances, stock market, budgeting, marketing strategies, and such other domains. Josie has also authored books on management, productivity, and digital marketing strategies.

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