The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)
establishes criteria for accrediting engineering, technology, and
computer science programs. In its Engineering Criteria, ABET established
a set of student outcomes in Criterion 3. Institutions seeking accreditation
may create their own sets of student outcomes that are supersets
of the ABET student outcomes. For the set of student outcomes, each
program must have processes that demonstrate that (1) program performance
with respect to its outcomes is being assessed, (2) results of program
evaluation are being used to develop and improve the program, and
(3) results and processes are being documented.
As a result, engineering faculty members must develop methodologies
for assessing performance with respect to outcomes in addition to
developing new curricula . Need for these methodologies
has created increased interest in developing and identifying relevant
assessment instruments . However, only a handful
of tools and methodologies are publicly available [3,4].
Meeting ABET Engineering Criteria created significant challenges
for almost every engineering program.
The Foundation Coalition
(FC), one of eight engineering
education coalitions funded by the National
Science Foundation, initiated a project to collect and organize
materials on assessment and instruction related to the eleven student
outcomes. Project team members included faculty and assessment directors
from Arizona State University, the University of Alabama, Texas
A&M University, and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
During the study, the project team attempted to answer the following
- Is there is a gap between demand and availability of materials
to teach and assess each of the ABET a-k competencies?
- What instructional and assessment materials are being used and
have been used in engineering programs?
- What instructional and assessment materials are available to
engineering faculty members and programs?
- How may project teams characterize and organize available instructional
and assessment materials?
The project found limited resources for both instruction and assessment
of ABET a-k outcomes. In response, the FC is constructing a set
of minidocuments related to assessment and instruction for the ABET
student outcomes to assist individual and program efforts.
For each student outcome, engineering programs must address the
- What observable student performances would demonstrate competence
in this particular area, i.e., what must students be able to do
in order to satisfy the outcome?
- How might evidence of student performance with respect to the
outcome, while the student is still on campus ,
be acquired and analyzed in order to evaluate a program?
- How might student performance with respect to the outcome be
improved? That is, what types of instruction are likely to result
in improved student performance and what meaningful learning experience
can contribute to the development of these outcomes in undergraduate
The preceding questions are addressed by presenting (1) learning
objectives, (2) assessment approaches, and (3) instructional approaches.
Brief descriptions of the three items are provided for readers who
may not be familiar with the terminology used in this document.
ABET student outcomes do not describe observable behaviors. Data
can only be collected on observable behaviors; therefore, learning
objectives are formulated for each outcome in order to describe
desired observable student performance related to each outcome.
Each mini-document will offer sample objectives that might be associated
with the outcome. Section III of each mini-document will provide
examples of learning objectives that have been culled from reviews
of the literature.
Moving from learning objectives to judgments regarding the degree
to which the program is achieving its learning objectives requires
relevant, appropriate, and informative data upon which judgments
can be based. Prus and Johnson  described 15
different assessment methodologies, together with strengths and
weaknesses for each methodology. There is no perfect assessment
methodology, and evaluators often select multiple assessment methodologies
to balance their strengths and weaknesses. Choice of the appropriate
methodologies depends on many factors, including the goals and scope
of the evaluation. For example, faculty members are usually interested
in assessment of the courses that they are teaching as well as assessment
of the program to meet the ABET accreditation criteria. Assessment
approaches for course and program levels may differ, although there
may be overlap. For each of the objectives described in Section
III, each mini-document will provide approaches to obtaining data
relative to one or more objectives for both the course and program
levels. This document will identify when approaches could be applied
at course or program levels.
Outcome assessment is a method for determining whether students
have learned, have retained, and can apply what they have been taught.
Assessment plans have three components: a statement of educational
goals, multiple measures of achievement of the goals, and use of
the resulting information to improve the educational process. The
results of outcomes assessment are part of a feedback loop in which
faculty members are provided information that they can use to improve
their teaching and student learning . For example,
after industry provides feedback on the co-op student or intern,
faculty members and administrators can determine if their program
and courses within the program are effectively teaching teaming
skills and appropriately providing opportunities for students to
practice teaming skills in class and on course projects.
Designing a program-level assessment, collecting assessment data
on an outcome, and analyzing the results may be complex and less
objective than technical research; however, the goal is clear: to
determine as reliably as possible if the objectives have been met
and, if not, to what should be done to improve each student's educational
The ABET a-k outcomes include technical and non-technical (or "soft")
skills that faculty members are expected to teach and therefore
measure. Improving performance with respect to skills, as opposed
to transferring information, requires alternative approaches to
instruction . For example, research shows that
students need to do more than take notes while listening in order
to learn . Woods et al. 
showed that students do not develop problem-solving skills by (1)
watching faculty members work problems, (2) watching other students
work problems, or (3) working many problems (even open-ended problems)
themselves. Instead, problem-solving skills are learned in a workshop
environment. Seat and Lord  state that interaction
skills (a subset of team skills) cannot be learned by osmosis or
simply working in groups. Interaction skills must be taught explicitly.
Students need opportunities to develop and practice soft skills.
Student-student interaction is an effective way to learn and is
often neglected in the traditional lecture course .
Teaching critical knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for
outcomes a-k must be student centered, where the teaching faculty
members are viewed as coaches, facilitators, and guides in the learning
process. Learning activities that reflect real-world situations
must engage students in individual and collaborative problem solving,
analysis, synthesis, critical thinking, and reasoning. New teaching
and learning approaches that heighten practical learning and allow
students to demonstrate the application of their studies to real-world
situations must be put to use . For each learning
objective described in Section III, this document suggests instructional
approaches for improving student performance.
ABET Engineering Criteria Program Educational Outcomes
The Foundation Coalition offers resources for
assessment and instruction related to each of the following outcomes.
- Outcome a: "an ability to
apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering"
- Outcome b: "an ability to
design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret
- Outcome c: "an ability to
design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within
realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social,
political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and
- Outcome d: "an ability to
function on multi-disciplinary teams"
- Outcome e: "an ability to
identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems"
- Outcome f: "an understanding
of professional and ethical responsibility"
- Outcome g: "an ability to
- Outcome h: "the broad education
necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in
a global, economic, environmental, and societal context"
- Outcome i: "a recognition
of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning"
- Outcome j: "a knowledge of
- Outcome k: "an ability to
use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary
for engineering practice"
References for Further Information
- Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology,
Engineering Criteria, accessed September 2004
- McCreanor, P.T. (2001) Quantitatively
Assessing an Outcome on Designing and Conducting Experiments and
Analyzing Data for ABET 2000, Proceedings, Frontiers in
Education Conference, accessed November 2004
Abstract: The Mercer University School of Engineering
(MUSE) identified eight outcomes to assess for the accreditation
process. MUSE Outcome #4 stipulates that students should be
able to design and conduct experiments and analyze data.
The committee charged with assessment of Outcome #4 identified
four separate skills associated with this outcome; conducting
experiments, analyzing experimental data, interpreting experimental
data, and designing experiments. The committee determined that
assessment of this outcome required documentation of the number
of student experiences with each of the four skills and the
overall student performance level on each of these skills. A
skill assessment worksheet was developed for use in the grading
of any activity related to Outcome #4. The worksheet quickly
identifies which of the four skills the activity incorporates
as well as the performance of the students on each of the individual
skills. This worksheet was distributed to instructors teaching
courses that contain a significant content related to this outcome.
Data collected from courses in Industrial Engineering, Biomedical
Engineering, and Electrical Engineering taught during the Fall
of Semester of 2000 suggests that MUSE has been successful at
meeting Outcome #4. The data also indicates that the skill assessment
worksheet was an efficient and accurate method for collecting
quantitative data and identifying weakness in the assessment
process. Modifications made to the worksheet by professors to
accommodate their personal grading scheme demonstrates that
the tool has enough flexibility to be used across multiple disciplines
and grading styles while still providing the data required for
assessment of Outcome #4.
This paper presents the skill assessment worksheet, data collected
using the worksheet, and instructor comments on use of the worksheet.
- Panitz, B. (1998). Student portfolios. In How
Do You Measure Success? Designing Effective Processes for Assessing
Engineering Education. Washington, D.C.: ASEE Professional
- Shuman, L., Besterfield-Sacre, M.E., Wolfe,
et al (2000). Matching
Assessment Methods to Outcomes: Definitions and Research Questions.
Proceedings, ASEE Annual Conference, access February 2005
- Briedis, D. (2002). Developing Effective Assessment
of Student Professional Outcomes. International Journal of
Engineering Education, 18:2, 208-216
Abstract: As engineering programs continue to prepare
for evaluation under EC 2000, faculty members are experiencing
concern over the less well-defined outcomes of Criterion 3 that
address lifelong learning, the global and societal context of
our profession, and contemporary issues. Designing and implementing
assessment for these outcomes might appear to be a time-consuming
and ill-define endeavor. This paper suggests several straightforward
classroom strategies that faculty may use to begin to develop
these outcomes in their students and describes an effective
assessment method that may be realistically implemented and
maintained for the long-term.
- Prus, J., and Johnson, R. (1994). Assessment
& Testing, Myths & Realities. in New Directions for
Community Colleges, No. 88, Winter 1994
- Shaeiwtz, J.A. (1996). Outcomes Assessment in
Engineering Education. Journal of Engineering Education,
85:3, 239 - 246
Abstract: Outcomes assessment is a method for determining
whether students have learned, have retained, and can apply
what they have been taught. Assessment plans have three components:
a statement of educational goals, multiple measures of achievement
of the goals, and use of the resulting information to improve
the education process. The results of outcomes assessment are
part of a feedback loop in which faculty are provided with information
that they can use to improve both their teaching and student
learning. The experience of the Department of Chemical Engineering
at West Virginia University is used as an example of how an
assessment plan is developed and implemented. Examples of multiple
measures of student learning outcomes and how the resulting
information is used are presented. The resulting feedback loop
allows for corrections to be made in specific classes if deficiencies
are found, and indicates when remedial action should be taken
to ensure that students do not graduate until a minimum level
of competency is achieved.
- Olds, B., and Miller, R.L. (1998). An Assessment
Matrix for Evaluating an Engineering Program. Journal of Engineering
Education, 87:2, 173- 78
Abstract: In this paper we describe the use of an assessment
matrix to help faculty develop an assessment plan for their
engineering program. Use of the matrix assures that each of
the key steps in an effective assessment plan is addressed:
setting goals and objectives; selecting performance criteria;
planning an implementation strategy; choosing appropriate measures;
setting a timeline; and providing timely feedback. The matrix
has been used successfully to provide an assessment framework
for engineering curricula, individual courses, and educational
- Collins, N. F., and Davidson, D. E. (2002).
From the margin to the mainstream: Innovative approaches to internationalizing
education for a new century. Change, 34:5, 50-59
- Chickering, A., and Gamson, Z. (1987) "Seven
Principles for Good Practice," AAHE Bulletin, 39:3-7,
ED 282 491, 6pp, MF-01; PC-01
Good Practice Encourages Contacts Between Students and Faculty
Good Practice Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation Among Students
Good Practice Uses Active Learning Techniques
Good Practice Gives Prompt Feedback
Good Practice Emphasizes Time on Task
Good Practice Communicates High Expectations
Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning
- Woods, D. et al (1997). Developing Problem
Solving Skills: The McMaster Problem Solving Program, Journal
of Engineering Education, 86:2, 75-91
Abstract: This paper describes a 25-year project in
which we defined problem solving, identified effective methods
for developing students skill in problem solving, implemented
a series of four required courses to develop the skill, and
evaluated the effectiveness of the program. Four research projects
are summarized in which we identified which teaching methods
failed to develop problem solving skill and which methods were
successful in developing the skills. We found that students
need both comprehension of Chemical Engineering and what we
call general problem solving skill to solve problems successfully.
We identified 37 general problem solving skills. We use 120
hours of workshops spread over four required courses to develop
the skills. Each skill is built (using content-independent activities),
bridged (to apply the skill in the content-specific domain of
Chemical Engineering) and extended (to use the skill in other
contexts and contents and in everyday life). The tests and examinations
of process skills, TEPS, that assess the degree to which the
students can apply the skills are described. We illustrate how
self-assessment was used.
- Seat, E., and Lord, S. (1999). Enabling Effective
Engineering Teams: A Program for Teaching Interaction Skills.
Journal of Engineering Education, 88:4, 385-390
Abstract: A program for teaching interaction skills
to engineers and engineering students has been developed. Based
on cognitive style theory, this customized program uses the
typical engineers problem solving strengths to teach skills
of interviewing, questioning, exchanging ideas, and managing
conflict. The goal of this program is to enable these problem
solvers to apply their technical skills more effectively by
improving interpersonal interactions. The modular nature of
the training program makes it easily transportable, and all
or part of it can be used in courses that require students to
work in teams. This paper discusses what makes this training
a good fit with engineering students, the background
for its content, and the programs six modules. Personal
experiences with teaching this material and recommendations
for implementation are discussed. Similarities and differences
between teaching the engineering professional and student, themes
of student perceptions about the training, and future directions
are also addressed.
- Mourtos, N.J. (1997). The Nuts and Bolts of
Cooperative Learning in Engineering. Journal of Engineering
Education, 86:1, 35 -37
Abstract: A great number of engineering students work
alone most of the time. This is in sharp contrast with industry
where most of the work is performed in teams. The ability to
work in a team effectively is not acquired automatically. It
takes interpersonal and social skills which need to be developed
and practiced. In addition, research shows that the student-student
interaction, often neglected in traditional ways of teaching,
is a most effective way of learning. Thus, it is imperative
that we encourage our students to work with each other in their
efforts to achieve their educational goals. In this paper I
discuss my experience with Cooperative Learning (CL) in a variety
of engineering courses during the last four years. The discussion
includes benefits and problems along with possible solutions.
Lastly, I have made an effort to evaluate the impact of CL on
student performance and attitude.
- Meier, R.L., Williams, M.R., and Humphreys,
M.A. (2000). Refocusing Our Efforts: Assessing Non-Technical Competency
Gaps. Journal of Engineering Education, 89:3, 377-385.
Abstract: This study reports the findings of a National
Science Foundation-funded study* focused on providing solutions
to the identified needs for curricular change in Advanced Technological
Education programs. The purpose of this study was to explore
the extent of competency gaps in science, mathematics, engineering,
and technology (SMET) education graduates as perceived by business
and industry leaders. Due to the nature of the research questions
investigated in this study, the methodology was divided into
three phases. Phase one employed a widely accepted multi-step,
scale development procedure to determine the domain of the subject
matter. Phase two validated survey items. Phase three comprised
two parts; part one prioritized SMET competency gaps. Part two
utilized Hoshin quality analysis techniques to group, identify,
and sequence thematic content areas for curricular development.
This study found that SMET programs must extend the boundaries
of their traditional curricula to include competencies such
as: customer expectations and satisfaction, commitment to doing
ones best, listening skills, sharing information and cooperating
with co-workers, team working skills, adapting to changing work
environments, customer orientation and focus, and ethical decision
making and behavior.
Reports on Engineering Education
Engineering Deans Council and Corporate Roundtable of the American
Society for Engineering Education (1994). Engineering
Education for a Changing World
The Green Report recommended that engineering curricula work
to develop the following outcomes in addition traditional emphasis
on engineering science and design.
- Team skills, including collaborative, active learning;
- A systems perspective
- An understanding and appreciation of the diversity of students,
faculty, and staff
- An appreciation of different cultures and business practices,
and the understanding that the practice of engineering is now
- Integration of knowledge throughout the curriculum;
a multi-disciplinary perspective
- A commitment to quality, timeliness and continuous improvement
- Undergraduate research and engineering work experience;
understanding of the societal, economic and environmental impacts
of engineering decisions
Restructuring Engineering Education: A Focus on Change
NSF 95-65 Restructuring
Engineering Education: A Focus on Change is a report from
the Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) of the Directorate
of Education and Human Resources (EHR) of the National Science
Foundation (NSF). It reports results from a workshop and offers
- Engineering education must encourage multiple thrusts for
- Engineering Education needs a new system of faculty rewards
- Assessment and evaluation processes must encourage desired
expectations for both faculty and students.
- The changes needed for engineering education require comprehensive
change across the campus, not just in the engineering college.
Engineer of 2020
of 2020 is an initiative by the National Academy of Engineering
to define the attributes required for an engineer in 2020 and
actions that may be taken to promote achievement of these attributes.
1 Report on the NAE vision for engineering graduates state
- will possess strong analytical skills, like engineers of yesterday
- will exhibit practical ingenuity
- will be creative
- will be good communicators
- will master the principles of good business and management
- will understand the principles of leadership and be able to
practice these principles
- will have high ethical standards and a strong sense of professionalism
- will possess a complex attribute described as dynamism, agility,
resilience, and flexibility
- will be life long learners.
In a nutshell, the NAE report states, "What attributes will
the engineer of 2020 have? He or she will aspire to have the ingenuity
of Lillian Gilbreth, the problem-solving capabilities of Gordon
Moore, the scientific insight of Albert Einstein, the creativity
of Pablo Picasso, the determination of the Wright brothers, the
leadership capabilities of Bill Gates, the conscience of Eleanor
Roosevelt, the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the curiosity
and wonder of our grandchildren."
Newport, C.L. and Elms. D.G. (1997). Effective Engineers. International
Journal on Engineering Education, 13:5, 325-332
Abstract: The aim of engineering education is to produce
effective engineers. Achieving this aim depends on knowing what
an effective engineer is. The present research looks at engineers
in the workplace to determine what qualities make some engineers
more effective than others. Effective engineer qualities were
collected from engineer employers then tested using questionnaires
designed to measure the predominance of the qualities in engineering
individuals. Qualities associated with mental agility, enterprise
and interpersonal capability correlated most significantly with
effectiveness. Effectiveness did not correlate with achievement
in tertiary education. The results showed that many of the qualities
associated with effective engineer behavior are learnable and
can be taught within an education program.
Engineer Profile: Transferrable Integrated Design Engineering
of an engineer characterizes the engineer who is productive after
graduation and advancing rapidly in responsibility as a professional.
These attributes span all of the ABET EC 3a-k outcomes plus additional
abilities and attitudes important to the engineers working
environment. Therefore, these attributes encompass the range of
actions or attitudes desired in engineers at the time they graduate
and others for which a bias toward learning is present at graduation.
Many of these attributes are possible outcomes of capstone design
projects that engineering students experience.
Engineering Education: Designing an Adaptive System
from the National Research Council calls for a flexible and adaptive
education system in which self-assessment and evaluation at each
institution spurs curricular innovation, experimentation, and
National Study of Liberal Arts Education
Study of Liberal Arts Education (NSLAE) is a large-scale,
longitudinal study to investigate critical factors that affect
the outcomes of liberal arts education. The research is designed
to help colleges and universities improve student learning and
enhance the educational impact of their programs. This is one
of the most comprehensive national studies of the effects of American
higher education on student learning and development ever conducted.
The seven outcomes
- Effective reasoning and problem solving
- Inclination to inquire and lifelong learning
- Integration of learning
- Intercultural effectiveness
- Moral character
are of interest to instruction and assessment of the eleven program
educational outcomes. The project has identified a set of outcome
assessment instruments that may also be of interest to faculty
members working with the eleven program educational outcomes.
Oberst, B. S., and Jones, R. C. (2004). Canaries
in the mineshaft: engineers in the global workplace. Proceedings,
ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, accessed 29 April 2005
Abstract: We need to get beyond the overheated rhetoric
about the offshoring of jobs and look seriously at how engineers
and the engineering profession want to live and act in society.
This article outlines the current debate about the migration of
jobs overseas and the dismemberment of engineering and technology
jobs into commodifiable pieces. It is written so as to provide
a cross-section of information sources for the reader interested
in pursuing the topics further, but may also be read without attention
to the footnotes.
Robinson, M. A., Sparrow, P. R., Clegg, C., and Birdi, K. (2005).
Design engineering competencies: future requirements and predicted
changes in the forthcoming decade. Design Studies, 26(2),
Abstract: This paper seeks to address omissions in previous
research by identifying a future competency profile for design
engineers. A three-phase methodology using both quantitative and
qualitative methods was employed. A competency profile for the
future design engineer, 10 years hence, was generated. The profile
consisted of 42 competencies divided into the following six competency
groups (in descending order of criticality): personal attributes,
project management, cognitive strategies, cognitive abilities,
technical ability, and communication. Furthermore, non-technical
competencies were forecast to become increasingly important in
the future. Results were discussed with reference to their implications
for the design engineering industry.
Linking Student Learning Outcomes to Instructional Practices
Cupp, S., Moore, P. D., and Fortenberry, N. L. (2004). Linking
Student Learning Outcomes to Instructional Practices Phase
I. Proceedings, ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition,
Retrieved, 27 June 2005
Abstract: This paper begins to test the assumption that
stakeholders in engineering education know what set of teaching
and learning practices by faculty and students will lead to desired
student learning outcomes. The work reported here seeks 1) to
identify from published sources, a set of desired engineering
student learning outcomes, and 2) to characterize and categorize
teaching and learning practices. Desired student learning outcomes
identified in published sources mirrored twelve of the engineering
accreditation criteria supplemented by five additional outcomes
not explicitly addressed within current accreditation criteria:
a) multidisciplinary systems thinking, b) business aspects of
engineering practice, c) appreciation for diversity, d) good work
ethic and commitment to continuous quality improvement, and e)
logical thought process. Sixty-one percent (11) of the learning
outcomes are categorized as Technical, and 39% (7) are categorized
With respect to teaching and learning practices, an initial investigation
uncovered six published sources that collectively identified 146
practices. It is noteworthy was that all of the identified practices
were for actions by faculty and teachers not students.
We place the practices into a five-dimensional taxonomic structure.
An effort to link effective practices to specific
outcomes is suggested for future work.
Cupp, S., Moore, P. D., and Fortenberry, N. L. (2004). Linking
Student Learning Outcomes to Instructional Practices Phase
II. Proceedings, Frontiers in Education Conference, Retrieved,
27 June 2005
Abstract: In previous work, we identified five student
learning outcome areas that might productively augment the current
engineering accreditation criteria. In this work we review the
literature on a) how these outcomes might be assessed and b) what
instructional practices may encourage their attainment. Multiple
assessment instruments are identified for the five student learning
outcome areas. We offer examples of instructional practices that
appear to align with developing a) multidisciplinary systems perspectives,
b) appreciation for diversity, and c) familiarity with business
We see the research base underlying instructional practices as
lacking adequate breadth and depth.
Bjorklund, S. A., and Fortenberry, N. L., (2005). Linking Student
Learning Outcomes to Instructional Practices Phase III. Proceeedings,
ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Abstract: More than ever, todays engineering colleges
are concerned with and attuned to improving the processes and
outcomes of educating tomorrows engineers. To that end,
ABETs 3a through k criteria identified eleven
learning outcomes expected of engineering graduates. Based on
a rigorous review of the literature, the first phase of our work
found four additional student outcomes desired by the engineering
education community, and suggested that an engineering graduate
also ought to demonstrate 1) ability to manage a project (including
a familiarity with business, market-related, and financial matters),
2) a multidisciplinary systems perspective, 3) an understanding
of and appreciation for the diversity of students, faculty, staff,
colleagues, and customers, and 4) a strong work ethic. During
Phase II of this project, we identified several assessment instruments
that might measure those outcomes and began searching for instructional
best practices thought to promote the 15 desired learning
outcomes. This paper, based on Phase III of the project, provides
empirical evidence from and identifies the gaps in higher education
and engineering education journal articles that link instructional
best practices with the 15 desired student outcomes in engineering
2001 Foundation Coalition. All rights reserved. Last modified