EC 2000 Modules

Instructional materials and instructors' guides are being developed for all of the "soft" EC 2000 student outcomes. The EC 2000 Modules group has undertaken the development of instructional modules to enhance our students skills in four general areas: technical skills, communication skills, professional skills, and ethical-societal skills. Modules are designed to fit into any upper-level engineering course that needs to deal explicitly with one or more of the EC 2000 student outcomes a-through-k criteria. Each module will contain material for three 50-minute lectures and make use of active/cooperative learning methods. Each will contain a justification for the material, learning objectives, an assessment process, multiple student assignments, activities to build the skill and bridge it into the discipline-specific course content, and an instructor's guide.




  • We encourage engineering instructors to review these modules.
  • If you have an interest in trying one or more modules, please see the contact the developer or Dr. Russ Pimmel, the project coordinator. Also, you should look at potential user's page for information.
  • Again, we urge you to note the status of the development of each module.


  • Dr. Russ Pimmel,, 205.348.1753, or the individual coordinators of the modules.


  • We developed these modules as a part of the Foundation Coalition with support from the Engineering Education Program of the National Science Foundation under Award Number EEC-9802942.

References for Further Information

  1. D. Woods et al. (1997) Developing Problem Solving Skills: The McMaster Problem Solving Program, J. Eng. Ed. 86:75-91
  2. 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.

  3. D. Woods, R. Felder, A Rugarcia and J. Stice, Future of Engineering Education III – Developing Critical Skills, Chem. Eng. Ed. 34:108-117, 2000.
  4. Abstract: In third paper in the series we consider the application of some of those methods to the development of the desired skills. Process skills are “soft” skills used in the application of knowledge. The degree to which students develop these skills determines how they solve problems, write reports, function in teams, self-assess and do performance reviews of others, go about learning new knowledge, and manage stress when they have to cope with change. Many instructors intuitively believe that process skills are important, but most are unaware of the fundamental research that provides a foundation for development of the skills. Their efforts to help their students develop the skills may consequently be less effective than they might wish.

    Fostering the development of skills in students is challenging, to say the least. Process skills—which have to do with attitudes and values as much as knowledge—are particularly challenging in that they are hard to define explicitly, let alone to develop and assess. We might be able to sense that a team is not working well, for example, but how do we make that intuitive judgment quantitative? How might we provide feedback that is helpful to the team members? How can we develop our students’ confidence in their teamwork skills?

    Research done over the past 30 years offers answers to these questions. In this paper, we suggest research-backed methods to help our students develop critical skills and the confidence to apply them. As was the case for the instructional methods discussed in introduced in Part II,3 all of the suggestions given in this part are relevant to engineering education, can be implemented within the context of the ordinary engineering classroom, are not the sorts of methods that most engineering professors would feel uncomfortable doing, are consistent with modern theories of learning, and have been tried and found effective by more than one educator.

    Research suggests that the development of any skill is best facilitated by giving students practice and not by simply talking about or demonstrating what to do. The instructor’s role is primarily that of a coach, encouraging the students to achieve the target attitudes and skills and providing constructive feedback on their efforts. A number of approaches to process skill development have been formulated and proven to be effective in science and engineering education, including Guided Design, active/cooperative learning approaches, Thinking- Aloud Pairs Problem Solving (TAPPS) and the McMaster Problem Solving program.

  5. Seat, E. and Lord, S. (1999) Enabling Effective Engineering Teams: A Program For Teaching Interaction Skills, J. Eng. Ed. 88:385-390.
  6. Abtract: 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 engineer’s 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 program’s 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.