Competency-Based Assessment of Engineering Technology Program Outcomes

Brumm, Thomas
Balascio, Carmine
Brumm, Thomas
Mickelson, Steven
Mickelson, Steven
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

ABET is the preeminent organization in the U.S. for accreditation of 2- and 4-yr college-level educational programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology. ABET accreditation regimes require program outcomes assessment. The Technology Accreditation Commission (TAC) of ABET is charged with accrediting two- and four-yr Engineering Technology (ET) programs. The 4-year ET major at the University of Delaware is a general ET program; and, for the purposes of TAC of ABET accreditation, must demonstrate its graduates have mastered the a through k program outcomes listed in TAC of ABET documentation for Criterion 3 of its General Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Technology Programs. The a through k program outcomes, which include such statements as:

a. an appropriate mastery of the knowledge, techniques, skills and modern tools of their disciplines, and
b. an ability to apply creativity in the design of systems, components or processes appropriate to program objectives,

are notoriously difficult to assess because they require complex blends of interdependent skills, the evaluations of which may be influenced by considerable subjectivity.

Iowa State University (ISU) 3 has adopted a competency-based assessment approach to demonstrate program outcomes for Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of ABET 2 accreditation of all its engineering programs in addition to its programs in agricultural systems technology and industrial technology. The ISU technology programs are accredited by the Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering 4 . In consultation with graduates and industry partners, ISU developed a set of 14 “workplace competencies.” Each competency was designed to be “clear, concise and independent of all others” 3 . Each competency is demonstrated by a “set of observable and measurable key actions.” The confounding that plagues assessment of the ABET a-k program outcomes is avoided, and a measure of objectivity is introduced. The ISU competencies were determined to be “necessary and sufficient to address the EAC of ABET a-k outcomes” 3 , and a matrix mapping the ISU workplace competencies to the EAC of ABET a-k outcomes was developed.

This paper describes the adaptation of ISU’s competency-based assessment approach for outcomes assessment and TAC of ABET accreditation of the University of Delaware’s ET program. University of Delaware student competencies, derived from the ISU student competencies, are mapped to the TAC of ABET a-k program outcomes. As with ISU’s approach, a student ePortfolio system is utilized. Evaluations of competencies are informed by the student’s performance in a “Discovery Learning Experience”—either a technical practicum in industry or an undergraduate research project.


This proceeding is from Proceedings of the 2010 American society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition.