Development of Workplace Competencies Sufficient to Measure ABET Outcomes

Brumm, Thomas
Mickelson, Steven
Hanneman, Larry
Guardiola, R.
Mickelson, Steven
Brumm, Thomas
Major Professor
Committee Member
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

The opening paragraphs of the ABET Engineering Criteria 2000 state: “To be considered for accreditation, engineering programs must prepare graduates for the practice of engineering at the professional level.” Criterion 3, Program Outcomes and Assessment, states, “Engineering programs must demonstrate that their graduates have…” and presents a list of eleven specific outcomes, now well known as, ABET (a-k) Outcomes.

Each of the ABET (a-k) Outcomes is too complex to measure directly; several are interdependent. Eight of outcomes address “an ability to”; two address “understanding”; and only one addresses the graduates’ “knowledge”. The direct measurement of “an ability to…” presents challenges very different from those of measuring knowledge and understanding.

Taking the unique approach of addressing the ABET (a-k) Outcomes as workplace competencies, Iowa State University (ISU) College of Engineering partnered with Development Dimensions International (DDI), Inc., a global provider of competency-based performance management tools and services, to develop the processes and products to support this approach. Using “critical incident” based data gathering, the College and DDI brought together approximately one hundred constituents, representing ISU faculty, partnering international faculty, co-op and intern students, employers, parents, and alumni to provide input to the design of the measurements of the ABET (a-k) Outcomes.

From the analysis of the “critical incidents,” fourteen unique dimensions, called “ISU Competencies”, were identified as necessary and sufficient to measure the ABET (a-k) Outcomes. Each Competency has been clearly defined, independent of all the others. The fourteen ISU Competencies have been mapped to the ABET (a-k) Outcomes. For each Competency an independent set of observable and measurable Key Actions, which students may take to demonstrate their development, have been defined. An appropriate measurement approach has been identified for the Key Actions. Validation of the development process by the contributing constituents is in progress.


This proceeding is from Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition.