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Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century
the product (Did we meet our specifications?) and the process (Is it simple, integrated, efficient?). The desired outcomes should include an enhanced educational experience for engineering students, opportunities to pursue engineering as a liberal education, and, in the systems context, program changes and/or efforts by engineering educators that engage and support K-12 faculty, enhance public understanding of engineering, foster technological literacy of the public, and elevate the stature of the profession.
Two recent efforts at comprehensive innovation in engineering education are those launched by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Education Coalitions (EECs; SRI International, 2000) and the revision of the Engineering Accreditation Criteria by ABET, Inc. (ABET, 2004b). The EECs addressed program structure, curricular content, and pedagogy. Formal evaluations of the various coalitions have been mixed to negative in their judgments of their impact and effectiveness, noting in particular the difficulty of achieving large-scale adoption of the new educational materials developed by the EECs. In a sobering observation, given the desire to impact the education of the engineer of 2020, Froyd (see paper in Appendix A) suggests that it might take several decades for an EEC approach to succeed. On the other hand, comments from many participants in the EECs have been much more positive regarding their impact, noting that the EECs catalyzed a number of systemic changes including the early introduction of engineering and engineering design into the freshman/sophomore curriculum at many institutions and the adoption of continual assessment programs at the course, department, and college levels. They also lead to increased involvement of engineering faculty in the education of freshman and sophomore students; the use, for engineering faculty, of new pedagogical modes; and the introduction of programs such as reverse engineering or dissection.
With regard to ABET, it is noted that, in addition to addressing the traditional educational topics, the revised criteria place particular emphasis on the stakeholder goals and objectives as reflected in the institutional mission. ABET (2004a) also has recently begun exploring the role of accreditation in preparing engineers for working in diverse environments. However, ABET prohibits the accreditation of both a baccalaureate degree and a master’s degree in engineering programs with the same name. ABET should revisit this prohibition.