The reports included here were prepared as background information for the consideration of Summit attendees prior to the meeting. They represent the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Engineer of 2020 Phase II Committee. The committee wishes to express its appreciation for the efforts of the authors in preparing these reports.
A Brief Summary of Cooperative Education: History, Philosophy, and Current Status
Thomas M. Akins
Georgia Institute of Technology
In a recent survey conducted by MonsterTRAK of college graduates in 2004, 74 percent thought relevant work experience was the most important factor in securing employment, and 52 percent of employers agreed. However, 41 percent of the students had gotten no relevant experience during their undergraduate careers. For those students, finding a job and deciding on a career choice can be much more difficult than for those who have experience. Cooperative education, a time-tested method of enhancing learning, gives students such experience and enables them to achieve much more than their counterparts who are educated in the traditional way.
Cooperative education primarily involves sequential training in both theory and practice; theoretical and practical training are coordinated in a progressive educational program. For both school and student, studies become “applied subjects” because theory (studies) is realized through practical application (work). With feedback from employers on student performance, cooperative education is also a great vehicle for outcome-based assessment of the undergraduate curriculum. From the employer’s point of view, the two most important elements in cooperative education are (1) the selection of workers and (2) an enlightened interest on the part of students in the work.
For the purposes of this paper, I use a traditional definition of a cooperative education program adapted from the “The Cooperative System—a Manifesto,” an article by Clement Freund in the Journal of Engineering Education in October 1946.
A cooperative education program shall be one:
in which curricula lead to the bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree
that requires or permits all or some students to alternate periods of attendance at college with periods of employment in business/industry during a portion or all of one or more curricula
in which such employment is constituted as a regular, continuing, and essential element in the educational process
that requires such employment to be related to some phase of the branch or field of study in which the student is engaged
that expects such employment to be diverse so that students have a wide range of experience
that expects such employment to have work assignments with increasing levels of responsibility on successive work terms
that specifies as requirements for a degree a minimum number of hours of employment and a minimum standard of performance in such employment
SPECIFIC GOALS OF COOPERATIVE EDUCATION
Freund also detailed five specific aims of cooperative education that are still embraced today:
To impart first-hand and actual knowledge of and experience with the execution in industry/government of engineering designs, business principles, projects, and developments in all career fields.
To impart understanding of and familiarity with the problems and viewpoints of working men and women.
To assist students, by direct and personal experience in industry, in testing their aptitudes for their chosen careers.
To enable students to adjust to employment by a gradual transition from academic pursuits to the requirements and conditions of the world of work.
To train and otherwise prepare students especially and directly for higher level administrative and operating functions.
In the 1890s, many colleges realized the need for better integration of theory and practice. At Worcester Polytechnic Institute, regular shop courses began operating a commercial shop and offering articles for sale. Students worked in the shop for foremen/instructors. The school also advised students to work in industry for 15 months between their junior and senior years. All of this was to be supplanted by an idea that took shape in the mind of Herman Schneider, a civil engineering graduate of Lehigh University who had worked his way through school.
Schneider believed that his work experience had given him an advantage upon graduation. He researched the records of other Lehigh graduates and found that most of those who had shown marked ability in engineering during the early years after graduation had combined industry practice with education through part-time jobs, summer jobs, or simply by dropping out of school to work periodically. Schneider concluded that the educational values of working exceeded the monetary gains.
When he joined the faculty of the University of Cincinnati in 1903 (as assistant professor of civil engineering), he envisioned a new kind of institution that would blend theory and practice so students could provide industry with the services for which they were being prepared. In September 1906, the first cooperative education program began with 12 students in mechanical engineering, 12 in electrical engineering, and 3 in chemical engineering. In the beginning, they alternated between school and work weekly, then every two weeks, then monthly, then quarterly.
Other schools soon followed suit: Northeastern University in 1909, University of Pittsburgh in 1910 (although the program was discontinued for many years and reestablished in 1987), University of Detroit in 1911, and Georgia Tech in 1912. In the early years, cooperative education programs experienced various external and internal problems. External problems included: resistance among employers; recessions/depressions; wars; and resistance among labor unions. Internal problems at schools included: hesitant faculty; scheduling and alternating patterns; mandatory versus optional programs; and funding. Most of the external problems are beyond institutional control, of course. But many
schools continue to wrestle with internal problems. As Herman Schneider stated in a speech in 1929, “There are no two cooperative courses the same, and different tactics have to be used in different places. I hope there will never be two programs the same.”
As the number of programs grew, it became apparent that educational professionals could benefit from sharing ideas and concerns. In 1926, the Association of Cooperative Colleges was established; it later became the Cooperative Education Division of what is now the American Society for Engineering Education. The National Commission for Cooperative Education was begun in 1962, and the Cooperative Education Association was formed in 1963. The World Association of Cooperative Education started in 1979, and there are numerous state and regional associations across the United States. Through these organizations, cooperative education programs have been able to present a united front on many issues, particularly in the area of funding for co-op programs on campuses.
The federal government has been instrumental in providing seed money. In 1970, Title IV-D provided a total of more than $1.5 million. Title VIII replaced this in 1977, and by the late 1980s total grants averaged about $15 million per year. By 1989, there were more than 1,000 cooperative programs in the United States with approximately 250,000 students. Later in this paper, I review the current status of co-op programs. However, I want to turn now to a brief summary of the benefits of the cooperative education model.
BENEFITS OF COOPERATIVE EDUCATION
The Directory of College Cooperative Education Programs, put out by the American Council on Education, includes lists of advantages of cooperative education to students, employers, schools, and society as a whole (Hutcheson, 1966). The benefits are summarized below (in no particular order):
Advantages to students
enhances classroom learning through integration of theory and practice
confirms or redirects career decision making
helps defray the costs of postsecondary education through wages earned
expands after-graduation job opportunities
teaches “soft skills,” such as communications, working on multidisciplinary teams, career assessment, resume writing, and interviewing
encourages traditionally non-college-bound students to pursue postsecondary education
Advantages to employers
provides a pool of well prepared employees
provides on-the-job performance as a basis for permanent hiring decisions
enhances relations between businesses and colleges
improves access to permanent employment for students from disadvantaged (underrepresented) groups
makes recruitment and training more cost effective
increases retention rates among permanent employees
provides a means of technology (knowledge) transfer
Advantages to postsecondary institutions
expands the range of educational opportunities by integrating workplace learning into the academic program
builds positive relationships between schools and industry
enables the enrollment and education of more students without the expansion of physical facilities, especially in an alternating program in which a large number of students are at work each term
provides a means of technology (knowledge) transfer
Advantages to society
increases the effectiveness and relevance of education by relating classroom study to the world of work
promotes respect for work
addresses national concerns about the preparation of the future workforce for competition in a global economy
does not add costs to taxpayers because cooperative education returns sizable tax revenues from student earnings
In 1989, there were more than 1,000 cooperative education programs of various kinds in postsecondary institutions throughout the United States; approximately 250,000 students were enrolled in these programs. At the same time, 34,089 students were enrolled in engineering and engineering technology cooperative programs at 104 schools. As Title VIII funding disappeared, however, many schools could no longer provide financial support for these programs, and, consequently, a large number of them were dissolved. The latest figures below show the number of undergraduate students participating in cooperative programs in engineering and engineering technology (Mathews, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004):
1998, 142 schools, 38,734 students
2000, 118 schools, 31,716 students
2002, 121 schools, 36,718 students
2004, 99 schools, 34,136 students
One might ask why the number of programs, and particularly the number of students, has not increased over the years. Here are some possible answers based on conjecture and anecdotal information:
Students are opting for more internships, rather than making commitments to cooperative programs.
More financial aid is available now than ever before, which eliminates the monetary incentive for participating in a co-op program.
Because of the “blue-collar” connotation of cooperative programs, faculty and administration at many institutions have not fully embraced the idea.
Some misconceptions and “myths” about cooperative education have discouraged participation (e.g., that it takes longer to graduate; that co-op students cannot participate in campus activities or study abroad, etc.).
Recent research at Georgia Tech has shown that rising family income levels of entering students and the availability of other options, such as undergraduate research and internships, have been major factors
in the declining enrollment in cooperative education at that institution. Interestingly, students who participate in cooperative programs at Georgia Tech actually do take about six months longer to graduate, but they enroll in fewer school terms to do so, thus saving tuition money in the long run. Many of these students also participate in study abroad programs and undergraduate research, which dispels some widely held misconceptions.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the value of co-op programs to the accreditation of engineering programs. Recently, accrediting organizations, including the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), have moved toward outcomes-based assessments of programs. Engineering Criteria 2000, which was begun by ABET several years ago, includes students’ ability to perform certain functions, such as working on multidisciplinary teams, applying engineering knowledge, and so forth. Consequently, engineering deans and provosts at many institutions have discovered the value of data collected by their co-op programs. In fact, information gathered from employers’ evaluations of co-op students’ performance has been invaluable in determining, from a third-party source, if the education received on campus is not only thorough, but also relevant enough to prepare individuals for the transition from “student” to professional.
In the future, there will be many models for engineering education. However, the concept of cooperative education still makes good fiscal sense, good pedagogical sense, and good career sense. Cooperative education opens a myriad of possibilities for anyone pursuing a formal education at the postsecondary level. Although its form may change from one generation to the next, there is no substitute for blending practical application with theory learned in the classroom, and there is no better laboratory than the real world. Future leaders of technology must have experience outside the classroom to function effectively.
Freund, C.J. 1946. The co-operative system: a manifesto. Journal of Engineering Education 37(2): 117–120.
Hutcheson, P., ed. 1996. Directory of College Cooperative Programs. Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education.
Mathews, J.M., ed. 1998. Directory of Engineering and Engineering Technology Co-op Programs. Mississippi State, Miss.: Cooperative Education Division of the American Society for Engineering Education.
Mathews, J.M., ed. 2000. Directory of Engineering and Engineering Technology Co-op Programs. Mississippi State, Miss.: Cooperative Education Division of the American Society for Engineering Education.
Mathews, J.M., ed. 2002. Directory of Engineering and Engineering Technology Co-op Programs. Mississippi State, Miss.: Cooperative Education Division of the American Society for Engineering Education.
Mathews, J.M., ed. 2004. Directory of Engineering and Engineering Technology Co-op Programs. Mississippi State, Miss.: Cooperative Education Division of the American Society for Engineering Education.
MonsterTRAK. 2004. College Graduation Survey. Maynard, Mass.: Monster. Available online at http://www.monster.com.
Schneider, H. 1929. Remarks delivered at the 4th Annual Conference of the Association of Cooperative Colleges, June 21, 1929, Columbus, Ohio. Washington, D.C.: American Society for Engineering Education.
Information Technology in Support of Engineering Education: Lessons from the Greenfield Coalition
Donald R. Falkenburg
Wayne State University
Many studies have focused on the impact of information technology (IT). To frame the discussion in this paper, I call your attention to two quotes from a section called Technology Futures in Preparing for the Revolution: Information Technology and the Future of the Research University published by the National Academies Press (NRC, 2002).
From the average user’s point of view, the exponential rate dictated by Moore’s Law will drive increases of 100 to 1,000 in computing speed, storage capacity, and bandwidth every decade. At that pace, today’s $1,000-notebook computer will, by the year 2020, have a computing speed of 1 million gigahertz, a memory of thousands of terabytes, and linkages to networks at data transmission speeds of gigabits per second.
… [T]he world of the user could be marked by increasing technological sophistication. With virtual reality, individuals may routinely communicate with one another through simulated environments, or “telepresence,” perhaps delegating their own digital representations—“software agents,” or tools that collect, organize, relate, and summarize knowledge on behalf of their human masters—to interact in a virtual world with those of their colleagues. As communications technology increases in power by 100 fold (or more) each decade, such digitally mediated human interactions could take place with essentially any degree of fidelity desired.
In a National Academy of Engineering workshop, Information Technology (IT)-Based Educational Materials, this future vision was translated into the framework of teaching and learning. In the workshop report, the current state of the use of IT in support of learning was described (NAE, 2003):
Many STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] educational programs and institutions have been involved in projects to improve teaching and learning through the application of IT. The resulting IT-based learning materials have proven to be adaptable and dynamic, and in many cases they have enhanced the educational process. A growing number of people are involved in the development of IT-based educational materials. The landscape of STEM education is now dotted with islands of innovation—isolated areas where IT-based materials are being used effectively. However, not all innovations have led to more effective learning because these materials are often used by limited numbers of users. Thus, opportunities for synergy, discourse, and exchange—steps that often lead to improvements in next-generation products—have also been limited. Impediments to realizing a desirable environment for IT-based educational materials are complex…. [T]echnology and tools, infrastructure, content and pedagogy, and human, cultural, and organizational issues … are inextricably intertwined.
Based on the workshop discussions, the participants developed a vision of an IT-transformed educational environment summarized in three broad categories: technology and tools infrastructure; content and pedagogy; and human, cultural, and organizational frameworks. The discussions were summarized in the following vision of the future (NAE, 2003):
A robust suite of modular, IT-based resources supports a dynamic, distributed, and flexible learning environment. Built on open system architectures and machine-understandable semantic models, these resources are interoperable, sharable, easy to use, easy to modify, and widely disseminated; they underpin a vibrant teaching and learning community and enable a sustainable ecology for continuous improvements in educational practice. A rich array of technologies and
approaches form the scaffolding for further modifications to the learning environment, enabling the optimization of educational practices for their effectiveness rather than for simple efficiency. The elements that support the learning environment integrate advanced knowledge about technology, people, processes, and organizations.
The report also included the following descriptions of the future:
In the world of IT-transformed education, advanced learning objects are the building blocks of IT-enabled educational materials. Advanced learning objects will be developed based on community-defined requirements for a services-based architecture that supports varying levels of interoperability and emphasizes operational communication and data exchange.
STEM educational practices will have a learner-centric orientation and will reflect advanced, evidence-based knowledge on learning and cognition.
IT-based teaching and learning practices will be generated by an active community of authors and users who create, share, and modify IT-enabled educational materials. This community will embrace a scholarship of teaching and learning and will have a continuing goal of advancing learning.
The dissemination of IT-enabled teaching and learning resources will be supported by a novel legal framework (e.g., open licenses and attribution systems) that promotes creation and sharing, while maintaining incentives for authors (including individuals, teams, and institutions) to create and distribute or assemble and reuse high-quality learning materials.
In the remainder of this paper, I briefly describe the efforts of the Greenfield Coalition to move toward this IT-enhanced learning future.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN SUPPORT OF PEDAGOGY
One of the lessons learned at the Greenfield Coalition was that, even though IT can open new avenues to enhance learning, technology is not a silver bullet that can promote learning by itself. We posed the following question: What do we want to accomplish by using IT to
support the learning process? The answer reflects the Greenfield Coalition’s values and beliefs about learning:
Learning is a responsibility shared by learner and teacher.
Faculty plays a key role in guiding students in the learning process.
Learning is made real if it is integrated with real-world experience.
Learners must prepare to engage in classroom experiences.
Learning is a social process that requires interaction with mentors and peers.
By actively participating in learning, students can reach a deeper understanding and enhance their skills.
IT must be leveraged not for its own sake, but in support of a vision of the transformed classroom. There are many issues we might consider, but I illustrate two here.
Case Studies: Engaging Learners in Decision Making Framed in Real-World Environments
In the future, improved hardware and software will enhance simulated virtual environments in which learners can become immersed in the problem-solving and decision making experience.
Case studies have revolutionized teaching in the business and medical communities. The case-study methodology is a framework for embedding learning in an environment as close to the real world as possible, challenging learners to explore resources, make assumptions, and construct solutions. Case studies are also ideal for illustrating complex concepts, which are especially common in engineering. Horton (2000) suggests that case studies are an excellent way for learners to practice judgment skills necessary in real-life situations, which are not as simple as textbook problems. Stimulating critical thinking through case studies is a recommended instructional strategy (Bonk and Reynolds, 1997).
In the current educational environment, computer-based resources allow learners to access real data and participate in case-based learning (Falkenburg and Schuch Miller, 2003). For example, students can
explore a real factory of a tier-1 auto supplier, with access to process plans, production data, scrap reports, and interviews with key personnel. Figure 1 displays the web interface for a case developed by the Greenfield Coalition, which targets a boring operation used in the manufacture of a pulley. In the future, with improved hardware and software, learners will be able to immerse themselves in the problem-solving and decision-making experience. Instead of “canned” interviews, the learner and intelligent computer systems will provide responses to learner inquiries.
Case studies can also be used to introduce students to the complex interactions among technology, business, and ethics. The Laboratory for Innovative Technology in Engineering Education at Auburn University has produced a number of case studies. One of these describes a turbine-generator unit in a power plant that vibrates heavily enough to shake the building. Two engineers recommend different solutions, and the plant manager must make a decision that could cost the company millions of dollars (Raju and Sankar, 2000).
Simulation: Improving Understanding and Decision Making
Many of us already feel comfortable teaching computer simulation to enhance problem-solving skills. The problem is that we most frequently focus on the development of computer models to represent an engineering component or system, and we frequently forget to talk about the reason we build models—to improve students’ ability to make engineering decisions.
The future will bring improved methods of simulating real-world systems. Those simulations will be easier to construct and encapsulate very real views. Simulation technology should be used early in the career of the student engineer, not to teach modeling per se, but to enhance the student’s ability to make engineering decisions.
In Manufacturing Systems, a sophomore-level Greenfield Coalition course developed by Professor Emory Zimmers at Lehigh University, learners are introduced to Colebee Time Management Incorporated, a firm that has determined that rapid order fulfillment is one of their competitive advantages. As they move toward producing more
customized planners and calendars, they find they need more analysis of the printing cell, because more varieties of products and smaller batch sizes have slowed printing.
When a new printing job arrives, it must wait until the current group of jobs is completed. When all of the jobs in the current group are finished, the new jobs are lined up in a specific order. The student’s task is to improve the operational efficiency of the printing cell by minimizing the so-called “make-span” (the time it takes to complete the entire group of parts ready to proceed into the process). A simulation model of a printing cell is provided to help students predict operational improvements to the system (see Figure 2). The students are told that make-span should be their primary focus, but they may want to also pay attention to the queue sizes and the average time jobs remain in the printing area. They are told that they can manage three key parameters: (1) the number of work centers; (2) the number of hours per shift; and (3) the number of shifts per week.
The learners are asked the following key questions:
What strategy did you use to select the parameters to improve operational efficiency?
If you could modify the simulation model to allow more parameters to be changed, which parameters would you choose to add? Explain your answer.
Which combination of parameters optimized the manufacturing plant’s operations? Explain your answer.
This case is not about building a computer model. It is about making engineering decisions. In the future, methods of simulating real-world systems will certainly improve. Simulations will be easier to construct and will encapsulate very real views. These improvements should be introduced early in the careers of student engineers, not to teach modeling per se, but to improve their ability to make engineering decisions.
The Greenfield learning object model (LOM, Figure 3) recognizes a hierarchy of learning objects (Falkenburg et al., 2003). At the base of
the model are learning activities focused on the process of learning. Learning activities are dynamically configured into sessions, modules, and courses. In Greenfield parlance, “activities” include discussions, computer-based animations and simulations, mini-lectures, cooperative problem-solving exercises, and so forth—in other words, activities that address the “action” of learning. “Sessions” are groups of activities. Greenfield does not define a time frame for sessions. They are simply convenient groupings of activities. “Modules” are concept-frame packages of learning. A module includes one or more sessions.
The Greenfield course Engineering Economics, for example, includes Depreciation Accounting (a module), which includes Depreciation Methodologies and Income Tax Impact (sessions). Income Tax Impact Consequences is an interactive e-learning activity in the Income Tax Impact session.
We had an important reason for developing this hierarchical structure, namely, that most faculty members want to structure their own courses. Although teachers may be interested in borrowing some “neat” learning activities, they want to package learning in their own unique ways. Thus, each learning activity is an individual entity. Using a methodology that is becoming more common each day, we define the structure of the learning activity, describe its content using XML, and display the activity on a web page using XSL templates (Figure 4).
Links up the hierarchy are constructed differently. If a course is shared, the uplinks are displayed on a tool bar. The content of the tool bar is a property of the assembled course and depends upon the position of the learner in the hierarchy. For a user currently accessing an activity, the tool bar would look as depicted in Figure 3. Courses contain links to modules that are included in their content. If the user is at the session level, the tool bar would show Course>>Module. A module contains links to sessions, are a part of the module content.
Objectives are included in the definition of learning objects. Objectives are defined at the course level (terminal objectives) and at the module and session levels (enabling objectives—objectives that support the
terminal objectives of a course). Because objectives are included in the object structure of a course, it is a straightforward process to produce a tree of learning objectives.
There are two additional levels in the Greenfield object structure—the program and knowledge areas. A “knowledge area” is a group of courses that share certain instructional objectives and outcomes. For example, in a program that focuses on manufacturing engineering, there are typically courses that focus on manufacturing systems and courses that focus on manufacturing processes. By defining programs in this way, we can provide a tree of objectives for an entire program. By treating prerequisite knowledge as a “child object” of a course, for example, we can better manage requirements for a full curriculum. Meta-tags embedded at each level of the hierarchy define content, special technology support requirements, etc.
Authorship and intellectual property rights are embedded in the objects. Thus, a document with multiple authors can be created by referencing different objects. Data about use restrictions and ownership are drawn from the database and displayed in the composite document.
CHANGING OUR CULTURE
Technology provides one platform for reforming our educational processes, but technology cannot make a difference unless people and organizations change and adapt. The Greenfield Coalition is in the final phase of a research study of the factors that enhance, and the factors that impede, the diffusion of learning technologies. Each classroom is an arena in which the culture of learners and the culture of teachers must negotiate their beliefs, values, and behaviors. Changes in educational process are not simply a matter of adopting IT. IT must also lead to changes in our approaches to learning enabled by that technology. Does IT give us a better means of enhancing modern approaches to learning (Bloom, 1956; Gagne, 1985; Filipczak, 1996), or does it merely divert future engineers from a deeper understanding and better decision making?
THE GREENFIELD COALITION AND FOCUS: HOPE
The Greenfield Coalition and Focus: HOPE is a coalition of five universities, three university affiliates, six manufacturing companies, the
Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and Focus: HOPE. The impetus for the Greenfield Coalition project was a sense that most academic studies in manufacturing engineering did not include real manufacturing experiences (Falkenburg and Harkin, 2002). The idea for the coalition was initiated by Focus: HOPE, a human and civil rights organization in Detroit, Michigan.
Focus: HOPE supports a network of programs that support its educational objectives. Founded in 1968 after the urban riots in Detroit, Focus: HOPE “pledges intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice”—to make a difference in the city and suburbs. The organization began by providing food for needy people who were undernourished (women with children and then senior citizens) but quickly added programs to give inner-city youth an opportunity to acquire the knowledge they need to take advantage of highly skilled, good-paying jobs.
Today, an individual may enroll in First Step or Fast Track, four-and seven-week programs that use computer-based learning to build fundamental skills in mathematics and English. Students who graduate from Fast Track have skills certified at the ninth-grade and tenth-grade levels in reading and math, the prerequisite skills for entering the Machinist Training Institute (MTI). MTI is a 31-week program in which students earn certification in the operation of material-processing equipment (machining), metrology, computer-aided design, computer numerical control, and associated math, computer, and communication skills.
Greenfield provides an opportunity for graduates of MTI to cap their practical experience with courses that could lead to advanced university degrees. Students who qualify after completing MTI’s basic machining program can enter a 24-week preengineering program. After a series of diagnostic tests and interviews, they can then become candidates in the Center for Advanced Technologies—Focus: HOPE’s manufacturing facility, a not-for-profit entity and a first-tier supplier of manufactured components and systems to Ford, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, Detroit Diesel, and the U.S. Department of Defense. Candidates are employed by Focus: HOPE and work in a broad range of manufacturing, production, and support activities. This employment not only provides financial support, but, more important, it provides a real-world laboratory that supports learning.
The partners of the Greenfield Coalition saw Focus: HOPE as an
opportunity to support a new approach to manufacturing education in which real-world manufacturing applications would drive learning, rather than the more traditional academic approach of theory looking for an application. A key tenet of the Greenfield Coalition’s proposal to the National Science Foundation was the integration of production experiences with the work activities of the candidates at the Focus: HOPE Center for Advanced Technologies (see Figure 5).
The framers of the Greenfield Coalition proposal envisaged an educational experience in which candidates would work and study in the same facility. They would experience the functional operations involved in production, and they would be exposed to flexible manufacturing system architectures, manufacturing systems design, and process and quality control. Candidates would rotate through positions in production and manufacturing engineering and learn through their experiences. At the same time, they would be guided by a combination of mentors/teachers, including functional supervisors in the Center for Advanced Technologies, vendor trainers, faculty from coalition universities, and industry experts. Learning would be modular and would provide fundamental skills and understanding to support a progression of work experiences. Thus, the work environment and the learning experience would be mutually supportive. The ultimate goal would be to pro-
duce a new breed of engineer who has not only a theoretical understanding of manufacturing, but also practical, hands-on experience.
The Greenfield Coalition is partly supported by Grant EEC-9630951 under the Engineering Education Coalitions Program at the National Science Foundation. Focus: HOPE, the coalition’s industry and academic partner, has contributed valuable resources to support the development of the Greenfield Coalition.
Bloom, B. 1956. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Education Goals. Handbook I, Cognitive Domain. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Bonk, C.J., and T.H. Reynolds, 1997. Learner-centered web instruction for higher-order thinking, teamwork, and apprenticeship. In B.H. Khan (Ed.), Web-Based Instruction (pp. 167-178). Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Educational Technology Publications.
Falkenburg, D.R., and T. Harkin 2002. Real-World Experience in Learning in Manufacturing Education Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: American Society for Engineering Education. Available online at http://asee.org/acPapers/code/getPaper.cfm?paperID=5444&pdf=2002-983_Final.pdf.
Falkenburg, D.R., and D. Schuch Miller. 2003. Strategies for Creating Web-Based Engineering Case Studies. Proceedings of the 2003 International Conference on Engineering Education (ICEE). Valencia, Spain: International Network for Engineering Education and Research. Available online at http://www.ineer.org/events/icee2003/proceedings/pdf/4478.pdf.
Falkenburg, D.R., A. Knowlton, and M.J. Cartright. 2003. Creating Sharable Learning Activities: Examples from a Manufacturing Engineering Curriculum. Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition. Nashville, Tenn.: American Society for Engineering Education. Available online at http://asee.org/acPapers/code/getPaper.cfm?paperID=5608&pdf=2003-1563_Final.pdf.
Filipczak, B. 1996. Engaged!: The nature of computer interactivity. Training 33(11):52–58.
Gagne, R. 1985. The Conditions of Learning, 4th ed. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Horton, W. 2000. Designing Web-Based Training. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
NAE (National Academy of Engineering). 2003. Information Technology (IT)-Based Educational Materials: Workshop Report with Recommendations. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. Available online at http://books.nap.edu/catalog/10768.html.
NRC (National Research Council). 2002. Preparing for the Revolution: Information Technology and the Future of the Research University. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. Available online at http://books.nap.edu/catalog/10545.html.
Raju, P.K., and C.S. Sankar. 2000. Della Steam Plant Case Study: Should the Turbine Be Shut Off? Anderson, S.C.: Tavenner Publishers.
The Engineering Education Coalitions Program
Texas A&M University
The National Science Foundation (NSF) supported six engineering-education coalitions (EECs) with the goal of catalyzing systemic reform in engineering education (i.e., changes throughout the system, especially among faculty members, the most important component of the system). The most productive innovations intentionally or unintentionally provoked faculty members into reflecting on and modifying their ideas about learning and teaching. For example, faculty members who participated in interdisciplinary, integrated curricular activities were involved in mutually supportive, thoughtful discussions with their peers about learning, assessment, and teaching. Another project involved the construction of multidisciplinary design projects that exposed faculty members to multiple disciplinary perspectives on the engineering design process. Faculty members also participated in workshops where they were encouraged to consider and apply pedagogical options and alternative learning environments (e.g., active/cooperative learning, problem-based learning, etc.). In another exercise, faculty members were involved in the development of instruments and methodologies to assess students’ conceptual understanding of engineering science. All of these activities encouraged faculty members to reflect and reevaluate their approaches to learning and teaching.
The most productive EEC projects led to the development of resources that were intended to make it easier for others to explore innovative approaches. For example, interactive workshops were focused on modeling pedagogical innovations being tried and advocated in the EECs, assessment instruments and methods were developed for assessing student learning, websites provided widespread access to publications and other resources created as a result of EEC activities, and summary documents were produced synthesizing research and innovation in engineering education both as part of the EECs and from other sources.
However, faculty and institutions that had not been directly involved in the EECs showed little interest in adopting these innovations, even when assessment data demonstrated that they led to measurable improvements in retention and/or student learning. Thus, it was clear that catalyzing systemic reform would require more than model programs and approaches that could be adapted by faculty members anywhere. It would require “out-of-the-box” thinking and the active participation of educators in conversations about learning, assessment, and teaching before adoption could be expected.
NSF developed the EEC Program to stimulate the development of models of bold, innovative systemic reforms in undergraduate engineering education. Through the EEC Program, groups of universities and colleges with different characteristics formed coalitions for the purpose of becoming agents of change in the engineering education community. Goals for systemic reform included increasing the retention of students, especially students from underrepresented groups, such as white women and minorities; and improving introductory experiences in engineering through active, experiential learning, such as artifact dissection, and multidisciplinary capstone design experiences. Reforms developed by EECs have reinvigorated undergraduate engineering curricula at institutions throughout the coalitions and beyond and are turning out graduates who are better prepared to meet the challenges of a constantly changing global workforce. At the same time, EEC participating schools (listed in Table 1) have increased diversity, improved student retention, and increased graduation rates.
TABLE 1 Participating Institutions and Contributions of Engineering Education Coalitions
Engineering Coalition of Schools for Excellence in Education and Leadership (ECSEL)
City College of the City University of New York
First-year engineering design courses
Assessments of innovative pedagogical approaches
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Morgan State University
Pennsylvania State University
University of Maryland
University of Washington
California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo
Iowa State University
University of California at Berkeley
NEEDS (National Engineering Education Delivery System)
Southeastern University and College Coalition for Engineering Education (SUCCEED)
Florida A&M University—Florida State University
Multidisciplinary capstone design courses
SUCCEED longitudinal student database
Georgia Institute of Technology
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
North Carolina State University
University of North Carolina Charlotte
University of Florida
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
First-year engineering curricula
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Ohio State University
University of South Carolina
Arizona State University
First two years of engineering curricula
Maricopa Community College District
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University Kingsville
Texas Women’s University
University of Alabama
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
University of Wisconsin Madison
Engineering science concept inventory assessment instruments
Lawrence Technological University
Michigan State University
University of Detroit Mercy
Wayne State University
NOTE: Two other coalitions, Academy and the Southern California Coalition for Education in Manufacturing Engineering (SCEME), which were funded for only three years from a technology reinvestment initiative, were less successful and had substantially different experiences. Only the six coalitions listed in Table 1 are considered in this report.
There has been a great deal of interest in a review of the EEC Program that would tell what was done, what worked, and what did not work. The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) requested a concise overview of the program to support its Engineer of 2020 Project, which will define how engineering in the twenty-first century will be refashioned. To assist NAE, we consider results from the EEC Program through four different “lenses”:
Content. Through this lens we describe new topics that might be included in engineering curricula.
Expectations. We chose the word “expectations” instead of outcomes, objectives, goals, student outcomes, learning objectives, assessments, or evaluations, all of which might have preconceived meanings that could interfere with an objective description of expectations for engineering graduates. Issues associated with expectations include assessment and evaluation, because it must be determined if stated expectations have been met. In this respect, the expectation lens is similar to the testing lens for engineering design; testing requires not only specifications, but also methods of determining whether a product sample satisfies specifications. Other issues associated with expectations include retention of students and increased participation of underrepresented groups. Improvements in both areas were goals of the EEC Program.
Methodology. The word “methodology” is used because readers might have preconceived ideas about the meaning of other words (e.g., pedagogy, teaching, classroom practice, and classroom approaches) that might interfere with an understanding of how expectations might be realized and/or improved. Issues associated with the methodology lens include pedagogy, lectures versus more active student engagement, and instructional technology.
Systemic reform. This is the most complex lens, and the most fundamental, because significant investments were made in hopes that reforms initiated in a particular EEC would have major positive effects well beyond the schools directly involved in that coalition.
The Content Lens
Content addresses questions such as new topics for engineering curricula and in what order topics should be presented. Questions about content can often be answered by textbooks. The EEC Program contributed surprisingly little new content. EECs invested comparatively little effort in adding topics to engineering curricula or in reordering existing subject matter. This may seem surprising considering that new technological areas (e.g., information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, sustainable engineering, etc.) are continuously emerging. Various explanations might be offered for the comparatively small investments in content.
First, engineering curricula have reached topical capacity. Thus, adding new topics at this point would require eliminating other topics, and reaching consensus on which topics are the most important is a difficult and contentious process. Second, EECs were intended to address questions associated with engineering education as a system; topical additions and/or deletions raise questions for individual disciplines, rather than for engineering as a whole. Third, adding new topics may not have appeared to be as pressing a challenge as increasing the number of engineering graduates, raising retention rates for students already in engineering, increasing the percentages of students from traditionally underrepresented groups, such as white women and minorities, and improving students’ capabilities in communications, teamwork, problem solving, ethics, engineering design, project management, and lifelong learning. Changes in content would not have addressed these needs.
Given that the results of the EEC program in terms of content were comparatively small and given the preeminence attached to content by people associated with engineering, some might conclude that the EEC Program contributed little to engineering education. We hope that conclusion will be reversed when the program is looked at through the other lenses.
The Expectations Lens
Each EEC first articulated expectations for graduates of engineering education programs, refined them to the point that assessment methods could be formulated and implemented, and then shared their expertise and experience associated with these processes nationwide.
EEC contributions viewed through the expectations lens will be examined in three categories: the performance and capabilities of engineering graduates; the participation of underrepresented groups in engineering; and the number of engineering graduates.
The Performance and Capabilities of Engineering Graduates
The EECs made major contributions to the formulation, refinement, and assessment of student outcomes beyond the traditional focus on knowledge and applications of engineering science. The EECs focused significant attention on engineering design and teamwork. In almost every design activity created by the EECs, students worked in teams. Most of the partner institution in the ECSEL coalition developed and subsequently institutionalized a first-year engineering course that emphasized engineering design as a process and enabled student teams to engineer meaningful prototypes. Multidisciplinary design, in which engineering majors from many disciplines, and sometimes other majors, worked together on teams, was a key aspect of activities developed by SUCCEED; partner institutions developed capstone courses in which multidisciplinary teams developed solutions to problems posed by external clients. SUCCEED partners also developed design courses for first-year engineering students. Many institutions in all of the EECs developed team projects as integral parts of both first-year integrated curricula and individual courses.
Another goal of numerous institutions was integration, that is, the linking of concepts among courses to enable students to transfer knowledge to novel situations, both in their undergraduate courses and in their subsequent careers. Coalition partner institutions initiated numerous integrated-curriculum pilot projects, especially in first-year curricula. Based on their experiences with these pilot programs, many then proceeded to institutionalize integrated curricula that combined learning communities, student teams, and active/cooperative learning. However, some unique features of the pilot projects (e.g., specific topical rearrangements) did not transfer to the institutionalized versions either because of perceived increases in faculty workload or resistance to changes in the institutional culture (e.g., “That’s not the way we do it here.”).
In developing multidisciplinary design and integrated curricular projects, the EEC institutions had to create much of the required infra-
structure, such as (1) faculty teams and interactions that crossed departmental and college boundaries and (2) assessment processes to measure the outcomes of these unique programs. Even though many interdepartmental and intercollegiate boundaries were bridged for pilot programs, sustaining those bridges proved to be challenging.
Assessments of student outcomes in engineering design courses, multidisciplinary design courses, and integrated curricula require careful definitions of observable student behaviors (e.g., team skills, design skills, multidisciplinary design skills, communication skills, and linking of concepts) and work products. Once the definitions had been established, assessment instruments and processes had to be developed. The EECs made progress on these challenging tasks, but they had to start from ground zero in every area except communication skills and team skills. Their efforts to improve assessments of student outcomes were in step with ABET’s development and implementation of outcomes-based accreditation. However, assessment processes for many outcomes related to engineering design and practice were still not sufficiently developed for widespread implementation or for the acquisition and interpretation of critical data.
Recent results of continuing research have yielded concept maps and assessment instruments for engineering design and metacognitive control that can be used to estimate performance. For example, engineering-science concept inventories to estimate conceptual understanding are being beta-tested across the nation. Concept maps, in which students are asked to produce graphical representations of concepts and their interrelationships, are being refined into instruments that can be scored and used to assess structured knowledge of concepts. Instruments are also being developed, tested, and adopted to assess knowledge and skills in engineering design. The coalitions made outstanding progress in these innovative directions and in creating an infrastructure that could support continued progress. However, a tremendous amount of work remains to be done.
Increased Participation of Underrepresented Groups
One of the expectations for the EEC Program was to increase the participation of students from underrepresented groups, such as white women and some racial/ethnic minorities. Efforts to increase the percentages of these groups can be divided into three categories:
(1) outreach efforts to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups in engineering; (2) efforts to work with students from under-represented groups who enroll in engineering to improve their success rate; and (3) curricular reforms that promote success in engineering for all students, including students from underrepresented groups.
Examples of outreach programs include: sending engineering students into K-12 schools to provide information and demonstrations of the nature of engineering; working with K-12 students on weekends or during the summer to promote their understanding of the nature of engineering; and working with K-12 teachers and/or guidance counselors to improve their understanding of the nature of engineering and career opportunities for their students. Examples of “success efforts” included: peer mentoring programs; summer bridge programs to provide support for students during the transition from high school to college; academic success programs to improve study skills, essential technical and nontechnical skills, and social skills that are vital to academic success, especially for students from underrepresented groups; and programs on women in engineering and minorities in engineering.
Although outreach and success efforts by EECs did increase participation and the retention of students from underrepresented groups, they were not unique to EEC participating institutions and did not promote systemic reform in engineering education. In addition, most outreach and success efforts did not involve engineering faculty members who were not engaged in constructing these programs. As a result, they remained uninformed about research on underrepresented groups in engineering, rationales for outreach and success programs, and the successes of such programs. Consequently, these programs have not changed the learning environments in which the vast majority of students study engineering.
Efforts at curricular reform were based on the understanding that recruiting members of underrepresented groups into engineering curricula fashioned by white males and then working with them to encourage their success did not address a basic problem—the curricula in place in 1990 did not have the attributes that would stimulate interest and promote the success of students from underrepresented groups, or, in fact, all students. The curricula did not provide students with experience with engineering practice and artifacts, did not build links between abstract concepts and real-life tasks, and did not build connec-
tions among students or between students and faculty, which have been demonstrated to increase retention.
Many of the above-mentioned innovative curricular efforts to promote nontraditional student outcomes did have these attributes: they encouraged the development and institutionalization of first-year engineering design courses, design courses in which student teams worked on projects for external clients (both for-profit and nonprofit), and integrated curricula. More important, engineering faculty members were actively engaged in the conceptualization, design, implementation, and, in many cases, assessment of curricular reforms. Even though many of these pilot initiatives demonstrated improvements in the retention rate of underrepresented groups, institutional barriers and the absence of the necessary assessment infrastructure limited their success.
Increasing the Number of Engineering Graduates
The outreach programs, success programs, and curricular reforms initiated to increase the participation of underrepresented groups were also used to increase the overall retention of engineering majors. Typically, if a student completes the first two years of an engineering program, he or she will graduate with an engineering degree. Therefore, efforts to improve retention have been focused on the first two years of engineering programs, and faculty members have been actively engaged in those initiatives.
Pilot curricular initiatives demonstrated an increase in the retention of engineering majors, and many curricular pilots were used as the basis for renewing curricula for all engineering students. However, institutional barriers and the absence of an assessment infrastructure limited the success of curricular reforms.
THE METHODOLOGY LENS
Based on the foregoing description of the expectations for the EEC Program and the degree to which those expectations have been achieved, we can turn now to a brief overview of the approaches used to meet those expectations. Viewed through the methodology lens, we can group the contributions of the EECs into six categories: active, experiential learning environments; student teams; instructional tech-
nologies; integration across disciplinary boundaries; assessment; and faculty development.
Active, Experiential Learning Environments
Every coalition consistently advocated and implemented learning environments and approaches in which students (1) were more actively engaged than taking notes, (2) focused on problems, design challenges, and artifacts in addition to concepts, and (3) often worked with other students to understand and complete assigned tasks. Specific innovations that illustrate these learning environments include first-year engineering design courses that focus on design challenges; artifact dissection, in which students disassemble engineered artifacts; problem-based learning environments, in which students start with a problem instead of a concept; cooperative learning environments, in which students work together to achieve learning objectives; and multidisciplinary design projects that bring together students from different educational backgrounds.
Every EEC consistently emphasized using student teams in many different learning situations, including design projects and engineering-science courses. However, many questions remain about how to assess whether teamwork skills and team leadership skills were improved.
Every EEC consistently advocated greater use of instructional technology in many different forms. A paper on this topic by Donald Falkenburg, Project Director of the Greenfield Coalition, is included in this Appendix (p. 69).
Integration Across Disciplinary Boundaries
Although the importance of students linking concepts across disciplines was not always recognized at the beginning of the EEC Program, many EEC projects began to emphasize integration as the program evolved. Numerous first-year integrated pilot programs were
implemented, and many have evolved into sustained, institutionalized programs that have fostered the development of student learning communities.
The infrastructure to support assessments of curricular innovations, especially on the scale implemented in many EEC projects, was virtually nonexistent when the EEC Program was initiated. The critical role of assessment was recognized only gradually. The adoption of the new Engineering Criteria by ABET in the mid-1990s was pivotal to the near-universal recognition of the importance of assessment and stimulated the development of an infrastructure to support assessments of critical, nontraditional learning outcomes.
Every EEC invested substantial resources both to assess its initiatives and to support the further development of assessment instruments and processes, such as Team Developer, the mining of student-information databases, and concept inventories. However, despite the outcomes-based ABET Engineering Criteria and efforts by the coalitions, the infrastructure for the assessment of critical capabilities (e.g., design, problem-solving, lifelong learning) has not yet matured to the point of supporting systemic reform in engineering education.
In the beginning, faculty development did not appear on the action agendas of the EECs. When the importance of faculty development was recognized, about midway through the program, all of the EECs initiated programs to address faculty development; subsequent assessments of these programs suggest that they did have some effect. For example, surveys of faculty by SUCCEED suggested that the value of active learning environments was more widely recognized.
THE SYSTEMIC REFORM LENS
In terms of systemic reform, the EEC Program yielded two significant lessons. First, the dissemination of the results of engineering education research and development is far more difficult than was initially understood. Second, the culture of engineering education is sustained
by engineering faculty members, and systemic reform will require cultural change. However, defining the nature of cultural change and, therefore, faculty change, as well as initiatives to promote cultural change, proved to be elusive.
The Dissemination Challenge
Based on the EEC experience, the traditional means of disseminating research results (e.g., conference papers, journal articles, etc.) are insufficient to catalyze systemic reform for several reasons. First, whereas the intended audience for a discipline-specific research publication is researchers actively involved in work in the same or closely related areas, the intended audience for a publication by one or more EEC is the entire engineering education community. However, only a small percentage of engineering faculty members regularly read engineering education publications. In addition, even those who do, read only a small percentage of the articles published. As a result, the EECs discovered that a large percentage of the engineering education community was unaware of the work they had done or the results they had achieved, even years after the results had been presented several times. Second, each publication tended to document work that had been done and the results in a particular institutional context. Most traditional publications did not include directions for implementation of the approach in other contexts or provide resources for faculty members who might want to adapt a particular EEC project.
As problems with traditional dissemination mechanisms were realized, the EECs tried more innovative approaches, three of which are described below: websites; workshops; and summaries. Project web sites are excellent repositories of information about the work of the coalitions, and faculty members searching for particular information can find useful resources at one or more of the coalition web sites. However, these web sites only provide information to faculty members actively searching for resources related to innovations in engineering education. In addition, navigating and finding the desired resources at a coalition web site can be challenging.
Several coalitions developed interactive workshops that could be held on campuses, at national conferences, such as those of the American Society for Engineering Education, Frontiers in Education, and
the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and at conferences organized by coalitions. These workshops synthesize work from several projects and offer participants an opportunity to explore the results in depth. However, the number of participants that can be reached through a workshop is small compared to the potential audience. In addition, although workshops were offered at no cost to host campuses, surprisingly few took advantage of the offer. Four Share the Future Conferences, which consisted almost entirely of interactive workshops, were offered by the Foundation, Gateway, and SUCCEED coalitions. Participants at each conference praised the quality and breadth of the material covered at the workshops; however, the participating audiences were too small to justify additional conferences.
The third innovative dissemination mechanism was compact summaries synthesizing the results of particular educational innovations. One-page introductions that could be read in 10 to 20 minutes and mini-documents that could be read in less than an hour provided faculty members with an opportunity to learn about innovations in engineering education with a small investment of precious time. More than 20,000 copies of compact summaries by the Foundation Coalition have been downloaded from its web site. Given the small investment in reading a compact summary, however, the only anticipated result is greater receptivity to future encounters with the subject. So, despite innovative and diligent initiatives, the dissemination of results of educational research and development remains a challenge.
The Cultural and Faculty Change Challenge
The importance of cultural change emerged as the EEC Program shifted its focus from the development of models of curricular renewal on partner campuses to the catalysis of systemic reform. However, a clear understanding of the characteristics of cultural change and processes for achieving it did not emerge. Researchers who have studied cultural change suggest that the challenges are much more extensive than is usually recognized. Seel (2000) suggests that cultural change in engineering education will be achieved only when the nature of the conversation about engineering education has changed. Eckel and Kezar (2003) suggest that transforming engineering education will require that the majority of engineering faculty members change the way they think
about engineering education. If these researchers are correct, then the magnitude of the challenge is apparent. The assumptions and mechanisms that sustain the current system of engineering education, and higher education in general, are more complex than is implied in simple admonitions, such as “research is rewarded while teaching is not” and “faculty members need to learn more about education research and methods.”
Efforts to date have not clarified the nature, intensity, and expertise that will be required to develop a “conversation” that will lead to systemic reform in engineering education. Dee Hock (1999) states that it took two years of regular, intense conversations among experts in the banking industry to hammer out the principles for the foundation of Visa International. Because engineering education is a much larger and more complex enterprise than banking, longer, more intensive, more inclusive, and more informed conversations will be necessary to establish a foundation for sustainable, systemic reform.
The length of time required to achieve widespread, sustained change must be matched to the extent, breadth, and depth of the challenge. For example, in the classic Diffusion of Innovations, Rogers (1995) noted that it required a decade before almost all Iowa farmers adopted hybrid corn. And the case for changing to hybrid corn (higher yields with no changes in farming practices) was much more compelling than the current arguments for reform in engineering education. Therefore, it might take two to four times as long to achieve systemic reform in engineering education. Lessons from other efforts to bring about cultural change might also be enlightening.
The EEC Program demonstrated that engineering faculty members can construct out-of-the-box, effective models for curricular and systemic reform, and assessment data indicate that they lead to increased retention and improved student learning. However, the EEC Program also demonstrated that institutional and cultural barriers to change are more complex, intricate, and subtle than is often appreciated and that innovative models for reform are seldom enough to overcome the challenges to institutionalizing change. In addition, the program demonstrated that effective models, even when well supported by assessment data, do not catalyze systemic reform. To achieve that goal, resources
matched to the extent, complexity, and dynamics of the system of engineering education must be assembled and deployed through intense, informed, and sustained conversation.
Eckel, P.D. and A. Kezar. 2003. Taking the Reins: Institutional Transformation in Higher Education. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.
Hock, D.W. 1999. Birth of the Chaordic Age. San Francisco, Calif.: Berrett-Koehler.
Rogers, E.M. 1995. Diffusion of Innovations, 4th ed. New York: Free Press.
Seel, R. 2000. Culture and complexity: New insights on organizational change. Organizations and People 7(2): 2–9.
Designing from a Blank Slate: The Development of the Initial Olin College Curriculum
Sherra E. Kerns, Richard K. Miller, and David V. Kerns
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
Olin College is an independent institution conceived and primarily funded by the F.W. Olin Foundation. The college, located in Needham, Massachusetts, on about 70 acres of land adjacent to Babson College, was chartered in 1997 by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education to offer a B.S. in mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and engineering. Conceived as a residential undergraduate institution focusing on the education of engineers, Olin College was charged by the foundation with exploring, testing, and implementing innovative engineering curricula and addressing what the National Science Foundation (NSF) and others have identified as systemic issues with existing engineering education.
The college is entering its third year of teaching programs for credit; for the preceding two years the faculty worked full time on inventing the curriculum. The short-term enrollment target is 300 students; the campus is designed for an ultimate enrollment of 600 to 650 students. A fundamental objective of the F.W. Olin Foundation is that Olin College offer all of its admitted students a four-year, merit-based tuition scholarship, not just for the first few years but in perpetuity. Admission to the college is highly competitive, and a student/faculty ratio of fewer than 10 to 1 will be maintained (the ratio will be much lower in the early years).
Although Olin College is completely independent of nearby Babson College, the two institutions have established a strong collaborative
relationship that enables the sharing of certain facilities and services. Olin students routinely take a variety of courses in liberal arts and business at Babson, as well as a wide range of courses through cross-registration agreements at nearby Wellesley College and Brandeis University.
Olin College is distinctive in several ways. First, the college is not organized with traditional academic departments. Instead, the faculty operates as a single interdisciplinary group, and faculty offices are assigned with no regard to discipline, so there is a mix of faculty backgrounds on every hallway to encourage interdisciplinary thinking. The steady-state faculty count will approach 40 in the near term. Faculty employment relationships are based on renewable contracts rather than a traditional tenure system.
A primary objective of Olin College is to develop a culture of innovation and continuous improvement, with an enhanced entrepreneurial focus. In the fall of 2000 (prior to the arrival of the first students), the college established a two-year strategic plan in pursuit of this objective. The resulting plan, Invention 2000, reflects a comprehensive effort to rethink all aspects of an educational institution, including curriculum, student life, administration and finance, admission, development, and college governance. In each of these areas, a deliberate, four-stage plan consisting of a period of discovery (investigation of best practices), invention, development, and testing was executed.
An important aspect of the plan was the Olin Partners Program. To establish the initial curriculum, Olin College decided it would be beneficial to invite a group of students to help brainstorm and test concepts. In some respects, these students were considered partners in the development of portions of the curriculum and student life programs. In the spring of 2001, 30 Olin student partners were recruited; they arrived on campus on August 23, 2001. These students were involved in a unique academic program consisting of development and testing of components of the curriculum and other programs involving student life, community service, and relations with nearby colleges.
Their program was organized into six modules, either four or five weeks each, and included a four-week trip to France to investigate international aspects of the program on the campus of Georgia Tech Lorraine in Metz. Each of the four 4-week modules was used to test an aspect of the curriculum. The partners received “non-degree” credit for the year. The first freshman class of 75 arrived in fall 2002. The class consisted of the 30 student partners (who will spend a total of five years to complete
their B.S. degrees), 15 “virtual Olin partners,” who received deferred admission from the Partners Program, and 30 additional new students.
Before the first employee was hired at Olin College, the F.W. Olin Foundation began planning an entirely new campus consisting of about 500,000 square feet in eight new buildings. The first four buildings, completed in the fall of 2002, include Olin Center (faculty offices, administrative offices, a library, a computer center, and an auditorium), Campus Center (a dining hall, student-life offices, a central heating and cooling plant), an academic center (27 major classrooms, teaching, or research laboratories [about 1,100 square feet each], and numerous smaller teaching and laboratory spaces), and the first residence hall (188 beds in double rooms, each with a private bathroom); the new construction totals about 300,000 square feet. Subsequent construction will be phased, as needed, and will include additional residence halls and another academic building. The second residence hall is under construction and is scheduled to be completed during the coming academic year.
In early 1999, the Olin Foundation hired the founding president, Richard K. Miller, who hired the founding leadership: David V. Kerns, provost; Sherra E. Kerns, vice president for innovation and research; Stephen P. Hannabury, vice president for administration and finance; and Duncan C. Murdoch, vice president for external relations and enrollment. The founding faculty was then recruited by the provost and explicitly charged with leading the development of the new curriculum. The college looked for faculty members with a passion for undergraduate teaching and innovation in engineering education. However, because Olin College is not just a teaching institution, faculty members are also expected to maintain a high level of research, innovative curriculum development, entrepreneurship, creation of intellectual property, and other creative activities. This kind of intellectual vitality will keep faculty members current in their fields.
The provost was looking for faculty with the following characteristics (Kerns, 1999):
a passion for teaching and education and a strong commitment to improving student’s lives
strong evidence of creativity through research, publications, inventions, entrepreneurship, commercialization of technology,
new course or curriculum developments, innovative engineering pedagogy, etc.
evidence of integration of creativity (as identified above) into the classroom
a willingness to work as part of a team, to accept others’ ideas, to “partner,” to lead, or to follow
a desire to stay current and to reflect current developments in teaching and in creative endeavors
the potential for “nationally visible achievements” through any of the creativity channels above
a willingness to take reasonable risks to make a significant impact
Invention 2000 was proposed by President Miller as a blueprint for developing all of the academic and operational aspects of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. Starting with a clean slate, the plan includes an outline of an intensive two-year project of unprecedented scope to produce (1) innovative educational processes for preparing the next generation of leaders in a technological society and (2) institutional policies establishing a commitment to continuous improvement and innovation. The document includes plans for intense efforts on all aspects of the college. However, only the section dealing with the development of the academic curriculum will be discussed here. Because the project was funded by the F.W. Olin Foundation as part of the founding gift, the faculty and staff were able to devote two full years of effort to the project without the distractions of teaching responsibilities. The following excerpt is from Invention 2000, which is available on the Olin website:
This project will involve the founding faculty, educational consultants, and students in the creation of innovative engineering curricula, which simultaneously address all major challenges identified by the National Science Foundation. These, together with several additional features, will distinguish Olin College from other engineering colleges. These anticipated distinctive features of the curricula include the combination of a rigorous science and mathematics core, an integrated project-based design component, a firm grounding in
the fundamentals of business and entrepreneurship, a strong international component, a vigorous co-curricular component which makes good use of strengths in humanities and social sciences at nearby colleges, and an emphasis on student service to society and a lifestyle of philanthropy.
The project will be addressed in four sequential stages. For brevity, these stages will be referred to as (1) discovery, (2) invention, (3) development, and (4) test. The general nature of the activities intended to occur during each phase is as follows. During the discovery phase, research into “best practices” at other institutions will take place. Deliberate efforts will be made to visit other campuses, host visitors from other campuses, obtain advice from knowledgeable consultants, and obtain broad knowledge of the various successful approaches in use today. During the invention phase, knowledge of best practices will be applied in a creative way to the problem of inventing an overall vision of the four-year educational experience. This will begin with a fundamental evaluation of educational goals and objectives and end with a comprehensive concept for obtaining balance in the overall curriculum. During the development phase, further refinement of the newly invented curriculum will take place in which the needed detail for the freshman year experience will be developed. This will result in a set of specific courses or educational experiences for teaching the freshmen in Fall 2002, as well as textbooks, laboratory experiments, reading materials, etc. Finally, during the test phase, the specific educational materials will be tested with the help of a small group of student “partners” who will be recruited specifically for this purpose and will help with INVENTION 2000 as part of a unique one-year experience at Olin College. Each of these stages will take from four to eight months, with the first (discovery) beginning in Fall 2000 and the last (test) ending in Summer 2002.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE CURRICULUM
The Invention 2000 plan for curriculum development was initially executed primarily by faculty teams assigned to various activities. Faculty groups of two or three visited 31 colleges and universities and studied and reported on curricula at a wide range of institutions. They also visited (or hosted) more than 23 corporations and government agencies to explore corporate learning models and assess corporate values and
needs in engineering education. In addition, consultants were brought to campus to discuss specific topics, and the results of the NSF coalition programs were reviewed in detail. The data were then compiled and discussed in a series of faculty meetings and off-campus retreats. With the arrival of the student partners, various teaching and learning concepts developed during the previous year were tested with “real” freshman-age students.
Several of the principles that emerged have stood the test of time and are still used to guide curricular discussions. One of these, the “Olin Triangle,” was first proposed as a visual expression of Olin’s goal to “educate the whole person” and “open doors to student possibilities” (see Figure 1). The Olin Triangle shows the three major dimensions of an Olin engineering education: (1) superb engineering; (2) a strong emphasis on art, design, creativity, and innovation; and (3) basics in business, entrepreneurship, ethics, and a spirit of philanthropy.
“Bold Goals” were developed by the founding faculty at one of the first off-campus retreats, in the fall of 2000. The Bold Goals summarized the curricular objectives at that time and are still used to guide curriculum development:
hands-on design projects in every year
authentic, ambitious capstone senior/advanced-student projects (representative of professional practice)
experience working independently, as a member of a team, and as a leader of a team
performance before an audience that includes experts
international/intercultural immersion experience
substantial constructive contribution to society
ability to communicate logically and persuasively in spoken, written, numerical, and visual forms
development of self-sufficient individuals able to articulate and activate a vision and bring it to fruition
All of these goals are to be accomplished in an environment of personal attention and concern.
Additional curricular objectives are listed below:
demonstrate significant creative artistic expression
aquire significant work experience in a corporate or business culture
show ability to apply basic business practices necessary to bring a product to the marketplace
The many ways these goals could be implemented in real curricula were openly and widely debated for months. One of the realities of starting a college from a clean slate is that faculty groups are small, and there is a natural tendency for these groups to seek consensus. The college leadership was concerned, however, that consensus might close off discussions of truly innovative ideas and creative (sometimes wild) concepts that are “outside the box.” Nevertheless, from the wide menu of possibilities, choices had to be made that would meet the realities of a four-year time constraint, Accrediting Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) accreditation requirements, reasonable cost, and many other factors, at the same time, remaining true to the founding principles.
To move the selection process forward, the provost established the Curriculum Decision Making Board (CDMB), a group of five faculty members and one student partner. This group was charged with the task of describing the first Olin curriculum. Three of the five faculty members of the CDMB were elected by the faculty using a Copeland ballot, and two were appointed by the provost. The student partner was selected by the student government group. The members of the CDMB were Professors Steve Schiffman and Mike Moody (cochairs), Rob
Martello, Joanne Pratt, Mark Somerville, Jon Stolk, and Brian Storey; the student partner was Sean Munson. This group put forward the first detailed proposal for the Olin curriculum.
In the fall of 2002, Michael E. Moody joined Olin College as dean of the faculty and assumed direct leadership of the development of the Olin curriculum. Dean Moody created a successor group to CDMB, the Academic Recommendations Board, which currently oversees curricular modifications and changes. Although modifications are being introduced to the curriculum described below, most of the fundamental concepts and structure have not changed.
THE INITIAL OLIN CURRICULUM
For the last 20 years, NSF and the engineering community have been calling for systemic changes in engineering education:
a shift from disciplinary to interdisciplinary approaches
more emphasis on communication and teamwork skills
more emphasis on the social, environmental, business, and political context of engineering
improved capacity for lifelong learning
more emphasis on engineering practice and design throughout the curriculum
In this section, we describe the “first fruits” of Olin’s efforts to rethink engineering education—the first Olin curriculum, which was implemented in the fall of 2002. The curriculum combines best practices from many other institutions with new ideas and approaches. Because Olin is committed to continuous innovation and improvement, the curriculum described in this document represents only the “initial conditions” for continuous curriculum reviews and refinements that will never really end. As expected, improvements and adjustments are already being made.
The founding principle of Olin College of Engineering is to prepare leaders who can predict, create, and manage the technologies of the future. Such leaders must have the following characteristics:
a superb command of engineering fundamentals
a broad perspective on the role of engineering in society
the creativity to envision new solutions to problems
the entrepreneurial skills to bring these visions to reality
The Olin curriculum is designed to give students all of these capabilities. Rigorous technical courses and hands-on projects throughout the curriculum require that students apply engineering concepts to real problems. Interdisciplinary courses and projects make explicit connections in the technical world and between engineering and society. Extensive design experiences, significant work in the arts and humanities, and an emphasis on original expression encourage students to develop and apply their creativity. Continuous use of teamwork, communication skills, and entrepreneurial thinking give students the tools they need to take their solutions from the research laboratory to the world at large.
The Olin curriculum consists of three phases (Figure 2): foundation, which emphasizes mastering and applying technical fundamentals
in substantial engineering projects; specialization, in which students develop and apply in-depth knowledge in their chosen fields; and realization, in which students bring what they have learned to bear on problems approaching professional practice. In all three phases of the curriculum, students are engaged in interdisciplinary engineering projects that require them to put theory into practice, to put engineering in a larger context, and to develop teaming and management skills. As a student progresses, projects become increasingly open-ended and authentic. Students have significant flexibility in charting their path through the curriculum, but all students must demonstrate a mastery of required material through regular assessments.
Figure 3 illustrates the basic structure and requirements of the curricular “foundation,” which encompasses approximately the first two years of a student’s education. A central building block of the foundation is the cohort (a large block of coursework—equivalent to three conventional courses) taught by a multidisciplinary faculty team. The cohort combines two disciplinary topics with a large interdisciplinary project, thus requiring close coordination between the understanding of underlying disciplines and the application of this knowledge to real engineering problems. Cohorts also provide a logical environment for students to develop entrepreneurial skills, such as opportunity assessment and teamwork. Finally, cohorts address student choice—in a given semester, students can opt for one of three “flavors” of cohort.
For example, a student particularly interested in entrepreneurship might opt to pursue a given set of physics and math learning objectives while doing a related product-design and development project. An artistically inclined student might enroll in a cohort that uses kinetic sculpture to motivate and reinforce the same physics and math objectives. In some cases, cohorts combine two technical subjects (e.g., physics and mathematics); in other cases, cohorts emphasize context by combining technical with nontechnical material (e.g., materials science and business). In all cases, cohorts provide connections between subjects and bring theory into practice through projects.
Another prominent feature of the curriculum is the sophomore design project in the second semester of the sophomore year. Although students are engaged in design throughout the first two years through
the cohorts, the sophomore design project offers a significant opportunity for students to develop their own ideas, develop project implementation plans, and manage the process of bringing projects to fruition. Planning (i.e., team formation and proposal writing) for the design project begins in the first semester of the sophomore year.
To provide a context for their engineering studies, students will also take courses in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. In addition, in each semester of the foundation, students will participate in projects, practica (e.g., short, just-in-time learning experiences), and a required course on the basics of business to ensure that they have a solid grounding in business and entrepreneurship. In some cases, this course work will be connected directly to technical course work via projects—for example, students might combine a study of signals with a course on music theory and a project that focuses on building musical instruments. Alternatively, signals might be combined with a study of business and a project on opportunities in low-cost image processing. All students will graduate with some background in both business and the humanities. In addition, students will have the flexibility to choose which area they wan to emphasize.
Students’ command of both theory and practice is evaluated at the end of each year during “Gates,” a week-long, institution-wide assessment period that includes written examinations, oral examinations, team exercises, and other forms of authentic assessment. Interdisciplinary by design, Gates forces students to synthesize material among classes and from one term to the next. Gates is designed to assess institutionally defined learning objectives, rather than objectives determined by a single instructor. By defining a desired outcome, but not the means by which it is to be achieved, Gates allows faculty members great flexibility in designing courses. Criteria-based assessment provides invaluable feedback to inform curricular innovation and, at the same time, ensures that students have met the learning objectives for the year.
To encourage student creativity and initiative, Olin encourages students to undertake passionate pursuits. Olin implemented this program to acknowledge students’ passions—whether they are technical, artistic, or entrepreneurial—that are important to their personal and professional education and development. Some Olin students might use this opportunity to start a business with the support of an Olin/Babson hatchery; others might form a string quartet. Olin gives students the opportunity to pursue their passions independently by
providing resources and formal recognition via non-degree credit. Students can also opt to pursue independent study and research as part of the Olin curriculum; space is provided for these activities—either as free electives each year or as passionate pursuits.
Specialization and Realization
Figure 4 shows the current concept for the third and fourth years of the curriculum, in which cohorts again play a significant role. Specialization cohorts might revolve around different application areas of
interest. Each cohort option will link one course with a project; additional optional courses will add “flavors” to the project. For example, a biotech specialization cohort could connect a biology course with a project. Some students might take a computational science course as an optional elective and focus their project on bioinformatics. A second group might take entrepreneurship as the technical elective and focus on biotech start-ups. Such projects are compelling both for students and for prospective faculty, and they provide logical opportunities for corporate involvement.
The junior year will be the ideal time for international study and corporate experience. Because content in the specialization and realization years is defined by institutionally determined learning objectives and measured during Gates, students can easily design nontraditional means of achieving those objectives.
The final year at Olin will be focused on an ambitious capstone project that occupies at least half of the student’s time for the semester. The precise structure of this capstone has not been entirely defined, but it will certainly look quite a bit like professional practice. Also in the final year, students will complete a culminating project in the humanities. In many cases, we imagine this project will be connected with the capstone project. Olin students are encouraged to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which is designed to encourage self-study skills, open the door to professional practice, and provide external validation of a student’s proficiency.
The Olin curriculum is designed to satisfy the accreditation requirements of ABET. We believe that our focus on institution-wide learning objectives and our use of Gates to assess whether courses achieve desired outcomes and to promote improvement of the curriculum are entirely consistent with ABET’s philosophy of assessment, evaluation, and improvement. The emphasis on interdisciplinary, hands-on design projects throughout the curriculum also meets ABET criteria. In addition, the curriculum is designed to satisfy ABET’s mechanical engineering and electrical and computer engineering requirements through the specialization cohorts, which will address precise learning objectives.
Key Features of the Olin Curriculum
The Olin curriculum has a number of unique features that merit repeating:
Emphasis on engineering design, with substantial projects (20 percent to 60 percent of a student’s time) every semester. A defining feature of the Olin curriculum, these projects require that students apply math, science, and engineering principles to real problems, consider engineering in a social context, and develop entrepreneurial skills. Olin students will graduate with extensive experience in applying theoretical knowledge to real problems.
Objective-driven education based on assessments. Olin’s curriculum is based on institutionally defined learning objectives that are assessed every year by the institution and by outside evaluators—not just by the instructor for a given course. This commitment is critical to Olin’s mission of innovation and improvement.
Breaking of disciplinary boundaries. Through interdisciplinary courses and projects, students learn the value of thinking in non-traditional ways. Olin’s decision not to establish academic departments will further this goal.
Emphasis on teamwork. Faculty members work on teams in the cohort system and via other team-teaching opportunities. Students learn “teaming” skills, both formally and through extensive teamwork on projects.
Flexibility and accountability. The objective-driven cohort system provides flexibility with accountability for instructors. Students shape their educations through learning plans that enable them to determine their short-term and long-term learning goals and to make sure they meet these goals. Students also have choices in subject matter—in their passionate pursuits and their projects.
In summary, the initial Olin curriculum was created in response to calls for changes in engineering education. In the spirit of continuous improvement, the initial curriculum is already undergoing change, and this process will continue as the curriculum constantly evolves. The free-
dom of starting with a blank slate, combined with excellent students, faculty, leadership, and resources, have provided Olin a unique opportunity to develop new ideas and a culture that welcomes innovation. By teaching entrepreneurship, social context, creativity with design, and superb engineering, Olin intends to provide a learning environment suited to the acquisition and development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will enable Olin graduates to be productive contributors throughout their lives.
The authors wish to thank the Olin College faculty for help with this paper.
Kerns, D. 1999. Characteristics of Founding Faculty. Needham, Mass.: Olin College.
Miller, R. 2000. Invention 2000. Available online at http://www.olin.edu.
Patterns in the History of Engineering Education Reform: A Brief Essay
Bruce E. Seely
Michigan Technological University
Engineering education has been the subject of more studies and reviews, formal and informal, than any other domain of professional education. Indeed, one might argue that engineering education has undergone continuous reform since college classrooms challenged apprenticeships and hands-on training in the last third of the nineteenth century. In the pages of the Journal of Engineering Education, which was launched by the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education in 1893, one can track the ongoing debates about the nature and shape of engineering education. In addition, regular reports were issued on the state of the field at intervals of 10 to 15 years beginning with the Mann Report of 1918, which initiated the self-study process (ASEE, 1968; Grinter, 1956; Hammond, 1940; Jackson, 1939b; Mann, 1918; MIT Center for Policy Alternatives, 1975; NRC, 1986, 1989; SPEE, 1930, 1934).
The present meeting sponsored by the National Academy of Engineering is the most recent addition to the process. This history suggests that there is more self-awareness in the engineering community than in most other professional communities about the educational enterprise that prepares new members to enter the profession. The continuous conversations among engineering faculty members, professional and practicing engineers (especially in leading societies, such as the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the
American Institute of Chemical Engineers), and executives in the firms, businesses, and corporations that employ engineers have revolved around a few basic issues. Considering the enormous changes that have taken place in technology and in society at large since 1875, this continuity is striking. The intent of this brief essay is to identify the main currents in various reform movements.
The dominant issue has involved the content of engineering curricula, including the relationship between theory and practice, the length of engineering education, and the nature and structure of general education courses. Issues that reflect influences from society at large touch on the general goals and social expectations for engineering and on who should be an engineer.
THE CONTENT OF ENGINEERING CURRICULA
It is a truism that engineering education is a product of history. Yet, it is worth taking a moment to remember that until the end of the nineteenth century, the primary means by which a young man became an engineer was through a hands-on apprenticeship in a machine shop, at a drawing board, behind a transit, or on a construction site. Although educational institutions played a larger role than is often recognized by providing courses and certificates, and a handful of institutions developed full-blown curricula and degree programs, it was not until after the Civil War, when the Morrill Act led to the establishment of land-grant schools, that the dominant pattern of engineering education shifted from shop floors to classrooms (Reynolds, 1992). The formation of the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 ratified this development (Reynolds and Seely, 1993).
A variety of factors influenced this transition. A major factor was the steady emergence of new technologies that defied commonsense, hands-on approaches to development and operation. Electrical and chemical technologies increasingly required that engineers be grounded in basic science—and in the case of alternating current, have a knowledge of mathematics—to develop and improve devices and systems in these fields. Thomas Edison, despite his attempts to appear as a trial-and-error inventor, maintained one of the best scientific libraries in the United States and routinely employed Ph.D.-holding scientists from Europe (Hughes, 1989). Similarly, the design and construction of the
alternating-current generators for the hydroelectric complex at Niagara Falls in the 1890s owed much to European engineers because most Americans did not have sufficient background in physics and mathematics to design these devices (Hunter, 1979; Kline, 1984). Charles Steinmetz—a European immigrant working at General Electric in those years—was one who spoke out for educational changes to keep up with new technologies (Kline, 1992).
Another factor that influenced the shift to college education was the emerging patterns of middle-class America. Engineering was only one of the professions taking shape at this time; others included medicine, law, economics, and even history. These professional groups had several beliefs in common: that scientific knowledge was essential to the improvement of the nation; that people with scientific expertise should be given political and moral authority, as well as the social status that comes with that authority; and finally that the best way to gain expertise was through a university education.
The leaders of the engineering profession in the last quarter of the nineteenth century had an acute sensitivity to their lack of social position—at times to the point of an inferiority complex. Engineers frequently asked when they would get the respect they deserved for designing, operating, and maintaining the large systems on which Americans increasingly depended, ranging from water and power systems in cities to massive bridges and railroad networks. Eager to acquire the same prestige as other professions, engineers embraced college classrooms as the best approach to education, a decision that the demands of technologies reinforced (Calvert, 1967; Jackson, 1939a; Layton, 1971; Stine, 1984–1985).
But determining the nature, shape, and content of the classroom experience proved a contentious issue that took time to resolve (and is still being debated). A number of complex issues were involved, of which the most delicate seemed to be finding a balance between hands-on knowledge of devices and systems and a theoretical and scientific grasp of nature and mathematics (Seely, 1999). Over time, more emphasis was placed on an analytical style of engineering that emphasized science, especially mathematical expression (usually labeled engineering science) and less on the hands-on, empirical approach that stressed engineering design. But early debates were loud and prolonged, despite calls for changes as early as the 1880s by leading engineers, such as Robert Thurston of Cornell. The most famous study of engineering
education—the Wickenden report of the 1920s—also called for less hands-on specialization and more general preparation in math and science (Wickenden, 1927).
The change in emphasis gained momentum after European engineers who arrived here after 1920 demonstrated the practical utility of mathematics in modern engineering sciences applied to practical problems, such as vibration and dynamic movement in machinery, the strength of materials, fluid dynamics in aviation and maritime engineering, and stresses in pavement slabs and dams. Even so, it wasn’t until the 1950s, when the Grinter report (1956) again emphasized such knowledge and the federal government decided to fund fundamental research (as opposed to “applied” research) and unleashed an avalanche of money for university programs, that American engineering schools almost universally adopted engineering science as the core of engineering education.
The far-reaching ramifications of this change included the first significant focus on graduate education in engineering schools—especially at the Ph.D. level. Research programs, which had always been small and oriented more toward preparing students to understand research than toward generating new knowledge, assumed substantially more importance in the eyes of college and university administrators. Until this time, engineering faculty members were expected to have experience in the real world—usually in industry.
The new emphasis on federally funded research (more than 70 percent of university research was funded by the government) severed the tight linkage between engineering faculty and business corporations. The change was so complete that by the late 1960s practicing engineers were complaining that the pendulum had swung too far toward theoretical concerns, that engineering graduates lacked problem-solving capabilities, and that engineering faculty and practicing engineers spoke entirely different languages. Pressure began to build to redress the balance and restore design to engineering curricula and to rebuild ties between business and industry and engineering faculty. At the same time, the federal share of research funding declined or at least held steady (depending on the field) from the 1970s onward. In the 1990s, engineering curricula underwent major changes driven by the accreditation process overseen by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), with substantial support from American industry
(ABET, 2005; Covert, 1992; Curry, 1991; Dixon, 1991; Kerr and Pipes, 1987; Masi, 1995).
The proper balance between science, engineering science, and design is only one of the issues engineers and engineering educators have debated at length over the last 125 years. Other issues focused on the content of engineering curricula, such as how long an engineering education ought to last. Early on, the basic question of how long an engineer needed to go to school had attracted significant attention. The outcome was largely settled by adopting the pattern of four years of schooling that had become firmly entrenched at most American colleges. The weak preparation of many incoming students, however, forced some variations from the norm. For example, Cornell, the leading American engineering school by the 1880s, was determined to maintain high standards. To that end, Cornell established a preparatory academy for students who lacked solid backgrounds in math or science.
The pressures posed by new technologies also kept the length-of-study issue alive. After 1900, the problem became fitting the required material for all of the new fields and topics into existing curricula. The division of engineering into a large number of fields with specialized subdisciplines was one way to keep up with rapid technological change. New areas of study included industrial engineering, and subfields emerged in automotive, aeronautical, highway, radio, and municipal engineering and so forth.
Even these adjustments, however, did not eliminate the sense that a well-rounded, well-educated engineer had to know more and more. The slow acceptance of engineering science was one factor in the growing logjam, because fundamentals were given less emphasis than detailed knowledge of the undergraduate’s specialty field. As new technologies burst onto the scene, each requiring new courses, engineering faculties almost continuously debated what to leave in and what to remove from the curriculum (Baker, 1900; Landreth, 1906).
Another potential solution was to add a year of course work. This idea was regularly discussed after 1900 as faculty members attempted to keep their particular courses in the educational program (Derleth, 1909; Fletcher, 1909; Humphries, 1913; Magruder, 1909; Marburg, 1902; Marvin, 1901; Swain, 1913; Turneaure, 1909).
After World War II, however, pressures on the curriculum reached a new level of intensity. The emergence of new military technologies, such as radar and atomic bombs, had resulted in kudos for physicists, leading
many engineers—notably Stanford’s Frederick Terman—to press for more math, physics, and engineering science for all students.
To ensure that engineers would never again lag behind physicists, degrees were offered in engineering science and engineering physics. New fields, such as nuclear engineering, computer science, and interdisciplinary materials science were evidence of how the new approaches to engineering would unfold. Three schools decided that the only way to ease the demands on students was to lengthen the curriculum to five years. Cornell, Ohio State, and Minnesota made the switch, promising that their graduates would be much better prepared for the new world of engineering. Their competitors contended that in four full years, students could do the same work and be employed a whole year sooner. All three schools quietly ended the experiment after only a few years (Cornell University Archives, 1948).
Ironically, almost every engineering college moved toward a postwar curriculum that meant engineering students spent nearly five years in school. This led Eric Walker, dean of engineering at Penn State in the late 1940s and president of that school from 1956 to 1971, to press for change. Walker was aware that every other profession required a graduate degree for admission to professional status. As president of the American Society of Engineering Education in the mid-1960s, Walker launched the Goals Study (Walker and Nead, 1966)—another review of the state of engineering education—an intensely controversial report that proposed addressing overloaded curricula by instituting a generalized undergraduate degree and reserving specialization for the master’s level (an idea that Dartmouth adopted and has practiced for decades).
Toward the end of his life, Walker argued that, given the importance of technology to modern society, this change would allow engineering to become the “liberal arts degree” of the twenty-first century. By not specializing, undergraduates would have time for a broad education that would prepare them for leadership positions in society and business. By the 1990s, discussions about the relationship of undergraduate and graduate work in engineering were under way in a number of venues (Van Dam, 1990; Walker, 1989).
Walker’s line of thinking was in keeping with the other main issue confronting engineers concerned with reforming the content of engineering curricula—the place and shape of general education. The issue of general education has dogged engineering educators every bit as much as how much science and math to incorporate and how to teach engi-
neering. In 1900, the debate focused on social status and prestige, issues that had motivated the shift to classroom learning in the first place. A professional was expected, almost by definition, to be a “gentleman,” a term that connoted a well-rounded education. Generally, engineers assumed they could achieve such a distinction through exposure to courses in the liberal arts, but various engineering educators pressed for different classes and subjects in the humanities and social sciences. They argued for the special value of everything from foreign languages to literature, political science to philosophy. Their rationales ranged from a need to smooth the rough edges of engineering students to the value of certain courses for future careers (Baker, 1900; Crandall, 1901; Jackson, 1901; Johnson, 1903; Jones, 1906; Raymond, 1900; Tulleen, 1908).
The discussions focused on three topics, however. First, written communication skills were considered especially important for engineers; hence, engineering schools encouraged the teaching of technical writing, and courses in this area were required for most engineering students (Kynell, 1995; Kynell-Hunt, 1996). Second, nearly all observers felt that engineers needed to understand economics to be better designers and to understand the calculus of profit and loss. In short, they wanted engineers to fit easily into the large corporations that dominate our capitalist society. Third, was history—especially the history of science and engineering. Bridge designer J.A.L. Waddell argued, for example, that engineers needed role models to assume the positions in society they deserved and that historical examples were ideally suited to advancing their professional education. Moreover, the history of past and present accomplishments in technology could teach the general public why engineers deserved to be leaders in society (Fleming, 1920; McDonald, 1921; Pendred, 1923; Prelini, 1920; Waddell, 1903; Zwilgmeyer, 1925).
The list of fields of study that could benefit young engineers was not static. Changing circumstances, as we shall see, led to different emphases at different times. But calls for improving the nontechnical side of engineering education were more or less constant. Every study of engineering education in this century, beginning with the Wickenden report in the 1920s, directed attention to broadening the engineering curriculum.
An especially significant report, The Aims and Scope of Engineering Education, was produced by a committee chaired by H.P. Hammond of Penn State. Released in 1940, this study noted that because engineers
frequently entered management and assumed duties outside the realm of technical decision making, courses in the liberal arts were clearly important to their success. Hammond coined the term “humanistic stem” to characterize this aspect of engineering education, defining it as parallel to a “scientific-technological stem” of undergraduate course work (Hammond, 1940).
This conceptual scheme guided thinking about the place of nontechnical course work for several decades. During the 1950s, the American Society for Engineering Education received funding from the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation to review the humanistic stem (Hammond, 1946, 1956). And Case Institute of Technology embarked on a substantial reconstruction of its curriculum designed to produce the best, most broadly educated engineers in the country (Seely, 1995; Shurter, 1952). During the 1960s, Eric Walker’s Goals Report strongly emphasized a broad education, and occasional comments about broad education surfaced during the next two decades. Samuel Florman, for example, used the idea as his takeoff point for discussing social responsibility and engineering (Florman, 1976, 1987; Kent, 1978; McCuen, 1983).
But the most telling evidence of continuing attention to nontechnical course work for engineering students can be found in the ABET-sponsored EC 2000 project, which identified 12 competences engineering students need upon graduation. At least half of them, listed as items a through k under Criterion 3. Program Outcomes and Assessment, can be met in large part through courses in social sciences and humanities. These competences include oral and spoken communication, teamwork, understanding of the global and local contexts of engineering, and knowledge of contemporary issues (Caruana, 1999). Discussions about improving and reforming the content of nontechnical engineering education continue, just as they do about scientific and technical education. The discussions today, in fact, deal with the same topics that were current more than a century ago.
SOCIAL INFLUENCES ON ENGINEERING REFORM
Many of the issues to which engineering reformers have devoted significant attention, especially in terms of adjusting curricular content, arose from concerns that were internal to the profession. Put another way, the motivation for reform generally involved issues that engineers
themselves felt were important. But as with any group in a larger society, the engineering profession could not determine its shape without taking into account the ideas and expectations of others; indeed, engineering leaders always were sensitive to the opinions of outsiders about engineering.
One of the challenges of engineering, according to historian Edwin Layton, has been the close relationship between engineering and large corporations, the most important outside voice in debates about engineering education. Layton noted that other professions—notably law and medicine—established their professional identities and ethical norms in ways that emphasized their independence from sponsors and employers; both explicitly identified the highest goal as service to society (Layton, 1971). Engineers, however, placed greater emphasis on loyalty and service to employers, arguing that they could best serve society in this way.
It is hardly accidental, then, that engineering educators and employers have always had close ties. Until the 1950s, engineering faculty members, most of whom had practiced engineering before turning to teaching, considered it their goal to train young men for positions in business and industry. William Wickenden, who ran the great study of the 1920s, came to the job from AT&T, and many faculty members spent their summer vacations consulting for industrial firms in order to remain familiar with real-world problems. Large corporations, as historian Thomas Hughes observed, found engineers perfectly suited for the strategic task of incremental research and development (Hughes, 1989). Today, industrial advisory boards to engineering departments, colleges, and universities mark the ongoing ties between industry and engineering education.
Business corporations were not the only outside influence on engineering education. Some engineering education reforms were motivated by events in society at large or by legal or regulatory imperatives. In the former category, we can place the effort to turn engineers into gentlemen who received the rewards of social status and prestige. Respect for expertise was a basic element of the American value system at the turn of the twentieth century, and recognition of engineers’ expertise fit nicely into the emergence of a middle class that valued professionalism.
Attitudes and outlooks in American society were never static, however, and as expectations changed, the efforts of engineering educators also changed. Adjustments appeared almost every decade, most often in
the humanistic stem. For example, during the 1920s, the wave of technical changes symbolized by Henry Ford’s assembly line prompted a significant social interest in efficiency, as well as social acceptance of big business. Engineering schools therefore placed slightly less emphasis on cultural improvement for gentlemen and slightly more emphasis on preparing students for a business environment with accounting and management courses. The economic catastrophe of the Great Depression and talk of technological unemployment, however, undermined some of the enthusiasm for technology and big corporations. As a defensive measure of sorts, engineering curricula placed additional emphasis on economics and other courses that might help explain the Depression (Carey, 1940; Lescohier, 1933; Topping, 1934).
In 1936, at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, for example, new president Robert E. Doherty responded to the challenges of the Great Depression with the Carnegie Plan, a revamped curriculum that strengthened humanities and social science content. Doherty promised that Carnegie Tech graduates would gain “a clear historical understanding of the parallel growth of science and engineering, on the one hand, and social customs, relations, and institutions, on the other, and of how these have reacted on each other.” This social-relations program included a required first-year course entitled “Origins and Development of the Technological Age,” which examined the historical development of Western and American civilization, including the role of technology (Boarts and Hodges, 1946; Doherty, 1950a,b).
The logic behind the Carnegie Plan was that students needed to understand and defend the continued development of new technology. But by the late 1930s and continuing into the early 1950s, new problems led to new emphases. World War II and the Cold War encouraged engineering schools to direct students’ attention to the nature of government, above all to the differences between democracy and totalitarianism. To inoculate engineering students against the siren song of communism, the humanist stem was significantly strengthened (Green, 1945; Rhys, 1946; Smith, 1945; Wickenden, 1945).
The social activism of the 1960s was felt in engineering schools in several ways. Many engineering schools remained uniquely calm, even hostile, to student antiwar activism; at Michigan Tech, for example, Dow recruiters were received with open arms! But engineering curricula and outlooks did not escape the tumult of the 1960s, although the consequences became visible only over the next two decades.
For example, the environmentalism of Earth Day has become institutionalized in departments of civil and environmental engineering. Indeed, sustainability has become a buzzword among engineering faculty members.
In addition, engineering colleges attempted to recruit more diverse student bodies—especially more women and minority students. The Society for Women Engineers (SWE) had been organized in the late 1940s, just about the time that Cornell’s Dean of Engineering Solomon Cady Hollister had commented that women who venture into engineering “must either think and act like men, or they must surrender a considerable amount of their feminine characteristics in the normal pursuance of the professional work” (Alden, 1974; Cornell Engineer, 1952; Durchholz, 1977; Hacker, 1983; Oldenziel, 1997; Sproule, 1976). By the 1960s, however, SWE slowly grew into a national organization in the wake of the civil rights and feminist movements. The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) was organized in 1974 (Browne, 1980; Engineering News-Record, 1965; Fisher, 1971; Gibbons, 1971; Hartford, 1978; IEEE Spectrum, 1975; NACME, 2005).
Although some efforts were made to prepare and recruit racial minorities for engineering careers, neither women nor other minority students are well represented in engineering today. By the late 1990s, however, everyone involved in engineering education—educators and colleges, corporate supporters, and governmental research sponsors—seemed genuinely committed to ensuring that engineering no longer be the most-white, most-male profession.
Diversity is the most obvious way social factors continue to influence efforts to reform engineering education. Such changes are not easy, however. The internal historical logic of engineering seems deeply rooted in a male-oriented past that celebrated virtues such as toughness and strength shown by taming nature for the benefit of society. Such identities die hard.
Although it is now exceedingly rare for women students to encounter faculty members who believe that women should not try to become engineers, Rosalind Williams, a historian of technology and former dean of students at MIT, recently reported that student design teams on her campus position men and women differently. The emerging division of labor suggests that women undertake the “soft” tasks of team building, communication, and contextual preparation and that men do the “real”
work of design and innovation (Williams, 2004). Reform, in other words, does not come easy.
REINVENTING THE WHEEL?
Given the difficulty of reform, I use the phrase “reinventing the wheel” to characterize the history of engineering education. I do not mean to say that history repeats itself. Social and political contexts change, and the specific circumstances in which engineering schools, faculties, and students find themselves have changed with new technologies and social developments that pose new challenges. Few engineering deans before 1950 worried much about the relationship between undergraduate and graduate education—or about balancing teaching and research. Fund-raising in its many all-consuming forms looks very different now than it did 25 years ago. And even 10 years ago, few engineering school administrators worried about the outsourcing of U.S. engineering jobs to Asia.
Despite these changes, however, many of the challenges facing engineering educators have remained remarkably consistent over time. The questions of what to include in tight curricula, how long engineering education should last, how much specialization there should be at the undergraduate level, how to prepare students for careers that include both technical and managerial tracks, and how to meet the needs and expectations of society all seem timeless.
As a new round of inquiry and discussions begins, it may be useful to remember that engineering educators have walked this path before and that some of their ideas and solutions might be of value to us. Let me close with a voice from the past—William Wickenden, who headed the 1920s survey of engineering education and later became president of Case Institute of Technology. In 1927, as he was completing that massive study of engineering education in the United States, he wrote, “Closer association between teaching, research, and the working out of original engineering problems would be a potent tonic. What appears to be most needed is an enriched conception of engineering and its place in the social economy, a broader grounding in its principles and methods, and a more general postponement of specialized training to the graduate schools and to the stage of introductory experience which marks the transition to active life” (Wickenden, 1927). Perhaps this prescription still has some efficacy today.
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Preparation for the Professions Program: Engineering Education in the United States
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has produced many studies of professional education, beginning with the influential Flexner report on medical education in 1910. Building on that tradition, the foundation initiated the Preparation for the Professions Program (PPP) in 1999 to address the perception that professional education has been plagued by a long-standing failure to connect theory and practice in systematic, productive ways. In law schools, for instance, theoretical academic learning is the coin of the realm; little attention is paid to the “lawyering” skills and values that are essential in the world of practice. In addition, professional preparation tends to be insular, with no mechanism for learning from other fields to develop strategies for tackling common challenges of professional preparation. The goal of PPP is to raise issues and broaden the frame of reference for leaders and practitioners in all fields of professional education. Phase I of the program is focused on preparation for three professions—law, the clergy, and engineering. Phase II, simultaneous studies of medical and nursing education, is just being launched.
CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK OF THE PROGRAM
During Phase I of the program, the research team developed a framework for addressing topics common to all fields, as well as the particularities of each field. This structure is providing conceptual co-
herence for the Phase I studies and will be carried forward into Phase II. One concept that is proving useful for comparative purposes, for example, is that each field is characterized by one or more “signature pedagogies,” ways of teaching that are familiar, even iconic, to anyone with experience in the field. This concept is based on observations of a ubiquitous pedagogical approach in legal education—so-called Socratic, or case-dialogue, teaching—which has been dramatized in The Paper Chase and other films and novels and is thus well known even to the lay public.
The concept of a signature pedagogy has been appropriate to the other fields as well. Each study reveals the nature of the signature pedagogies in that field, suggests their power to encourage a particular kind of learning, identifies their limitations—and suggests creative approaches to overcoming those limitations. Engineering education, for example, is characterized by four very different signature pedagogies, each of them consistent in a particular component of the curriculum (engineering science or “analysis” courses, laboratory courses, design courses, and ethics modules). The three types of courses are thus strikingly different from each other and engender different types of learning. The engineering study takes a close, critical look at each of the signature pedagogies and then considers their relationship to professional roles.
A second lesson from the PPP studies is derived from theoretical efforts to determine the benefits of the old idea of apprenticeship in professional preparation. The idea of “cognitive apprenticeship” is an important aspect of contemporary discussions of how learning occurs (e.g., Brown et al., 1989). To cover the full range of crucial aspects of professional education, we developed a concept of a three-fold apprenticeship:
Intellectual training for learning the academic knowledge base and the capacity to think in ways important to the profession. In engineering, this is generally considered the main goal of analysis classes, in which the emphasis is on understanding fundamental concepts.
A skill-based apprenticeship of practice, which is the focus in engineering laboratory and design settings. In these situations, faculty act primarily as advisors, consultants, and coaches to student teams working on projects.
An apprenticeship in the mission, ethical standards, social
roles, and responsibilities of the profession, through which the integrated practice of all dimensions of the profession and the fundamental purposes of the profession are introduced. This apprenticeship may be integrated into laboratory or design settings, taught in stand-alone classes, or not taught explicitly at all.
These aspects of professional apprenticeship reflect different emphases in all professional education and are deeply rooted in the history and organization of professional schools. By examining these apprenticeships, we can characterize common issues across fields, as well as distinct issues in each field. The metaphor of a three-fold apprenticeship also forms a basis for a normative analysis, a lens through which to evaluate the adequacy of preparation for professional work. Based on this framework, the study team was able to describe the tensions and shortfalls, as well as the strengths, of professional education in each field.
Assessment of student learning has emerged as a salient area in each field we investigated so far and is closely linked to the pedagogical theme of basic practices of teaching and learning. Assessment that helps students both master subject matter and become more aware of their capacities can be a key contributor in professional education to the formation of competent practitioners. Assessment includes ongoing informal feedback on performance, as well as formal assessments. Despite its importance, however, assessment is a troublesome issue in all three of the fields in Phase I and is emerging as a central concern for the professions in the Phase II studies. Coaching and continuous, informative feedback are critical to an effective apprenticeship, so assessment practices give specific content to aspects of the apprenticeship framework and provide a basis for making comparisons across fields.
THE STUDY OF ENGINEERING EDUCATION
In the first stage of the engineering study (2000–2001), we took a “big picture” approach to answering questions about teaching and learning practices in engineering education in the United States. We reviewed data from a national survey and ABET self-studies from 40 engineering schools (100 programs) to select seven schools to look at in greater detail through site visits. The selected schools are located in all regions of
the United States and include a wide range of institutional types—a small stand-alone school of engineering, a large public engineering school, several university-based programs, a Catholic university, and a school that serves many first-generation college students and transfer students. Thus, striking similarities and important variations among the schools are described. The study team visited these schools during the first six months of 2002, interviewing more than 200 faculty and 200 students and administrators and observing 60 classes.
An important goal of the data analysis has been to develop a clear picture of how administrators, faculty, and students understand the nature of engineering practice and to identify a set of core ideas that are consistent across these groups and in line with published analyses of the essential features of the profession. The resulting conception of what an engineer is and what an engineer does is laid out in the first chapter and provides a “backbone” for the book. In subsequent chapters, curricula and pedagogies are described in some detail and then examined with reference to how well they contribute to preparation for the practice of engineering. Draft chapters addressing the three main components of the curriculum—analysis, laboratory, and design courses—are finished, as are detailed outlines of the other chapters. A draft of the full manuscript should be completed by the summer of 2005.
Brown, J.S., A. Collins, and S.E. Newman. 1989. Cognitive apprenticeship: teaching the crafts of reading, writing, and mathematics. In L.B. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, Learning, and Instruction: Essays in Honor of Robert Glaser (pp. 453-494). Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
International Recognition of Engineering Degrees, Programs, and Accreditation Systems
As economic globalization increases, we must bring down artificial barriers that limit workforce mobility. One way to increase mobility is through the mutual recognition of degrees, degree programs, and accreditation systems. Some places—Europe, for example—have a strong desire to work towards global harmonization, and, given the expansion of the European Union (EU) and its need for workforce mobility, regional harmonization as well. This has provoked a great deal of activity, especially in countries that do not have recognized accreditation systems in place, or even a tradition of accreditation, such as Germany. The United States, which has a strong tradition of engineering accreditation, is also working toward global recognition of accreditation methods. Mutual recognition and accreditation will not only benefit graduates in a particular country, but will also promote quality control and attract students to national degree programs.
It is generally accepted that a competent practicing engineer must have the following qualifications:
a strong education that teaches analytical and theoretical thinking that enables problem solving, innovation, and invention
training in working with people from diverse backgrounds and solving technical problems
work experience, including responsibility for making decisions
As Jack Levy (EUR ING Professor at the City University in the United Kingdom) has said (2002), “While these components of competence of professionalism are needed, the way they are acquired varies, as does the point at which the national professional title is awarded … [and] the length of the academic course may vary widely, from three years to five or more years.”
In the following sections, current activities dealing with mutual recognition of accreditation of engineering degree programs, engineering technologist degree programs, and the professional level for registered engineering practitioners are summarized.
ENGINEERING DEGREE PROGRAMS
The Washington Accord was signed in 1989 by the groups in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States responsible for accrediting professional engineering degree programs in their countries. The accord recognizes “substantial equivalency” of the programs accredited by the signatories and satisfaction of the “academic requirements for the practice of engineering at the professional level.” The accord states that the “processes, policies and procedures” used in the accreditation of academic programs are comparable and “recommends that graduates of accredited programs in any of the signatory countries be recognized by the other countries as having met the academic requirements for entry to the practice of engineering” (Washington Accord, 2004).
The Washington Accord has several limitations. First, it covers professional engineering undergraduate programs but not engineering technology or postgraduate programs. Second, it does not apply to degree programs accredited before signing by the accrediting body. Third, it does not apply to degree programs declared or recognized as “substantially equivalent” by the signatories. Finally, it covers only the academic requirements of licensing, but not the actual licensing, which still varies from country to country.
Interest in the Washington Accord has increased significantly since it was signed in 1989. Two more countries have signed on since then and are now full signatories: Hong Kong in 1995 and South Africa in
1999. Four countries have been added as provisional signatories: Japan in 2001 and Germany, Malaysia, and Singapore in 2003. In addition, the accreditation bodies of India and Bangladesh have recently expressed their intent to submit applications for provisional membership, and Russia and Korea have sent representatives to meetings of the Washington Accord signatories.
Alec Hay, chairman of the International Committee of the Engineering Council of South Africa, stated while reporting on a June 2001 meeting on the Washington Accord that “Being a signatory to the WA [Washington Accord] remains therefore a significant development for South Africa and is in line with the Government’s perspective that the standards in engineering should meet international standards.”
A recent paper by Professor M.K. Khanijo (2004), senior consultant with the Engineering Council of India, describes India’s motivation for signing on to the Washington Accord: “Since GATS [General Agreement of Trade in Services] emphasizes recognition of qualifications of professionals, it is in India’s interest to get its own system of recognition and registration made acceptable at the international level. If this is not done, Indian engineers will be at a disadvantage and may even be ruled out when they seek opportunities for employment.”
Although membership in the Washington Accord is considered by many national accreditation agencies as the best path towards international recognition, some concerns remain about whether developing nations can be accepted as full members.
The EUR ING Professional Title
The Fédération Européenne d’Associations Nationales d’Ingénieurs (FEANI) (translated as the European Federation of National Engineering Associations) is a federation of national engineering associations from the EU, European Free Trade Association, and countries considered “eligible for accession into the EU” at a future time. Currently, FEANI, which has 26 member countries representing more than two million professional engineers, considers itself “the single voice for the engineering profession in Europe” and is working to “affirm and develop the professional identity of engineers.” The European Commission recognizes FEANI as the official representative of the engineering profession in Europe (FEANI, 2005).
One of the services provided by FEANI, the granting of the EUR ING professional title, is intended to “facilitate the mutual recognition of engineering qualifications in Europe” and (1) facilitate mobility by assigning a “guarantee of competence” to engineers who wish to practice outside their own countries, (2) provide information to employers about educational and training systems in Europe, and (3) encourage continuous improvements in the quality of engineers by monitoring and reviewing standards. Currently, slightly fewer than 30,000 registered engineers have been granted the EUR ING title.
FEANI maintains an index of universities and other institutions of higher education and their engineering degree programs recognized as fulfilling the mandatory educational requirements for the EUR ING title. Member countries submit descriptions of schools and degree programs for inclusion in the FEANI Index upon approval by the European Monitoring Committee. The FEANI Index is intended to be the “authoritative source of information about national engineering education systems and educational institutions” (FEANI, 2000).
Other Pan-European Organizations
The European Standing Observatory for the Engineering Profession and Education (ESOEPE), which is associated with FEANI, comprises organizations concerned “with quality assurance and accreditation of engineering programmes, including national and trans-national (European) bodies, Associations or temporary networks.” ESOEPE has aspirations of becoming the European body dealing with accreditation (FEANI, 2001). In fact, ESOEPE has considered changing its name to the European Consortium for Engineering Accreditation.
The European Parliament is currently considering a directive [COM(2004)317] that would accelerate the processing of requests for recognition of qualifications by giving more automatic recognition to engineers who meet certain agreed criteria. The purpose would be to bridge differences in education and training and make it easier for engineers and other professionals to work anywhere in the EU.
Many other pan-European organizations are addressing the issue of mutual recognition of accreditation and quality control in higher education. Currently, there is a good deal of discussion, even competition, about which models for European-wide accreditation of degrees will
prevail and which organizations will take the lead. Some of these organizations are listed below:
The European Consortium for Accreditation in Higher Education (ECA) was established in 2003 to achieve “mutual recognition of accreditation decisions among the participants before the end of 2007” (ECA, 2003).
The European Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) was “established to promote European cooperation in the field of quality assessment and quality assurance between all actors involved in the quality assurance process” (ENQA, 2000).
The Network of Central and Eastern European Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (CEE Network), founded in 2001, was established “to serve as a clearinghouse for issues on quality assurance in higher education in the Central and Eastern European countries” (CEE Network, 2001).
The Joint Quality Initiative, “an informal network for quality assurance and accreditation of bachelor and master programmes in Europe,” is based on the Bologna Declaration of 1999 and the Prague Communiqué of 2001. The Joint Quality Initiative works to “adopt a higher education system essentially based on two main cycles, to co-operate in quality assurance, to design scenarios for mutual acceptance of evaluation and accreditation/certification mechanisms, to collaborate in establishing a common framework of reference, and to disseminate best practice” (Joint Quality Initiative, 2000).
The European Network of Information Centers (ENIC Network) was formed “to develop policy and practice for the recognition of qualifications” and to provide information on the recognition of foreign diplomas, degrees, and other qualifications; educational systems throughout Europe; and opportunities for studying abroad, including information on loans and scholarships and answers to practical questions related to mobility and equivalence (ENIC, 1999).
The National Academic Recognition Information Centers Network (NARIC Network) was initiated by the European Commission in 1984 to improve academic recognition of diplomas
and periods of study in EU member states, EEA countries, and associated countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Cyprus (NARIC, 1984).
ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY DIPLOMA/DEGREE PROGRAMS
Signed in 2001, the Sydney Accord, which provides for joint recognition of academic programs for engineering technologists, is based on the Washington Accord and operates in a similar way. Current members include the national engineering organizations of Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand.
Signed in 2002, the Dublin Accord, which provides joint recognition of academic programs for engineering technicians, is also based on the Washington Accord and operates in a similar way. Representatives of the national engineering organizations of the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, and Ireland have all signed on to this agreement (Dublin Accord, 2002).
THE PROFESSIONAL LEVEL OF REGISTERED PRACTITIONERS
Engineers Mobility Forum
The Engineers Mobility Forum (EMF), established in October 1997, was initially formed as a subcommittee of the Washington Accord signatories to facilitate the mobility of experienced professional engineers. Unlike the Washington Accord, which focuses on mutual recognition of accredited academic programs, EMF is developing “a system of mutual recognition of the full professional level to facilitate cross-border mobility of registered practitioners.” This is especially important for currently practicing engineers whose qualifications are not recognized through the Washington Accord (EMF, 2003).
EMF maintains a decentralized Register of International Engineers that includes the names of professional engineers in member countries who meet very specific educational and experiential guidelines. The purpose of the registry is to streamline the process of obtaining practice privileges in EMF-member countries. The registry is “decentralized” in the sense that each country operates its own section and writes its own “assessment statement” describing the admission requirements for that country. A monitoring committee in each country develops the assessment statement, reviews applications for admission to the registry, and functions as the point of contact for all matters relating to the registry.
EMF members include the national engineering organizations of Ireland, the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, South Africa, Hong Kong, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Korea, and New Zealand. FEANI has observer status, and India and Bangladesh have expressed an interest in joining EMF.
With the signing of the EMF Agreement in June 2001, the International Register of Professional Engineers (IRoPE) was established (IPENZ, 2000). The requirements for entrants to the registry are listed below (BCS, 2005):
registration in a signatory jurisdiction
accredited degree or equivalent academic qualification
seven years postgraduate experience
two years of work with responsibility for engineering work
maintenance of continuing professional development
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Engineer Register
Similar to IRoPE, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Engineer Register is an initiative that facilitates cross-border mobility for professional engineers in the APEC region. An APEC Engineer Register has been established in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, and the United States.
In the United States, the EMF and APEC registers are maintained by the U.S. Council for International Engineering Practice (USCIEP), which was established to “develop and promote procedures to enable U.S.-registered professional engineers to practice internationally” (USCIEP, 2004). Member organizations of USCIEP include the
Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, the National Society of Professional Engineers, and the Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada.
Requirements for admission to the USCIEP Registry include licensing in one or more jurisdictions of the United States and the qualifications listed below:
graduation from an accredited program (either via ABET or the Washington Accord)
a passing grade on the Fundamentals of Engineering examination
a passing grade on one or more of the Principles and Practice of Engineering assessment examinations
no sanctions resulting in a suspension or revocation by any jurisdiction of the engineering practice license
at least five references from licensed professional engineers familiar with the candidate’s work, character, and integrity
periodic updates of the professional activities record and testimonials from professional references
at least seven years of qualifying experience (at least four at the time of initial registration as a professional engineer)
at least two years of experience in charge of significant engineering work as defined in the USCIEP Assessment Statement
minimum standards for continuing professional competence as a condition of remaining on the registry as defined in the USCIEP Assessment Statement
citizenship in the United States
Engineering Technologists Mobility Forum
Similar to the EMF, the Engineering Technologists Mobility Forum (ETMF) was established to remove “artificial barriers to the free movement and practice of certified/registered/licensed engineering technologists amongst their jurisdictions.” The agreement specifically covers the process by which substantial equivalence in competence of practitioners is established. Signatories of ETMF include Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom (IPENZ, 2004).
Many bilateral and multilateral agreements have been established between countries and organizations. Although these agreements may still be important, especially on a regional level, they are rapidly being preempted by large-scale, multinational, mutual agreements.
BCS (British Computer Society). 2005. International Register of Professional Engineers: Entry Criteria. Available online at http://www.bcs.org/BCS/MembersArea/InternationalEng/EntryCriteria.htm.
CEE Network (Network of Central and Eastern European Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education). 2001. About the CEE Network. Available online at http://www.ceenetwork.hu/a_about.html.
Dublin Accord. 2002. The Dublin Accord, Recognition of Equivalence of Educational Base for Engineering Technicians. Available online at http://www.ecsa.co.za/International/6DublinAccord/Dublin%20Accord%20Agreement%2013May2002.pdf.
ECA (European Consortium for Accreditation in Higher Education). 2003. About ECA. Available online at http://www.ecaconsortium.net.
EMF (Engineers Mobility Forum). 2003. A Review of Recognition Systems for Professional Engineers. In Global Challenges in Engineering Education: Proceedings of the 2003 ASEE/WFEO International Colloquium on Engineering Education. Washington, D.C.: American Society for Engineering Education. Also available online at http://www.asee.org/about/events/conferences/international/papers/upload/A-Review-of-Recognition-Systems.pdf.
ENIC (European Network of Information Centers). 1999. The European Gateway to Recognition of Academic and Professional Qualifications. Available online at http://www.enic-naric.net.
ENQA (European Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education). 2000. About ENQA. Available online at http://www.enqa.net.
FEANI (Fédération Européenne d’Associations Nationales d’Ingénieurs). 2000. FEANI Index. Available online at http://www.feani.org/FEANIindex.htm.
FEANI. 2001. European Standing Observatory for the Engineering Profession and Education (ESOEPE). Available online at http://www.feani.org/ESOEPE/Bye-lawsFIN.htm.
FEANI. 2005. FEANI—The Voice of Europe’s Engineers. Available online at http://www.feani.org.
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IPENZ (Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand). 2000. Engineers Mobility Forum Agreement: To Establish and Maintain an EMF International Register of Professional Engineers. Final draft. Available online at http://www.ipenz.org.nz/ipenz/forms/pdfs/EMF_Agreement.pdf.
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