Rationale for Revising Criteria 3 and 5

Why are We Looking at Criterion 3?

More than 80 years ago, ABET was founded to ensure that new graduates had the skills needed to enter the profession. And, to this day, we constantly challenge ourselves to learn more about the changing needs of academia, industry and the world as a whole, keeping our criteria relevant, fresh and compelling. This is exactly why we are taking a closer look at our Criteria—specifically Criterion 3—to ensure that they are richer and measurable, but above all realistic.

How this Conversation Started

Discussions regarding potential revisions of Criterion 3 date back to 2009, when the Criteria Committee of the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) was completing the process of harmonizing the criteria across ABET’s four commissions. During that process, the committee recognized that Criterion 3, Program Outcomes, one of the non-harmonized criteria, had not been reviewed since it was originally formulated in the mid-1990s in preparation for outcomes-based criteria. Increasingly, the EAC was receiving requests from constituent groups for additional outcomes to be included in Criterion 3. The EAC leadership was aware that each year a substantial percentage of the shortcomings cited were associated with Criterion 3.

During that same year, as part of an information gathering process, the EAC convened a Criterion 3 task force to begin a process of review. The task force developed a process that included the identification of stakeholders and outreach to these groups, the examination of the number of shortcomings associated with Criterion 3, the review of correspondence received by ABET concerning Criterion 3, an in-depth literature review of desired attributes for engineers, and the development of several draft proposals for review to gather feedback from a broad range of constituents.

Gathered Perspectives

The task force identified the following parties as potential stakeholders:

  1. Domestic and non-domestic undergraduate engineering programs
  2. Domestic and non-domestic graduate engineering programs
  3. Employers of the graduates of domestic and non-domestic colleges and universities, including for example:
    1. Private and public companies that hire engineering graduates
    2. National research laboratories
    3. Government research laboratories, Corps of Engineers
  4. Boards of Professional Engineering Registration
  5. Professional Societies

Members of the task force represented domestic undergraduate and graduate engineering programs, industry, and professional societies. Task force members also made efforts to gain additional input from a broad range of constituents. These outreach efforts included presentations to both the ABET Industrial Advisory Committee and the ABET Academic Advisory Committee in 2013 and 2015, along with presentations by ABET staff at several professional society meetings in 2014 and 2015. In addition, a link on the ABET website was established so that constituents could provide comments directly.

At the request of the task force, the EAC also surveyed program evaluators during the 2010-11 cycle regarding the elements of Criterion 3 that led to citations of shortcoming. Shortcomings were reported in all 11 of the (a)-(k) components of Criterion 3, mostly at the weakness or concern level. The data collected revealed that programs had the most difficulty determining the extent of outcome attainment with components 3(d) (ability to function on multidisciplinary teams), 3(f) (understanding of professional and ethical responsibility), 3(h) (a broad education to understand engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal context), 3(i) (recognition of the need for and ability to engage in life-long learning), and 3(j) (knowledge of contemporary issues). The Criterion 3 task force concluded that some of the (a)-(k) components were interdependent, broad and vague in scope, or impossible to measure. As a consequence, program evaluators were inconsistent in their interpretation of how well programs were complying with Criterion 3.

The EAC undertook an outreach effort in 2012-13 to inform constituent groups that Criterion 3 was being reviewed and to solicit suggestions regarding changes. Some constituent groups independently informed the EAC that important outcomes were missing from the (a)-(k) list and they proposed additional outcomes. Communications with constituent groups took the form of email, letters, presentations, and position papers. Suggested additions to the list of outcomes brought the total to 75.

In addition to the feedback received from constituents, the task force reviewed several major publications concerning desired attributes of engineers. These publications included, but were not limited to the following:

  1. ABET publication (2006) Engineering Change: A Study of the Impact of EC2000, Executive Summary, 2006, abet.org/papers.shtml
  2. ASCE’s Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for the 21st Century, Second Edition, 2008
  3. ASME (2011). ASME’s Vision 2030 Reveals Workforce Development Needs, American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
  4. The Roadmap to 21st Century Engineering from James J. Duderstadt, Engineering for a Changing World, Millennium Project, University of Michigan (also published in Thrive: The Skills Imperative by the Council on Competitiveness in 2008)
  5. Hundley, S., Brown, L., Jacobs, A., Fox, P., Didion, C., Sayre, D., Hoyer, H., (2011). Attributes of a Global Engineer: Findings from a Work-in-Progress International Survey, American Society for Engineering Education, 2011. AC 2011-205.
  6. International Engineering Alliance: Graduate Attributes and Professional Competencies; Comparisons of the Washington Accord (engineers), Sydney Accord (engineering technology), and Dublin Accord (engineering technicians), June 2009. http://www.washingtonaccord.org/IEA-Grad-Attr-Prof-Competencies-v2.pdf
  7. International Engineering Alliance: Graduate Attributes and Professional Competencies; Version 3, 21-June, 2013. (Accessed March, 2015)
  8. National Academies. (2010) Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited. National Academies Press.
  9. National Academy of Engineering. (2005) “Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century,”. http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11338
  10. NSPE Position Statement No. 1752 on Engineering Education Outcomes, adopted in April 2010.

Using the Results

Having gathered information from a wide range of sources, the Criterion 3 task force evaluated the existing (a)-(k) outcomes and those suggested by constituents, grouping them into six topic areas that would drive a possible major change to Criterion 3. This possible change would also serve to align ABET criteria more closely with Washington Accord graduate attributes referencing project management and finance. The Criterion 3 task force presented their findings to the full EAC in July 2013. At that time, the work of the task force was transferred to the Criteria Committee. In July 2014, the EAC authorized the Criteria Committee to gain feedback on possible revisions to the Criteria prior to requesting first reading approval from the Board. Language articulating a potential revision to Criterion 3 was posted on the ABET website and circulated to constituent groups for informal comment in the fall of 2014. More than 100 comments were received from individuals and organizations. The Criteria Committee examined and catalogued all input received. Further discussions in 2014-15 resulted in addition of a seventh topic area, so that the following topic areas would be addressed:

  1. Engineering problem solving,
  2. Engineering design,
  3. Measurement, testing, and quality assurance,
  4. Communication skills,
  5. Professional responsibility,
  6. Professional growth, and
  7. Teamwork and project management.

As Criterion 3 language effective in 2015-16 includes some items that are more appropriately placed in Criterion 5, Curriculum, revisions were also proposed to the language of Criterion 5. Criterion 5 language effective in 2015-16 defines or explains several important terms. These definitions or explanations fit poorly in a criterion but are more properly placed in a list of definitions. For this reason, revisions were proposed to the introductory section to Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs, to be placed after the harmonized ABET definitions and before Section I. General Criteria for Baccalaureate Level Programs. The EAC’s Criteria Committee believes that all of the elements of the Criterion 3 that are applicable in 2015-16 are included in the proposed revisions to Criterion 3, Criterion 5, and Introduction section, along with some additional elements.

Seeking Feedback

To give program representatives a forum for providing feedback regarding the proposed revisions, the Criteria Committee has proposed that a workshop be held at the 2016 ABET Symposium in Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Those attending the workshop will participate in describing successful and challenging experiences with the current (a) – (k) student outcomes, including the Criterion 4 requirement for assessing and evaluating the extent to which student outcomes are being attained, and identifying ways in which the proposed student outcomes will be easier or more difficult to measure or evaluate.

In addition, interested parties are encouraged to read the proposed changes on our website and submit their feedback by clicking on this link. The Criteria Committee will be collecting and analyzing all input received before June 15, 2016.

Update: Deadline extended to June 30, 2016

Based on feedback received and realizing the importance to engage as many perspectives as possible, the EAC has agreed to extend the deadline for public comment. You now have until June 30, 2016 to submit your input using the Feedback Survey link.