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A Strategy for Sustainable Outcomes Assessment Across a Mechanical Engineering Curriculum that Maximizes Faculty Engagement

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Learning and Assessment I

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.104.1 - 25.104.12

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Paper Authors


Sriram Sundararajan Iowa State University

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Sriram Sundararajan is an Associate Professor of mechanical engineering at Iowa State University. He is currently the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Programs and oversees curricular and program matters including assessment and continuous improvement efforts. His research areas encompass scanning probe microscopy, multiscale tribology (friction, lubrication and wear), and surface engineering. More recently, he has focused on atom scale mapping of thin film material systems using 3D-atom probe microscopy. He has authored more than 50 articles in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings and two invited book chapters. He serves on the conference committee for the International Conference on Wear of Materials and has been recognized for his accomplishments with the Young Engineering Faculty Research Award and Early Achievement in Teaching Award at Iowa State University. He received his B.E. degree in mechanical engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani (India), followed by M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. He is a member of ASEE, ASME, and ASM.

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A strategy for sustainable outcomes assessment across a mechanical engineering curriculum that maximizes faculty engagementAs part of continuous improvement of the program and ABET accreditation requirements, directassessment methods of student outcomes are necessary and quite illustrative in terms ofdescribing student learning. Direct assessment methods range from evaluating studentperformance on locally prepared examinations or standardized tests to assessing studentportfolios or performing performance appraisals. Choice of the methods depends on a range offactors including number of students in the program, impact on faculty workload andappropriateness of sample size. One of the challenges in implementing a successful directassessment process is engaging the faculty and achieving a high level of participation andsupport. Here we describe the development and successful implementation of direct assessmentprocesses for a large mechanical engineering program with 1250 students and 30 faculty. Themain considerations during the development phase to promote sustainability included: 1)distribution of student outcomes assessment across sophomore-senior level courses; 2)maximizing faculty engagement and participation while minimizing workload and; 3) leveragingstudent participation in national standardized examinations. The development process consistedof engaging faculty in (re)establishing course outcomes for the courses in the curriculum wherean overwhelming majority of the students in the program take the course on campus rather thantransferring credit in. This resulted in nine sophomore-senior level courses for our programincluding the capstone design experience course. Faculty responsible for teaching a given coursethen were asked to 1) map course outcomes to student outcomes and; 2) rank order the studentoutcomes for their course. This identifies the relative importance of each of the studentoutcomes from the perspective of the courses in the curriculum. This information was then usedto assign two-three outcomes for each course to assess through assessment of the relevant courseoutcomes. Since these outcomes were based on faculty-ranked importance for a given course,faculty are more likely to actively participate in the assessment as it provides them withinformation on student learning on aspects they feel are critical for a given course. An excelspreadsheet was created to help faculty design assessment instruments and record theirassessment data, which allowed easy compilation and reporting. In addition, results of FEexamination data were used to supplement assessment of some of the student outcomes(mathematics, thermodynamics and chemistry, Ethics and Business Practice). This process waspiloted in Spring 2011 to identify potential issues, which were addressed and is now fullyimplemented. Assessment of the process itself indicates high level of faculty satisfaction andinvolvement, suggesting that the process is a sustainable one.

Sundararajan, S. (2012, June), A Strategy for Sustainable Outcomes Assessment Across a Mechanical Engineering Curriculum that Maximizes Faculty Engagement Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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