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A Systematized Literature Review: Defining and Developing Engineering Competencies

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

College Industry Partnerships Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

College Industry Partnerships

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Paper Authors


Hossein Ebrahiminejad Purdue University

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Hossein Ebrahiminejad is a graduate research assistant at SPHERE(Social Policy and Higher Education Research in Engineering), and a Ph.D. student in Engineering Education at Purdue University. He completed his M.S. in Biomedical Engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), and his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in Iran. His research interests include student pathways, educational policy, and relationships between education and professional practice.

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Essential competencies have been identified for engineers working in industry. These competencies include (but are not limited to) critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, and communication. Engineering education research has shown, however, that engineering undergraduate students often fail to develop these crucial competencies. The industry has also noted that recent graduates exhibit competency gaps. To address these gaps, it is important for higher education institutions to seek to understand the competencies identified as necessary in the industry. Moreover, one could argue educational institutions should develop and assess students’ competencies based on these professional demands. This research systematically reviews literature related to this topic. This review seeks to answer two questions: 1) What are the competencies engineering students must have to be successful in the world of practice? 2) How can engineer education help students to develop these competencies? A total of 30 articles were identified as relevant and reviewed. Two themes were applied: 1) Identification of engineering competencies 2) Approaches to address competency shortfalls. Review of the literature suggests that while educational institutions are mostly aligned with engineering competencies hailed as important to ABET, there is still room to improve. The most frequent competencies mentioned in the literature include communication skills, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. Results suggest developing a continuous improvement mindset will encourage both educators and their institutions to include stakeholders such as industry into account as they systematically assess and review their graduating engineering students and undergraduate programs. Further, to date, there does not appear to be a single accepted approach or best practice for incorporating targeted competencies into engineering curricula.

Ebrahiminejad, H. (2017, June), A Systematized Literature Review: Defining and Developing Engineering Competencies Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27526

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