Asee peer logo

Abet's Eleven Student Learning Outcomes (A K): Have We Considered The Implications?

Download Paper |


1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.50.1 - 4.50.10

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Mary E. Besterfield-Sacre

author page

Larry J. Shuman

author page

Jack McGourty

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2330

ABET’s Eleven Student Learning Outcomes (a-k): Have We Considered The Implications?* Jack McGourty, Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Larry Shuman, Columbia University/University of Texas – El Paso/University of Pittsburgh

I. Introduction There has been a great deal of intellectual and emotional debate regarding the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology’s (ABET) minimum set of eleven student learning outcomes that are a major part of EC-2000 [1]. The issues range from serious questions as to the genesis of these outcomes, general concern regarding validity, and very legitimate concerns as to how they can best be measured to diatribes on their vagueness and even calls for their rejection. In our initial desire to satisfy the new criteria, have we become captivated with the process, as witnessed by the proliferation of continuous improvement (e.g., plan-do-act-check) models that describe the “ideal” educational path [2, 3, 4 5]? Such models have exposed engineering faculty to a cycle in the engineering educational process that is first defined, measured, compared to desired criteria or standards, and subsequently improved, and then the cycle is repeated again. In rushing to adopt this “cycle,” have we overlooked an important step? Specifically, we have yet to comprehensively examine the meaning of these learning outcomes and hypothesize how our focus on each may result in an improved educational environment.

To date, five engineering schools have gone through the pilot Engineering Criteria (EC) 2000 reviews; twelve more have undergone EC-2000 reviews (fall 1998) and are waiting for final decisions. ABET had anticipated that 16 to 18 additional engineering schools would select the new criteria next year [6], but apparently almost 40 institutions have elected this option. Clearly, it is time to reflect about the foundations of these learning outcomes before too many more institutions proceed through EC-2000. No doubt, the new ABET criteria together with NSF sponsored engineering education projects (including the coalitions) have served as major catalysts for educational reform and innovation within the engineering education community. However, as a final evaluation of the coalitions also may conclude, institutional culture tends to change through evolution, not revolution. Just as educational reform takes time, developing real knowledge and competency, as denoted by the 11 outcomes, also takes time since individual intellectual growth is an evolutionary process .

The purpose of this paper is to begin the dialogue within the engineering educational community regarding how institutions can capitalize on EC-2000 to reform our educational process by supporting the development of these (and other) critical learning outcomes. As an initial impetus of this dialogue, we will focus this paper’s discussion on what the literature indicates is meant by learning outcomes and what definitional issues exist. Second, we will explore the curricular planning and development implications that result from focusing on these eleven outcomes. Finally, we will propose how the integration into the curriculum of these learning outcomes impacts upon faculty-student interactions. * This paper supported in part by National Science Foundation grants: EEC- 9727413, Gateway Engineering Education Coalition and EEC-9872498, Engineering Education: Assessment Methodologies and Curricula Innovations.

Besterfield-Sacre, M. E., & Shuman, L. J., & McGourty, J. (1999, June), Abet's Eleven Student Learning Outcomes (A K): Have We Considered The Implications? Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 1999 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015