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Approaching ABET Preparations as a Design Exercise

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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

Innovations in Aero Curriculum and Program Level Administration

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Wallace T. Fowler P.E. University of Texas, Austin

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Dr. Wallace Fowler has served on the faculty of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin since 1965. His early research focused on low thrust interplanetary trajectory optimization. In the 1970s, his research focus broadened to include spacecraft attitude dynamics, tumbling satellite dynamics and retrieval, spacecraft rendezvous and proximity operations, and spacecraft / mission design. His current research centers on spacecraft / mission design and space systems engineering.

Dr. Fowler's has received over a dozen local, regional, and national teaching awards. He is a Fellow of both the ASEE and the AIAA. He is a member of the University of Texas Academyof Distinguished Teachers. He served as President of ASEE in 2000-2001. He was the recipient of the 1985 AIAA/ASEE John Leland Atwood Award and the 1994 ASEE Fred Merryfield Design Education Award. He currently directs the NASA Texas Space Grant Consortium. He has served as an ABET visitor for 24 programs.

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The preparation process for a 2016 ABET visit to the aerospace engineering program at XXX is described. The ABET Criterion 4 (Continuous Improvement) process involves both an assessment of the degree of student attainment of pre-defined Student Outcomes (SOs) and the use of this information in a continuous improvement of the program. After a successful ABET visit in 2010, the department chair asked one of his faculty, an experienced ABET visitor, to examine the process and possibly redesign and simplify it. This paper describes the results of that redesign. The basic design goal was to produce an effective, relatively simple, sustainable process. Criterion 4 states: “The program must regularly use appropriate, documented processes for assessing and evaluating the extent to which the student outcomes are being attained. The results of these evaluations must be systematically utilized as input for the continuous improvement of the program. Other available information may also be used to assist in the continuous improvement of the program.” The system designed involves the treatment of the Analysis of Attainment of Student Outcomes (AASO) as a more detailed subset of a broad Curriculum Continuous Improvement (CCI) process. The design goals for the design are: (A) to identify, efficiently collect, and analyze appropriate data that allows us to assess the degree to which our students attain each student outcome (AASO data), (B) to collect and analyze data that allow us to determine that SOs associated with courses are being targeted by assignments in those courses (CCI data), and to use the results of these analyses, plus other data, to improve the curriculum, (C) to use CCI data and AASO data to improve the curriculum, (D) to standardize the data analysis and feedback processes, and (E) to allow the system to evolve in order to make it more efficient, simpler, more responsive, and sustainable. Separate requirements were written for the CCI process and the AASO process. These requirements and their rationales will be presented in the paper. Characteristics of the resultant design are outlined below. The final paper will include much more detail, including example forms, schedules, data requests, etc. (1) The CCI process involves all of the departmentally controlled courses in the program. (2) Data from every departmentally controlled course in the program is examined twice in each 6 year ABET cycle. The schedule for the CCI only courses involves three to four courses every fall and spring semester. This allows about 21 courses to be examined every 3 years. The AASO data are collected in the spring of year 2 and the fall of year 5 of the six year AET cycle. (3) Continuous improvement is controlled by instructor. Hence, the CCI process focuses on instructor activities (i.e., design of assignments, tests, etc.) The data sets from CCI are used determine how well instructors are creating assignments that contribute to the attainment of the SOs associated with their courses. (5) In order to assess the attainment by our graduates of specified SOs, we chose to assess attainment of SOs only in selected upper division (closer to graduation) courses. The courses chosen for this assessment are those in which student work most clearly demonstrates the degree of attainment of various SOs. The courses chosen for AASO include laboratories, writing courses, and design courses. (5) The AASO data sets are more comprehensive analysis than the CCI process, so no separate CCI data are collected for the courses chosen for AASO. No program deficiencies or weaknesses were cited by the ABET visitor at the end of the 2016 ABET visit.

Fowler, W. T. (2017, June), Approaching ABET Preparations as a Design Exercise Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27609

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