June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.271.1 - 11.271.9
Beyond the Classroom: Using a Lecture Series Format to Give Engineering Students a Societal and Global Context
ABET 20001 recognized that, in order to be successful, engineers require skills above and beyond a technical knowledge base. Among the ABET criteria that address nontechnical skills is outcome h which states that students must be able to demonstrate, “the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context1.” Two publications completed since the ABET 2000 criteria were implemented also point to the need for engineers to understand the broad context and societal implications of their work. First is the ASCE body of Knowledge2 which states that “knowledge and skill, while necessary, are not sufficient to be a fully functioning engineering… attitudes are an essential part of the BOK”. Second, the National Academies of Engineering (NAE) report on the Engineer of 20203 points to a number of challenges facing the engineering profession in the coming decades. Few of the listed challenges are technical; most address diversity, changing demographics and the political and social impacts of technology.
ABET 2000 criteria also highlighted the need to quantitatively measure the development of nontechnical (or “soft”) skills. For many programs, this created a need to develop course content specific to these outcomes. As Felder and Brent4 state, “the work of equipping students with the attributes specified in [ABET] program outcomes must be done at the individual course level.” It also created a necessity to develop assessment tools to measure non-quantitative student learning outcomes, a difficult challenge for engineering faculty far more comfortable in the realm of the technical and quantitative than in the assessment of more qualitative outcomes.
In addition to the logistical challenges related to assessment, a major challenge facing many institutions is how to balance an ever increasing technical core of knowledge with necessary nontechnical skills when state mandates are decreasing the number of credit hours that can be required for graduation. Many comprehensive institutions have an advantage in that they have fully developed liberal arts programs on campus. These programs can provide opportunities for engineering students to be exposed to a broad spectrum of course offerings and co-curricular activities related to societal and/or global issues. Of course, this alleviates neither the onus on engineering departments to place engineering in a broader context nor the need to assess the skills of their student in these areas, and providing a societal and global perspective of engineering remains a challenge in a traditional engineering curriculum. What a strong liberal arts curriculum provides is a built-in resource from which engineering programs can benefit when trying to teach and assess nontechnical skills.
Assisting in the development of a student’s broader perspective becomes a larger challenge at specialty institutions where liberal arts courses are offered as “service courses” without the benefit of a comprehensive curriculum. The challenge increases yet again when such an institution has both a predominantly regional student body and a predominantly homogenous demographic.
Karlin, J., & Surovek, A. (2006, June), Beyond The Classroom: Using A Lecture Series Format To Give Engineering Students A Societal And Global Context Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/16
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