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Categories And Levels For Defining Engineering Design Program Outcomes

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.95.1 - 2.95.10



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Paper Authors

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Denny C. Davis

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Richard W. Crain

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Michael S. Trevisan

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Kenneth L. Gentili

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Dale E. Calkins

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

Session 3530

Session 3530

Categories and Levels for Defining Engineering Design Program Outcomes Denny C. Davis, Richard W. Crain, Michael S. Trevisan/Dale E. Calkins/Kenneth L. Gentili Washington State University/University of Washington/Tacoma Community College


Recent trends in engineering education have shifted from course-based to outcomes-based degree programs. An outcomes-based engineering degree program requires clear definition of student learning targets, planning to ensure that they will be achieved, and assessment to determine how well these targeted outcomes have been achieved. Because engineering degree programs encompass science and design dimensions, engineering educators must be able to define both the science-related and the design-related achievements by their students. The design-related outcomes are more elusive in their definition and assessment, so they are addressed in this paper.

This paper summarizes the competencies required for effective performance of engineering design and provides a basis for delineating four different levels of achievement within eight categories of design competencies. Categories of design competencies include: information gathering, problem definition, idea generation, evaluation and decision making, implementation, communication, teamwork, and process improvement. Levels include: basic knowledge, application of knowledge, critical analysis, and extension of knowledge. Together, the categories and levels encompass the practice-related characteristics of engineering graduates listed as part of the ABET Engineering Criteria 2000.

This paper also shows how knowledge of competency categories and levels can be used to achieve specific design learning (educational) objectives. Creation of student design exercises based on this approach provides a direct link between the steps students follow in their learning activity and the competencies identified as learning objectives. The paper gives examples that can serve as models for other engineering educators to use in their creation of new design education materials.

The competency categories and levels also serve as a structure for designation of entering-junior competencies and graduating-senior competencies, important steps in development of outcomes- based engineering education programs.


Educational reform across the United States has dramatically shifted educators’ attention— changing from coverage of topics to achievement of educational outcomes. Beginning first at the K-12 educational level, this re-focusing has now reached higher education, where concepts of educational outcomes and assessment of outcomes achievement are unfamiliar concepts. Interestingly, continuous improvement methods—defining product quality and controlling processes to achieve continuous improvement in this quality—are found in many engineering-

Davis, D. C., & Crain, R. W., & Trevisan, M. S., & Gentili, K. L., & Calkins, D. E. (1997, June), Categories And Levels For Defining Engineering Design Program Outcomes Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6443

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