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Challenges in Assessing Interdisciplinary Engineering Programs

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Technical Session

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.318.1 - 22.318.10



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Paper Authors

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Meg Krudysz City College of New York

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Ann Wittig P.E. City College of the City University of New York

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Challenges in Assessing Interdisciplinary Engineering Programs Margaret A. Krudysz and Ann E. Wittig The City College of New York, The City University of New York, awittig@ccny.cuny.eduAbstractThe accreditation of engineering programs by the Accreditation Board for Engineering andTechnology (ABET) requires that faculty assess and evaluate student performance across theprogram to demonstrate that the program achieves its outcomes. This is a challenging exercisegiven the level of effort of faculty to strategize, collect, and then evaluate meaningful evidenceof student performance. These challenges are even greater for interdisciplinary engineeringprograms. Interdisciplinary programs have substantial coursework requirements in non-engineering disciplines, resulting in fewer engineering courses to assess than in conventionalengineering programs. Interdisciplinary programs are also likely to use existing engineeringcourses from different disciplines to fulfill coursework requirements. Even though departmentsperiodically assess their students through coursework, their assessment approaches andfrequency may vary and they may not assess the particular courses offered in theinterdisciplinary program. Finally, the faculty in an interdisciplinary program are spread acrossschools and disciplines, and as a result have differing opinions on the importance ofaccreditation, their responsibilities to the assessment process, or the approach to assess thestudents.This paper discusses the challenges and possible approaches to accrediting interdisciplinaryengineering programs. Two programs at CUNY City College of New York (CCNY) arepresented as examples: an undergraduate program in Earth System Science and EnvironmentalEngineering (ESE) which is preparing for its first accreditation visit this Fall, and a mastersprogram in Sustainability in the Urban Environment (SUS) which will go up for accreditation ina few years. Both programs have substantial coursework in non-engineering topics: science inthe case of the ESE program, and science and architecture in the case of the SUS program. Theprograms have a few introductory courses and a capstone design course designed specifically forthe program, and existing courses offered across the multiple schools to fulfill the remainingcoursework requirements. In addition, the faculty in both programs are spread across multipleschools and disciplines within the schools.The unique curricula and methods for assessment of the ESE program are presented. Theseapproaches address the selection of courses in which individual student performance can beassessed. Also discussed are the challenges in presenting and evaluating assessment results fromdifferent disciplines in a sufficiently cohesive manner to adequately determine studentachievement across the program. The efficacy of these approaches as applied to the SUSprogram is also discussed. Finally, the appropriateness of our assessment methods tointerdisciplinary programs at other universities is considered.

Krudysz, M., & Wittig, A. (2011, June), Challenges in Assessing Interdisciplinary Engineering Programs Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17599

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