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Design Portfolios For Outcomes Assessment And Program Vision

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Assessing Design Coursework

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.373.1 - 13.373.8



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Paper Authors


Michael Plumley US Coast Guard Academy

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LT Michael Plumley is on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard and is a faculty member and 1998 graduate of the Mechanical Engineering program at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy where he has served as course coordinator for a variety of courses including Machine Design, Heat Transfer, and Modeling and Control of Dynamic Systems. He holds Masters of Science degrees in both Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Connecticut. His previous assignments included service as shipboard engineer and port engineer.

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Vincent Wilczynski U.S. Coast Guard Academy

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

Design Portfolios for Outcomes Assessment and Program Vision


The use of outcomes assessment as a foundation for program improvement has become of increasing importance to accreditation in recent years. For years, the US Coast Guard Academy Mechanical Engineering program has showcased its best work and reflected on design in the curriculum by using a design portfolio inspired by those used by artists. The portfolio provides a snapshot of one year in the life of the program by providing examples of design work completed for each level of the curriculum, along with reflections of educators and students. It can be used to address many audiences including administrators, institutional benefactors, politicians, industry representatives, students, teachers, and parents. A proven template is presented which can easily be adopted by other authors. The template was used for portfolios presented during two ABET visits.


While the need for assessment based improvements is almost universally accepted by educators, debate still rages as to what is the most appropriate means of assessment. Indeed the very definition of what is and is not an acceptable means of assessment is often at the heart of the debate, usually gaining the greatest scrutiny in discussions surrounding accreditation. This work does not attempt to bring this debate to a close, but focuses on the design portfolio as a powerful tool by which programs can collect a meaningful snapshot of achievement and use it for reflection and improvement.

Portfolios are used in a wide array of disciplines to showcase the best of one’s work. In the case of educational programs, the portfolio consists of a collection of works by an entire department or institution as opposed to an individual1. In the model described here, the focus is not on individuals or a particular class, but the program itself. It allows for one means of collecting data for a meaningful discussion and assessment. Portfolios may be used to form and communicate a vision for the program, help describe the relation between outcomes for those involved in the curriculum, or to review the strengths of a program in achieving those outcomes. Intended to give a sense of the scope and depth of the design program in under 20 minutes the portfolio can be used to address many audiences. The Coast Guard Academy has used design portfolios to brief accreditors in the past, first during a 1995 ABET accreditation visit and most recently in 2007.

Design Portfolios for conveying a program vision

The portfolio developed by the Mechanical Engineering section at the US Coast Guard Academy is a snapshot of design projects completed in one year in the life of the program. The layout of the portfolio was inspired by the three chapter model put forth by Wilczynski and Colella1. The first chapter is a brief two page description of the curriculum goals and program educational objectives. The second chapter is the heart of the portfolio and consists of one section for each year. The overarching design instruction goal of each curriculum year is described and particular

Plumley, M., & Wilczynski, V. (2008, June), Design Portfolios For Outcomes Assessment And Program Vision Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4439

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: © 2008 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