June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.455.1 - 15.455.23
Employing Six Sigma as a Tool for Continuous Improvement in Engineering Technology Education
Several members of the College Assessment Committee interested in improving the college assessment plan for continuous improvement became interested in using Six Sigma methodology not only for manufacturing processes but for learning processes in engineering technology programs. Several committee members were already active in a local coalition of industry advisors therefore it was felt that we could train educators to use Six Sigma to establish benchmarks for educational goals and objectives. Six Sigma would be piloted and used as a tool to improve the program assessment plans. The pilot project would evaluate the assessment process being used for ABET accreditation of the engineering technology programs with the goal of establishing a clearly defined closed loop continuous improvement process.
One of the areas of weakness pointed out by ABET reviewers was the lack of selected programs having a clear continuous improvement process that was working effectively and a process for evaluating lifelong learning. Since lifelong learning is an outcome that is difficult to assess but also manageable as a pilot effort, the committee decided to evaluate the college’s process of assessing graduates’ ability to recognize the need for and to engage in lifelong learning as the pilot focus.
The team began work in June of 2008 and decided the scope of the project would focus on improving the assessment of ABET Criteria 3h (lifelong learning) and continuous improvement in accordance with a documented process. Using the evaluators’ ratings and Six Sigma tools, the team attempted to improve the process by evaluating three surveys and the feedback loop for collection, evaluation and use of assessment data.
The team met all of its intermediate project goals by improving the survey instruments and changing the administration of two of them. The final measure of the project’s success will occur after programs have reviewed the results and made changes needed and have completed the assessment loop prior to the next ABET accreditation visit in 2013. An intermediate measure will include reports of the improvements and changes made annually as the data is collected and reviewed and the plan updated.
Six Sigma, started in 1986 by Motorola, has been defined in numerous ways. It has been called a philosophy, a methodology, and a set of tools.1 One of the more concise definitions is “a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects … in any process -- from manufacturing to transactional and from product to service.”2 Six Sigma is now endemic to industry—automotive, chemical, financial, manufacturing, and retail to name a few—from American Express to GE, Advanced Micro Devices to Xerox and is credited with saving millions of dollars while improving product or service quality and customer satisfaction. It is a statistical term that measures the variation of a process.
Westheider, V., & Hedges, S. (2010, June), Employing Six Sigma As A Tool For Continuous Improvement In Engineering Technology Education Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16886
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