June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Educational Research and Methods
11.557.1 - 11.557.14
Engineering education: Targeted learning outcomes or accidental competencies? Abstract
This paper presents preliminary results of research into the nature of engineering competence. Data was gathered in focus groups with participants from Australia, Germany and the US using critical incident techniques. The study has found evidence to suggest that some crucial engineering competencies are not predominantly achieved through targeted education. The first part critically analyses the history of the competency movement with special regard to the application of learning outcomes in engineering education. The two problems identified in this context are the lack of a conclusive definition of competency and the gap in the understanding of engineering competency between education and practice. On this basis, the concept of Accidental Competencies is introduced. Accidental Competencies are not achieved through intentional forms of learning but emerge from the coaction of curricular elements and other aspects of the educational process. Illustrative quotes from the focus groups are presented and analyzed with regard to Accidental Competency formation. Subsequently, a contextual model is introduced illustrating the coaction of elements surrounding the educational process in the formation of competencies. The potential advantages of the concept of Accidental Competency as a unique mode of enquiry into the nature of engineering competence are then discussed. Finally details of the direction of the further research are outlined.
In the last decade global economic, technical and social changes have led to a sustained transformation of the discipline of engineering. Pressing issues such as increasingly intense international economic competition, the changing role of engineers in society and cross- disciplinary influences on traditional engineering pose an enormous challenge to engineering education programs.
The wide-ranging implications of those changes were already anticipated in both the 1993 ASEE report1 “Engineering Education for a changing world” and Engineers Australia’s 1996 review2 “Changing the culture: Engineering education into the future”. Both advocated fundamental changes in engineering education and the recommendations subsequently resulted in the development of ABET’s Program Outcomes3 and Engineers Australia’s Graduate Attributes4 (AMEA), respectively (For a comparison of the two systems see Mann & Radcliffe5). This initiated a paradigm shift in engineering education from the previously input-, content- and process-oriented system to an outcomes-based approach.
The concept of outcomes-based education defines a set of educational goals in the form of attributes, or competencies, which are to be achieved through the learning activities of the course. Adopting this approach in engineering education and specifically in the accreditation of programs was seen to serve a dual purpose: defining an educational goal or a set of attributes without specifying process with which the are to be achieved was seen as a means of fostering diversity of engineering programs2 whilst ensuring that “Graduates from an accredited program are adequately prepared to enter and continue the practice of engineering”2. This meant in particular that new attributes especially in areas of multidisciplinary teamwork and communication (Graduate Attributes ii and vi in AMEA4)
Walther, J., & Radcliffe, D. (2006, June), Engineering Education: Targeted Learning Outcomes Or Accidental Competencies? Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1086
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