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Incorporating And Assessing Abet “Soft Skills” In The Technical Curriculum

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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

Continuous Improvement & Assessment of ET Programs

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.727.1 - 13.727.18

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Paper Authors

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Timothy Skvarenina Purdue University

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

Incorporating and Assessing ABET “Soft Skills” in the Technical Curriculum

Abstract TAC-ABET accreditation requires that each program develop program outcomes that embrace ABET criteria 2a to k. Several of those, such as diversity, internationalization, and ethics, are often referred to as the soft skills. Generally students exposure to these items is through their elective (or required) courses in the humanities and social sciences. However, ABET accreditation also requires that the achievement of the outcomes be assessed and evaluated. Obtaining direct evidence of achievement of the outcomes by the students can be problematical as the other departments may not be doing assessment. Even if they are, the technology students in a humanities course are probably just a small fraction of the course enrollment, so it may be difficult to obtain information about their performance. While we rely on other departments to provide the bulk of the students’ exposure to the soft skills, we have tried to incorporate soft - skill material into the technical curriculum. This allows us to obtain some direct assessment of their attitudes and performance. This paper describes the incorporation of internationalization material into an electric power course, which is required in our EET curriculum. The students were required to read a case study related to global warming and the Kyoto protocol and to answer questions concerning these topics. The answers were brought to class for discussion along with other international considerations. Student attitudes toward internationalization were surveyed before and after the discussion and results are presented in the paper.

Introduction The Technology Accreditation Commission (TAC) of ABET has moved to outcomes-based accreditation of engineering technology programs, via the so-called TC2K criteria. TC2K requires that every accredited program develop a set of program outcomes, which must insure that students have demonstrated the achievement of eleven outcomes, the so-called “a” to “k” lists. Table 1 shows a listing of the “a” to “k” outcomes for TC2K. With the change from previous accreditation criteria, ABET has gone away from the so-called “bean counting” that required certain numbers of credit hours in various categories, such as mathematics, sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Instead each program must evaluate and assess its curriculum on a continuous basis to show that graduates are demonstrating the required outcomes.

Looking at the ABET required outcomes, it is clear that a number of them not technical and they are sometimes referred to as “soft skills.” Among these soft skills are ethics (outcome “i”), teamwork ( “e”), global perspectives (“j”), diversity (“j” ), communications (“g” ), and life-long learning ( “h”). These skills are, in many cases, learned by the students in their non-engineering technology courses; however, it is the responsibility of the engineering technology faculty to assess and evaluate the student learning in those areas. At large schools, there are a vast number of courses that students may take to fill their humanities and social science electives. One alternative would be to require students to take certain courses that cover the desired materials, but that defeats some of the advantages of attending a large school, specifically the ability to tailor a program to one’s interests. In addition, there is the problem of getting classroom

Skvarenina, T. (2008, June), Incorporating And Assessing Abet “Soft Skills” In The Technical Curriculum Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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