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Is Engineering Education a Professional Activity?

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Engineering and Public Policy Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1045.1 - 26.1045.11



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Paper Authors


John Heywood Trinity College-Dublin

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John Heywood is professorial Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College Dublin- The University of Dublin. he is a Fellow of ASEE and Life Sen. member of IEEE. he has special interest in education for the professions and the role of professions in society. he is author of Engineering Education. research and development in Curriculum and Instruction.

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R. Alan Cheville Bucknell University

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Alan Cheville studied optoelectronics and ultrafast optics at Rice University, followed by fourteen years as a faculty member at Oklahoma State University working on terahertz frequencies and enginering education. While at Oklahoma State he developed courses in photonics and engineering design. After serving for two and a half years as a program director in engineering education at the National Science Foundation, he took a chair position in electrical engineering at Bucknell University. He is currently interested in engineering design education, engineering education policy, and the philosophy of engineering education.

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Is engineering education a professional activity?In many countries schoolteachers are recognized by the public as “professionals” and schoolteaching is a professional activity for which some kind of specialist training is required. In somecountries (e.g. Ireland and Scotland) standards of entry and subsequent behavior are regulated bycouncils similar to those that act in this respect for the health professions. In contrast in mostcountries specialist training in education is not required to become a university teacher whichbegs the question “is university teaching a professional activity?” One characteristic of a profession is that it can set standards for entry into the profession and forthe behaviour of professionals in practice. How such standardization is achieved varies fromcountry to country as does the status of the professional qualification. Interestingly in both theUnited States and the United Kingdom a doctorate is the qualification to teach engineering at theuniversity level, not the Professional Engineer (USA) or the Chartered Engineer (UK)qualification. Thus many candidates for university teaching are newly qualified PhD’s withoutany experience of engineering in the outside world. At the university the demand for a doctorateis a result that a PhD serves as a “standard” that qualifies a person to undertake research. A PhDis not a guarantee that they can teach, and since many candidates are not trained it is inevitablethat many engineering educators will be “restricted” professionals to use Hoyle’s terminology[reference]. In contrast some countries, such as the UK and Sweden, require intending universityfaculty to have training in teaching and learning, effectively serving as a guarantee that they canteach. Such training serves as the teaching equivalent of the PE; the PEE as it were.This paper argues that, qualifications aside, university teaching is a professional activity andeffective training should be required. If engineering education is a discipline—as declared in theUnited States the Journal of Engineering Education in 2006—then engineering educators haveresponsibility for developing such training given that a substantive body of knowledge aboutteaching and learning in engineering exists. This paper discusses what might be expected ofengineering educators should we choose to implement some form of teaching qualification.

Heywood, J., & Cheville, R. A. (2015, June), Is Engineering Education a Professional Activity? Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24382

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