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Justifying A Body Of Knowledge

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

CE Body of Knowledge

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.829.1 - 9.829.10

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Paper Authors

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Walter Massie

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

Session 3115

Justifying a Body of Knowledge

Walter W. Massie, MSc, P.E. Offshore Engineering Curriculum Leader Delft University of Technology Delft, The Netherlands


There has recently been a lot of discussion going on within the membership of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) about credentials for professional practice. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) is now starting its own discussion on this same topic. At the same time, few, it seems, have attempted to objectively justify a Body of Knowledge (BoK) - a modern term for such credentials.

The underlying premise of the paper is that most engineers work somewhere along the life-cycle of an engineered object. This life cycle was used to design a new Civil Engineering curriculum for the Delft University of Technology in the summer of 2001. The result was a definition - for each step in the life-cycle - of the knowledge and skill levels to be provided by the Delft civil engineering BSc and MSc curricula.

This paper continues further - still using the life-cycle - now to define the aptitudes (the result of knowledge and skill) needed to optimally perform engineering activities associated with each life-cycle step. This now results in a matrix associating aptitudes with each life-cycle step. Such a matrix is easy to understand and explain; it serves as a very graphic justification for these aptitudes.

The resulting list of aptitudes is compared to the ASCE BoK at the end of the paper.


The quality of engineering education in relation to the needs of practicing engineers has been a topic of discussion for more than a quarter century within the profession. In the mid-seventies the ASEE Goals of Engineering Education report suggested that a five-year curriculum be required to support a "first professional degree". The focus at that time was more on the length of the study path than on its content, however.

A fundamental flaw inherent in most university faculty is their primary focus on (their own) courses rather than on the curriculum as a whole and how that whole serves the profession. Vugts1 broke with this tradition by primitively defining the needs of a curriculum in terms of desired performance rather than courses. Indeed, courses - as such - were not even mentioned in

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Massie, W. (2004, June), Justifying A Body Of Knowledge Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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