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Measuring Learning Outcomes For Engineering Design Education

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.446.1 - 5.446.7

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Paper Authors

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Robert K. Christianson

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Jeffrey F. McCauley

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Denny Davis

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Michael S. Trevisan

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Kenneth L. Gentili

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

Session 1625

Measuring Learning Outcomes for Engineering Design Education Denny C. Davis, Washington State University Kenneth L. Gentili, Tacoma Community College Michael S. Trevisan, Washington State University Robert K. Christianson, Green River Community College Jeffrey F. McCauley, Green River Community College

Abstract Foundational to the assessment of engineering degree programs is the definition of learning outcomes for engineering design. This paper presents a framework within which engineering design learning outcomes can be defined and assessed. Learning outcomes related to the engineering design process, teamwork, and design communication are established over a range of performance levels. Tables of performance descriptions define engineering design performance along a continuum of proficiencies from the beginner to the practicing professional. Along this continuum, learning outcomes are proposed for graduating engineers and for engineering students mid-way through their programs of study. Assessment instruments and scoring scales are developed around these learning outcomes. These scoring definitions and assessments provide bases for benchmarking student performance, for developing and scoring assessments of design and for communicating graduates’ capabilities to employers and other educators.

Introduction The adoption of Engineering Criteria 2000 for use in accreditation decisions by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has heightened engineering educators’ interest in assessment of student learning outcomes. A cursory review of the eleven required capabilities of graduates listed in Criterion 3 of these criteria1 reveals that design is an important component of engineering degree programs. Students must be able to perform design and many related aspects of open-ended team-based problem solving, and educators must assess and document students’ achievement2. Once student achievement of design has been assessed, this information is useful for feedback to both students and faculty to improve student learning of design. Over time, assessment information also can be used to benchmark achievement and to establish targeted performance levels for students in related degree programs.

Concepts of Engineering Design Definitions of engineering design vary considerably, depending upon the author of the definition. However, design typically encompasses activities between the identification of a technical need and the delivery of a technological artifact to meet that need. In some cases, design includes testing, manufacturing and life-cycle considerations. In many cases, the complexity of design projects requires the formation of teams to produce effective design solutions. Lumsdaine et al. have identified twelve steps as part of the engineering design process3. Davis et al. have identified six elements or types of activities that comprise the engineering design process4. In all cases, engineering design is described as a process that engages people in creative effort toward

Christianson, R. K., & McCauley, J. F., & Davis, D., & Trevisan, M. S., & Gentili, K. L. (2000, June), Measuring Learning Outcomes For Engineering Design Education Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri.

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