Asee peer logo

Program Educational Objectives: What Constitutes Sufficient Assessment?

Download Paper |


2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

ABET Accreditation, Assessment, and Program Improvement in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1182.1 - 22.1182.17



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


John K. Estell Ohio Northern University

visit author page

John K. Estell is a Professor of Computer Engineering and Computer Science at Ohio Northern University. He received his doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His areas of research include simplifying the outcomes assessment process, first-year engineering instruction, and the pedagogical aspects of writing computer games. Dr. Estell is an ABET Program Evaluator, a Senior Member of IEEE, and a member of ACM, ASEE, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, and Upsilon Pi Epsilon.

visit author page


Stephen M. Williams Milwaukee School of Engineering

visit author page

Dr. Stephen Williams is Program Director of Electrical Engineering and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). He has 25 years of experience across corporate, government, and university sectors. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Wisconsin. He teaches courses in engineering design, embedded systems, electronic design, and electromechanics.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Program Educational Objectives: What Constitutes Sufficient Assessment?AbstractIn the "2010-2011 Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs," ABET defines the term"Program Educational Objectives" as "broad statements that describe the career and professionalaccomplishments that the program is preparing the graduates to achieve." Under the proposedharmonized criteria, expected to be applied by the EAC for accreditation actions during the2011-2012 academic year, this definition has been modified to: "Program educational objectivesare broad statements that describe what graduates are expected to attain within a few years aftergraduation. Program educational objectives are based on the needs of the program’sconstituencies." There have been considerable difficulties observed in attempting to assess theachievement of the program educational objectives, as evidenced in the 2008 ABET AnnualReport. In its analysis of accreditation actions and trends, this Report cites both Criterion 2(Program Educational Objectives) and Criterion 3 (Program Outcomes) as “. . . the areas inwhich there are the most shortcomings (deficiencies, weaknesses, and concerns).” The Reportgoes on to state that “Common shortcomings related to these two criteria included the following:inadequate evidence that the process in which the objectives are determined and periodicallyevaluated is based on the needs of constituencies (Criterion 2); confusion between the definitionof program educational objectives (Criterion 2) and program outcomes (Criterion 3); inadequateevidence of using the results of evaluation of objectives (Criterion 2) and/or assessment ofoutcomes (Criterion 3) to improve the program; and inadequate evidence demonstratingachievement of objectives (Criterion 2) or outcomes (Criterion 3).” Furthermore, when examinedover the ten year period 1997 to 2007, the rate of NGR actions taken by the ABET EngineeringAccreditation Commission fell from 78% to 67%.A plenary session at the 2009 Electrical and Computer Engineering Department HeadsAssociation (ECEDHA) Annual Meeting focused on determining suggestions for improving theABET accreditation process.. Subsequently, four subcommittees were formed and charged withgathering data and reporting findings at the 2010 ECEDHA Annual Meeting. The subcommitteefor determining what constitutes sufficiency for assessment readily concluded that Criterion 2was the area in greatest need of attention. To acquire meaningful data, a survey of electrical andcomputer engineering department heads was conducted in December 2009. The survey wasdesigned to solicit responses regarding what constitutes sufficient assessment for programeducational objectives. Elements of the survey included perceived efficacy of the components ofCriterion 2, assessment modes and response rates for Criterion 2, and program modificationsresulting from Criterion 2 assessment, in both quantitative and qualitative formats. The resultsfrom this survey provided a clear indication that there is a disconnect between programevaluators and self-study authors. Additionally, the results demonstrated a lack ofcomprehension of ABET terminology on the part of the institutions. Finally, the survey resultscall into question the validity of alumni data as a means for assessing program educationalobjectives. The results from this survey will be presented, along with recommendations forimproving this portion of the ABET assessment and accreditation process.  

Estell, J. K., & Williams, S. M. (2011, June), Program Educational Objectives: What Constitutes Sufficient Assessment? Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18523

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015