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Standards Based Accreditation Of H/Ss Programs

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.892.1 - 6.892.9

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Lance Schachterle

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

Session 1161

Standards-Based Assessment of Humanities/Social Science (H/SS) Programs in the Liberal Education Division (LED)

Lance Schachterle, Assistant Provost, WPI 508 831-5514;

For decades, curricula in the Humanities and Social Sciences (H/SS) for engineering students and faculty have been dominated by the now-displaced ABET “Conventional Criteria” which required that engineering students devote “one-half year [of study to the] humanities and social sciences” (“ABET Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs,” I.C.3.a.[2].) The “Conventional Criteria” went on at some length in I.C.3.d.(2) to justify this requirement in terms of: a) arguing for the importance of H/SS to both engineering and general education; b) “making engineers fully aware of their social responsibilities and [becoming] better able to consider related factors in the decision-making process”; c) enjoining that such courses be selected to “provide both breadth and depth and not [be] limited to a selection of unrelated introductory courses”; and d) defining both acceptable traditional H/SS areas of study (e.g., history, philosophy, economics, foreign languages), acceptable nontraditional subjects (“technology and human affairs, history of technology, and professional ethics and social responsibility”) as well as unacceptable courses (“courses that instill cultural values are acceptable while routine exercises of personal craft are not.”) In short, the old “Conventional Criteria” not only mandated how much H/SS course work students had to pass but specified in some detail the breadth and depth of acceptable course areas for study.

The “Conventional Criteria” are no longer in force. Beginning in 2001, all programs seeking ABET accreditation must adhere to the new Engineering Criteria 2000 (EC2000) which offer much briefer guidance; the new Criterion 4c stipulates only “a general education component that complements the technical content of the curriculum and is consistent with the program and institution objectives.”

The change is striking. EC2000 challenges engineering educators to make H/SS a relevant part of the mission of the engineering program rather than simply requiring students to pass classes. EC 2000 offers much greater latitude for experimentation for H/SS but removes the guarantee of a modest slice (a half year) of the four-year curriculum.

Experimentation with H/SS programming should—as EC2000 intends—encourage greater diversity for curricular planning and for demonstrating learning outcomes. Hopefully, some

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Schachterle, L. (2001, June), Standards Based Accreditation Of H/Ss Programs Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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