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Surviving Abet Accreditation: Satisfying The Demands Of Criterion 3

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Direct Measures of Student Performance

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1335.1 - 12.1335.15



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Paper Authors


Allen Estes California Polytechnic State University

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Allen C. Estes is a Professor and Head for the Architectural Engineering Department at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Until January 2007, Dr. Estes was the Director of the Civil Engineering Program at the United States Military Academy (USMA). He is a registered Professional Engineer in Virginia. Al Estes received a B.S. degree from USMA in 1978, M.S. degrees in Structural Engineering and in Construction Management from Stanford University in 1987 and a Ph.D. degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1997.

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Stephen Ressler U.S. Military Academy

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Colonel Stephen J. Ressler is Deputy Head of the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY. He earned a B.S. degree from USMA in 1979 and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University in 1989 and 1991. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Virginia. He serves as a member of the ASCE Educational Activities Committee and chairs the ASCE Committee on Curricula and Accreditation. He is a former Chairman of the ASEE CE Division.

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

Surviving ABET Accreditation: Satisfying the Demands of Criterion 3 Abstract

Preparing an engineering program for an ABET accreditation visit can be both daunting and frustrating. The requirements of ABET Criterion 3, in particular, can be confusing and may even seem contradictory. This paper suggests some methods and approaches that address the Criterion 3 requirements for formulation and assessment of program outcomes. Additional thoughts for successful accreditation preparation are also included. The authors are both civil engineering program directors who have prepared their own programs for accreditation and are ABET evaluators with multiple accreditation visits to other programs.

I. Introduction

For some programs, preparing for an ABET accreditation visit is a daunting experience. The requirements of Criterion 3, in particular, can be confusing and may even seem contradictory. Consider the following hypothetical conversation between an engineering program director preparing for accreditation and an ABET expert:

Program Director: The ABET accreditation process is now based on a philosophy of continuous improvement. I can define for myself what I want my students to be able to accomplish at graduation, and then I just need to assess how my program is doing. I will simply set the bar really low and define outcomes that I know I can meet, and then I am certain to be accredited. ABET Expert: Your strategy won’t work. The accreditation criteria contain some minimum standards that must be incorporated into your program outcomes. These standards are specified in the Criterion 3 a-k outcomes and include requirements for math, science, lifelong learning, engineering design, professional responsibility, ethics, and contemporary issues. These requirements are not trivial. Program: Then I will simply adopt the Criterion 3 a-k as my program outcomes. Expert: Using the Criterion 3 a-k outcomes without modification is probably acceptable but is definitely unwise. This practice sends the message that there is nothing special about your program; that you have not given your educational outcomes much thought; and that you are willing to let an outside agency dictate what you expect your students to accomplish. It is better to develop program outcomes that reflect the unique nature of your program and embed the Criterion 3 a-k outcomes within them. Then you need to assess how your students perform with respect to your program outcomes. Program: The assessment part is easy. The program outcomes are accomplished through the courses we teach, and every professor provides a direct assessment of student performance through course grades. It the students pass all of the courses, we can then conclude that they have met all of the outcomes. Expert: You cannot use course grades alone to assess the achievement of your program outcomes. Unless there is a clear one-to-one correspondence between a given course and an associated program outcome, simply passing the course does not guarantee students’ attainment of the outcome. If it is possible to pass a course while not accomplishing the associated outcome(s), then the course grade cannot possibly be a valid measure of outcome achievement.

Estes, A., & Ressler, S. (2007, June), Surviving Abet Accreditation: Satisfying The Demands Of Criterion 3 Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1971

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: © 2007 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