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The Competency Gap Approach To Course Level Continuous Improvement

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Closing Manufacturing Competency Gaps I

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1131.1 - 7.1131.8



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Paper Authors

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Balasubramanian Kailasshankar

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Devdas Pai

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

Main Menu Session 2463

The Competency Gap Approach to Course-Level Continuous Improvement

D. M. Pai and B. Kailasshankar NSF Center for Advanced Materials and Smart Structures Department of Mechanical Engineering NC A&T State University Greensboro, NC 27411


The SME Study on Competency Gaps in Manufacturing Education has catalyzed the genesis and propagation of many outstanding programs to reform and revamp manufacturing education. However, the report’s impact extends beyond manufacturing education - the techniques of competency gap identification, feedback and improvement can be replicated in other technical curricula. Unfortunately, curricular-level improvements are difficult without buy-in from the administration or the entire faculty. It is far easier for an individual instructor to influence pedagogical outcomes in their own classroom than at the departmental level. The authors believe that a ‘miniaturized’ version of the competency gap identification technique can provide a valuable pedagogical tool to the instructor. The paper discusses a test case that has been implemented in a junior-level mechanical engineering class on manufacturing processes. By tracking typical student errors on routine assessment instruments such as homework, quizzes and tests, five major categories of competency gaps were identified – comprehension, information, writing, units usage and quantitative analysis. This information has been continuously fed back to the students and used by them to continuously improve their performance. The paper will report on outcomes of this test case and discuss its scalability to other courses.


Over the last decade, grant-awarding institutions such as Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) Educational Foundation are have been moving to an outcome-centric focus. Since employees of engineering graduates reported that they had to expend considerable resources to bring fresh engineering graduate hires up to speed, SME investigated the barriers to fresh graduates achieving full productivity upon hire. Fourteen major gap areas were identified [1]. These include shortfalls in Communications Skills, Teamwork, Manufacturing Principles, Reliability Materials, and Quality etc. As a result, SME has directed its educational funding to curricula that address some or all of the competency gaps, giving rise to many successful programs that have been the subject of papers at ASEE conferences.

The authors believe that the power of the outcomes-focused techniques of SME have universal application in engineering education. Any discipline or curriculum can follow the same modus operandi to identify competency gaps and then implement local and institutional changes to bridge these gaps. Without buy-in from the entire faculty or from the administration, however, curricular-level educational reform is hard for an individual instructor to implement. It is far easier to influence pedagogical outcomes in one’s own classroom – at the course level, than at the departmental level.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Kailasshankar, B., & Pai, D. (2002, June), The Competency Gap Approach To Course Level Continuous Improvement Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10752

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