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The Data Are In: Student Workplace Competencies In The Experiential Workplace

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Experiential Learning

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1271.1 - 10.1271.10



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Paper Authors

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Larry Hanneman

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Steven Mickelson

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Thomas Brumm

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

Session 1882

The Data Are In: Student Workplace Competencies in the Experiential Workplace Thomas J. Brumm1 Larry F. Hanneman2 Steven K. Mickelson1 1 Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering 2 College of Engineering Career Services and Chemical Engineering Iowa State University


Workplace competencies describe the skills, knowledge and behaviors students will need to be successful as engineers. Experiential education (co-ops and internships) is critical to the preparation of engineering students as practicing professionals. The experiential workplace is one of the best places for students to develop and demonstrate workplace competencies. At Iowa State University, we have been assessing the workplace competencies of engineering students in the experiential workplace for the past four years. This paper discusses the process by which we identified the most important workplace competencies in partnership with our constituents (employers, faculty, experiential education students, and parents), the assessment tools used, the results across from the last four years, and the implications of these results for engineering education at Iowa State, outcomes assessment and continuous improvement in our curricula.


Many engineering programs are well on their way to adopting the outcomes-based ABET criteria, now well know as the ABET (a-k) Outcomes1. This new accreditation process emphasizes the use of continuous quality improvement and measured outcomes for professional preparation.

Eight of the ABET (a-k) Outcomes address “an ability to…”; two address “understanding”; and only one addresses “knowledge.” The direct measurement of “an ability to…” presents challenges very different from those of measuring knowledge and understanding. George Peterson, ABET Executive Director, stated, “…evaluating their outcomes are sophisticated activities with which most engineering educators have had little or no experience”2.

There is no universal approach to using the ABET outcomes-based criteria. Each program must interpret the criteria as they see fit for them. A cursory examination of the Journal of Engineering Education reveals numerous different approaches to implementing ABET criteria. A good example is the paper by Felder and Brent.3

At Iowa State University (ISU), we realized that we did not know how to directly measure “an ability.” We believe that such complex abilities cannot be observed directly – they must be inferred from actual performance. We hypothesize that each of the outcomes are multi-

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Hanneman, L., & Mickelson, S., & Brumm, T. (2005, June), The Data Are In: Student Workplace Competencies In The Experiential Workplace Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14695

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