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The Role Of Co Op Experience In Achieving Engineering Educational Outcomes

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Cooperative Education and Engineering

Tagged Division

Cooperative & Experiential Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1258.1 - 13.1258.8



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Paper Authors


Jacqueline El-Sayed Kettering University

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Dr. Jacqueline El-Sayed is a professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Kettering University. Her areas of interests include plastic product design, manufacturing & optimization, interdisciplinary team teaching and the co op educational experience. Dr. El-Sayed is also the current Chair of the Michigan Truck Safety Commission, appointed by Governor Jennifer Granholm to represent all four-year colleges and universities in the State of Michigan.

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

The Role of Co-op Education in Achieving Educational Outcomes


To address the ABET learning outcomes in engineering education many assessment methodologies have been developed. One of such methodologies is based on the use of “profile of an engineer” developed by Davis et. al. 6 This work documents the important roles filled by a practicing engineer and the observable behaviors necessary for effective performance. Some learning outcomes, developed in this work, can be achieved at an elementary level in the classroom. However, the classroom being a part of a university setting, not a corporate environment is limited in context and scope and can only provide a limited simulation to real life work setting of an engineer. To provide the educational experiences for producing the full desired set of outcomes and to close the gap between a graduating engineer and a real practitioner co op education or internships are the key. During this type of experiential learning, engineers in the field provide the real life model of professional behaviors and practices directly to students. Meanwhile, engineering students are also being socialized to the corporate environment and gradually begin to perform some professional activities with increasing responsibility. The knowledge constructed through co op experiences can lead to the students’ development of the Holistic Interpersonal Skills and Professional Behaviors of Davis’ engineering profile. This paper presents evidence that co op and classroom education are complementary and necessary components for the development of a quality engineering education and job-ready engineering graduates.


Apprenticeship has long been held as one way to learn a craft from an expert. Before there were formal learning institutions, this was the most prevalent means that a society used to educate its youth. As education became more formalized, the experiential means of teaching were largely set aside. Experiential learning and classroom learning became two separate silos. Theory was communicated through lectures in classrooms, while practical knowledge was imparted through vocational training and deemed secondary. However, feedback from industrial advisory boards and employers of engineering graduates has brought to the forefront that practical know-how must be integrated into engineering education. It is not enough to be “book smart.” Industry wants engineers who are flexible, savvy and can produce quality results in real world situations. Higher education must find ways to educate engineering students with both practical and theoretical knowledge to ensure the student’s success.

ABET1 has led the charge by instituting learning outcomes for accreditation. Many of these outcomes are not technical but are considered “soft skills.” Soft skills include interpersonal, “people” skills. Following ABET’ s lead, higher education is experimenting with methodologies to address all outcomes, and to find ways to instill them in to their students. Because of increased assessment analysis of the learning outcomes, there have been documented deficiencies in engineering graduates for some outcomes, especially those pertaining to the soft skills such as effective communication, multidisciplinary teamwork and professional self-development.2 Higher education has taken steps to address such deficiencies by increasing student oral

El-Sayed, J. (2008, June), The Role Of Co Op Experience In Achieving Engineering Educational Outcomes Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3169

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