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The Use Of Portfolios As Assessment Tools In An Engineering Program

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.657.1 - 5.657.15



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Francis J. Hopcroft

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

Session 2251

The Use of Portfolios as Assessment Tools in an Engineering Program

Francis J. Hopcroft Associate Professor Wentworth Institute of Technology Boston, MA


Portfolios have long been the pride of other disciplines, including the Architecture and Interior Design Programs, at most universities and colleges. Students compile master portfolios throughout their education to demonstrate to prospective employers, and accreditors, the depth of their skills and the breadth of their experience. In the professional arenas in which those students and graduates ply their trades, portfolios to demonstrate competence have become a standard of practice.

The use of portfolios has become a habit in the world of engineering for the Engineer-in- Training to be able to demonstrate to licensing boards that the applicant has complied with the strict rules of responsible charge needed to procure professional licenses. It has not yet found its way into the universities and colleges to any significant degree, however. In most institutions of higher education, more “conventional” means of demonstrating knowledge - tests, papers, reports, etc., - have been the bulwark of the educational process. Being particularly conservative by nature, engineering educators have been slow to see the advantages of this tool to the assessment of their programs.

With the advent of ABET 2000 rules for the accreditation of engineering programs, a new emphasis has been placed on the demonstration of competence in the students and the graduate. This has prompted a look for new tools to better assess program outcomes. As is so often the case, old tools put to a new use can be superior to any new tool developed for a single purpose. In this case, portfolios, developed and maintained by the students, can help provide the evidence needed to demonstrate successful implementation of program learning and competency objectives on a broad scale.

This paper addresses the development of the portfolio concept as a tool for program assessment and provides an overview of the implementation mechanism used at Wentworth. Portfolios are required of every student in the program in one class each semester. Although the portfolio is a required part of one class, it covers the entire range of courses taken that semester. Through the use of this tool, the students can better understand what they are expected to learn and when they are expected to learn it; the program faculty can better assess the achievement of learning and competency expectations; and the assessment process for accreditation can be expedited in a powerful way.

Hopcroft, F. J. (2000, June), The Use Of Portfolios As Assessment Tools In An Engineering Program Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8802

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