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Using Focus Groups To Identify Industrial Engineering Students Perceptions Of Selected Abet Outcomes

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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

Assessment and Its Implications in IE

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1254.1 - 7.1254.17



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Paper Authors

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Richard Storch

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Catherine Scott

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Cynthia Atman

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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 2557

Using Focus Groups to Identify Industrial Engineering Students’ Perceptions of Selected ABET Outcomes

Cathie Scott, Cynthia J. Atman, and Richard Storch

University of Washington


As we began to review and revise the objectives for our Industrial Engineering program at the University of Washington, we decided to include students in the process. It is the students who are expected to meet program objectives before graduation, yet they may not understand the rationale behind the objectives or may not interpret them in the same way as faculty and others responsible for their implementation. In November 2000, we asked five students from the Department of Industrial Engineering for their interpretations of five performance-based outcomes for graduates of the program. We wanted to document in their own words—not ours— what the students thought the outcomes meant and how to assess them. Four of the outcomes were selected from a list of eleven outcomes developed by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) for all engineering disciplines. The fifth outcome was developed by the department and was specific to industrial engineering. Four students met together in a series of three focus group discussions. The fifth student was interviewed alone on three separate occasions because of scheduling conflicts. Students provided insightful perceptions, while also sharing their views of the industrial engineering discipline in general and of themselves as future industrial engineers. Some student perceptions were particularly revealing. For example, students focused on corporate and engineering issues when they were asked to describe a broad education. In general, students consider competence in the five outcomes as critical for practicing industrial engineers. They feel that they are developing such competence through the industrial engineering curriculum at the university, supplemented by technical electives and participation in voluntary activities outside of the classroom. In addition, they feel that graduates must possess the ability to describe to prospective employers the range of services that an industrial engineer can provide.


In November 2000, five students from the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Washington participated in a series of focus groups and interviews. Through this participation, the students gave their interpretations of five performance outcomes for students graduating from the department. This paper discusses the rationale, methods, and results of our study, with particular emphasis on how focus groups can be used to enhance an engineering program’s efforts to meet the criteria established by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET).

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

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Storch, R., & Scott, C., & Atman, C. (2002, June), Using Focus Groups To Identify Industrial Engineering Students Perceptions Of Selected Abet Outcomes Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11332

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