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Using the EPSA Rubric to Evaluate Student Work in a Senior Level Professional Issues Course

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Evaluation of Ethical Development

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1349.1 - 24.1349.19



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Paper Authors


Edwin R. Schmeckpeper P.E., Ph.D Norwich University

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Edwin Schmeckpeper, P.E., Ph.D., is the chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Norwich University, the first private school in the United States to offer engineering courses. In addition, Norwich University was the model used by Senator Justin Morrill for the land-grant colleges created by the 1862 Morrill Land Grant Act. Prior to joining the faculty at Norwich University, Dr. Schmeckpeper taught at the University of Idaho, the state's land-grant college, and worked as an engineer in design offices and at construction sites.

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Ashley Ater-Kranov Washington State University


Steven W. Beyerlein University of Idaho, Moscow

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Dr. Beyerlein is a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Idaho, where he serves as the coordinator for an inter-disciplinary capstone-design sequence that draws students from across the College of Engineering. Over the last 10 years, he has been part of several NSF grants that have developed assessment instruments focused on professional skills and piloted them with capstone-design students.

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Jay Patrick McCormack Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Jay McCormack is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

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Patrick D. Pedrow P.E. Washington State University

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Patrick D. Pedrow received s B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Idaho, Moscow, in 1975, an M.Eng. in electric power engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1976, an M.S. in physics from Marquette University in 1981, and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Cornell University in 1985. From 1976 to 1981, he was with McGraw-Edison Company, where he conducted research and development on electric power circuit breakers. He is currently an associate professor at Washington State University in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. His research interests are in plasma-assisted materials processing, including the deposition and evaluation of thin plasma-polymerized films deposited at atmospheric pressure using weakly ionized plasma. Dr. Pedrow is a member of the American Physical Society, IEEE, ASEE, and Tau Beta Pi. He is a registered professional engineer in the state of Wisconsin.

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Using the EPSA Rubric to Evaluate Student Work in a Senior Level Professional Issues CourseEngineering programs often contain a senior level “Professional Issues” course to cover topics,such as ethics, which are related to the professional practice of engineering. These coursescommonly utilize case studies focusing on ethics as the basis for student discussions. Measuringthe student learning resulting from the case study process is often very subjective, and is difficultto quantify.The Engineering Professional Skills Assessment (EPSA) was created as a direct method foreliciting and measuring professional skills, such as ethics, as described in ABET criterion 3 -student outcomes. EPSA is a performance assessment consisting of: 1) a 1-2 page scenario aboutan interdisciplinary contemporary engineering problem intended to prompt discussion among agroup of 5-6 students; 2) a 45- minute discussion period where students are asked to address aseries of standardized questions about the scenario; and 3) an analytical rubric, which is used toevaluate the students’ discussion. The research team that developed EPSA is currently in thefinal year of a four -year validity study funded by the National Science Foundation. As part ofthis validation study, the team of researchers has applied EPSA to test groups of students atNorwich University, the University of Idaho, and Washington State University.As a result of the work done on the validity study, faculty members from Norwich who are partof the project team introduced other Norwich faculty to EPSA, who have independently startedto utilize aspects of the EPSA method in their courses. This paper describes how the EPSAscenarios and EPSA rubric are being used in the “Ethics” section of a senior level “ProfessionalIssues” course for engineering students. The course instructors have found the interdisciplinaryEPSA scenarios to generate more enthusiastic and higher level discussion than case studies thatfocus solely on ethics. For example, one professor has selected to use the EPSA “Offshore WindFarm” scenario due to Norwich University’s proximity to local land-based wind farms. Thisscenario includes economic, political, regulatory, ethical, and environmental considerations,including such issues as public use vs. private rights related to land-use, effects of regulations onutility prices, reliability of renewable energy, global warming, and the international markets forenergy. To make evaluation of students’ work more consistent between the multiple sections ofthe course, the EPSA Rubric provides a standardized means to evaluate the quality of studentdiscussions.The paper includes presentation of several of the EPSA scenarios, the standardized questionswhich are used to prompt the student discussion, the EPSA rubric, and will address how thesehave been incorporated for use in the classroom.

Schmeckpeper, E. R., & Ater-Kranov, A., & Beyerlein, S. W., & McCormack, J. P., & Pedrow, P. D. (2014, June), Using the EPSA Rubric to Evaluate Student Work in a Senior Level Professional Issues Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23282

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