Share the Future IV

The Assessment of Complex Outcomes of Learning
Tim Whiteley
Engineering Professors' Council
Hatfield, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom

The UK Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC) has recently completed a three-year project to define and promote the use of an Engineering Graduate Output Standard. The standard defines a reasonable expectation of what engineering graduates are able to do and is based on an analysis of the process of engineering.

The presentation starts by outlining the nature and purposes of the EPC and the motivation for its work on graduate output standards. The EPC output standard is described, and its application and potential benefits are summarized.

The standard is striking in many ways, not least in its decision to specify some complex, fuzzy, and nondeterminate outcomes of learning as defining characteristics of new engineering graduates. Program leaders will be concerned about how to enhance what they do so that it best aligns with these outcomes. However, important though these design and delivery issues are, this presentation approaches the implementation of the output standard from a different angle:  what are the implications for assessment?

EPC survey data show that engineers do use suitable assessment practices and that these practices are curbed by a number of difficulties that worry EPC members. Our confidence in objective, reliable, and accurate grading may be misplaced, but some of the difficulties identified in this analysis can be eased by taking a more differentiated view of assessment. Lastly, two examples of assessment methods are suggested to illustrate this approach.

The presentation draws on the report of the EPC's Assessment Working Group and EPC Occasional Paper No. 10, "The EPC Engineering Graduate Output Standard." Publication of these resulted in the commissioning by EPC of a challenging paper, "The Assessment of Complex Outcomes," by Peter Knight, Centre for Outcomes-based Education, Open University, from which further thoughts have been drawn. These are available at

A recent study indicated that 74% of engineering students engaged in some sort of academic misconduct while a student. However, academic misconduct (cheating) has changed considerably from the days when most faculty members were students. Today, it no longer involves hiding crib sheets for exams and writing answers on your arm. This workshop looks at the current issues being encountered by faculty across the country, student perceptions regarding academic misconduct and fraud, and tools and techniques that exist to address the issues that are being encountered in today's classrooms.

Learning objectives:  Awareness

  • Make the audience aware of the current situation with respect to what students and institutions are encountering with respect to academic misconduct.
  • Make the audience aware of tools and resources that can be used to address this issue in their classes.

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