Active/Collaborative Learning Student Teams Integrating Technology Effectively Women and Minorities Assessment and Evaluation EC2000 Emerging Technology Foundation Coalition Curricula Concept Inventories
Outcome a an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering

Introduction and Invitation

Constructing resources for assessment and instruction related to the eleven student outcomes contained in Criterion 3 of the ABET Engineering Criteria requires contributions across the entire engineering community. If you have one or more resources (for example, helpful papers, survey forms, assessment materials, instructional materials) for assessment and/or instructional related to outcome a click here. Please indicate whether and how you would like your contribution to be acknowledged. Thanks for contributing the growing understanding of how we might help engineering students develop knowledge and skills that they will draw upon throughout their careers.

Learning Objectives

The first step in selecting assessment and instructional approaches for a learning outcome is to formulate learning objectives that support the outcome. Learning objectives describe expectations associated with the outcome in terms of expected and observable performances. Several researchers have already constructed learning objectives and these may provide worthwhile starting points for others.

Expectations to apply knowledge of science, mathematics and engineering are prevalent in many engineering courses. As a result, Felder and Brent [1] suggest that faculty members will be able to use their usual learning objectives for their engineering courses. A team of researchers (Larry Shuman, Mary E. Besterfield-Sacre, Harvey Wolfe, Cynthia J. Atman, Jack McGourty, Ronald L. Miller, Barbara M. Olds, and Gloria M. Rogers) working a NSF-supported project, Engineering Education: Assessment Methodologies and Curricula Innovation, used Bloom's Taxonomy to develop and organize a set of learning objectives for outcome 3a (apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering) [2]. They developed learning objectives for all six levels of learning in Bloom's taxonomy for two outcome elements:

  • Apply knowledge of mathematics
  • Apply knowledge of science and engineering fundamentals

The number and complexity of their outcomes elements is considerably simpler than elements for other outcomes.

Outcome 3a is one outcome where each engineering major (chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, etc) might invest thought to develop program outcomes specific to their engineering discipline. For example, faculty members in electrical engineering at the University of North Dakota have several outcomes that are specific to electrical engineering [3].

Assessment Approaches

In a report from the National Research Council, Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment [4], assessment, once expectations have been constructed, rests on three pillars: cognition, observation, and interpretation.

Theories of Cognition

Abilities to apply knowledge of engineering, science, and mathematics might be demonstrated in many ways. For example, students might solve engineering problems. If this is the case, outcome a overlaps with outcome e. Students might design a component or system using their knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering. If this is the case, outcome a overlaps with outcome c. Therefore, outcome a is often linked to other outcomes.

Applying their knowledge requires that students have more than the ability to recall factual knowledge. Conceptual understanding would also be expected. Recognizing the importance of conceptual understanding, researchers have developed many instruments to test conceptual understanding of physics, chemistry, and engineering science. Information about these instruments and links to additional resources can be found on the Concept Inventory web page of the Foundation Coalition.

Under construction (12 January 2005)

Instructional Approaches

Under construction

References for Further Information

  1. Felder, R.M., and Brent, R. (2003). Designing and Teaching Courses to Satisfy the ABET Engineering Criteria. Journal of Engineering Education, 92:1, 7-25.

    Abstract: Since the new ABET accreditation system was first introduced to American engineering education in the middle 1990s as Engineering Criteria 2000, most discussion in the literature has focused on how to assess Outcomes 3a3k and relatively little has concerned how to equip students with the skills and attitudes specified in those outcomes. This paper seeks to fill this gap. Its goals are to (1) overview the accreditation process and clarify the confusing array of terms associated with it (objectives, outcomes, outcome indicators, etc.); (2) provide guidance on the formulation of course learning objectives and assessment methods that address Outcomes 3a3k; (3) identify and describe instructional techniques that should effectively prepare students to achieve those outcomes by the time they graduate; and (4) propose a strategy for integrating programlevel and course-level activities when designing an instructional program to meet the requirements of the ABET engineering criteria.

  2. Learning Outcomes/Attributes ABET Outcome a: Graduates have an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering, accessed 12 January 2005
  3. Electrical Engineering, University of North Dakota, accessed 12 January 2005
  4. National Research Council. (2001). Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment. Committee on the Foundations of Assessment, James W. Pellegrino, Naomi Chudowsky, and Robert Glaser, editors, Board on Testing and Assessment, Center for Education, National Research Council.


The Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering Programs at the Unviersity of California, Santa Clara describe specifically how they assess and evaluate the performance of their graduates with respect to outcome a, an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering.



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