Active/Collaborative Learning Student Teams Integrating Technology Effectively Women and Minorities Assessment and Evaluation EC2000 Emerging Technology Foundation Coalition Curricula Concept Inventories
Outcome e an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems

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 e 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.

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 3e (identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems) [1]. Their work illustrates a challenge in addressing outcome e. For this outcome, they constructed 37 different outcome elements. For each outcome element, they developed learning objectives for each of the six levels in Bloom's taxonomy. resulting in more than 102 learning objectives. Addressing all these learning objectives in four-year engineering curricula could be difficult.

The Chemical Engineering Department at McMaster University developed its McMaster Problem Solving (MPS) Program [2] to improve the problem-solving capabilities of its BS graduates. Reflecting the breadth of skills required to improve problem-solving capabilities, MPS has 58 units and learning objectives for each unit.

Assessment Approaches

In a report from the National Research Council, Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment [3], assessment, once expectations have been constructed, rests on three pillars: cognition, observation, and interpretation. Following this recommendation, the present section has subsections for each of the three pillars and then offers suggestions on assessment approaches for outcome e.

Theories of Cognition

Under development (16 February 2005)

Theories of Observation

Under development (16 February 2005)

Theories of Interpretation

Under development (16 February 2005)

Potential Assessment Resources

Heppner Problem Solving Inventory

The Problem Solving Inventory [4] is a 35-item, 6-point Likert-scale that measures beliefs about problem solving and styles used in problem solving. It does not measure problem solving skills. It was one of the assesment instruments used in assessment the McMaster Problem Solving program [2]

Under development (16 February 2005)

Instructional Approaches

Under construction (18 Jan 2005)

References for Further Information

  1. Learning Outcomes/Attributes ABET eAn Ability to Identify, Formulate, and Solve Engineering Problems, accessed 22 November 2004
  2. Woods, D. et al (1997). Developing Problem Solving Skills: The McMaster Problem Solving Program, Journal of Engineering Education, 86:2, 75-91

    Abstract: This paper describes a 25-year project in which we defined problem solving, identified effective methods for developing students skill in problem solving, implemented a series of four required courses to develop the skill, and evaluated the effectiveness of the program. Four research projects are summarized in which we identified which teaching methods failed to develop problem solving skill and which methods were successful in developing the skills. We found that students need both comprehension of Chemical Engineering and what we call general problem solving skill to solve problems successfully. We identified 37 general problem solving skills. We use 120 hours of workshops spread over four required courses to develop the skills. Each skill is built (using content-independent activities), bridged (to apply the skill in the content-specific domain of Chemical Engineering) and extended (to use the skill in other contexts and contents and in everyday life). The tests and examinations of process skills, TEPS, that assess the degree to which the students can apply the skills are described. We illustrate how self-assessment was used.

  3. 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.
  4. Heppner, P.P., Witty, T.E., and Dixon, W.A. (2004). Problem-Solving Appraisal and Human Adjustment: A Review of 20 Years of Research
    Using the Problem Solving Inventory. The Counseling Psychologist, 32:3, 2004 344-428


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 e, an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems.


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