Conference Paper

Board 89: What Engineering Students Think About How They Learn Professional Skills

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... Integrating industry into engineering classes as well as getting students out into industrial/professional environments help to prepare students for their future careers [6]. However, finding ways to also integrate professional skills into engineering core curriculum can be a challenge [7]. This paper will present one way in which the Grand Valley State University (GVSU) School of Engineering has sought to incorporate professional skills into their co-op work experience in order to provide students with an opportunity to identify and propose a project that can be completed as they progress through the engineering program. ...
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Employers lament that science graduates, particularly engineering students, lack professional skills, despite increasing emphasis on teaching professional skills in their curriculum. Using the Theory of Planned Behavior as an overarching framework, one explanation for skill development gaps may be students’ attitude towards learning professional skills. Our study purpose was to create a scale that accurately and consistently measures engineering students’ attitudes towards learning professional skills. To create the scale, we used a rigorous measurement development methodology, beginning with survey item generation and critical review by subject matter experts. Data from a sample of 534 engineering college students were split into two sets to provide (1) a development sample upon which exploratory factor analyses and parallel analyses were conducted to form the initial scale, and (2) a confirmatory sample whereby we verified the scale structure and obtained initial validity evidence for distinct dimensions. A five-factor scale of 25 items for assessing engineering students’ attitudes towards learning professional skills (ATLPS) obtained high-reliability estimates. Validity evidence supported five distinct dimensions in leadership in teams, communication, civic and public engagement, cultural adaptability, and innovation. The ATLPS can be used to facilitate improvements in engineering education and research by understanding students’ attitudes towards learning professional skills. Furthermore, researchers can expand the scale to include additional dimensions of professionalism and modify items to fit STEM disciplines where professional skill training is essential.
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Leadership must be a key element advancing for the engineering profession to remain relevant and connected in an era of heightened outsourcing and global competition. Companies intent on maintaining a competitive edge are calling upon educators to produce engineers capable of leading multidisciplinary teams, combine technical ingenuity with business acumen, and produce graduates who have a passion for lifelong learning. Industry is also challenging universities to broaden curricula beyond the intellectual endeavors of design and scientific inquiry to the greater domain of professional leadership and entrepreneurship. Managers in industry are similarly challenged to cultivate key leadership attributes in junior engineers. This article explores the changing nature of engineering in a globally competitive environment and addresses why leadership must become a key issue in the career progression of engineers. We will present a literature review of leadership models along with some proposed solutions for cultivating leadership skills as part of the career development process. Lastly, we will present specific recommendations on how to cultivate leadership attributes throughout an engineering career.
The development of engineering students' professional skills has gained considerable national attention from Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, the National Academy of Engineering, ASCE, and other constituents. There is little debate that these professional skills are necessary. Engineering programs have tried many approaches to develop these skills in the undergraduate programs. Colorado State University (CSU) has developed a new approach modeled on the type of professional development that occurs in the professional environment. This new Professional Learning Institute (PLI) provides students with a broad array of workshops, presentations, and experiential opportunities addressing the areas of cross cultural communication and teamwork, innovation, leadership, ethics, and public service. This program introduces students to the concept of professional development through required extracurricular activities, includes minimum requirements along with requirements to earn certificates in specialty areas for motivated students. The majority of offerings in the PLI are presented by leaders from the engineering profession who have teamed with CSU to provide high quality programs for our students.
In developing its new engineering accreditation criteria, ABET reaffirmed a set of "hard" engineering skills while introducing a sec- ond, equally important, set of six "professional" skills. These latter skills include communication, teamwork, and understanding ethics and professionalism, which we label process skills, and engineering within a global and societal context, lifelong learning, and a knowl- edge of contemporary issues, which we designate as awareness skills. We review these skills with an emphasis on how they can be taught, or more correctly learned, citing a number of examples of successful and/or promising implementations. We then examine the difficult issue of assessing these skills. We are very positive about a number of creative ways that these skills are being learned, partic- ularly at institutions that are turning to global and/or service learn- ing in combination with engineering design projects to teach and reinforce outcome combinations. We are also encouraged by work directed at assessing these skills, but recognize that there is consid- erable research that remains to be done.
Instruction and assessment of students' professional skills can be accomplished in senior project courses. Common learning modules for instruction of essential professional skills and rubrics for assessing the attainment of those skills can be used by both engineering and computing programs. This paper proposes a process by which faculty develop program learning outcomes based on the mission of the university, then develop learning and demonstration activities to determine the degree to which those outcomes are obtained. It further describes a process which uses portfolio assessment and a senior presentation and interview day to provide faculty with opportunity to assess student behaviors and capabilities.
As engineering programs continue to prepare for evaluation under EC 2000, faculty members are experiencing concern over the less well-defined outcomes of Criterion 3 that address lifelong learning, the global and societal context of our profession, and contemporary issues. Designing and implementing assessment for these outcomes might appear to be a time-consuming and ill-defined endeavor. This paper suggests several straightforward classroom strategies that faculty may use to begin to develop these outcomes in their students and describes an effective assessment method that may be realistically implemented and maintained for the long-term.
AAES Diversity & Inclusion Policy Statement, Adopted by the AAES General Assembly, November 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed January 29, 2019].
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