In an effort to improve the College of Engineering, Technology and Architecture, associate professor Tom Eppes along with professor of mechanical engineering Ivana Milanovic recently published an article outlining liberal arts skills that need to be assessed in CETA students.
Spurred by a committee headed by Assistant Provost and Dean of Faculty Development, H. Frederick Sweitzer, and represented by people from all the colleges of the University, the article was published in the “Journal of College Teaching and Learning” earlier this year.
The committee decided which skill to tackle first and then found a way to measure those skills.
They first focused on writing skills throughout the University and launched pilots to get results and find out what faculty thought.
The article, titled “Towards Liberal Education Assessment in Engineering and Technology Programs” outlines a plan to meet the new accreditation requirements set by New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
One of the CETA programs is also up for their accreditation this year by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
“The paper describes the overall motivation beginning with NEASC to what’s been done by other educational institutions to try and create some groundwork for doing a better job of assessing liberal education skills to focusing on curriculum in CETA and ending with some pilot results that demonstrate our application of this,” Eppes said.
The three main liberal skills looked at included critical thinking, problem solving and creativity.
“We wanted to find the right tool to come up with a good estimate of what level achievement resides,” Eppes said. “We do not currently perform critical thinking assessments on graduates.”
Eppes and Milanovic found the easiest way to assess these key liberal education skills in CETA students being the senior capstone class.
The class, which is a culmination of everything students have done in their four years at the University, includes working in teams, varied assignments and doing original work.
The class also already has a built in interview and debrief period with students which proved crucial to Eppes and Milanovic’s work.
“We found it a pretty convenient mechanism available to us without much additional work,” Eppes said. “As engineers, we focus on the technical component of students’ designs.”
“We’re fascinated by engineering elements,” Eppes went on to add. “This effort allows us to get to see other skills that make students more or less successful in capstone.
“The ability to discover one’s critical thinking level, problem solving and creativity as a standalone skill is something we had not been doing and those are important in capstone success and once they graduate in industry or advanced degrees.”
These core skills: critical thinking, problem solving and creativity are essential to work in a complex and technical environment.
From here, the plan is to take the study to its next level by incorporating a higher level of critical thinking skills on a University level.