Substantial dialogue exists regarding the needs of the engineering profession and the changes in engineering education necessary to meet them. Important to this change is an increased emphasis on the professional competencies as identified by the Washington Accord and the ABET professional skills for engineering graduates and how to educate for them. This paper will explore the potential for a project based learning engineering curriculum model to meet this need. It will summarize a newly developed upper-division undergraduate project-based learning (PBL) engineering program in the U.S. engineering educational system and its approach to professional competency development. Based on the ABET intent, students graduate with integrated technical/professional knowledge and competencies. The program does not have formal courses; instead learning activities are organized and indexed in industry projects where they are solving complex and ill-structured industry problems. The program started in January 2010 and has 75 graduates to date and has earned ABET-EAC accreditation.
A mixed-methods research approach will address the research question: “What is the professional development trajectory of students in the new project based learning (PBL) curriculum?” Quantitative method includes the development of an instrument to measure student growth in professional competencies. Qualitative measures include an interview protocol to understand which components of the PBL model affected the student professional development trajectory. The paper will provide initial results and analysis for the quantitative study, which indicated a positive impact on student attainment of the professional competencies in the PBL curriculum as compared to students in a traditional curriculum.
Johnson, B., & Ulseth, R. (2015, July). Professional Competency Development in a PBL Curriculum. Presented at the 5th International Research Symposium on PBL, part of International Joint Conference on the Learner in Engineering Education (IJCLEE 2015), Mondragon University, 6-9 July 2015.
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