Engineering Accreditation and Standards for Technological Literacy

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  • January 2003 Journal of Engineering Education 95

    DOUGLAS GORHAMThe Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

    PAM B. NEWBERRYProject Lead the Way

    THEODORE A. BICKARTColorado School of Mines


    This article provides an overview of how the InternationalTechnology Education Associations Standards for TechnologicalLiteracy: Content for the Study of Technology and the AccreditationBoard for Engineering and Technologys Engineering Criteria2000s Criterion 3 Program Outcomes and Assessment focus onproducing secondary school and engineering graduates with anenhanced level of technological literacy and competency. Thesedocuments, providing guidelines for pre-college throughundergraduate education, are intended to promote improvementin the quality and quantity of engineering students and toenhance the level of technological literacy of pre-college teachersand their students.


    While the engineering profession is concerned with the reportof the Engineering Workforce Commission of the American As-sociation of Engineering Societies that indicates an overall declinein B.S. degrees in engineering in the last five years [5], a late 1999national survey, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, showed75 percent of parents responded that engineering is more impor-tant than business and 72 percent of them responded thatengineering is more important than medicine [8]. In addition,technical positions are currently unfilled due to the lack of a work-force with a sustained, if not growing, level of technological com-petency and a populace with a higher level of technological literacy[9, p. 45 and 402].

    While testifying before the Committee on Education and theWorkforce, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan rein-forced the need for a more technologically literate society when hestated, The proportion of our workforce that created valuethrough intellectual endeavors, rather than predominantlythrough manual labor, began a century-long climb. In 1900, onlyone out of every ten workers was in a professional, technical, ormanagerial occupation. By 1970, that proportion had doubled,

    and today those jobs account for nearly one-third of the workforce [6].

    To help address this shortfall, the Accreditation Board for En-gineering and Technologys (ABETs) Engineering Criteria 2000s(EC2000s) Criterion 3 Program Outcomes and Assessment [2]and the International Technology Education Associations(ITEAs) Standards For Technological Literacy: Content for the Studyof Technology (STL) [7] are committed to producing engineeringand secondary school graduates, respectively, with a higher level oftechnological competency and literacy and with the motivation, ca-pability, and knowledge-base for life-long learning.

    The focus of this article is to: 1) outline the connections between ABETs EC2000s Criterion

    3 Program Outcomes and Assessment and ITEAs STL; and2) raise the level of awareness of the potential impacts of STL

    on engineering education.


    ABET is widely recognized as the sole agency in the UnitedStates responsible for accrediting educational programs leading todegrees in engineering, engineering technology, computing, andapplied science (formerly, related engineering) areas. The ABETlist of accredited programs is widely accepted by employers, acade-mic institutions, professional engineering societies, and the profes-sional engineer licensure boards. Furthermore, ABET criteria andprocesses for accreditation are highly regarded internationally byacademic institutions and agencies for accreditation.

    ABET recently completed the transition phase to new engi-neering criteria for accreditation of engineering educational pro-grams, initially and still popularly called Engineering Criteria 2000.These program objectives and outcomes oriented criteria in aframework of continuous improvement were nurtured from thefirst years of the 1990s, to adoption in 1995. Criterion 3 ProgramOutcomes and Assessment is evidence of the new focus on whatcollege students are expected to know and be able to do upon grad-uation from engineering educational programs (see Horizontal list-ing in Table 1).

    In April 2000, STL was published by ITEA. The overall focusof STL is to promote the study of technology and to encourage thedevelopment of technological literacy by all pre-college students.The document provides a rationale for the need for students todevelop technological literacy. It details twenty standards fortechnological literacy (see listing in Table 1); concludes with rec-ommendations of what might be done to advance the cause of tech-nological literacy; and encourages the adoption of the standards fortechnological literacy in states, regional jurisdictions, and localities.

    An Educational Brief

    Engineering Accreditation and Standards forTechnological Literacy

  • 96 Journal of Engineering Education January 2003

    Table 1. Comparison of Standards for Technological Literacy and Engineering Criteria 2000.Source: Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology Engineering Criteria 2000 and International Technology Education

    Associations Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology.

  • Several groups contributed to the development of STL, includ-ing an Advisory Group and a National Academy of Engineering(NAE) Focus Review Group. On the Advisory Group were repre-sentatives of associations, who had previously helped develop stan-dards, such as Rodger Bybee, former Executive Director, Center forScience, Mathematics, and Engineering Education and JamesRutherford, Education Advisor for Project 2061 of the AmericanAssociation for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In addition,William Wulf, President of the National Academy of Engineering(NAE), Gerald Wheeler, Executive Director of the National Sci-ence Teachers Association (NSTA), and Kendall Starkweather,Executive Director of ITEA were active participants.

    The NAE Focus Group helped provide input and guidance fromthe profession. Members of this group were: Alice Agogino,Professor, University of California, Berkeley; George Bugliarello,Chancellor, Polytechnic University, New York; Samuel Florman,Chairman, Kreisler Borg Florman Construction Company, NewYork; Elsa Garmire, Professor, Dartmouth College, NewHampshire; Carl Hall, Engineer, Engineering InformationServices, Virginia; and John Truxal, Professor, State University ofNew York at Stonybrook.

    STL underwent a rigorous review by the technology educationcommunity, the National Research Council (NRC), and the NAE.The support by these groups of the development of STL reinforcedthe belief that a set of standards could lead to change in fundamentalcomponents of the educational system.


    Tables 1 and 2 compare and contrast the concepts and principlesthat are recommended for technology education courses for gradesK-12 in STL with outcomes specified in Criterion 3 ProgramOutcomes and Assessment of EC2000.


    George Bugliarello, Chancellor of Polytechnic University, NewYork, takes a broad view of technological literacy when he states,The issues in our everyday life for which we need technological liter-acy go beyond knowing how to use computers and other technologi-cal devices, essential as that knowing is. They are issues that affecthow we go about making personal decisions as well as community de-cisionsThey are issues of risk, safety, cost/effectiveness, standards,and tradeoffs; all interwoven. None of these concepts is emphasizedin the teaching of the sciences [3].

    As pre-college schools and districts adopt and implement STL,increased numbers of students will take technologically orientedcoursework, and will be exposed to many aspects of engineering.These experiences will likely result in more students understand-ing engineering principles and selecting engineering as a careeroption. By interacting with the standards, they will be better ableto develop life-long learning skills that will help to equip them tobe successful in pursuing engineering degrees. If students under-stand more about the concepts and principles of technology(Table 2) then their overall level of technological literacy will be

    enhanced. An increase in technological literacy will very likelyresult in a workforce that is capable of assuming the responsibili-ties of highly skilled technical positions.

    STL has the potential to increase enrollments in engineeringprograms. The National Academy of Engineering report Techni-cally Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Tech-nology stated that groups, such as schools of engineering, are wellpositioned to influence the development of technological literacy[9, p. 12]. By implementing the standards at the pre-college levelthe supply of future engineers will almost assuredly increase andthe technological literacy of society generally will certainly beenhanced.

    Engineering educators working with pre-college teacher-educators can impact the level of technological literacy of future,as well as current, teachers who, in turn, share their technologicalknowledge with their students for the (remaining) duration oftheir teaching careers.


    STL provide a focused guide for improving technological litera-cy at the pre-college level. There are clear connections between STLand EC2000 as shown in Table 4. William A. Wulf, President ofthe National Academy of Engineering, goes further in describingthe potential impact of the standards when he wrote, The stan-dards will provide a much-needed reference point for developers ofcurriculum and instructional materials. Most important, the stan-dards lay the foundation for building a technologically literate citi-zenry [10]. And, Rodger Bybee, Executive Director of the Biologi-cal Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), stresses the need when hestates, The need to achieve technological literacy is a nationalimperative [4].

    The movement to improve technological literacy in pre-collegeeducation and the new ABET engineering criteria have the poten-tial to work synergistically to improve engineering, resulting in astronger technological society and economy. Technically Speakingdescribed the potential impact of engineering on technological lit-eracy when it stated, An engineering-led effort to increase techno-logical literacy could have significant, long-term pay-offs, not onlyfor decision makers in government but also for the public at large[9, p. 112]. Engineers, engineering educators, and their professionalsocieties are encouraged to become aware of Standards for Techno-logical Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology.


    [1] ABET Director of Education and Information Services, Telephoneconversation with Ted Bickert, 29 July, 2002.

    [2] Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).Engineering Criteria 2000 (Web), accessed 21August 2002.

    [3] Bugliarello, G. 1999. Reflections on technological literacy. Paperpresented at the meeting of the National Academy of Engineering Committee onTechnological Literacy Workshop and Committee Meeting, 10 SeptemberWashington, D.C.

    [4] Bybee, R.W. 2000. Achieving technological literacy: A nationalimperative. The Technology Teacher, 60, p. 2328.

    January 2003 Journal of Engineering Education 97

  • 98 Journal of Engineering Education January 2003

    Table 2. A table depicting some of the major concepts and principles covered in technology education courses and recommended engineeringaccreditation criteria.

    Key: A code sequence of ABETA through ABETK correlates to the ABETs outcomes a through k (in Criterion 3 of Engineering Criteria2000), while STLS1 through STLS20 correlates to the ITEAs Standards for Technological Literacy. A check mark, , refers to the topicbeing mentioned or covered in some manner, but it may not be directly stated.

  • [5] Engineering Workforce Commission of the American Associationof Engineering Societies (AAES). 2000. Engineering and TechnologyDegrees: 2000. Washington D.C.: Author. p. 1013.

    [6] Greenspan, A. 2000. The economic importance of improvingmath-science education. Testimony before the Committee on Education andthe Workforce, 21 September, U.S. House of Representatives. Washington,D.C.

    [7] International Technology Education Association (ITEA). 2000.Standards for technological literacy: Content for the study of technology. Reston,VA: Author.

    [8] Kaplan, K. 1999. National techies day survey. Los Angeles Times, 4October, Final edition.

    [9] National Academy of Engineering (NAE). 2002. Technically speak-ing: Why all Americans need to know more about technology. Washington, DC:National Academy Press. p. 45, 12, 402, and 112.

    [10] Wulf, W.A. 2000. The standards for technological literacy: A national academies perspective. The Technology Teacher, 59, p. 1012.


    Douglas Gorham is the Manager of Pre-college Education forthe Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Prior to join-ing IEEE in July 2000 he served as a pre-college educator for overtwenty-five years, including 12 years as a high school principal. Heserves as a member of the Advisory Board for the City College ofNew Yorks CityTech: Stuff That Works project.

    Address: 6819 Tumbleweed Trail, Bradenton, FL, 34202;telephone: 941-753-4758; fax: 941-753-0068; e-mail:

    Pam B. Newberry is the Associate Director for Curriculum andInstruction for Project Lead The Way. PLTW is a non-profitorganization that provides pre-engineering curricula for schools in35 states and approximately 500 schools. Prior to joining PLTW inJuly 2002, she served as the Associate Director for the InternationalTechnology Education Associations Technology for All Ameri-cans Project for 5 years. She taught technology education andmathematics for 10 years. During that time, she was an AlbertEinstein Fellow in 1996 and received the Presidential Award forExcellence in Mathematics Teaching in 1994.

    Address: 177 Stone Meadow Lane, Wytheville, VA, 24382; telephone: 276-228-6502; fax: 276-228-6503; e-mail:

    Theodore A. Bickart is President Emeritus of the ColoradoSchool of Mines and former faculty member and Dean of Engi-neering at Syracuse University and then Michigan State University.He serves the IEEE as Chair of its Accreditation Policy Council, anoperating unit of its Educational Activities Board. He is a fellow ofboth the IEEE and ASEE.

    Address: 541 Wyoming Circle, Golden, CO, 80403-1392; telephone: 303-277-0125; fax: 303-279-7226; e-mail: or

    January 2003 Journal of Engineering Education 99


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