I was also unaware of the changes proposed by ABET on their accreditation assessments of engineering programs. The essay titled “We Assess What We Value” successfully captures, in my opinion, the detrimental consequences that such changes would undoubtedly bring to the educational experience of engineers. If anything, I always thought that requirements that included a “global and social context, engineering ethics, and lifelong learning” as part of the engineering curriculum needed to be strengthened. Actually as I write this I’m thinking maybe not always thought because I don’t recall feeling this strongly about it when I was an undergraduate student myself but certainly during my time in graduate school and the more I contemplate the subject.
There is definitely a pervasive thinking that the more ‘technical’ a degree’s curriculum is, the farther removed it is to people and the less attention needs to be given to the ‘human’ element in all its forms. This trend can be seen even within the different branches of engineering where more emphasis on “ethics” as established coursework is assigned for the biomedical field (where it is easy for most people to see a direct connection between their work and its impact on humans) than some of the other engineering disciplines.
Another negative result that can be attributed to this “outcome-based education” system that focuses on quantifying and rewarding accordingly, is the information overload in the scientific literature. It seems that academia is currently working in a system that rewards quantity over quality. Scientists are graded (by colleagues, peers, and superiors) by the number of citations they have under their name which–much like individuals attribute their ‘value’ or ‘relevance’ based on the number of ‘likes’ they get on any social media platform–can be unfairly skewed based on the size of the audience it reaches and the nature of these relationships. This assessment method can drive a system that undercuts the quality and depth of research in exchange for fast results that increase the number of publications, and might encourage other forms of unethical behavior. And similarly to the effect it has on students’ satisfaction and intrinsic motivation to learn, they can result in loss of enjoyment for the profession.