Engineering Education and Accreditation
- William P. Kimball
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- March 1964
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 265 - 268
- 1964. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 4.3.4 Scale
- 2 in the last 30 days
- 190 since 2007
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KIMBALL, WILLIAM P., DARTMOUTH COLLEGE, HANOVER, N.H.
Engineering education has changed considerably since before World War II. The direction, methods and ideas of educators in this field have changed and are still in a process of evolution. Realizing the threat of obsolescence to an engineering education with the old method of teaching the "how", educators are now teaching the "why". The current trends in education and curricula are evaluated, and the contributions of professional engineering societies to the accreditation of the engineering schools and curricula are discussed.
Concern with the education of the young men who will make their careers in engineering is one indication of the professional attitude of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. I hope the individual members share this concern. Important contributions to engineering education have been made by the professional societies and by intersociety bodies such as Engineers' Joint Council, Engineers' Council for Professional Development and most recently the Commission on Engineering Education. Most of these contributions have been accomplished by the voluntary efforts of professionally dedicated individuals. Nevertheless, of the half million engineers in this country only a relative handful have carried the burden of professional development. I deeply hope that the growing interest of your members and the increasing activity of your society in engineering education and other professional matters will produce for the future a far higher ratio of actives to inactives among petroleum engineers. Education precedes accreditation in the title of this paper as it has historically and as it does in importance to the profession. Since accreditation grows out of education, this paper will first describe some of the changes which have been taking place in engineering education and examine present characteristics and trends. Accreditation policy and procedures will then be described as the logical outgrowth of the trends in education and the needs of the profession. The importance of participation by professional engineers and societies in the accreditation process will be emphasized. Since most engineering schools grant the first engineering degree at the completion of a four-year undergraduate curriculum, and since accreditation consequently relates principally to such curricula, the emphasis in this paper will be on these programs. Mention will be made briefly, however, of a few important departures from the norm and of future prospects in postgraduate education.
Engineering education is education for doers, for people who are expected to do something, to conceive, to design, to build, to operate. Thus, application is the essence of engineering and it must be the distinctive objective, though not the exclusive method, of engineering education.
Past Education Practices
An historical review is not within the scope of this paper, but it is pertinent to point out that before World War 11 the emphasis was heavily on application, on method, on how. This emphasis seemed to be consistent with the objective, with the concept of the engineer as a doer. The worth of the engineering professor was measured by his knowledge of current practice and his ability to train his students in the facts and methods of his field of engineering practice. If an employer said, "I like to hire Professor X's graduates because they fit right into the organization and know just how to go about their job", this was considered the highest praise and the mark of the professor's success. Thus the organization and content of engineering education 25 years ago were largely determined by the skills which would be most useful to the graduate in carrying out the assignments of his first job. The resulting characteristics of the education of that time are well known to my generation. There was a remarkable similarity among the curricula offered in a given branch of engineering by the engineering schools across the country, and there was an equally remarkable lack of similarity in the curricula of the various branches of engineering. Thus, practically all the civil engineering curricula were the same and all the electrical curricula were the same, but civil and electrical engineering curricula had no more in common at a given institution than the dean happened to be able to convince his faculty was absolutely essential. Since the emphasis was so clearly on current practice, most curricula contained only such courses in chemistry, mathematics and physics as appeared likely to prove useful in the specific engineering application courses. Similarly, the value of courses in the humanities and social sciences was judged by the extent to which they might have direct application in engineering practice. By these measures, few of the courses offered by non-engineering departments could justify their inclusion in the student's study program.
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