Differences in Educational Goals Within the Field of Electrical Engineering

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2011-12

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Abstract

The issue of properly educating engineers to address the highly complex and technical issues of the modern world is more important now than ever. In order to design electrical engineering programs that train engineers to be successful and excel in the workforce, their major employers and developers of engineering curricula must work together to ensure that societal and individual needs are being met. However, before this work can truly be productive, it is important to understand the needs of each group. The purpose of this study was to investigate, through interviews, the opinions of practicing engineers in both industry and academia to determine if a misalignment of needs and educational goals between the two groups exists. Thus, the guiding research question for this study was: “How do electrical engineers in industry and academia differ in their conceptions of the goals of engineering education?”
To answer this question, six electrical engineers currently practicing in the field were chosen to provide feedback regarding educational outcomes through interview data. Three respondents were selected from industry and three respondents were selected from academia. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and comparisons of comments made regarding student outcomes were made between the two respondent groups. Study data showed that there was disagreement in some but not all of the educational outcomes. In fact, there was surprising agreement on approximately half of the student outcomes that emerged from the interview data. Overall there were very few comments regarding outcomes that respondents felt were not important. Only five outcomes elicited unfavorable remarks. Interestingly, all of the unfavorable remarks from industry respondents dealt with technical outcomes. There were only two unfavorable comments from academia and they pertained to a single non-technical outcome (ethics/morality). Also, there were some instances of disagreement on importance of educational goals within the groups. These instances were mainly within the industry group and related to technical outcomes.

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Keywords

Engineering Education, Faculty Interviews, Industry interviews, Engineering Educational Goals

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