Implementing Outcomes Based Learning in a Canadian Engineering Program

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipients: Carolyn J. Sparrey, School of Engineering Science

Project team: Maureen Hindy, School of Engineering Science

Timeframe: August 2012 to May 2014

Funding: $10,000

Poster presentation: View a poster (PDF) describing this project from the 2013 Symposium on Teaching and Learning. 

Description: The Mechatronic Systems Engineering (MSE) Program is transitioning in to an outcome-based education (OBE) model over the next three years as a result of both institutional and professional accreditation requirements.  Early introduction of OBE methods to the MSE faculty raised many questions regarding the most effective and efficient means for transitioning the program and the expected improvements in educational outcomes.  The faculty‚Äôs response upon being introduced to OBE methods motivated this research proposal to provide observations, analysis and best practice guidelines for the implementation of OBE methods in engineering programs generally.  This transition phase has provided an excellent opportunity to formally study the process of converting the MSE program to OBE, include stakeholders (students, faculty, alumni and industry) in defining outcome measures, and observe faculty and student response to this transition.

This multi-phased inquiry project will be conducted over approximately two years, and aims to address several questions related to the implementation and faculty/student perceptions of OBE.  This inquiry will examine approaches and insights of prior OBE transition experiences as well as our own in order to develop best practice guidelines.  This inquiry project, therefore, aims to evaluate the efficiency of various implementation approaches and create a document of best practices for transitioning to OBE for our own use and to share with other engineering programs.  We also aim to include all faculty members and a large portion of the MSE student population in this project.  By documenting the faculty and student response to OBE methods we will be able to help identify best practices for applying OBE methods to engineering education.  The results of this project inquiry will be useful not only within the MSE program but will also assist the School of Engineering Science at SFU and engineering programs at other Canadian universities as they make the transition to OBE.

Questions addressed:

  • What documents, processes, and guidelines comprise a standardized tool-set to assist MSE faculty and other engineering programs in transitioning to outcome-based measures?
  • How does the MSE faculty respond to approaches for converting current engineering courses to outcome-based measures?
  • What is the MSE faculty experience of integrating the outcome-based learning approach and how does it affect their teaching plan and approach to student learning?
  • What is the student experience of using outcome-based learning in relation to their knowledge acquisition and confidence in the fairness of the grading system?

Knowledge sharing: Presentations of the project inquiry results will be made to both the MSE faculty and SFU School of Engineering. Results will be submitted to the Engineering Graduate Attributes Development website. Results will be submitted for presentation at the American Society for Engineering Education conference and the Canadian Engineering Education Association conference. Results will also be submitted for publication in the Journal of Engineering Education. An OBE best practice manual for the design, development and operation of OBE programs will be developed for use within the MSE program and made available to other engineering programs.  

Sparrey, C., Hindy, M., & Akhmadeeva, L. (2013, May). Overcoming obstacles to implementing an outcome-based education model: A survey of faculty opinions. Poster session presented at the Symposium on Teaching and Learning: Embracing Change @SFU, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.