Visions of Social Competence: Comparing Engineering Education Accreditation in Australia, China, Sweden, and the United States
Paper in proceedings, 2012
This paper reports on a cross-cultural analysis of central accreditation requirements for engineering programs—focusing especially on issues related to social impact, social responsibility, and social analysis—in four different countries: Australia, China, Sweden and the United States. Upon comparing and contrasting the accreditation requirements documents and their treatment of “social” capabilities, we found that: I. Accreditation requirements in all four countries are similarly oriented to specific student-learning outcomes, where technical and social capabilities represent roughly equal proportions of the total number of requirements. II. Social capabilities represent a wide range of competencies, including very high-order social-analytic competencies (e.g., understanding the relationship between engineering and its social context). III. Important variations can be identified in how social capabilities are understood, with four distinct categories emerging: Social capabilities 1) as constraints, 2) as awareness, 3) as responsibility, and 4) as cultivation.
After reviewing, categorizing, and analyzing the key ways social-analytic competencies are articulated and understood in the four countries’ accreditation documents, we identify key opportunities and challenges facing those seeking better integration of social competencies in engineering education. We conclude the paper with a review of our findings and our next steps.