Digital Learning Blog

Course Transformation & A Growth Mindset

by | Mar 31, 2022 | Digital Learning Blog, Faculty Spotlight, Jennifer Foung

This month I would like to spotlight Patrick Hong, Lecturer in the Department of Engineering at UCI’s Samueli School of Engineering. He is passionate about education and teaching and has attended and acted as guest speaker in numerous events and workshops held by the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation (DTEI). Patrick has gone through several DTEI programs, such as the Active Learning Institute, Digital Learning Institute and Teaching Experiment Academy, just to name a few, and has worked closely with instructional designers to continue to enhance and improve his courses and instructional strategies. Patrick is an avid supporter of student-centered learning and encouraging a growth mindset as he continually looks for ways to improve his teaching. In the following interview with Patrick, we discuss how his instruction and course has transformed these past few years and what he believes the future holds for education. 

Tell us a bit about your background, courses, and teaching style.

My passion for cars initially led me to earn a B.S. in mechanical engineering from UC Irvine, M.S. in aerospace engineering from USC, and work as an automotive journalist for 18 years at Road & Track Magazine. After receiving my MBA from UCLA, I launched a startup and began teaching the upper-division Communications in the Professional World course in the Samueli School of Engineering at UC Irvine. I prepare senior engineering students to become more effective technical writers, speakers, and team players. My teaching style is student-centered via active learning pedagogy coupled with real-world feedback and expectations. My goal is to promote a growth mindset, grit, and agency, enabling life-long learning to meet future workforce demands.

How have experiences in teaching online for the past two years impacted your current in-person/hybrid/online courses?

Education is going through a radical transformation, just as media moved from print-centric to digital-centric more than a decade ago. The past two years of online teaching accelerated the digital education revolution, serving as a tipping point that forced everyone, me included, to question and rethink education. Having to teach online, enthusiastically or reluctantly, most will agree there are many benefits and shortcomings in every mode of instruction. I continue to seek the most effective combination of in-person, hybrid, or online pedagogy and tools that best serve to help students achieve the learning outcomes.

How have you leveraged online tools and resources to engage your students and encourage active learning, and how do you continue to use them in your in-person classes?

We live in a world that is a mix of in-person and digital interactions. Why should education be any different? From my perspective, I prefer not to look at teaching as either in-person, hybrid, or online exclusively. Doing so can limit what can be done better to engage the students. I am an advocate and practitioner of the flipped classroom and active learning pedagogy to ensure true student understanding. I encourage students to learn from failure, persist through challenges, and take control of their learning. One example is asking students to receive and provide constructive feedback confidently. This is done through synchronous group discussions through Google Doc sharing, asynchronous comments via the Canvas Learning Management System Speed Grader, or my critiques in-class during in-person sessions. Everything is meant to take advantage of the benefits each mode of instruction can provide. Using the same tools, my class can be adapted and delivered entirely in-person, hybrid, online, or all three depending on the need and real-world constraints, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic. 

What new and exciting things do you look forward to bringing into your classrooms in the future as a result of lessons learned and through working with DTEI?

It is an exciting time to be in education. Countless ideas and tools to improve teaching are presented every day. The curse is the need to wade through everything and narrow them down to what works in your classroom. Having gone through DTEI’s active learning certification process, different faculty development workshops, and various faculty community discussions, I am exposed to and can choose many best practices to adopt in my classroom and see more students achieving learning outcomes. For example, my recent participation in DTEI’s Teaching Experiment Academy program on Specification Grading has given me a framework to transform my class further, aligning the entire curriculum towards promoting a growth mindset, grit, and agency for students, not only helping them to become better communicators but also life-long learners.

Can you elaborate more on your experiences with the TEA Program and how implementing specifications grading and focusing on mastery learning has transformed your classroom? Any advice to those who may be interested in implementing this approach?

At the start of the pandemic, I adopted a flipped classroom and became an enthusiastic champion of the pedagogy. Seeing its success in helping students meet learning outcomes—regardless of in-person, hybrid, or remote/online instruction, I also began to rethink how students can be better assessed. And participating in the TEA Program helped me reach that goal. To be honest, while I wholeheartedly agree with specification grading’s overall mission to promote learning through a growth mindset, I had a few issues with the ways it was to be implemented. That said, by discussing my concerns with my designated TEA program coach and instructional designer regularly, I also had a growth mindset breakthrough on the subject. Since then, I have been able to adopt specification grading in a way that works for me, transforming and aligning my entire class to better leverage active learning in a flipped classroom and help students achieve mastery learning through a growth mindset, grit, and agency. For those who might be interested in exploring specification grading, I would suggest going into the process with an open mind, questioning and listening to everything, and then finding a path that works for you. After all, it is the same process we ask the students to do when they are in our class. And we should practice what we preach. 

Patrick’s dedication to teaching and to improving the quality of education for his students never ceases to amaze me. I look forward to working with Patrick in the continual enhancement of his courses as the field of education continues to evolve.




About the Author:

Jennifer Foung, M.A.
Instructional Designer, Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation (DTEI)

Jennifer Foung is an instructional designer at the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation at UC Irvine. She received her Masters in Library and Information Science at Rutgers University and her Masters in Communication, Media & Learning Technologies Design at Columbia University. Jennifer worked as a K-12 media specialist from 2010-2020. In 2017, she joined the DTEI team as an instructional designer. Jennifer has extensive experience in faculty training; particularly teaching faculty how to integrate educational technologies into their courses to engage students and encourage collaborative learning. Jennifer is an advocate of informal learning practices and believes the best type of learning occurs when students are given unstructured opportunities to think, discuss and apply. Jennifer also has experience in graphic and web design which she uses to enhance the usability, function and design of online courses. Jennifer values continual professional growth and is always on the lookout for innovative tools and ideas that can be used to motivate and engage learners.