By Hyun J. Kwon
Last updated:April 2010
Teaching is one of the most prestigious jobs in the world. Professors are constantly challenged to learn, relearn, and to master theories and concepts both new and old. While serving society by training and influencing the young minds that they touch on a daily basis, professors also man the front lines of research. I had a terrific professor when I was an undergraduate who inspired me to become a professor. This professor challenged and inspired me, and in doing so, brought out the best in me. I would like to similarly challenge and inspire my students to bring out the best in them. Teaching is a blessing, as I get to touch and shape the minds and attitudes of my students.
Every teacher’s first goal is to guide the students as they try to learn, relearn and master concepts and ideas, both new and old. Engineering requires more than rote memorization of facts and concepts. A trained engineer has to be able to integrate the facts and concepts that they have learned, to systematically apply it to new problems. Simply put, engineers are required to use the skills that they used in solving simplistic textbook problems to solving complex real world situations. My greatest goal as a professor of engineering is helping students build confidence in systematic problem solving and decision making – preparing them to be competent engineers upon graduation.
What makes it different studying engineering in the Seventh Day Adventist school? Isaac Newton mentioned, "I seem to myself to have been like a child on the seashore finding pebbles and shells, while the great ocean of truth lay undiscovered before me." What we have accomplished in knowledge and application may look grand, however, we should realize that there are depths and heights which we haven’t discovered. My teaching goal wouldn’t be complete without emphasizing humility before the Lord. I want my students to realize fully his own ignorance and weakness even after intensive training, therefore, seek guidance from God in every decision they make either in engineering solutions or in personal matters.
How to achieve teaching goals
Engineering students must be able to tie together all the different concepts from their various classes. Most of my students are juniors and seniors as I teach mostly upper level classes. The classes that I teach require the students to tie in the concepts from their various classes. They have to be able to tie in the skills that they have picked up from their math and science classes as well as computer classes. Some examples are as follows: students use computer-programming skills to solve heat transfer problems, develop CAD models to solve fluid problem or mechanical measurement skills to design fluid testing devices. These experiences not only reinforce the knowledge they gained from their previous classes, but also serve to show the students how different concepts used in conjunction with one another.
I believe in and love old teaching tools – using the chalkboard to derive formulas and to solve problems; yet, I fully realize the importance of new technologies, so I encourage students to be familiar with the most advanced computing and design tools that are available in the world. To achieve this, I provide bound lecture notes with many examples which utilize computing tools – Matlab, Excel, Mathcad and Labview, etc. This enables the students to relate their classroom experience to the industrial world. I often say to students “Engineering is beyond math. Use all the available tools to analyze and solve engineering problems.”
Many modern day engineering projects require a significant amount of teamwork due to their complexity so to simulate this the students were assigned a term project requiring them to collaborate, to work together as one. The project was to design and build a controller that would maintain constant temperature for the feedback control systems class. Students in different disciplines worked together to analyze and build circuit and mechanical system. Students appreciate these simulations of real world challenges.
With the huge amount of information being shared at an unprecedented rate in today’s world, an important skill that students need to learn is to be able to search out new information and to be able to share it among peers. Presentations and discussions are used to create a team environment of student engineers along with their mentor rather than an adversarial one of student versus professor.
Among others, I try to emphasize that all the knowledge imparted in the classroom may be only a fraction of the vastness of God’s creation. And it will be useless or dangerous if used for worldly intention. We must use our knowledge to make the world a better place instead a selfish and Godless place. We may not always see the consequences of our work, therefore, we should ask guidance from the Holy Spirit constantly.
How to assess the achievement
Through the years I have been able to mold the way I approach the task of teaching the students from assessing my students’ accomplishments and performances by direct assessment tools that include homework, exams, lab reports and term papers, in addition to both written and oral feedback from the students. Feedback has proven important in improving the quality of teaching. It is a responsibility of the teacher to adapt and to mold the courses they teach to better provide a learning environment that is both inspirational and challenging.
I believe that enthusiasm is contagious and thus teach with enthusiasm and passion for the subject material. I have found that it helps maintain the attention and responsiveness of the class. I try to provide as much individual attention as a student needs providing flexile office hours. In addition, I spend each summer working hard on research projects and class preparation. It has been great to share my story that I pray to God prior to scientific experiments and He actively guided me into right direction.
I provide service at my church and community in addition to my dedication to my family. I strive to lead by example, to be a genuine leader, mentor, guide, teacher that provides a positive influence in the molding and shaping of the minds of the students. I want to see my students tell His power and step forward with confidence. I pray every morning that, through all this, students see the presence of God.