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This issue of CDTL Brief is the first of a two-part Brief that features the teaching practices of the 2004/2005 Annual Teaching Excellence Award (ATEA) winners.

August 2006, Vol. 9, No. 3 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
My Teaching Philosophy and Approach: Connecting Teaching with the Real World
 
Associate Professor Wong Nyuk Hien
Department of Building
 

Introduction

When I returned to NUS after completing my PhD in 1998, I was asked to teach a fairly demanding final year module, BU4102 “Integrated Construction Technology”. The module required students to integrate what they had previously learnt in areas such as building performance and evaluation, trends in office building evolution, construction technology as well as building systems integration. I was full of enthusiasm; I wanted to impart
my knowledge to students. Thus, I tried my best to show students the most advanced building technologies/systems I had learnt in the U.S. and the best building practices I came across in my course of learning. However, when I received my teaching feedback at the end of Semester 1 Academic Year 1998/1999, it was like a bombshell to me. Students’ feedback was very negative and I was ranked in the 28.6% percentile. I consoled myself with the fact that it was my first time teaching such a challenging module and students were perhaps, not used to my style of teaching.

However, in the following year (Academic Year 1999/2000), my teaching feedback for the same module became worse. Not only did I continue to receive negative comments from students, my ranking also dipped to the 16.7% percentile. I was very discouraged. Nevertheless, I decided to take a closer look at what
went wrong with my teaching by examining students’ comments closely and talking with some students. From these sources of feedback, I realised that students were having difficulties trying to relate what I had taught them to the real world. Students also complained that my mindset was inflexible and rigid, and unwilling to accept their views.

I decided to change. In my lectures, I started to connect what I was teaching with the real world by showing students relevant newspaper articles. In addition, I showed students information I gathered for my research/ industry projects. During discussion sessions, I also tried to keep an open mind and be receptive to students’ views and opinions while encouraging them to think critically and independently at the same time. To my surprise, in Academic Year 2000/2001, my teaching evaluation for the same module improved tremendously and I was ranked in the 88.9% percentile. Since then, students’ feedback on my teaching has been positive. I also received the Annual Teaching Excellence Awards in 2002, 2004 and 2005.

My teaching philosophy

After having taught in NUS for the past seven years, my teaching philosophy can be summed up by the following three principles:

a) Be relevant

Being a teaching faculty in the Department of Building, I am responsible for training students to become professionals in the building industry. As such, students must be imparted with knowledge applicable to their jobs after graduation. I also constantly remind students that technologies are constantly changing and they must keep abreast with the latest building technologies/systems available. I frequently look out for newspaper and journal articles as well as relevant information from the Internet to supplement my teaching.

b) Be passionate

Having a passion for the subject is important. When students sense the teacher’s enthusiasm and passion in sharing information with them, it will stimulate them to learn. Though I always try to ensure that my students understand what I am teaching, I make sure that they do not become over-dependent on me. My teaching approach is to first establish that students have understood the concepts well as I believe a good grounding in the fundamentals is helpful in facilitating learning and motivating students to think critically and independently.

c) Be versatile

I always believe that a teacher needs to be versatile and be willing to take on modules that may be new to him/her. Over the past seven years, I have been involved in teaching both graduate and undergraduate (full- and part-time) modules. The subject matter in these modules include construction and maintenance technology, building performance, energy management and computer simulation. I employ a variety of techniques in my teaching. For example, besides lectures and tutorials, I use the problem-based approach by asking students to conduct field studies through a series of field measurements and surveys. I also include state-ofthe- art computer simulation to help students conduct parametric studies.

Conclusion

Being a teacher, I strongly believe that teaching is more than just imparting knowledge or skills to students. Teaching is about knowing how students learn, facilitating their learning and motivating them in the learning process. Teaching is also about preparing students for the industry. So, it is essential that we connect what we teach to the real world.

 
 
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Inside this issue
Shy Teachers and Large Groups
   
Education is not Education without Research
   
Learning German Beyond the Classroom
   
My Teaching Philosophy and Approach: Connecting Teaching with the Real World
   
Desire is the Root to All Learning— Light My Fire!
   
Content Reduction vs. Independent Learning