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
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
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.