My teaching philosophy is based on the premise that students in engineering spend more than enough time learning calculation algorithms and too little time on “model building” and critical thinking.

Experts in any field typically solve new problems by constructing “models” from conceptual building blocks. In contrast, novice learners tend to memorize the entire problem-solving sequence (which doesn’t help for new problems). I try to promote model building skills by assigning projects that require the construction of simple simulation codes for buildings or engines.

Critical thinking (CT) should run through everything we do; it is the foundation of graduate research. Students develop CT skills as they write and defend papers and theses, but CT skills should be cultivated well before the PhD thesis defense! Recently, I have found that “technical debates” (used in thermal power generation course) are a very effective and popular way of introducing CT to senior undergraduates and new graduate students.