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Dr Joseph Levine (10 to 26 August 2016)

AST’s 21st OEIR

Dr Joseph Levine is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Organisation of Tropical Studies, an internationally-renowned institution for research and education. He is also the Course Director for the “Inquiry in Rainforests” course, which presents factual knowledge through inquiry and active learning.

JL01Dr Levine posing with Singapore teachers on the 2015 “Inquiry in Rainforests” course in Costa Rica 

Dr Levine engages the public through mass media science education such as writing scientific articles for a wide range of magazines like Animal Kingdom and National Wildlife, and co-produces the programme for Discover Magazine entitled “Invisible Enemies” on new and emerging diseases. While Dr Levine was a professor of biology at Boston College, he was approached to co-write a textbook owing to his interesting and engaging articles he wrote in the science magazines. The meeting led him to be the co-author of the high school biology text Biology by Miller, K.R. and Levine, J.S., which is currently the most widely used in the United States. 

During Dr Levine’s stint at AST, he conducted four Master Classes on Transforming Science Education through Inquiry-based Learning and Narrative-based Teaching to over 160 biology teachers from secondary schools and junior colleges/centralised institute. There were three Master Classes for secondary teachers, and one Master Class for junior college/centralised institute teachers. He shared with the teachers and key personnel from schools how inquiry-based learning and narrative-based teaching could be used in biology.

JL02Dr Levine taking Master Class participants through the Plant-o-Rama activity

During the three Master Classes for secondary school biology teachers which focused on ecology and biodiversity, Dr Levine introduced the inquiry-based activity “Plant-o-Rama”. This activity provides biology teachers with a method to conduct a study of biodiversity with the students without the need for the use of complex biology terminology. The activity allows students to practise many of the skills and processes listed in the Singapore Science Curriculum Framework. 

The Master Class for junior college/centralised institute teachers focused on climate change. Through the use of the rich multi-media and data-driven narratives, Dr Levine shared about the impact of global change, with climate change being only a part of it. Thereafter, teachers were provided the opportunity to craft and to share their own case studies using the sources which they selected from the mass media.

JL03Dr Levine guiding the Master Class Participants in designing case studies

In addition, Dr Levine also visited four schools: Commonwealth Secondary School, NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, Bedok View Secondary School, and Presbyterian High School, where he observed how biology was taught. He provided feedback on the lessons that he observed, and also had the opportunity to use a variant of the inquiry activity “Fern-o-Rama” to teach a class of secondary one students at Commonwealth Secondary School. Dr Levine encouraged teachers to use the inquiry approach as a means to teach biology at the conceptual level, and to set the context for inquiry using narratives.

JL04Dr Levine facilitating a group discussion in a secondary one class during his lesson conducted at Commonwealth Secondary School

Dr Levine believes that through the inquiry approach, students will form knowledge by linking bits of information which they have learnt, and will lead them to discover the need for an interdisciplinary approach in solving problems in this complex environment. In addition, this will develop their 21st Century Competencies, and ignite the innate curiosity in them to learn, enabling them to be life-long learners. Dr Levine’s wealth of knowledge across disciplines, and his generosity in sharing his resources and teaching ideas have been extraordinary. Our teachers and officers truly appreciated the opportunity to interact with him through the OEIR programme. 

You may access the materials and videos of the Master Classes via this URL: or the QR code shown below.