Paper: “Norman G. Lederman (1951-2021): An educator fascinated with science”
Anderson Ricardo Carlos
Doctoral student of the Graduate Program in Science Education, USP
I had the opportunity of working with Norm – as he always signed his emails – for the past five years […]. Concerned about bringing together researchers, Professor Norman Lederman was an essential contribution to research on the Nature of Science in Science Education, as well as an encourager for everyone who worked with him. His legacy will remain through his vast production and with everyone who had the privilege of sharing moments of scientific creation with him.
Mariana A. Bologna S. de Andrade,
Professor at the State University of Londrina (UEL), in testimony to the Bulletin of the History and Philosophy of Biology.
Over more than four decades, Norman G. Lederman (1951-2021) consolidated a remarkable and inspiring career, acting as a Biology teacher, trainer of Science and Biology teachers, and research leader in Science Education. A recently retired professor from the Illinois Institute of Technology (USA), in Chicago, USA, Lederman was internationally known for the tremendous impulse that he promoted to the program of research on the educational concept “Nature of Science” (NOS) and on its application through Inquiry-based Teaching.
With a heavy heart, we report his death at 69 years old on February 26th, 2021. Norm Lederman was dwelling in Rhode Island, where he had recently moved on to get closer to his family and friends without abdicating his science education work.
Figure 1: Norman G. Lederman teaching at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago on 11/14/2017. In the right corner of the photo on the left, his wife and co-worker, Judith Lederman. Source: Personal archive of Maria Elice B. Prestes.
Throughout his career, Lederman supervised more than 50 doctoral theses in the area, published 11 academic books, highlighting the 2007 and 2014 editions of the Handbook of Research in Science Education, co-edited with Sandra Abell. According to Google Scholar. Lederman published more than 200 articles in scientific journals, reaching, at the beginning of 2021, more than 39 thousand citations. He also received awards, the Illinois Outstanding Biology Teacher Award (1979) from the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), the Presidential Citation for Distinguished Service (1986), and the Outstanding Mentor Award (1998), both from the Association for the Education of Teachers in Science (ASTE).
In addition to extensive collaboration with leading journals in the field, such as Science & Education, Norm Lederman was co-editor of School Science and Mathematics for ten years and associate editor of the Journal of Science Teacher Education and the International Journal of Science Education, among others.
Internationally, he served as the North American representative of the International Council of Associations for Science Education, ICASE, (2004-2010), created in 1972 by UNESCO. He was a visiting professor at universities and institutes worldwide, such as South Africa, Taiwan, and China.
The researcher also engaged intensively in different scientific associations, notably the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, NARST. He held the position of president in 2002 and received homenagem immediately after his death. He also was elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2009) and the American Education Research Association (2010).
His name has inevitably become associated with the concept of “Nature of Science” (NOS). Norman Lederman’s publications radiated among the different approaches of the pedagogical research program on meta-scientific teaching. Articulating epistemology and didacts of science, he conceived a theoretical matrix for NOS in the process of teaching and learning science, as well as in the research. He defended the inclusion of seven aspects of science in the K-12 science curriculum. Lederman considered seven aspects to be essential to students’ understanding of science and, at the same time, accessible to the science teacher.
Figure 2: Posters in one of Norm and Judy Lederman’s research classrooms at the Illinois Institute of Technology representing the two pillars of their science teaching: the seven aspects of the nature of science and the eight aspects of research teaching.
SEVEN ASPECTS OF NOS
- Observation versus Inference
- Functions and Relationships of the Theory and Law
- Socially and culturally Embedded
- Empirically Based
Photograph by Maria Elice B. Prestes.
Constantly working with his wife, Judy Lederman, and with many collaborators, Lederman designed, validated, and applied questionnaires to survey NOS conceptions of teachers and students at different levels of science education, primary education, and higher education. The long experience in science teaching, associated with the deepening of research in Inquiry-based Teaching, led him to elaborate hundreds of didactic activities disclosed in courses taught and publications.
Figure 3: Norm monitors students working in groups with the “Mysterious Bones” activity. Chicago, 10/17/2017.
Photographs by Maria Elice B. Prestes.
His contributions to science education also reached Brazilian territory. This paper opening brings the testimony of Mariana Bologna de Andrade, a professor at the State University of Londrina (UEL), who has worked with the American researcher for the past five years. Current coordinator of the Graduate Program in Science Teaching and Mathematical Education at the State University of Londrina (UEL), Andrade, was part of Lederman’s international project that brought together about 70 researchers from different countries. Results were published in 2019 in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching and 2020 in Science & Education (UNESP Bauru), both authored by Andrade and the Lederman couple. During this period, the researcher had the opportunity to meet them at two events about Science Education. She highlights the privilege of having been able to share scientific creations with Lederman.
Figure 4: Photographic record during the Encounter of the Enseñanza de Las Ciencias in Seville, Spain, in 2017. From left to right, Norman and Judith Lederman (first two) and Mariana Andrade (fifth).
Source: Mariana A. B. S. Andrade’s archive.
In addition to Professor Mariana, the Illinois researcher’s legacy also extended to other professors from Brazilian universities, also members of ABFHIB, such as Professor Lilian A.-C. P. Martins, from the Department of Biology, University of Sao Paulo (USP) campus Ribeirão Preto. Lederman’s name and works appear in several of her supervisions in different graduate programs, namely, two master’s theses, two doctoral dissertations, and one doctoral co-supervision.
In the Institute of Biosciences of USP campus São Paulo (IB-USP), Professor Maria Elice de Brzezinski Prestes also brought Lederman’s work closer to her research advisors in two graduate programs. At the Laboratory of the History of Biology and Teaching (LaHBE), four master’s thesis and three doctoral dissertations dealt with Lederman’s approach to NOS.
Under Lederman’s work influence, João Paulo Durbano’s thesis deserves a highlight. Durbano developed an analysis of the NOS conceptions of undergraduate biology students of IB-USP. He applied an instrument created by Lederman and collaborators to collect data, the VNOS-C Questionnaire, validated in several international surveys. Durbano compared conceptions of the newly enrolled students and at the end of the first period, with classes on the history of genetics and philosophy of biology. According to Durbano, Lederman developed a NOS research program that was very influential in the research carried out on the topic in the first decade of the twentieth century.
In particular, the scientific community, in particular the ABFHIB, expresses their deepest sympathies for his loss: a visionary leader, a dedicated teacher, an outstanding advisor, and a lifelong colleague with commitment and fascination with the Science Education area. The legacy of Norman G. Lederman’s literary production will last for countless generations.
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DONDA, Pedrita Fernanda. As críticas de Louis Agassiz à proposta de Charles Darwin, 1859-1873: a análise de um episódio histórico. Ribeirão Preto, 2020. Tese. (Doutorado em Ciências, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Biologia Comparada) – Faculdade de filosofia, Ciências e Letras de ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo.
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LEDERMAN, N. G; LEDERMAN, J; PAVEZ, J. J; VOITLE, F; ANDRADE, M. A. B. S; LAVONEN, J. M. J; MAMLOK-NAAMAN, R; NEUMANN, I; YALAKI, Y; ENSHAN, L; SHARMA, R; SCHWARTZ, R; CHENG, L. An international collaborative investigation of beginning seventh grade students’ understandings of scientific inquiry: Establishing a baseline. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 56 (4): 1-30, 2019.
NARST. In Memorium: Norman Lederman. February 26, 2021. Disponível em: https://narst.org/node/415. Acesso em 14 mar. 2021.
PEREIRA, Miler Rodrigo. História da Ciência no ensino médio: experimentos de Lazzaro Spallanzani sobre reprodução animal. São Paulo, 2014. Tese (Doutorado em Ciências Biológicas, Biologia/Genética) – Instituto de Biociências, Universidade de São Paulo.
SILVA, Pietro Monteiro da. Walter S. Sutton e a hipótese cromossômica (1902-1903): uma contribuição histórica para o ensino de genética. Ribeirão Preto, 2019. Dissertação. (Mestrado em Ciências, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Biologia Comparada) – Faculdade de filosofia, Ciências e Letras de ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo.
Citação bibliográfica deste artigo:
CARLOS, Anderson Ricardo. Norman G. Lederman (1951-2021): an educator fascinated with science. Boletim de História e Filosofia da Biologia, 15 (1), mar. 2021. https://www.abfhib.org. Access in: month/day/year. [add the access date]