Norm Lederman: In memoriam

Dear ASTE colleagues:
It is with a heavy heart that we write to you with the sad news of the passing of ASTE (AETS at the time) past president Norman G. Lederman. Norm passed away on the morning of February 26, 2021 after a brief and unexpected illness. As always, his wife and partner, Judy Lederman was right by his side, as well as his stepchildren Abigail Bernier and Ben Sweeney. He and Judy had recently relocated from Chicago, Illinois to Rhode Island to be closer to family and continue their work in science education. Norm was 69. He embodied in his career the often-sought goal in our community of bridging the worlds of science teachers, science teacher educators, and science education researchers.
Over the course of 47 years, Norm led a distinguished and impactful career as a science teacher, science teacher educator, and science education researcher and leader. Shortly after earning his B.S. and M.S. degrees in biology from Bradley University (1971) and New York University (1973), respectively, Norm taught biology for a decade to high school and community college students in Illinois and New York, as well as college students at Syracuse University. During those years, he earned an M.S. in secondary education from Bradley (1977) and Ph.D. in science education from Syracuse University (1983), studying under Dr. Marvin Druger. Norm held assistant professor positions in science education and teacher education at Syracuse University, State University of New York–Albany, and Oregon State University (OSU). At OSU, he was promoted to associate and then full professor. In 2001, he chaired OSU’s Department of Mathematics and Science Education, and left that year to found and chair IIT’s new Mathematics and Science Education Department. In 2011, Norm was named an IIT Distinguished Professor. By the time of his retirement in 2020, his IIT department had become a local, national, and international force in discipline-based mathematics and science education. Along the way, Norm was a Visiting Research Professor at National Changhua University of Education, Taiwan; Fulbright Scholar at the University of Pretoria, South Africa; Honorary Professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education; Guest Professor at Beijing Normal University, China; and Distinguished Foreign Expert at the State Administration of Foreign Affairs, China. At the time of his passing, Norm was a “virtual” visiting professor at the University of Science and Technology of China.
Norm taught and mentored hundreds upon hundreds of science students, preservice and inservice science teachers, and graduate students in science education in the United States and across the globe. He was major professor to 51 doctoral students, mentoring them into successful careers of their own. Norm was an amazing mentor and treated his doctoral students as family, and was considered as family to all his students. For his work, Norm received the Illinois Outstanding Biology Teacher Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers (1979), as well as the Presidential Citation for Distinguished Service (1986) and Outstanding Mentor Award (1998) from the Association for the Education of Teachers in Science (AETS). Additionally, Norm provided significant service and leadership to major national and international organizations across science teaching, science teacher education, and science education research. He was elected president of AETS (1994), member of the board of directors (1994–1998) and director of teacher education (1996–1998) of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and NARST executive board of directors (1997–2000) and then NARST president (2002). He also served as the North American representative to the International Council of Associations for Science Education (2004–2010). For this extensive service and leadership, NSTA recognized Norm in 2017 with the Distinguished Service to Science Education Award.
Norm was an intellectual force and prolific researcher. He studied preservice and inservice science teachers’ knowledge structures of subject matter and pedagogy, pedagogical content knowledge, and teachers’ concerns and beliefs. Norm is best known for his research on teaching and learning about nature of science (NOS), a robust domain of research in science education that is inextricably linked with his name. Norm’s 1992 review of the research literature on NOS published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching (JRST) continues to be one of the top five most cited papers in our field. This paper has shaped research on NOS in science education for the past 30 years. Over his distinguished career, Norm published more than 200 articles in professional refereed journals and 46 book chapters. He authored or edited 11 books, including an elementary science teaching methods textbook. Norm co-edited with Sandra Abell the Handbook of Research on Science Education: Volume I (2007) and Volume II (2014), and was editing Volume III of the handbook, with Dana Zeidler and Judy Lederman, at the time of his passing. Norm has given more than 1000 presentations, invited talks, and keynote addresses at regional, national and international professional conferences and meetings, as well as universities around the globe. His work has been heavily cited with 38,000+ citations on Google Scholar (h-index = 70; i10-index = 153) and 6,400+ citations on the Web of Science® (h-index = 33; i-10 index = 45).
Norm’s research leadership extended to shaping the field through extensive engagement in the editorship of professional journals. He served as co-editor of the School Science and Mathematics Journal, and Journal of Science Teacher Education (JSTE), as well as associate editor for JRST, JSTE, and International Journal of Science Education, among many other journals. Norm served on the editorial boards of some 15 science education journals across the globe.
For his scholarship, Norm was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2009) and American Education Research Association (2010). He was recognized with an honorary doctorate from the University of Stockholm, Sweden (2008). In 2011 NARST honored him with the Distinguished Contributions to Science Education through Research Award for his outstanding and continuing contributions, notable leadership, and substantial impact in the area of science education.
The science education community worldwide lost a colleague, relentless advocate, and visionary leader with exceptional passion and dedication to the causes of science education. For those of us who knew Norm as an outstanding teacher, dedicated advisor, supportive mentor, and lifelong friend, our loss is even graver. We will miss him sorely.
Judy Lederman can be reached at or by mail at 239 Spartina Cove Way, Wakefield, RI 02879, USA.