Transnational Paradigm: Physics and Pedagogical Innovation in the Americas (1945-1975)
Josep Simon

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Universidad del Rosario, Colombia

Primary Discipline

History of Education
This project is a history of the co-construction of American hegemony in science pedagogy, built upon an interdisciplinary, comparative, and cross-national analysis of pedagogical innovation in the US and its appropriation in Latin America, between the end of WWII and the university reforms of the mid 1970s. It uses a major case study (the Physical Science Study Committee) in four national contexts (USA, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico) which exemplify different pedagogical, scientific and political cultures, and the emergence of transnational processes of knowledge co-construction. It is unique in combining approaches from the history of science, the history of education and science education. It stands on an already established tradition of historical studies on science education, but contributes to renew it. It presents a strong historical case able to inform reflection on the design of current science and education policy.The project addresses the making of Cold War physics and pedagogy through a study of the production of the pedagogical packages designed by the Physical Science Study Committee in the US and their circulation and appropriation in Colombia, Brazil and Mexico. It acts on four major grounds: a) Internationality: it assesses physics and pedagogy through a genuinely comparative, cross-national and transnational perspective; b) Interdisciplinarity: it combines approaches from science education, history of education, history of science, book history, visual studies, oral history and scientific instrument studies; c) Science Pedagogy: it stands on an already established tradition of historical studies on science education, but contributes to renew it and take it a step forward, with the particular aim of revising and overcoming the impact of Thomas S. Kuhn’s Structure of Science Revolutions. It is an important step towards a better integration of the historiographies of science and education and their interaction with science policy.By means of particular case-studies dealing with the pedagogical practices of physics teaching in the US, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico between the end of WWII and the early 1970s, this project intends to study the production, contents, circulation and use of the pedagogical tools characterizing 20th-century physics and their changing status in education and research in the Americas.By combining comparative analysis in space (contemporary developments in different countries) with comparison in time (changes over three decades), and a multidisciplinary focus, this project seeks to produce strong results in global perspective. Accordingly, its objectives are to produce: A new history of the making of Cold War physics education based on an original combination of international comparison, transnational perspectives, multidisciplinary analysis, and an innovative focus on pedagogy and its production, circulation and consumption. A major contribution to the boost of the study of science pedagogy within history of science, history of education and science and technology studies. A strong historical case able to inform reflection on the design of current science & education policy.
About Josep Simon
Josep Simon is an assistant professor in history of science, technology and medicine at the Universidad del Rosario, Colombia, where he belongs to the Grupo de Estudios Sociales de las Ciencias, las Tecnologías y las Profesiones. He has previously been a lecturer at the Universitat de València (Spain) and a tutor at the universities of Leeds and Oxford (United Kingdom). He was trained in physics, science education, history of medicine, science and technology studies, history and philosophy of science, and museum and scientific instrument studies, and has developed funded projects in these fields in Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Mexico and the USA. He is the author of the award-winning Communicating Physics: the Production, Circulation and Appropriation of Ganot’s Textbooks in France and England (1851-1887) (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), the Oxford Handbook chapter “Physics Textbooks and Textbook Physics in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries” and a number of special issues, edited books and articles in international journals, aimed at science education, history of science, and history of education readers.

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