Richard Lehrer

Member Since: 2015

Richard Lehrer is Frank W. Mayborn Professor of Education at Vanderbilt University. A former high school science teacher, he received a Ph.D. in educational psychology and statistics from the State University of New York, Albany and a B.S. in Biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Working with teachers, he focuses on the design of classroom environments that support children’s learning about foundational ideas in mathematics and in science by inducting children into the epistemic practices through which such disciplined knowledge is invented and revised. In mathematics education, his current research explores how elementary and middle school children employ practices of measuring, representing and modeling to catalyze their reasoning about variability and chance. Related research, conducted in collaboration with Leona Schauble, investigates patterns of longitudinal growth in K-5 children’s understandings of quantity and space when they participate in classroom environments designed to support meaningful and prolonged investigation of these forms of mathematics. Working with teachers and mathematicians, Lehrer and Schauble are developing a children’s geometry based in bodily experiences of walking, drawing, and building. These experiences are subsequently re-described mathematically as coordinate systems, measurement systems, transformations, and structures. The work to develop a spatially grounded mathematics is conducted in diverse settings, and it suggests that thinking about space is a pathway for creating more equitable opportunities for learning mathematics. In science education, Lehrer and Schauble investigate fruitful ways of bringing children into the signature practice of science—the invention and revision of models of natural systems. Most recently, this research has examined how children use invented and conventional representations and tools, ranging from sweep nets to Secchi disks, to inquire about and articulate the building blocks of evolution: variation, change, and ecosystem function. Lehrer’s other interests include the development of measures of learning consistent with the ambitions of the Common Core and Next Generation Standards in mathematics and science. He has served as co-editor of Cognition and Instruction and has contributed recently to several NRC committees, including one examining integrated STEM education and another examining science assessment in light of the NGSS and NRC frameworks for science education. He is a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association and the 2009 recipient of the American Psychological Association’s award for Distinguished Contributions in Applications of Psychology to Education.

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