Associate Professor of Education

Dr. Leon Walls started his career as an electrical engineer, earned a Master’s degree in Education from Marquette University, and also taught middle school science in the Milwaukee Public Schools district. It was in his doctoral program in Geoenvironmental Science Education at Purdue University that Dr. Walls engaged in nature of science learning and discussions. Using this research framework, he began exploring how very young children of color conceive of and understand the practice of science and the role of scientists. Research strongly suggests that possessing an accurate understanding of NOS is an important factor in determining whether students achieve science literacy.

In his widely referenced 2012 study, “Third Grade African American Students’ Views of the Nature of Science,” Walls worked with a sample of African American third grade children in an effort to make science equitable for all students. The study advocated for the use of constant monitoring of student views to construct inquiry-based science lessons and increased research about students of color.

In hopes of reversing inequity in science classrooms, Walls challenges the students in his UVM classes to think about the language and techniques they use to teach science and how to relate all children in discussions.


Walls, L. (2016). Equitable research: A bridge too far? Cultural Studies in Science Education.

Walls, L. (2015). African American science education in the 21st century: Claiming a seat at the table. In D. Pardlow & M. A. Trent (Eds.), Cultivating visionary leadership by learning for global success: Beyond the Language and Literature Classroom (pp. 89-105). New Castle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Walls, L. (2015). Awakening a dialogue: A critical race theory analysis of U. S. nature of science research from 1967 – 2013. Journal of Research in Science Teaching.

Walls, L., (2014). Females of color in science: The play within a play. In M. M. Atwater, M. Russell, & M. Butler (Eds.), Multicultural Science Education: Preparing Teachers for Equity and Social Justice (pp. 41-59). New York: Springer.  

Walls, L., Buck, G., & Akerson, V. L. (2013). Race, culture, gender, and nature of science in elementary settings. In J.A. Bianchini, V. L. Akerson, A. Calabrese Barton, O. Lee, & A. J. Rodriguez (Eds,), Moving the equity agenda forward: Vol 5. Cultural Studies of Science Education (pp. 131-151). Netherlands: Springer Publishing.  

Walls, L. (2012). Third grade African American students' views of the nature of science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(1), 1-37.  [abstract]

Awards and Recognition

  • Faculty Fellow, Gund Institute for the Environment, University of Vermont
  • Faculty Resource Network, Scholar-in-Residence New York University (2012)
  • International Network of Teacher Education Institutions, U.S. Delegate Member from UNESCO (2012)
  • Jane and Michael Wilson Doctoral Award in Science Education from Purdue University (2008)
  • Bilsland Strategic Initiatives Fellowship from Purdue University (2008)

Associations and Affiliations

  • Gund Institute Faculty Fellow
  • American Anthropological Association (AAA)
  • Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE)
  • National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST)
  • National Science Teachers Association (NSTA),
  • North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE)
Leon Walls

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Multiculturalism
  • Race and racism
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
  • Teacher education


  • Ph.D. in Geoenvironmental Science Education from Purdue University
  • M.A. in Instructional Leadership from Marquette University
  • B.S. in Electrical Engineering from St. Mary's University, TX


  • (802) 656-2274
Office Location:

532 Waterman

Courses Taught

Laboratory Experience in Inquiry; Laboratory Experience in Literacy; Race and Racism in the U.S.; Science of Sustainability; Teaching Science for Meaning