Science educator Larry Yore at Pioneer Park.

Retired UVic education professor earns international science literacy award

Larry Yore recently honoured as the 2012 recipient of the Distinguished Contributions to Science Education through Research Award.

  • Mar. 6, 2012 1:00 p.m.

Larry Yore calls himself Johnny thug of the buzzard reading group.

What might come off as a slightly bizarre statement is very telling of the retired professor’s early motivation behind his career. Yore’s unpretentious attitude made him a legend in education research, as well as the latest recipient of an international award.

“Reading was very, very difficult for me,” Yore said, about being pigeonholed as a bad reader in school. “I had tremendous difficulty in connecting symbols and sounds, but I was in the top math group. I left elementary school with a very low self-concept. I thought because I couldn’t read I couldn’t think.”

Yore went on to study math and sciences in university before eventually completing a PhD focused on language, literacy and science education. He has spent 41 years in education research at the University of Victoria, where he has investigated the relationship between language and learning. His hope is to boost science learning and literacy – an area where he was recently honoured as the 2012 recipient of the Distinguished Contributions to Science Education through Research Award from Virginia-based National Association for Research in Science Teaching.

“The basic assumption by educators is that mathematics is the natural language of science, so when scientific ideas are presented to learners, they’re quickly formalized into abstract equations and formulas – then the problem becomes one of mathematical understanding, rather than the intuitive aspects of what the science is all about,” Yore said. “You might hear, ‘I couldn’t do science because I wasn’t good at math.’”

Robert Anthony, chair of the department of curriculum and instruction, worked alongside Yore on a project within Pacific CRYSTAL, Centre for Research in Youth, Science Teaching and Learning, a research initiative aimed at the promotion and application of science teaching within public schools that ran from 2005 through 2011. Anthony calls Yore not only a mentor, but an open and generous man and an “old-fashioned academic.”

“He’s not territorial. He’s very open with his material,” Anthony said, noting Yore’s continued research despite having technically retired last spring. “He’s present. He’s here. He’s engaging with colleagues all the time. His contributions as a professional colleague have been tremendous.”

The department’s legendary prof – one of UVic’s first two distinguished professors and curriculum and instruction’s longest-serving faculty member – is known to grad students simply as “Uncle Larry.”

“He’s a very much liked man,” Anthony added. “To be his student is to be brought into the circle of the leaders in the field of science education. … He really reflects the best of the kind of contribution that an academic can make and reflects well on the stature that universities aspire to.”

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