Vale – Allan Gordon Harrison

We report the very sad news that Allan Harrison passed away on Saturday 17 April 2021. Since 2004, Allan had suffered from Parkinson’s disease which curtailed his very promising academic career when he was on the cusp of being considered for a professorship in science education.

After teaching science in Years 8-12 for 23 years in a range of schools in Western Australia, including as head of science, Allan turned his interests to further his own education, first enrolling in the Science and Mathematics Education Centre at Curtin University in a Master of Science (Science Education) degree which he completed in 1992 followed by a doctorate in 1997. Allan’s research interests encompassed conceptual change and the role of models and analogies. Allan’s doctorate was supervised by David Treagust at SMEC during a time of other outstanding research students working on ARC grants that included Grady Venville, Sue Stocklmayer, Rod Thiele and Richard Coll.

Following his doctoral degree, Allan accepted a position as Lecturer in Science Education at Central Queensland University in Rockhampton, Queensland where he was duly promoted to Senior Lecturer and Associate Professor. There he taught a range of classes and was a successful mentor and advisor to several masters and doctoral students.

Allan was remarkably productive – his research published in prestigious internationally refereed journals in science education – Journal for Research in Science Teaching, Science Education, the International Journal of Science Education, Research in Science Education, School Science and Mathematics, and Instructional Science, book chapters, edited books (with Richard Coll ‘Teaching with analogies’, and with Peter Aubusson and Stephen Ritchie ‘Metaphor and analogy in science education’), and a range of articles in science teachers’ journals. A hallmark of Allan’s publications was his attention to theoretical foundations and methodological quality. Starting with publications from his masters and doctoral theses, Allan published widely with many citations.

Allan’ record of high academic accomplishments was recognised by the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) – the premier international organisation for science education research. This recognition includes the 2000 JRST Award (for best published paper in 1999 in Journal for Research in Science Teaching), the 2001 NARST Award (for the best paper presented at the NARST 2001 annual meeting) and the NARST Early Career Research Award in 2002. In Treagust’s 40+ years as an active member and former President of NARST he does not recall any other colleague who has received this level of academic recognition with these three different major awards — and in consecutive years. Parallel with this international recognition has been Allan’s success as a recipient of two three-year grants from the Australian Research Council.

Allan’s organisational skills and insights were evident in his contributions to state (Queensland) and national (Australian) activities as a member of assessment panels and syllabus committees. He was a member of the editorial boards of the Journal for Research in Science Teaching and the International Journal of Science Education – two of the highest-ranking journals in the field of science education and a regular presenter at local, national and international conferences.

Allan was well-known to his colleagues and students for being articulate, well-organised, exceptionally well read in the area of his research on aspects of student learning and related areas and he was an excellent collaborator. Allan had a very broad knowledge of science – in his 2001 CV he wrote in the third person “He is passionately interested in Biology, Chemistry and Physics and his mission is to help people of all ages understand the natural phenomena that affect their lives. Allan believes that knowledge liberates, brings contentment and empowers people to make decisions that enhance their own lives and the lives of those around them. He believes education and free access to knowledge is a key human right.”

With a caring and amiable personality and being a conscientious worker who set himself very high standards, he was a pleasure to work with. We have missed him in our science education circles, as have many others, and we also wonder what might have been with his career if not for his illness.

Allan is survived by his wife Beth, and three children Danielle, Fiona and Nathaniel.

David F Treagust Grady Venville

Curtin University Australian National University

3 thoughts on “Vale – Allan Gordon Harrison”

  1. So sad to hear of Allan’s passing. I worked with him at CQU, and found him a stimulating and valuable colleague.

  2. Allan will be missed by the Science Education community in Australia and beyond. He will be remembered for his enthusiasm to make a positive change in science teaching and learning.

  3. My most intensive contact with Allan was in 2002 when he invited me to come to CQU for a stay of 2 months for doing some research. From that project, we published a JRST-article. I also met him at several conferences in Australia and abroad. I will remember him as a very friendly and warm person and a vary inspiring colleague. I wish Beth all the best. Onno De Jong, retired from Utrecht University (Netherlands) and Karlstad University (Sweden).

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