Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

May 25, 2000

LRDC's Lesgold named dean of education

Lesgold named dean of education

After a national search, Pitt has named an internal candidate as School of Education dean.

Alan Lesgold, executive associate director of the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC) and professor of psychology and intelligent systems, will take over as dean July 1.

Among his priorities for the school, Lesgold cited establishing and strengthening links with other University units, continuing to implement the school's 1998 academic restructuring plan, expanding programs in web-based technologies and distance education, and raising funds.

"This job will be a big change, but it's really something I wanted," said Lesgold, 54. "I've been tied up in the educational technology part of educational policy for a number of years. It's very hard to have a career in which I claim to address educational needs without at some point getting involved and addressing those needs as directly as I can."

Lesgold's primary academic appointment will be professor in the education school and he will step down as executive associate director of LRDC. "I told the provost [James V. Maher] I don't believe in 'absentee landlords,' and that my primary tenure home should be the School of Education," he said.

The new dean will maintain his faculty affiliation with LRDC and retain secondary appointments in psychology and intelligent systems.

Regarding the current health of the School of Education, Lesgold said, "In the case of Pitt and its role in the educational development of this region, I think we have extremely good people here, but we don't have the full range of thriving programs that we should have. I think we're in a wonderful position to address that need."

The first order of business, Lesgold said, will be to meet individually with the school's administrators and faculty members. "I have some preliminary ideas in mind. But we have collections of very responsible and intelligent people here and you can't simply come in and tell them what you're going to do."

Referring to the school's 1998 Academic Program Plan, which called for significant down-sizing, Lesgold maintained that the school had met the budgetary requirements set by the plan, which gave him more leeway to evaluate programs and review faculty and student aspirations.

The restructuring plan called for the termination of seven academic programs and specializations, leaving the school with 19 degree and certificate programs organized into four departments. The plan also set a limit of 75 tenure-stream full-time faculty (down from 91 in 1997) and a budget cut of 12.6 percent from its fiscal year '97 level.

Lesgold said that the 75 tenured faculty maximum was not negotiable, but that the plan was flexible enough to adapt to changing programmatic needs.

"Are there things I think we should do? Sure. For example, the state has just mandated continuing education requirements for teachers and I think we have to be in that market. I don't think we can wait too long without having another occasion where Penn State will 'eat our lunch' — and we don't need that."

Lesgold said the provost allocated resources in next fiscal year's budget to develop web-based technology and distance education programs toward that end.

He said his discussions with the faculty would help to determine the level of the school's commitment to those initiatives and how the resources would be allocated. "My job is not to dictate to the faculty what programs the school should have. But a piece of my job is to represent as best I can what society wants from us. My job is to see we don't miss the boat."

Lesgold said there are units within the University that could collaborate with the School of Education, including the School of Information Sciences (SIS), the College and Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), the University Center for International Studies (UCIS) and LRDC.

"I see room for serious partnering with SIS, for example, in the area of information technology. One possibility is to find some ways to facilitate each other's work within an educational technology grad program that lives in both places."

Lesgold said that similar opportunities exist with GSPIA with its expertise in policy studies, and with Arts and Sciences departments in promoting ways to nurture students who have expressed interest in becoming educators.

UCIS is a natural ally, Lesgold said, because "historically, a strength of the School of Education has been in its global perspective. It's certainly an area of my own interest and I want to support that area."

LRDC has a long-standing interrelationship with the School of Education, which Lesgold said could be expanded.

"I expect more funded projects to be developed in the school. That could affect the role staff play in our organization, whether it is traditional staff or research staff, like research associates or specialists." Lesgold said the current number of staff is stable in the hard-money budget, but as the school's organization is evaluated their role and numbers could expand.

"I was very impressed with the questions staff asked me during the interview process. Where I got hammered the most on the new state [continuing education] requirements was by staff saying, 'What are you going to do about that?' I think staff are looking for ways to play a bigger role in the development of the school."

The dean-designate acknowledged pressure to increase the financial resources of the school. "I do plan to be an aggressive participant in the forthcoming capital campaign," he said. "The school needs to be active."

He said he has had some fund-raising experience in the private sector. "I learned a lot doing that, but I want to work with the campaign leaders and discuss what I can do."

One possibility is to create endowments that support joint appointments with Arts and Sciences departments and the education school, he said.

Regarding the future of the field of education, Lesgold said, "That's a very hard issue. But let me offer a sense of the forces at work. There's no doubt that some web-based instruction and simulations are effective ways of learning. On the other hand, there's a human side to teaching, a coaching side, a mentoring side. What I think is going to happen is that more of teaching will be providing moral leadership and being a role model, and the issue of whether the information is transmitted from the mouth of the teacher or the screen of a computer will be a detail in a world in which we need teachers to show kids how to deal with more complex information."

In announcing Lesgold's appointment, Provost Maher wrote, "Dr. Lesgold shares my belief that we must strengthen the ability of the School of Education to train teachers and school leaders and to conduct research aimed at improving schooling."

The provost added, "I look forward to helping Dr. Lesgold and his faculty define the future of the School of Education and assist the University in reaching its aspirations of having an even more outstanding School of Education."

Lesgold earned a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University and a master's and doctorate from Stanford University, all in psychology. He joined the Pitt faculty in 1971.

He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association in the divisions of experimental psychology, educational psychology and applied psychology.

Among his honors, Lesgold was awarded the Educom Medal by Educom and the American Psychological Association for lifetime contributions to educational technology. In 1999, he received an honorary doctorate from the Open Universiteit Netherlands in recognition of his scientific contributions to educational technology and applied educational research.

Lesgold has published more than 100 articles, chapters and books and has conducted research in the learning of complex skills and the acquisition of reading skills. His recent research efforts are focused on the training of technical workers using intelligent computer-based coached apprenticeship, the uses of network technologies for school improvement and professional development of educators, and educational technology policy.

Lesgold succeeds Kenneth F. Metz, who is returning to the education faculty. Metz has been dean of the school since 1990.

–Peter Hart

Leave a Reply