Grace Lazovik led the way on teaching evaluation methods

Grace Lazovik

Grace French Lazovik, a pioneer in the measurement of teaching effectiveness whose work as a faculty member in the Department of Psychology led to regular teaching evaluations at Pitt, died Nov. 17, 2019 at 97.

Nancy Reilly, director of the Office of Measurement and Evaluation of Teaching, said Lazovik’s leadership of the Center for the Improvement of Teaching in the psychology department beginning in 1971 was the foundation for OMET.

Lazovik had already begun studying teacher evaluation methods as a graduate student at the University of Washington. The center’s mission at Pitt was to explore the reliability of student evaluations and what factors influenced them, in order to better develop the evaluation process. By 1972, Lazovik had created a Student Opinion Teaching Survey, using it at first in her department and then more broadly in other departments and schools.

By 1976, the provost had formed a committee to examine possible survey use throughout the whole of Pitt. Lazovik then directed the University-wide Office for the Evaluation of Teaching. In 1987, OMET was established, and Lazovik retired as an emerita professor shortly afterward.

These early surveys proved effective, Reilly said, and Lazovik wrote important papers in the field about her work, publishing several books about teacher evaluation.

“She was the driving force” for getting these surveys across campus, Reilly noted. “She really laid the groundwork to establish all of this. She was always proud that she developed this standardized system.”

Lazovik also saw the need to develop effective peer evaluation instruments for faculty, which remains important today, Reilly said.

“We have changed the surveys” in the ensuing years, added Reilly, but “without her foundation for making sure it was a reliable, valuable instrument, I don’t know what would have been done.”

When Susan Campbell joined the psychology department in 1976, Grace Lazovik’s husband David was chair, but Grace was one of the few female faculty members there and certainly the most senior, Campbell recalled: “She was very helpful to junior faculty in the department, and she was helpful to women — she certainly supported women faculty just by being there for us. When you’re a female faculty member in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, in a very big department, you have to have other women around or you feel very alone.”

After David Lazovik died in 2000, Grace Lazovik created an endowed fund in his memory. Each year it supports graduate students in clinical psychology, awarding three student research grants for dissertation aid and internships for career help and professional development as well as receptions for new students and those graduating each spring.

She is survived by children A. David Lazovik Jr. (Dee), Deborah Shaw Lazovik (Harold Shaw), and Marc Lazovik; nephew Steven Wright (Mary Beth Wright); six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. A memorial is being planned for the spring in Homewood Cemetery, with details to come. Donations are suggested to the Lazovik fund in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology.

— Marty Levine