Visual Researcher Extraordinaire

David M. (Mike), Moore.(2003). Francis M. Dwyer: Visual Researcher Extraordinaire. In Educational Media and Technology Yearbook (Fitzgerald, M. Orey, M, Branch, R. Editors), Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited, pp. 284-287. Virginia Tech.

Francis M. (Frank) Dwyer is one of the most prolific and well-published researchers in the history of the field of Instructional Technology. It will be documented that he has influenced literally hundreds of graduate students directly and many thousand other students indirectly by his guidance and research focus. Dr. Dwyer is currently a Professor of Education at The Pennsylvania State University at State College, and has served as Senior Research Associate and Coordinator of Instructional Research and Evaluation at that institution.

Beginning in 1965, Dr. Dwyer pioneered an innovative research program called Program of Systematic Evaluation (PSE) designed to identify the types of visual materials which would be most effective in facilitating student achievement of specific educational objectives when the content is presented via different instructional formats. Several different types of instructional variables were investigated in four media presentation formats: television, slide/audio taped instruction, visualized programmed instruction, and textbook instruction.

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The PSE approach has been used in examining the instructional effects of visualization and how instructional/training environments utilizing visualization may be modified to improve students’ information acquisition and retrieval capabilities. Periodically, a number of seminal documents and materials have been produced to acquaint individuals interested in the design, development, and delivery of effective visualized materials with the activities of the Program and to make these materials available for use in their work areas or for their students in instructional environments. These documents include the following books; A guide for improving visualized instruction (1972), Strategies for improving visual learning (1978), and Enhancing visualized instruction- Recommendations for practitioners (1987). The result of this research has significant implications for individualizing instruction and for course development activities. To date approximately, 50,000 students have been involved in this program which represents the most comprehensive and systematic attempt to identify those variables associated with visualized instruction which are most effective in facilitating student achievement of specified learning objectives. Hundreds of experimental studies reporting the results of this research program have been published by the author in dozens of different journals in the United States, Argentina, Germany, and England.

Dr. Dwyer has authored or co-authored more than 300 research articles (yes, that’s correct!) related to instructional systems design and development published in professional journals which include: Harvard Educational Review, Journal of Psychology, Journal of Educational research, Journal of Experimental Education, Dedakta Medica, Audio Visual Communications Review, Educational Technology Communications Journal, Perceptual and Motor Skills, Journal of Instructional Psychology and many others.

He has presented more than 250 papers on the effective design and use of media and technology at the state, region, national, and international levels (e.g., Association for Educational Communications and Technology, American Education Research Association, National Association for Educational Broadcasters, International Visual Literacy Association, and Northeast Educational Research Association).His first two books, A guide for improving visualized instruction and Strategies for improving visual learning were selected by the Alvina Truet Burrows Institute (ATB), Inc. of New York for inclusion in the William S. Grays Research Collection in Reading. Since 1884, two hundred books have been selected for inclusion in the collection, which is considered by many experts to be the finest collection of reading research documents of its kind. The ATB Institute has microfiched the Gray Research Collection in Reading and distributed it to reading resource centers throughout the country and to various U.S. and foreign academic and research libraries. The availability of this unique collection of reading literature and research will provide professionals, graduate students, researchers, and government agencies with reading materials designed to facilitate student learning.

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A guide for improving visualized instruction summarizes ten years of research by the author, investigating the instructional effectiveness of different types of visualization in terms of increasing student achievement. Strategies for improving visual learning emphasizes the interrelatedness of variables associated with the effective use of visual materials, and its attempts to draw trends from prior research relative to the effective design and use of visual media. In this respect, it presents the concept of visualized instruction, not as an isolated phenomena, but as an interrelated constituent process operating at varying levels of complexity—the elements of process operating at varying levels of complexity – the elements of which acquire significance only in the context in which they are used. His fourth book, Visual literacy –A spectrum of visual learning (1995) also deals with the instructional use of visuals, received the prestigious AECT/ECT Foundation –James W. Brown Outstanding Publication Award for 1995.

Dr. Dwyer’s extensive and influential research in the field of visual learning has earned him several major recognitions including the Japan Society for Promotion of Science’s first Visiting professorship in Instructional Technology (1975), the Pennsylvania learning Resources Association’s Eero Davidson Memorial Award for significant research contribution to the profession (1979), The Pennsylvania State University’s Presidential Commendation for media research and leadership (1976 and 1977), and the International Visual Literacy Association’s Outstanding Research Award (1991). The IVLA award for given for 25 years of sustained research in the area of visual learning. This award has only been presented twice in 37 years by this organization.

Dr. Dwyer’s research expertise has been recognized by the invitation to serve on many editorial and publication boards of many professional journals including: the Review of Educational Research (AERA), American Journal of Distance Education, Educational Technology Research and Development, Audiovisual Instruction, International Journal of Instructional Media, and the Journal of Visual Literacy.
He has served as dissertation advisor and chair for over 150 doctoral dissertations in the area of instructional design and technology. He also has served as an external evaluator for dissertations from Canada, Africa, and Malaysia to name a few. For his outstanding work with graduate students, he was awarded the Association for Educational and Communications (AECT) Crystal Mentorship Award in recognition of exceptional and ongoing mentorship in the field of Instructional Technology.

In addition to his scholarship, Dr. Dwyer has contributed immense service to organizations and to the field of Instructional Technology. For example, he has served as President of the International Visual Literacy Association (IVLA) (1978-1979), as President of Research and Theory Division (AECT) (1979-1980), and as President of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) (1984-1985). He has served on various national professional organizations’ planning committees, board of directors (AECT, IVLA, etc), leadership conferences (Okoboji), executive committees, task forces, and editorial committees. In 1993, he was presented the International Visual Literacy Association’s (IVLA) Outstanding Service Award. This was the first time that this award was presented to a member of that organization. He has served as consultant to US government agencies (e.g., Department of Defense, Department of Interior), foreign governments (e.g., Japan, Saudi Arabia, Italy), corporations (e.g., General Motors, PriceWaterhouse), organizations and foundations (e.g., National Science Foundation, National Academy of Podiatry), as well as numerous universities, colleges, and public and private schools.

By any individual academic measure including research and scholarship, teaching and mentoring, or by service, Frank Dwyer would qualify as a true leader and an ultimate professional. He is on top of everything else a fine man with a dry wit. He continues to conduct research and mentor his students at Penn State. In his spare (?) time, he can be found in the forest appreciating and exploring its mysteries and opportunities.

The author is a friend and colleague of Dr. Dwyer.

Dwyer, F. M. (1972). A guide for improving visualized instruction. State College, PA: Learning Services.

Dwyer, F. M. (1978). Strategies for improving visual learning. State College, PA: Learning Services.

Dwyer, F. M. (1987). Enhancing visualized instruction-Recommendations for practitioners. State College, PA: Learning Services.

Moore, D. M., & Dwyer, F. M. (Eds.). (1994). Visual literacy: A spectrum of visual learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

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