F. Dean McClusky, Education: Los Angeles


1896-1981
Professor Emeritus

Throughout his professional career, Dean McClusky held a position of national leadership in the field of audio-visual instruction almost from its beginning at the end of World War I. He made significant contributions through communication with many different groups: scholarly researchers, film producers, administrators of educational programs, legislators, professional organizations, and both inservice and preservice teachers at all levels.

He was born on January 1, 1896, in the village of Holland Patent, New York. After graduating from Park College, Parkville, Missouri in 1917, he served as an aerial photographer during World War I. He received the Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1922. In April of that year, he and Sibyl Kemp were married and spent part of their honeymoon attending a visual education conference in Lexington, Kentucky. They had two children, Dean Kemp and Mary Jo.

He was an instructor at the University of Illinois from 1922-1925 and then became Director of Educational Reference at Purdue University. In 1927 he moved to the Scarborough School, Scarborough, N.Y., where he was Director from 1929 to 1945. After spending a year as Lecturer at the University of Michigan, he joined the faculty of the Department of Education at UCLA in 1946. He retired in 1959 to Clear Lake, California, where, after many more productive years, he died on November 27, 1981.

At the outset of his career, Dean established a reputation as a pioneer in experimental research in the field of visual education. He undertook a number of experiments comparing different modes of visual presentation, work which helped to advance methods of inquiry in this field.

He made major contributions through survey research on problems of critical importance to the profession. For example, at the request of the National Education Association, as early as 1923 he reported on the “Administration of Visual Education: A National Survey.” This report was at that time the most comprehensive and important study of this young


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field. Because it delineated so well promising trends and glaring deficiencies, its findings and recommendations were drawn upon for years.

In 1932, Dean made a report for the Will Hays Foundation, designed to inform commercial producers of films. The document gave the results of a survey of the field on the values and needs of visual instruction. In 1937 he undertook a similar study for the Rockefeller Foundation on the problem of producing successful education films designed for school use. His conclusions offered direction to film producers regarding what was needed to create films which were so effective that the educational community would seek to use them for instruction.

As the audio-visual field grew during the twenties, three different organizations came into being. Dean was president of one association, vice-president of another, and on the executive committee of a third. To reduce the wasteful duplication of effort he took the initiative in seeking a merger and in 1932 was the key figure in bringing these different groups to form a single organization within the National Education Association, a group which later took the name, Department of Audio-Visual Instruction, the forerunner of the present one: The Association for Educational Communications and Technology.

Dean was a most effective monitor and interpreter of the potential, the limitations and the needs of the audio-visual enterprise. In addition to his surveys, he was a co-author of two books: The Audio-visual Bibliography (1950, revised in 1955) and the Audio-visual Reader (1954). Both of these publications contributed to a much-needed scholarly framework of the field.

Dean was exceedingly concerned about teacher education; he saw that the effective use of different media in the schools would depend ultimately upon the teacher. While he was the director of an entire school at Scarborough he saw first hand the importance of dealing with the new technology within the context of the total instructional process. His book, Audio-visual Teaching Techniques (1949) was widely used and became a standard for the profession for many years. It was translated into Japanese and was revised in 1955.

In addition to his large classes in the preservice teacher education program, he maintained a lively communication with teachers in service, by frequent publication of articles by teacher's journals. For a fifteen year period he regularly wrote a column for each issue of the Instructor.

While Dean focussed his attention on the modes of stimulus presentation, he saw clearly the importance of placing the audio-visual field always within the context of the entire instructional process. He believed that such aids should be used wisely as part of the total task of teaching. While he maintained that such methods add considerably to the effectiveness of instruction, he felt that proper teacher education was a necessity so that audio-visual methods would not become misused by unwarranted reliance on these techniques.


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Although Dean gave considerable attention to the educational film, he always stressed the wide diversity of approaches teachers should consider including the printed word. He was most interested in improving reading ability and in his writings demonstrated how visual aids might contribute to this task.

The many different leadership positions Dean held are testimony to the high esteem given him by so many persons. He was always a most generous person, giving freely of his time and talent to students, colleagues and practitioners.

When he and Sibyl retired to their dream home with a beautiful view of Clear Lake, he continued to serve in an educational capacity. For several years he was a reporter on the local radio and for the local newspaper. Among other civic service activities, he undertook economic surveys for the region which were much appreciated by the business community. Shortly before he died, he completed his last piece of writing, a historical review of the leadership of his national professional organization, an article which was published in the Media Yearbook of 1980.

John McNeil Paul Sheats Evan Keisler