Pressley, G. Michael 1951-2006
On May 23, 2006, the academic community lost one of its most brilliant and influential scholars in the fields of psychology and education. Michael Pressley, esteemed researcher and academic, died from complications associated with his fourth battle with cancer.
During his career, Pressley published more than 350 articles and book chapters and edited more than 25 books on psychology, literacy, and education. He especially was recognized for his senior authorship of the McGraw-Hill/SRA Open Course K-6 literacy program (also known as Open Court). He served as editor and board member for many prominent journals including Journal of Educational Psychology and the Journal of Reading Behaviour.
Pressley's dedication as a researcher was matched by his commitment to junior scholars. Pressley served as an advisor and mentor to dozens of doctoral and master's students throughout the United States and Canada, involving them extensively in his research and publication activities. Pressley also held great passion for K–12 schooling and involved himself in teacher preparation programs and the daily functions of elementary classrooms across America.
Pressley's schooling experiences, in part, shaped his interests in the psychology of learning. A student in the post-Sputnik era, Pressley participated in a science-enriched curriculum that concluded in his senior year with an 8-week research psychology summer session at Western Michigan University. This experience was profound in that it provided him with foundational insights about the enormous potential of research psychology to inform the field of education—insights that would subsequently be transformed into a professional passion.
Pressley completed his undergraduate studies at Northwestern University and earned a doctoral degree from the Institute of Child Development at Minnesota, specializing in cognitive development. Over the course of his career Pressley held positions at nine esteemed institutions including the University of Maryland-College Park, State University of New York, and Michigan State University.
A vigorous scholar, his research interests ranged from explorations in basic memory development to reading instruction. Pressley's initial explorations were largely quantitative and deepened understanding of effective learning strategies and study techniques, as well as factors that affected the learning process (good strategy user model). Adopting a variety of qualitative and mixed-methods methodologies, Pressley extended his research attentions to transforming educational practice and defining the essence of exemplary classroom instruction. His later interests focused in the area of reading comprehension and in monitoring and shaping teacher-student interactions as they negotiated meaning from text. Whether in the laboratory or in the classroom, students' positive learning experiences formed the foundation of Pressley's research and quickly earned him recognition as one of the nation's foremost educational researchers.
Pressley was the recipient of several prestigious career awards honoring his outstanding overall contributions to the fields of psychology and education, as well as his specific contributions in reading research and remedial reading diagnosis and programming for students at risk for reading and writing failure. These honors include induction into the Reading Hall of Fame, the Oscar Causey Award from the National Reading Conference, the Sylvia Scriber Award from the American Educational Research Association, and the Thorndike Award from the American Psychological Association. Pressley was honored with the University Distinguished Professor Award from Michigan State University and recognized as one of the top 100 University of Minnesota Distinguished Alumni from the College of Education and Human Development.
Pressley's contributions to the social science and education fields were unprecedented, as was his commitment to the universities, programs, and individuals he served. His intellect and leadership were matched by his compassion and unselfishness. Pressley was an individual who truly made a difference in the lives of his students and colleagues and his legacy remains with those who serve in America's classrooms.
Block, C., Gambrell, L. B., & Pressley, M. (Eds.). (2002). Improving comprehension instruction: Rethinking research, theory, and classroom practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Pressley, M. (1998). Reading instruction that works: the case for balanced teaching. New York: Guilford.
Pressley, M. (2006). Reading instruction that works: The case for balanced teaching (3rd ed.). New York: Guilford.
Pressley, M., Ailington, R. L., Wharton-McDonald, R., Block, C. C., & Morrow, L. M. (2001). Learning to read: Lessons from exemplary first-grade classrooms. New York: Guilford.
Pressley, M., et al. (2003). Motivating primary-grade students. New York: Guilford.
Schneider, W., & Pressley, M. (1997) Memory development between two and twenty (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
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