Mary Louise Holly Alumni Profile

Mary Lou Holly headshot
Distinguished Service to EHHS Award

Professor Emeritus, School of Teaching, Learning & Curriculum Studies

Professor Holly earned her BS in Education at Bowling Green State University, obtained her BA in Art, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, and then PhD in Curriculum and Instruction specializing in Human Development from Michigan State University. Teaching for several years in elementary schools and universities in Michigan prepared Dr. Holly to return to Ohio and KSU in 1978.

While still a student, her introduction to teaching was as an Art Consultant and teacher in Milford, Michigan. The practical experience of working with students and teachers while digesting the theories of education as a graduate student would spark a career long quest. She recognized teaching as a collaboration where both students and teachers were key to success. Her scholarship and research took this further, broadening the idea of the ‘scholarly community,’ and research into how teachers learn in practice.

Funded by the National Institute of Education, Professor Holly’s research Teacher Reflections on Classroom Life: An Empirical Base for Professional Development (1982), led to collaborating with scholars from England to Australia. She pioneered the use of qualitative inquiry methods to engage teachers in understanding their own professional practice. The ideas of “teacher as scholar” were codified in her writings in international journals and presentations shared during her visiting appointments at the University of East Anglia and Deakin University. She and her collaborators and co-authors put these ideas into their books, Perspectives on Teacher Professional Development (ed. with Caven McLoughlin, 1989), Keeping a Professional Journal (1984), Writing to Grow (1989), and Action Research for Teachers (with Joanne Arhar and Wendy Kasten, 2009). The traditional ideas of “teacher preparation” where challenged and contrasted with “teacher inquiry” involving reflective practice and peer communities to continually evolve the professional practice of teaching.

At a time when new views were forming about the Teaching and Research components of the University’s mission, Professor Holly joined advocates for professional balance and a parallel structural form. KSU first moved to create the University Teaching Council (UTC). The creation of the Faculty Professional Development Center (FPDC) to serve all Kent Campuses followed in 1998 and Professor Holly was named as Founding Director. In keeping with her previous efforts, the FPDC created programs emphasizing collaborative roles. The FPDC promoted collaborative groups of faculty, students, and administrators. The programs for new faculty, including the Teaching Scholars for Junior Faculty Learning Community, changed the way KSU welcomed new faculty members.

The FPDC promoted outreach and collaboration in new venues such as the NSF-funded IDEAL program led by Case Western Reserve University involving 5 leading universities of NE Ohio. Professor Holly was KSU IDEAL Co-Director of this effort advancing women in science and engineering. KSU IDEAL Change Leaders were catalytic in making STEM Education and Research, from undergraduate students to senior faculty members, one of the top four priorities of Kent State.

In 2007 Professor Holly joined Professor Denny Taylor at Hiram in a learning community-based project to invite youth and teachers from the region, including inner city Cleveland, into nature and stewardship by engaging in the field work and research of streams and wetlands of NE Ohio. Professor Emeritus Holly continues her work with the award-winning program Learning Streams International as it has grown and now involves teachers and students internationally (Pakistan since 2010, the Dominican Republic since 2014 ).

On the forefront of excellence in Early Childhood Education, locally and internationally, Kent State’s Child Development Center, its administration, teachers, and children, have long functioned as a learning community, exemplifying teachers as scholars as they inquire and learn from and with children and each other. Professor Holly has served on the board, and, as a Portage County Master Gardener Volunteer, has worked with and long been inspired by the living curriculum of the Center, and of its Outdoor Learning Lab with Terri Cardi, Outdoor Learning Teacher, who provides leadership.