bSci21 Contributing Group
Most behavior analysts have heard of Precision Teaching, but may have found it intimidating or a little different depending on their first interaction with it. Therefore, it is fair to say that currently Precision Teaching is only used by a fraction of behavior analysts.
Ogden Lindsley defined Precision Teaching as an educational process in which decisions concerning educational interventions are based “on changes [observed] in continuous self-monitored performance frequencies displayed on ‘standard celeration charts’” (Lindsley, 1992, p. 51). Precision Teaching came about when Ogden Lindsley, a student of B. F. Skinner, began applying free-operant technology in classrooms in 1965 (Lindsley, 1992).
He began comparing the differences between rate of response (count/unit of time) and percentage correct (correct response/total correct + total incorrect responses). He concluded that rate of response was anywhere from 2 to 50 times more sensitive of a response measure than percentage correct (Lindsley, 1992). (For more on percentages check out The Percentage Manifesto by Scott Miller)
‘Rate of response’ was substituted for ‘frequency’ amongst Precision Teachers later on as a term describing a number of responses divided by some standard unit of time (e.g., 5 responses per minute). Frequencies are recorded in a variety of timing lengths (10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minute, 10 minute, 1 day, 1 year, etc.) and plotted on the Standard Celeration Chart (SCC). (For more information on the SCC see (Pennypacker, Lindsley and Gutierrez, 2003; Kubina & Yurich, 2012)
With Precision Teaching comes a heavy focus on behavioral fluency, which emphasizes both speed and accuracy (Binder, 1988; Binder 1993; Graf & Auman, 2005; Kubina and Yurich, 2012). The exact speed and accuracy can vary depending on the behavior of interest (Graf & Auman, 2005).
When all of the components of Precision Teaching are used correctly along with other empirical methods of teaching, such as Direct Instruction (see Watkins & Slocum, 2003 for more on the components of Direct Instruction), students have been shown to increase 2-3 grade levels per year. (Lindsley, 1992).
Unfortunately the work of a precision teacher is not easy and their reliance upon frequency of response and data-based decisions are not widely accepted. This is likely due to a misconception about the ease of learning to use the SCC and that the SCC makes one more accountable for their learner’s outcomes. So although Precision Teaching is extremely effective when compared to methods that are currently utilized in educational settings, it remains a ghetto among the massive number of teaching approaches available today.
However, a recent startup called Chartlytics is working to breakdown some of the technological barriers that have partially led to this ghetto– we’ll see what they pull off. Check them out and let us know what you think about Precision Teaching and the SCC in the comments below!
Binder, C. (1988). Precision Teaching: Measuring and attaining exemplary academic achievement. Youth Policy, 10(7), 12-15.
Binder, C. (1993). Behavioral fluency: Evolution of a new paradigm. The Behavior Analyst, 19(2), 163-197.
Graf, S. A., & Auman, J. (2005). SAFMEDS: A tool to build fluency. Youngstown, OH: Graf Implements.
Kubina, R. M., & Yurich, K. K. (2012). Precision Teaching Book. Greatness Achieved Publishing Company.
Lindsley, O. R. (1992). Precision Teaching: Discoveries and effects. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 25, 51-57.
Pennypacker, H. S, Lindsley, O. R., & gutierrez, L. A. (2003) Handbook of the Standard Celeration Chart, Deluxe Edition. Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies: Cambridge, MA.
Watkins C. L., Slocum, T. A. (2003). The components of direction instruction. Journal of Direct Instruction, 3(2), 75-110.
About the Author:
Following graduation from Master’s programs many behavior analysts find themselves in a cold dark world where they are searching for the light of peers that share their approach to the subject matter of behavior. One online group called Brohavior (derived from “brotherhood”) has recently created a refuge for behavior analysts looking for the light in order to continue their own development. The group aims to create a collaborative environment where students of behavior analysis are exposed to and pursue behavior analytic literature, philosophy and research that is outside of the scope of the BACB-approved course sequence.