The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Operant and Classical Conditioning

By Frances K. McSweeney; Eric S. Murphy | Go to book overview

23
Precision Teaching:
The Legacy of Ogden Lindsley

Kent Johnson and Elizabeth M. Street


What Is Precision Teaching?

Precision Teaching (PT) is a monitoring, practice, and decision-making technology for improving performance of any kind. Ogden Lindsley and his students at the University of Kansas developed PT in the 1960s. However, its seed had been planted during and immediately after Lindsley’s time as a student in B. F. Skinner’s laboratory at Harvard in the 1950s (Potts, Eshleman, & Cooper, 1993).

PT technology sets frequency goals or aims for individual student performance on well-calibrated curriculum pinpoints. Learners then practice the performance specified by the pinpoint in a series of timings. Typically 1–5 minutes in length, timings of performance on academic skills1 may be as short as 10 seconds (sometimes called a sprint) or as long as 15 minutes or more. The frequency of performance that occurs in a timing is plotted on a specialized graph. Teachers, peers, and learners themselves observe performance over a series of timings to assess the impact of interventions, review performance celeration—the rate of change in performance across time––and make further instructional or practice modifications based on the degree to which the learner is making progress toward frequency and celeration aims.2

Johnson and Street (2013) have expanded a motto developed by Lindsley (1972, 1990)—pinpoint; measure; chart; decide; try, try again—to describe the steps in the pure, general case of PT. They include: (1) specifying a learning objective or pinpoint, (2) arranging materials and procedures for learning and practicing the pinpoint, including slicing the pinpoint into smaller sub-skills as necessary, (3) timing the learner’s performance and counting its frequency, (4) charting the learner’s performance, (5) reviewing performance trends on the chart, and (6) making decisions about interventions as needed to improve its growth in frequency and celeration.

Behavior analysts and psychologists may be confused about the definition of the term frequency in PT. It is primarily a semantic issue. Whereas Skinner used the more

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