What is Precision Teaching

Precision teaching is all about breaking down a task to minimal skills and setting precise goals, precise practice and precise record keeping. If you take a peek at the history behind precision teaching you will find the name Ogden Lindsley. He practice what was called free-operant learning. The theory was that students would be free to respond at their own pace, with no limits put on them.

Lindsley had this to say as it relates to education:

“Our first class-wide frequency recording was in a Montessori class for special education children…Elaine Fink showed we could effectively use rate of response with curricula as varied and as difficult to measure as Montessori materials. Clay and Ann Starlin showed an entire first grade class could correct and chart their own academic work on standard celeration charts…Ron Holzschuh with Dorothy Dobbs and Tom Caldwell showed that academic frequencies (rates) recorded 40 times more effects of curricular changes than did percent correct…These and many other studies proved behavior frequencies significantly more sensitive to learning variables in the classrooms than percent correct and percent of time on task.”   

It is all about taking a big task and breaking it into small pieces so the student can become fluent at that part of the whole task. It is labor intensive for the teacher because there is much recording keeping. A student and teacher can visually tell where the student is in the learning of the whole picture. Although it is labor intensive, it is so successful that most teachers who try it, stick with it.

If you were to look at a hierarchy of learning it would look something like this:

Accuracy  – A student can accurately identify all of the target item or perform the target skill accurately on a number of consecutive occasions.  Using a concrete example of making free throw shots from the proper line. If the student can reach the specified number and do it  within the time limit set, they have mastered accuracy.

Fluency – A student can identify the target items or perform the skill fluently. The time allotted shortens and the target still has to be reached. In other words it is quickly and accurately.

Maintenance – A student is able to identify the target items over a lengthy period of time.

Generalization – The student can identify the target items and see how they relate in different context.

Adaptation – The student adapts what has be taught into new and different skills.

It sounds complicated, but really it is a great way to teach skills. A great example would be teaching a student sight words. Walking through the process might be helpful. Choose the tracking sheet of your design to record the progress. The overall goal is that the child learns to recognize sight words.

Begin with two sets of five sight words:

the / and / is / on / a
in / you / he/ it / that

The method used is a little game call “I say – you say”. It begins with the coach or teacher performing a 60 second drill  where the teacher points to the word, says it, the child says it and they move on to another word in the block of five.  If there is a three second pause between each word, the words would be reinforced 4 times.  When the student can repeat and get all the words 12 times in the one minute then it is time for the student to say the word and the teacher to repeat until that 12 times is reached. It does not all happen at once, it is a progression. Charting it accurately helps to make sure progress is made.

Jump to the other 5 words for variety and perform these at different times during the day.

If there are trouble words, put them in a group of their own and get them up to speed.

This is the first stage of precision teaching. The child has learned the sight word. It is completed as the child is able to bring into all the reading skills.
There is a lot of success with this kind of teaching. It does not work in every situation, but for many it is a great way to learn.