Precision Teaching: Applications

According to White (1986), Precision Teaching "has been used successfully to teach the progress of learners ranging from the severely handicapped to university graduate students, from the very young to the very old" (p. 530). Because Precision Teaching dictates neither the content nor the teaching strategy, it combines well with any curricular approach (Lindsley, 1992a). The first classroom application was in conjunction with a Canadian-style Montessori curriculum for exceptional children (Fink, cited in Lindsley, 1992a). Precision Teaching has also been combined with Direct Instruction and Tiemann-Markle instructional design to teach children with learning and attention problems (Johnson & Layng, 1992; 1994) and the Personalized System of Instruction to teach a variety of college courses (Pennypacker, Heckler, & Pennypacker, 1977; but see McDade & Olander, 1987). The Center for Personalized Instruction at Jacksonville State University developed a "Computer-Based Precision Teaching Learning System" (McDade, 1992). The Center encourages faculty members to employ this system to teach their courses. Instructors who participate write content-related questions and bring them to the Center, where the questions are then incorporated into a Precision Teaching format. Courses have been developed in anthropology, archeology, biology, geography, history, mathematics, political science, and psychology. In 1986, the Center offered 100 sections of 28 courses (McDade & Olander, 1987).

One of the most widely cited successful applications of Precision Teaching was conducted in Great Falls, Montana in the early 1970's (Beck, cited in Binder & Watkins, 1990). During a four year span, teachers at Sacajawea elementary school incorporated 20 to 30 minutes of daily Precision Teaching into a curriculum that was otherwise identical to other schools in the district. Their students advanced 19-40 percentile points higher on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills than students elsewhere in the district. Impressive results have also been reported at Morningside Academy, a school in which Precision Teaching plays a major role.

"Due to its successes, Morningside Academy now offers parents two money-back guarantees. The first is for children who are two or more years behind in school. Many children in this group have been officially classified as "learning disabled" by public school personnel. These learners, who have rarely gained more than a half a year in any one academic year, will gain at least two grade levels per school year or their parents will receive a tuition refund in proportion to the shortfall. The second guarantee is for any other learners who are not much behind in grade-level achievement but who stand apart from their peers because they do not coordinate visual and motor skills effectively, as is most apparent in their handwriting. These students are also highly distractible, hyperactive, disorganized, and have poor study and independent learning skills. Many children in this group have been officially classified by their pediatricians or other medical personnel as "attention deficit disordered" (ADD). Morningside Academy guarantees that these learners will increase their time-on-task endurance from their typical 1 to 3 minutes spans to 20 minutes or more-an attention span longer than that of the average college learner...Since the seven years since the assurances have been in place, Morningside has never had to refund tuition for failure to meet its money-back guarantees." (Johnson & Layng, 1994, pp. 174-175)

Precision Teaching also appears to be cost effective. A survey by Albrecht (cited in Lindsley, 1991) found that the median cost for teacher training was about $300 per year per teacher in the first year and $60 per teacher per year in subsequent years. This latter figure translated to only $3.50 per pupil per year.

Applications have not been limited to the classroom. For example, Binder & Bloom (1989) employed Precision Teaching strategies to help employees at two banks attain fluency with facts about products and service. A written post-test revealed that they "were able to respond to questions and statements of need with near total accuracy in about three to four seconds." Furthermore,

"This is a level of performance that supports fluent face-to-face sales interactions. With results like these, it's no wonder that line managers call this program a business advantage. The Fluency-building approach makes a tangible difference in the performance of sales staff, and anecdotal reports confirm that sales were made after the training which would have been missed before." (p. 20)