Teaching decisions are based on the shape of the learning picture that emerges on the Standard Celeration Chart. White & Haring (1980) recommend that "If the correct rate of a skill is higher than the error rate and is accelerating (regardless of how the error rate might be changing), the skill is probably appropriate for one or more of the instructional procedures" (p. 243). Given this learning picture, the decision would be to continue with the current program.
A program change is indicated when the learning picture shows that "hard-to-do" has "easy-to-do." This occurs when the chart reveals that student has reached aim and "0" for two consecutive counting periods (McGreevey, 1983). It is time to select a new task.
A program change is also indicated when the learning picture shows that "hard-to-do" has become "hard-to-learn." In other words, the student is advancing too slowly, or not at all. For example, at Morningside Academy students must maintain a doubling of performance frequency per week; if the Standard Celeration Chart suggests otherwise, then the teaching procedure or the material to be learned is altered (Johnson & Layng, 1992). Some general options to consider when "hard-to-do" has become "hard-to-learn" are: change the movement, change the counting period, and change the aim. The other possibility, of course, is to change the teaching method. (For more detailed discussions of these strategies, see McGreevy, 1983, and especially White & Haring, 1980.
Sometimes the task may involve complex movement beyond the current capability of the student. In such cases, one possibility is to break the complex movement down into simpler movements. Previously we described such an example. The complex movement "Mark feeds the dog" was divided into four parts: (1) Mark gets the dog bowl from cupboard, (2) Mark opens the bag of dog food, (3) Mark pours the right amount of dog food into the bowl, and (4) Mark places the food bowl in dog eating area. Another hard-to-learn task could be "June answers the phone." The teacher could reduce this complex movement to three simpler movements: (1) June lifts the ringing receiver, (2) June appropriately positions the receiver to ear and mouth, and (3) June says "hello."
A slice back is defined as "a smaller movement or 'slice' of the original movement" (McGreevy, 1983, p. II-7). Suppose that June is unable to learn the complex movement "June answers the phone correctly or incorrectly for 1 minute." The teacher might opt to build fluency with the slice back movement "June positions the receiver to her ear and mouth correctly or incorrectly for 1 minute." A slice back from the complex movement "Mark feeds the dog correctly or incorrectly for 2 minutes" could be "Mark performs the first three (of four) steps of feeding the dog correctly or incorrectly for 2 minutes". White & Haring (1980) recommend that a slice back be considered when "the error rate is higher than the correct rate and they are both accelerating, or the correct rate is a little higher than the error rate but is flat or decelerating while the error rate is accelerating" (p. 243).
If a slice back does not solve the problem, then the teacher may consider a step back, defined as "a movement that is supposed to be 'easier to do' than the original movement" (McGreevy, 1983, p. II-8). A step back is more elementary than the original movement; it is a prerequisite skill. In our earlier example, the movement "June places the telephone receiver to her ear and mouth correctly or incorrectly for 1 minute" may be too difficult to learn. The teacher may choose to build fluency with the step back movement "June places the telephone receiver to her ear and mouth with verbal instructions from her teacher correctly or incorrectly for 1 minute." (Note how this changes the learning channel set from "June hears and places the ringing phone to her ear" to "June feels you guide her hand as she places the ringing phone to her ear", that is, from "hear and place" to "guide and place"). Another step back movement could be "June lifts the receiver correctly or incorrectly for 1 minute (whether or not it is ringing)." A step back from "Mark gets the dog bowl from the cupboard correctly or incorrectly for 2 minutes" could be "Mark discriminates bowls from plates correctly or incorrectly for 2 minutes." White & Haring (1980) recommend that a step back be considered when "the error rate is higher than the correct rate and is accelerating or remaining flat, while the correct rate is remaining flat or decelerating" (p. 243).
The most rudimentary step back is called a tool movement, defined as "a basic body movement necessary to perform the original movement" (McGreevy, 1983, p. II-9). Tool movements for school children often involve saying, writing, and doing. For example, in order to detect instances of faulty logic in reading passages fluently, a student must first be able to read words fluently (Johnson & Layng, 1992). Tool movements are practiced over and over. Returning to our earlier example, if June is unable to learn the movement "June lifts the ringing receiver correctly or incorrectly for 1 minute," then a possible course of action is to build fluency with the tool movement "June lifts her hand to her ear over and over correctly or incorrectly for 1 minute."
This option should be considered when endurance is an issue. Endurance involves the maintenance of fluent performance over an extended period of time. Consider the following case recounted by Binder, Haughton, & Van Eyk (1990):
"Roy, a 9-year old boy in a day-school program who was diagnosed as having behavior disorders and severe mental retardation, was charted as he practiced putting pieces into a puzzle with prompts from the teacher...When he worked for 1 minute at a time, there were many instances in which he either placed the puzzle piece incorrectly or threw the piece away from the table. The rate of correct responding was variable between 1 and 30 per minute, with no consistent pattern of progress. When the teacher shifted to working for only 15 seconds at a time, correct responding began to show less day-to-day variability, with errors and noncompliant responses virtually disappearing." (p. 26)
The authors recommend that "performance should always be evaluated at the duration that will be required in real life," and that "if long durations [counting periods] cause problems, teachers can help students become fluent for shorter durations and gradually work up to the required performance" (Binder et al., 1990, p. 12).
McGreevy (1983) suggests that in some cases it may be helpful to set temporary aims. Suppose Susan's teacher tells her that when she "sinks 8 free-throw shots in 1 minute," she will be awarded a special badge. It may take a while for Susan to achieve this aim. Consistently not making that aim over several days may be discouraging, and Susan may stop trying altogether. Here, the teacher should consider setting a temporary, more readily obtainable aim, such as: "Susan sinks 4 free-throw shots in 1 minute." Now, Susan will be more likely to experience early success and be rewarded for her efforts. The aim could then be set a bit higher, and hopefully Susan will be better motivated to keep trying.