Step 2: Set an Aim

The aim refers to the final desired level of performance, generally one in which there is a high frequency of correct movements and a zero frequency of incorrect movements. This is referred to as reaching aim and "0". The pacing of correct movements specified in the aim should be "rapid, smooth, and natural," that is, performance should be fluent (Binder, 1996). To determine an aim, the teacher might ask a skillful person to perform the task during the counting period; the frequency obtained by that person would then be used to determine the aim for the student. If the star of the basketball team typically sinks at least 10 free-throw shots in 1 minute, then the aim for Susan could be: sinks at least 8 free-throw shots in 1 minute. Enhanced self-esteem and motivation are likely outcomes for the student who reaches fluency aims (McGreevey, 1983).

Early on, Precision Teachers set aims as described above, that is, based on norm-based reference criteria such as the average performance of "typical" students or "truly competent" students (Johnson & Layng, 1994). In recent years, however, many Precision Teachers have abandoned this practice and started using minimum component behavior frequencies to establish aims (Binder, 1996). Earlier we noted that fluent (i.e., accurate and high frequent) performance is retained longer, endures better during long time-on-task periods, is less likely to be affected by distracting conditions, and is more likely to be applied, adapted or combined in new learning situations, even in the absence of instruction. Minimum component frequencies predict these outcomes. As Binder (1996) explains:

"The determination of performance standards based on the criterion that they optimally support retention, endurance, and application suggests a virtually endless program of investigation that could keep researchers busy for decades. To meet the challenge...we need to determine for each behavior class, the frequency ranges required for optimally supporting each of these outcomes. Moreover, the frequencies are likely to vary for any given class of behavior. For example, an individual might permanently retain or remember math facts practiced to 60 to 70 per minute, with negligible improvements in retention beyond that range, yet continue to improve in the ability to apply the skill in mental math as it accelerates beyond 100 per minute. That is, the optimal frequency for retention may be different from that for endurance or application. Multiplied by the total number of response classes in a human repertoire, this challenge may be practically impossible to address for every important one. Nonetheless, practitioners and researchers will continue to investigate and experiment with levels of performance and their effects in several important domains, most notably academic and intellectual skills." (p. 174)