Tag Archives: free operant

Intro Part 4: Precision Teaching—What is it?

One evidence-based educational method that has had almost six decades of success is Precision Teaching (PT). PT was founded and coached by Ogden Richardson Lindsley (Lindsley, 1995). Lindsley had been one of B. F. Skinner’s PhD students and many of the fundamental principles of PT stem from the free operant research originally carried out in Skinner’s laboratories (Lindsley, 2002). Free operant in this context refers to “students are free to respond at their own pace without having restraints placed on them by the limits of the materials or the instructional procedures of the teachers” (Lindsley, 1995, p. 10). Additionally PT uses frequency of response as its measure of effectiveness: Skinner reported that his greatest two contributions and legacy to science was his use of frequency (or rate) as a measure of performance and the cumulative response recorder (Evans, 1967; as cited in Lindsley, 2010, p. 23).

PT can be given an arbitrary starting date of 1964; this was when Lindsley published his seminal paper (Eshleman, 1990; Lindsley, 1964). PT has been effectively applied with many different skills and with many different populations; ranging from children with special needs (Gryiec, Grandy, & McLaughlin, 2004; McDowell & Keenan, 2001; Zambolin, Fabrizio, & Isley, 2004); children in mainstream schools to college students (Johnston & Pennypacker, 1971; Vieitez, 2003) and the elderly. Even though PT has been shown to be effective across different time periods, settings and curriculum, there is still resistance to adopting the approach (Kubina & Yurich, 2012).

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