If You Want to Solve a Problem, Measure It!

If You Want to Solve a Problem, Measure It!
For someone in a position to work toward solving any difficult problem, having reliable and updated measurements of the variables which matter is crucial in adjusting the strategy to solve that problem. In the world of education, this is no different and problems often sit unaddressed which can be identified and solved.

Precision teaching is the movement identifying frequency as the relevant piece of behavioral information to record and assess progress. With many typically short samplings of student performance, teachers and followers of the discipline can adjust educational interventions to suit the needs of each student by looking at changes in frequency of behaviors such as correct responses and errors.

How is measuring frequency different from normal tests and quizzes, and how can it help students?

The usual measurement of accuracy alone found in schools is either applied to homework with no time limit, or tests where a time limit is set so that the slowest child will usually have time to finish. This creates shortcomings in tending to the overall needs of students; the method is insensitive to vast differences in proficiency because speed is virtually ignored.

What are some problems with only measuring accuracy?

When a student finishes with perfect accuracy within the time limit of a test, the test may indicate proficient performance. However, the requirement of proficient use of that skill later (ie multiplication facts used in algebra) may become a severe limitation to that student’s success. This only compounds in the future as more complex subjects inevitably make stronger demands upon fundamental skills. If a student on the other hand always finishes well before time limits, they will not have opportunity to be challenged and not only will they miss potential progress but they may develop inattentiveness and behavioral problems in the classroom.

Education that is not sufficiently individualized will not produce the best results across the board. Methods that are insensitive to frequency are essentially blind to the effects of many different changes which become apparent to the instructor when the data is taken and charted. A great instructor can surely still use intuition and experience to make relevant changes; measuring frequency does not detract from that, it builds upon it. Measures from accuracy and anecdotal memory alone are insensitive to many patterns that can be picked up when the completely reasonable effort is put forth into charting frequency. For example, the reading  progress of many dyslexic students is often very slow. Charting will show a growth in frequency - perhaps higher than the student has ever achieved - while the slow progress is not detected by the instructor without measurement.  Not only does this allow instructors to separate good methods from bad ones, but it provides vision that allows an instructor to make informed adjustments that are needed due to medical, behavioral, or complex circumstantial factors that may affect an individual student’s learning.

Great Leaps Reading and Math programs apply techniques of precision teaching to measure the frequency of responses and errors in every session. We encourage you all to study precision teaching yourselves and apply it to measuring any skills or behaviors where it is applicable. In very many areas of improving skills you may find people have already used precision teaching methods and written about what they did. Hopefully we have briefly demonstrated the importance of measuring frequency in skill-based behavior and its educational application, and you may benefit tremendously in both your profession and hobbies from applying it.

Here you may find out more in a succinct paper on precision teaching and then an archive of the Journal of Precision Teaching and Celeration:

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