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Precision Teaching and how can it be used in the classroom?

By 11th October 2016Blog

Precision Teaching

Precision Teaching can be used to accelerate progress in students of a particular skill. It is a simple, but intense teaching method used in a Special Education Needs context. Precision Teaching aims to enable a child to recall targeted facts or skills, in order to apply it independently in class.

What is Precision Teaching?

The high repetition of facts means that this method is effective at accelerating progress in very specific skills such as word recognition. It uses flash cards and daily assessment over an 8 week period. At the end of each session, a student is tested to see how much of the skill or facts have been retained.

What is the theory behind Precision Teaching?

Precision Teaching draws on Vygotsky’s theory that effective teaching should be aimed at a student’s Zone of Proximal Development or the area between what is known and what is not known, but that can be developed with guidance and encouragement from a knowledgeable person. It also draws on the Haring and Easton (1978) learning hierarchy which shows us how new learning needs to be fluent before it can be maintained effectively.

Who might benefit from Precision Teaching?

Traditionally in the SEND context students who might benefit are:
·     Those who are able to complete tasks, but reluctant to try
·     Those who appear to know something one day but not the next
·     Those who appear to know something in one area, but not in another
·     Those who are very slow in the production of work
·     Those who do not have the basics

In the mainstream context, all students can benefit from this type of teaching where they have a gap or weakness in skills or can be accelerated to a deeper level of understanding.

How does this work with Mastery Learning?

Like Precision Teaching, Mastery Learning breaks subject matter into small blocks with clearly specified objectives which are pursued until they are achieved. Learners work through these small chunks of content in a series of sequential steps.

Using the high repetition of facts or skills, which need to become fluent, students must demonstrate a high level of success on tests before progressing to new content. This works in conjunction with precise assessment of knowledge and skills. Those who do not reach the required level are provided with additional tuition, peer support, small group discussion or homework so that they can reach the required level. It is particularly effective when pupils work in groups or teams and take responsibility for supporting each other’s progress.

According to the EEF, not only can this accelerate a student’s progress by  up to 6 months, but it can particularly help to accelerate the lower attaining pupils.

How does Precision Teaching Work in the GCSE or KS3 classroom?

Teaching complex sentences

Task: turn a poem into a story by writing an opening paragraph of description focusing on using complex sentences.

For this example it needs to be assumed that the teacher has assessed the students of the class and knows that some students don’t know how to write in complex sentences, some are secure with using fronted adverbials, but not with embedded clauses and vice-versa.

The starter task would be a quick fire round of identifying the complex sentences from the other sentences (taken from an example opening paragraph of a story which has been based on the poem to be studied). This would be to check knowledge and re-assess the grouping if need be.

The group of students who are not secure with complex sentences would sit at the front and be guided by the teacher or another adult if one is available. This group would complete the same tasks, but guided by the adult.

The other groups would be made up of at least one student who is secure with the use of fronted adverbials and one who is secure with the use of embedded clauses.

The poem would be read out and ideas gained. The students would then go into groups to complete a 10 minute shared writing task of writing the opening paragraph of a story based on the description of the character. The teacher would make it clear that at least 2 sentences with adverbial clauses need to be used and 2 sentences with embedded clauses. The complete paragraph would then the peer assessed by another group to check that the sentences are there and correct.

Next, individually, the students would complete an independent paragraph. This would be self-assessed at the end of the lesson by the students. The teacher would then mark these types of sentences only ready for the next lesson, adding comments where the student shows any misunderstanding, or shows the student how to use fronted adverbial clauses to move them on. The starter of the next lesson would then be improvements.

Also, the next lesson in the sequence would be using adverbial and embedded clauses in the rest of the story. The clauses would be taught until every child had an 80% success rate in using those clauses in a piece of writing. Although the content might change, the skills would not.

Other Skills?

This methodology can be used to teach any skill or piece of knowledge.

The key is in the repetition and not moving on until it is learned.