On nonstandardization

Years ago I spent time in the US Navy as a Seabee. I had a job as an equipment operator (EO). Driving different heavy equipment seemed easy enough. See me in the picture below with my rough-terrain forklift.

Figure 1 Your favorite blogger in younger years serving his country

Figure 1. Your favorite blogger, in younger years, serving his country

At times, I got to hang out with my Seabee buddies during construction tasks. A friend of mine became a construction electrician (CE). At a work site I remember asking him why it took so long to do the wiring (I wanted to get back to our barracks). He made some remark about electrical currents, materials, and standards. My brilliant remark? “Standards, who needs them?”

Funny how education changes us! If present-day, older Rick could meet past, younger Rick I might try and talk some sense into him about standards. But then again I might just tell him to invent Google or Facebook, or maybe Googlebook.


Over time I have come to appreciate standards like nobody’s business. Our modern society owes so much to standards that I can hardly do justice to the topic in one blog post.

Standardization describes the process of employing world-class specifications that govern the construction and delivery of services, systems, and products (International Organization for Standardization, 2014). This process results in a standard, or “…an agreed-upon way of doing something” (Spivak & Brenner, 2001, p.1).

Standards occur in industry and commerce, health care, and almost every mature scientific discipline. Standards have brought us, literally, from the dark age to the digital age. Everywhere you look you can see the power of standards. Examples:

The smart phone we can’t live without has a standard operating system that allows app makers to construct everything from Angry Birds to Lose It!

The houses in which we live and the buildings in which we shop and work came into existence through a series of standards: (1) construction workers using materials born of adhesive standards, cement and concrete standards; (2) builders following masonry standards, roofing standards, wood standards; and (3) inspections to ensure the structure met fire standards, insulation standards, and engineering standards.

When we visit medical professionals they use standards to determine if our vision, hearing, heart rate, and temperature indicate health or that we need help.

The list could go on and on. As stated by Thomas, the then President of American Society for Testing and Materials: “Standardization is indispensable to life in this century. It is virtually as indispensable as the air we breathe. And like the air we breathe, it is invisible to all except its technicians” (Spivak & Brenner, 2001, p.v).

Complete lack of standard in graphs

Take a moment and look at time series graphs from any education, psychology, sociology, economics, or other social science journal.

The line graphs will show change across time. The line graphs will also shine in the dull light of nonstandardization.

Take the example of two images I pulled from a quick Internet search. No doubt you have already noticed both graphs vary in construction. But Rick pulled those from the Internet, flagship journals surely wouldn’t fall prey to nonstandardization. They do. Every single one of them.

Figure 2 Two graphs

Figure 2. Two examples of nonstandard linear graphs (NSLGs)

What difference do you see? The size of each graph differs, the proportions of vertical to horizontal axes vary, the data points diverge, and the scaling deviates from one graph to the next (note the top graph uses sessions for a time unit on the horizontal axis, a major no-no for time series graphics).

Why should it matter? Why should any of us care that almost everyone uses nonstandard linear graphs (NSLG)? Let’s answer the question with another set of questions.

Would we care if our smart phones used nonstandard operating systems? Yes, because nonstandardization affects all the gaming, productively, and photograph apps we like.

Should we care if our buildings fell under the domain of nonstandardization? Yes! They might fall over in high winds, bombard us with noxious gases due to improper building materials, or have roofs that can’t keep the water out when it rains.

And what if our health care professionals employ nonstandardization with the devices they use to measure different health indicators ? If we don’t care about quality health care service then yes, let’s embrace the lack of standards and let every single health care device maker rig their own technical specs.

We use graphs to make decisions, in some cases high stake decisions. Professionals and nonprofessionals alike use time series graphs such as the line graph to detect subtle and dramatic changes in a measured quantity across time.

Having NSLGs serve as the basis of our main decision making/evaluative tool comes with its hazards. For this blogpost, I will not lay out all the inherent limitations with a linear graph, they exist and many have pointed out their informational shortcomings (shameless plug: The Precision Teaching Book). But I will discuss two problems with nonstandardization.

NSLG changes

Two basic problems *always* exist with graphs that live in the land of nonstandardization:

1. Slope changes based on the size and proportions of the graph
2. Variability changes based on the size and proportions of the graph

The picture below (Taken from Kubina, Kostewicz, Brennan, & King, 2014) illustrates the differences in slope changes. Each NSLG has the same data, but the axes underwent manipulation (by the way, you find textbooks that encourage graph makers to play with the data and see what looks best – Oy vey!).

Figure 3 slope changes

Figure 3. Graphs with the same data but different slopes due to changed axis sizes

Look at the difference in the slopes. Ask yourself, do you think a person would evaluate how fast the data changed based on the two slopes? Yes, yes they would. The slope in the first graph appears to rise more steeply than the second graph. Logic compels the graph reader to conclude the data changed more quickly in graph 1 than graph 2. The data haven’t changed but we have two different conclusions!

Variability suffers the fate as slopes when nonstandardization rules the roost. Take a look at the graph below.

Figure 4 variability changes

Figure 4. Graphs with the same data but different variability due to changed axis sizes

Notice the great degree of variability in graph 1 and the smaller variability envelope in graph 2. The graph readers judge high variability in one graph but interprets the other graph’s variability as moderate. As Charlie Brown would say…

Figure 5. Charlie Brown after he looked at a NSLG

Figure 5. Charlie Brown after he looked at a NSLG

Variability indicates how much control exists in a condition. For example, in a condition in which a teacher implemented an intervention, a high degree of variability points to weak control of the intervention (because the data bounce all around; the less regularity in the occurrence of behavior the less influence an intervention has exerted).


What do we think about nonstandardization? Not good but it does do something. A house made with nonstandard materials will stand but may have hidden, and potentially catastrophic failings. Apps made with nonstandard operating systems will have very limited appeal, market penetration does not follow without everything working on the same platform.

How well should we trust nonstandard linear graphs? Certainly the NSLG tells us something but at a price. Like the examples mentioned previously, nonstandardization can contain concealed, nasty surprises (How will we see the real slope line and variability envelope?).

Should members of scientific communities like psychology and education continue to embrace and celebrate nonstandard linear graphs? Should high stakes decisions that affect the lives of school-age children or adults with severe behavior problems continue to occur on nonstandard linear graphs? Or, if you graph your own behavior don’t you deserve better?


International Organization for Standardization (2014, June 4). What are standards? Retrieved from http://www.iso.org/iso/about/discover-iso_meet-iso/about.htm

Kubina, R. M., Kostewicz, D. E., Brennan, K. M., & King, S. A. (2014). A Critical Review of Line Graphs in Behavior Analytic Journals. Submitted for publication.

Spivak, S. M., & Brenner, F. C. (2001). Standardization essentials: Principles and practice. New York: Marcel Dekker.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Why the world needs celeration

One of the major contributions Precision Teaching (PT) has made lies in a standard measurement unit called celeration. It makes sense a measurement unit would rise to the top of the achievement list because Precision Teaching itself is a measurement system. (Lindsley, 1997, 1999).  And the measurements have centered on human behavior. If you read this blog and find yourself measuring the behavior of other people (e.g., clients, students, yourself), celeration takes center stage as part of the scientific analysis of time series data.

We can compare trend lines on a nonstandard linear chart and celeration lines on a Standard Celeration Chart. Trend lines, also referred to lines of progress or celeration lines have three functions: 1. describing the performance patterns in a series of data; 2. predicting the future performance of a series of data; and 3. describing the effects of an intervention on a series of data (White, 2005). The trend or celeration line directly informs the chart reader when it comes to making judgements about progress and the degree of change. Two options exist for representing how much change has occurred – using words or using numbers.


Taking a step back, let’s first examine a measurement unit or unit of measurement (same term but some people order their coffee black while others order black coffee). A measurement unit refers to a specific amount of a physical quantity that becomes the standard for all other similar physical quantities. As an example, length refers to a measure of something from one end to the other. Your friendly blogger has a body length measured from my feet to the top of my head. How do we describe my bodily length? We call it height if I stand up and we measure from the bottom of my body to the top.

To answer how we have come to measure parts of our physical universe we could examine the history and development of measurement. The short answer; a group of people, scientists mostly, developed standard units to precisely define the measures we use in everyday life. You can access the standard measures from different sources (discussed later).

We rely on standardized measures so we do not get cheated when buy products. If you go to your local grocery store and buy milk for $2.99 (€2.16 for all of those readers in Europe), how much should you get? The enterprising clerk might give you “a lot of milk” for your money. The next time you purchase milk from the farmers market a kindly Amish salesperson might also give you “a lot of milk” for your $2.99. The Amish salesperson has a different idea what “a lot of milk” means and you receive more this time than the last. Imagine the worldwide chaos that would ensue? Everywhere you go you never know how much milk your $2.99 will procure.

In the United State we know what $2.99 gets us, a gallon of milk. The rest of the world uses liters but the upside remains the same – because we have standard units of measurement commerce doesn’t look like the wild west where everyone makes up stuff and measures differ from one person to the next. Ask yourself, do you want to live in a world where no standard units of measurement reign supreme? Stated differently, do you want to live in the 10th century where the King of England had to declare that people do not use “false weights and wrongful measures” under pain of intense corporal punishment or death?


The International System of Units http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Units/ or SI (abbreviated from French Le Système international d’unités) encompasses a set of measures used almost universally in trade and science. The table below shows dimensions people may like to measure (under the Measurement column). For example, we all keep track of time. Eating meals, showing up for work, watching our favorite TV shows, and figuring out how much we owe for our monthly cell phone bill  all represent facets of time. We can do all of the previous activities because we measure time a Physical quantity or Unit (second column in the table below). A second represents a universal unit for capturing time. We have 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 7 days in week, 4 weeks in a month, 12 months in a year, 10 years in a decade, 10 decades in a century, and 10 centuries in a millennium. The sequence of time strikes us as wonderful order!

First, we recognize everything starts with the second. People who have adopted the second as a standard unit of measurement have a sense of scale. We understand the difference between 30 minute television show and a three hour lecture. We perceive the lifetime of a person measured in years (maximum lifespan = 120 years) versus the staggering immensity of time involved with the lifetime of our Sun (maximum lifespan = 10,000,000,000 years).

Standards give us a sense of scale by imposing order within our measurements.

Take a moment and closely examine the first two columns. You will quickly come to appreciate standard units of measurement because the spectacular growth of our technological culture rests with the common language of units. If we didn’t have the standard units try and imagine the present state of our society by using the the third column for doing science, trade, and commerce. Just open a book and look at life in 10 century and before.

Table 1 copy

Standard units of measurement make your life run smoothly. Standard units of measures (and their derivatives) touch you when you go to the doctors, fill up you car with gasoline or diesel, buy Starbucks, drive to work, and stand on your scale (and smile because your healthy life style shows up in numbers). Does anyone want to live in world where everything previously mentioned goes away and in their place we have to use adjectives and more subjective impressions of nature? When you ask someone how to dress they say “It be warm outside.” Of course asking your friend Norway instead of your friend from Florida will influence how you dress and what warm means to your friends. Likewise, imagine going to your doctor prescribes a medicine and says take a little of it each day. Does a little mean a teaspoon (5 milliliters), a table spoon (15 milliliters), a fluid ounce (34 milliliters), or a cup (240 milliliters)?

You get the picture. The world, and your life, would function very differently without standard units of measurement. We don’t want to move from an age of technological splendor back to the dark ages. Standards make life better.

Stand Units of Measurement on the Standard Celeration Chart

Back to trend and celeration lines. Take a look at the figure below. The same data appear on a section of a nonstandard linear graph and a portion of the Standard Celeration Chart. The dimensions of both figures have the same physical and numerical scaling. Each data display clearly portrays the dataset and allows line fitting. For each figure I used the split middle technique to fit the celeration and trend line line respectively. When looking at the lines, both have two distinct features which directly factor into analysis of the meaning of the line.

SCC vs linear-01

When contrasting the two lines above the first determination made concerns the slope. Clearly both lines have an upward slant. A difference will never exist between trend lines on a nonstandard linear graph and celeration lines on a Standard Celeration Chart. If one line has an upward slope so too will the other.

Table 2 copy

The magnitude of the trend requires a judgement. The individual assessment yields a qualitative value. In the graph above I estimate the trend as medium. With the SCC we do not need to rely on a subjective impression. We can measure the line and express the magnitude of growth with a number. The figure below shows how a finder reveals the celeration value. Note when we extend the line it goes through the hatch mark labeled with a 2. Therefore, the celeration value of the line = x2.0. The x2.0 means the behavior has doubled or increased by 100%. Looking at the figure you see the first data point starts at 10 and the last data point ends at 20. Doubling 10, or 10 x 2, equals 20.

Finder x 2.0-01

Celeration, then, refers to a unit of behavior change everyone can use. The unit of change expresses the quantified magnitude of growth or decay. For different situations celeration precisely tells the chart reader the speed at which behavior has changed. The table below lists a few examples of behaviors and celeration values.

Table 3 copy

With celeration the standard unit of change maximizes judgment of the effect through quantification. The celeration values states exactly fast the change occurred. The symbol (x or ÷) shows the direction of the change. Multiply symbol will denote growth or an upward slant of the line while a division symbol signifies decay or a downward inclination of the line.

As mentioned previously, trends lines describes the performance patterns in a series of data and communicate the effects of an intervention on a series of data. Examine the previous table above but without celeration.

Table 4 copy*Or rapidly increasing? What rule determines the difference between moderate and rapid?

The judgement made for the trend line on a nonstandard linear graph provides information. The information, however, does not compare with the precision imparted by the celeration line on a Standard Celeration Chart. If someone ever tells you data on a linear graph doesn’t differ from data on a Standard Celeration Chart you will know otherwise. Stark difference start with the trend line and the subsequent effects of judgement.

The social sciences have used nonstandard linear graphs and trend lines for a long time. Researchers had made discoveries and helped many people change their behavior. The point of this blog is not to disparage trend lines and suggest they have no positive purpose, clearly the data say otherwise. The main point lies in what we might aspire to as a science and to recognize our present limitations. The scope and depth of analysis and judgement of change dramatically improves with celeration. If one argues against celeration as a standard unit of behavior change then that person argues for nonstandardization and less precision. As an applied scientist or a concerned citizen of behavior change, ask yourself what world do you prefer to live in, one with standard units of measurement or one without? We can start celeration.


Lindsley, O. R. (1997b). Precise instructional design: Guidelines from Precision Teaching. In C. R. Dills & A. J. Romiszowski, (Eds). Instructional development paradigms (pp. 537-554). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Lindsley, O. R. (1999). From training evaluation to performance tracking. In H. Stolovitch & E. Keeps (Eds.). The handbook of human performance technology (2nd ed.). (pp. 210-236). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer, Jossey-Bass.

White, O. R. (2005). Trend lines. In M. Hersen, G. Sugai, & R. Horner (Eds.), Encyclopedia of behavior modification and cognitive behavior therapy. Volume III: Education applications (pp. 1589–1593). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Posted in Celeration, measurement, Standard Celeration Chart, Visual display of data | 2 Comments

All learning boundaries are conventions

People we care for can struggle when learning. Sometimes those challenges rise to a level  signaling deep concern. A student who cannot read, for instance, will have very limited career avenues not to mention limited participation in much of what our technological society has to offer. What can we do?

For starters, potential solutions will result from how a teacher views learning. Unfortunately, all too often the learner is blamed for the failure. Convenient labels communicate the problem resides within the student themselves and the teacher must fix the learner. As an example, auditory processing disorder states a person cannot process information auditorily like other people do. The disorder means the person has difficulty with sounds that compose speech. Fixing the underlying speech processing mechanism then would lead to improved academic performance. The following example illustrates the line of reasoning applied to a math problem.

Problem: Student struggles to learn adding fractions    ½ + ⅔ =

Diagnosis of problem: Student has auditory processing disorder and cannot understand the instructions provided by the teacher or student cannot engage in “mental math” because he or she has trouble hearing his or her own voice.

Solution: Fix the underlying problem (auditory processing disorder) or provide accommodations so the student can overcome problem.

Teachers who embrace the previously mentioned problem with an indirect cause will likely focus much energy and effort at marginally useful exercises. For example, a solution may involve “Right Brain Math Strategies,” presenting information at a slow pace, giving the student one problem at a time, or strengthening note-taking skills.

Students with auditory processing disorders (or any other underlying problem like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) have a clearly defined learning boundary; they cannot escape who they are.

Precision Teaching

How does Precision Teaching differ from methods that establish the problem as a characteristic of the learner? The answer lies in the structure of the PT system: Pinpoint – Record – Change – Try Again.

Step 1 = Pinpoint

Pinpointing means selecting the most precise, representative label of behavior. Pinpointing follows a specific method:

1. Select an action verb.

2. Select object used with action verb (keep it singular).

3. Add “s” to the end of action verb (Present tense).

4. Check the pinpoint for observability and cyclicality (repeatability).

5. Add context important to the pinpoint.

Let’s take the previous problem: Student struggles to learn adding fractions    ½ + ⅔ =

According to the pinpointing steps above we have the following:

1. Write (action verb for this particular behavior involves writing, though it could also involve keyboarding, saying, or selecting, all different behaviors).

2. Fraction answer

3. Writes

4. “Writes fraction answer” passes the test for observability and cyclicality – anyone can clearly observe it and the student can repeat the behavior.

5. Writes fraction answer on practice sheet (the added context further clarifies the exact nature of the pinpoint).

With the pinpoint “Writes fraction answer on practice sheet,” the focus of the problem centers solely on behavior, not a processing problem or some other indirect cause. Of course, pinpointing behavior does not mean the teacher ignores issues that may affect the behavior. For instance, if a student has poor handwriting, the handwriting would factor into how well the student can write and perform the pinpoint “Writes fraction answer on practice sheet.”

Step 2 = Record

The second step means the teacher records the student’s pinpoint “Writes fraction answer on practice sheet” with frequency. Frequency refers to a count in a time interval. In the practice sheet below, we can count the number of correct and incorrect written fraction answers on the practice sheet. The student wrote a total of 4 correct digits and 9 incorrect digits. An inspection of the performance shows a clear strategy the student has used: just adding the digits from left to right. By using the straight adding strategy the student wrote some correct digits. However, the correct digits appeared in the correct place not because the student applied the necessary strategy to understand and complete the addition algorithm properly.

adding fractions

If the student completed the performance in 1 minute, we now have a frequency: 4 correct and 9 incorrect digits per minute. Recording the frequency of the pinpoint each day brings us to the third step in Precision Teaching, Change.

Step 3 = Change

The student will perform the pinpoint each day. The teacher will record the correct and incorrect frequency. Then the student or teacher (best when done by the student) will chart data on a Standard Celeration Chart (SCC).

The SCC below displays the first frequency we recorded (discussed above in step 2) and 4 more frequencies taken each day of the week. When examining the trends for corrects and incorrects a troubling picture arises; corrects remain below incorrects and have not grown or shown signs of accelerating. Also, incorrects accelerated which reflects the student, Ivan, trying harder but not applying a strategy that leads to more correct answers.

SCC for blogpost

The SCC paints a vivid picture for the teacher who will decide whether to institute a change or continue on the present course of behavior. Clearly the teacher will make a change due to poor and deteriorating performance. Additionally, PT involves the student. When students self chart, ownership of the pinpoint rises. Students can then self monitor and contribute to decision making.

Step 4 = Try Again

Try Again refers to a Precision Teacher’s marching orders – keep trying interventions until we solve the problem. A number of different intervention tactics have emerged from the 1,000s of teachers and students who have used PT through the years. One example of a tactic, “Try-3-at-once.” A teacher gives the student three different tasks, like writing multiplication fact answers on a practice sheet, saying multiplication fact answers to flashcards, or keyboarding multiplication fact answers on a computer screen. After giving the students daily, timed assessments for a week, the task in which the student learned best in (as shown by the steepest trend or celeration line on a SCC) would become the preferred method of instruction.

Many other Try Again, problem solving tactics exist to help the student, all directly governed by the students observable behavior.

Let’s recap. The Precision Teaching process focuses directly on behavior. A pinpointed behavior, precisely measured as a frequency, and then charted and displayed on a specially designed visual graphic that unambiguously depicts the course of behavior. Reexamining the problem and solutions in a Precision Teaching perspective looks like the following:

Problem: Student struggles to learn adding fractions    ½ + ⅔ =

Diagnosis of problem: Student does not know the proper algorithm for adding fractions.

Solution: Fix the problem by teaching and then having the student practice the algorithm for adding fractions. The teacher closely monitors the student’s daily performance and knows immediately how well the student has learned the algorithm.

If you root for the underdog, believe applied science can solve the most inveterate problems, and hold the conviction that we should never give up on the learner, then you share the core beliefs of a Precision Teacher.


Posted in Frequency, measurement, Pinpoint, Precision Teaching, Standard Celeration Chart, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Cumulative Record >>> Standard Celeration Chart

Ogden Lindsley always gave credit to his mentor B. F. Skinner for two important components of Precision Teaching: rate of responding and the cumulative recorder (Lindsley, 1971, 1991a, 1991b).

Ogden Fred & Fred 2smallandNames(From http://precisionteaching.pbworks.com/)

The cumulative recorder helped Skinner discover laws of behavior. The cumulative recorder had a number of elements for recording real time time behavior. As shown in the figure below, the cumulative recorder produced a cumulative (increased quantity of successive additions of responses) record (a piece of paper recording responses in time).

 Cumulative recorderFrom (Lattal, 2004)

As shown from another of Lattal’s (2004) figures, the actual records produced standard visual displays. In the top half of the figure, the numbers 46 and 53 refer to rats. Below, their performance appears in the upward line. Even without knowing the specifics, such regularity produced in two different animals should give us pause.

Lattal cum recordsFrom (Lattal, 2004)

How did the upward line occur? The cumulative record worked by a rat (pigeon or any other animal) responding in an experimental chamber (aka Skinner Box). If the rat activated a level by depressing it with its paw, that sent a signal to the cumulative recorder which would move the pen one unit in the same direction (once it reached the end it would reset). The marks on the cumulative record show when food (a reinforcer) was delivered. The marks, called pips, along with the pattern revealed by the shape of the line, allowed Skinner and all other behavioral scientists to understand nature – namely behavior. As Lattal said:

“The history of the cumulative recorder is the story of gaining control over the four aforementioned functions: step, pip, reset, and event mark. Thus it is a history of striving to achieve an ever more accurate and precise picture of behavior in real time, the primary subject matter of the discipline. In the broader scheme of things, it is also in microcosm the story of the experimental analysis of behavior and how the reciprocal interaction between the scientist, the subject matter, and its measurement has led to change and progress” (Lattal, 2004, p.330).

 The Gift of Standardization

The standardization of visual display conferred by the cumulative records to the young science of behavior analysis inspires wonder and reverence. An entire science came into being when Skinner deliberated over visual patterns of behavior. The magnitude of changes he saw occurred due to the variables systematically implemented. The magnitude of the changes were not influenced by a shifting design of the cumulative record, they stayed the same because there were standard. When other scientists examined the magnitude of changes of their animals, they saw regularity because each scientist did not have to manually create a separate cumulative records, the standardized visual always came from the cumulative recorder. The reliability and quality of the standard visual displays reduced interpretation errors and enhanced productivity – anyone trained to understand cumulative records could immediately understand the visible data patterns.

Ogden Lindsley got it. He saw the power of standardization his mentor Skinner gave the world. Lindsley spent part of his early career using cumulative records with people at the Metropolitan State Hospital in Waltham, Massachusetts, one of the first people to do so (Potts, Eshleman & Cooper, 1993). The moment-to-moment behavior changes shown in all their standardized splendor led Lindsley to discover conjugate schedules of reinforcement. He made many other important discoveries. But the standard visual display of the cumulative records showing changing frequency measures (i.e., count over time) profoundly influenced Lindsley. The glory of science stood before him: a standard, absolute, universal measure of behavior (frequency) could appear on a standard visual display.

The Standard Celeration Chart

Fast forward to the 1960s and Lindsley moved from the State Hospital to the University of Kansas. Lindsley decided to devote the rest of his professional career to helping students in education. He had a vision for education – bring science to the field and many discoveries would follow. Armed with the knowledge of what a standard visual display offers, Lindsley created the Standard Celeration Chart or SCC. The cumulative record differs in purpose from the SCC, thus the reason why Lindsley needed a new graphic.

table for change

The table above compares the features of the two visual display systems. Both have their place in understanding behavior change. The cumulative recorder shows a pattern of behavior changing moment-to-moment. If we want to understand how in a given situation our behavior may change the cumulative record offers an exquisite view. In the figure below we have a person gambling. If we measured the rate of time he activated the machine we could see a cumulative record of behavior. Under similar circumstances if we took another measure we would likely see the same behavior pattern – pretty powerful stuff!


The SCC shows behavior on a different scale, not moment-to-moment but frequency-to-frequency (see chart below). Let’s say we gave a child a sheet of addition problems and measured how many she completed in 1 minute. We have a frequency measure for that day. If the next day we do the same and continue taking a frequency for 7 days in a row, we now have a frequency-to-frequency measure. We call that measure (unit of change) celeration. Not only do we have a standard visual display with a line that gives us a standard visual picture, but we can also quantify the change – pretty powerful stuff!

celeration example.002As you move through the year, ask yourself if a standard visual display would help you do your job better. Whether that job involves working with children, teenagers, adults, or improving yourself. Would celeration improve analysis? The chart would not change – the visual picture emerging has the same flavor of standardization that Skinner and Lindsley marveled at; differential visual patterns resulting from different variables.

Good luck in the new year, and may all your charts accelerate – unless you want to  decelerate behavior, then may all your charts decelerate!

Rick Kubina


Lattal, K. A. (2004). Steps and pips in the history of the cumulative recorder. Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 82, 329-355.

Lindsley, O.R. (1971). From Skinner to precision teaching The child knows best. In J. B. Jordan & L. S. Robbins (Eds.), Let’s try doing something else kind of thing (pp. 1- 11). Arlington, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.

Lindsley, O. R. (1991a). B. F. Skinner (1904-1990): Thank you, grandpa Fred! Journal of Precision Teaching, 8, 5-11.

Lindsley, O. R. (199lb). Precision teaching’s unique legacy from B. F. Skinner. Journal of Behavioral Education, 1, 253-266.

Potts, L., Eshleman, J. W.,  & Cooper, J. O. (1993). Ogden R. Lindsley and the historical development of precision teaching.  The Behavior Analyst, 16, 177-189.

Posted in Celeration, science, Standard Celeration Chart, Uncategorized, Visual display of data | 2 Comments

Charting zero

A recent post to the SClistserv (which you should join if you haven’t already) asks how the frequency multiplier works in the case of 0 or no count frequency. The answer reinforces many of the four reasons I have advanced in the discussion of which convention Precision Teachers should adopt to represent 0 on the chart. The convention I advocate: place acceleration (dot) or deceleration (X) data at a x2 distance below time bar (Graf & Lindsley, 2002). The reasons for adopting the convention follow:

1. Graphical communication of 0 observed or detected instances of the pinpoint clearly represented by using same symbol for acceleration and deceleration behavior.

2. Allows measurement of “change measures” such as celeration, bounce, frequency multipliers, celeration multipliers, and Accuracy Improvement Measure (AIM).

3. Facilitates consistent, accurate measurement of “change measures” such as celeration, bounce, frequency multipliers, celeration multipliers, and Accuracy Improvement Measure (AIM).

4. Going from or to 0 (zero) is a big deal.

Let’s look closely at each reason.

1. Better graphical communication with the “Zero at a x2 distance below time bar.”

Look at the figure below. Precision Teaching has conventions for acceleration and deceleration data that everyone agrees on. A dot for acceleration data and an X for deceleration frequency. Looking at the two charted data sets we have one set with congruence and equality, all the symbols represent acceleration data (the four dots going from 0, 1, 2, to 3). But with the ? symbol, we now have incongruence. Three symbols represent acceleration data and another symbol that requires explanation.

Conventions for 0 with ?

Try the following exercise with the basic lesson we learned from Sesame Street:

•    •    •    ?

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others,
By the time I finish my song?

How can the wisdom of Sesame Street possibly lead us astray?


2. Allows measurement of Precision Teaching change measures.

In the measurement world of Precision Teaching, change measures (e.g., celeration, bounce, frequency multiplier) are the proverbial yardsticks with which progress is ascertained. Furthermore, the significance of the measured data also falls in the domain of the quantified change measure. Many people immediately abandon typical equal interval graphs once they embrace PT change measures – now they have an quantifiable value with which to understand the world. Take celeration, a line that state how much a range of frequencies grew across a time period. A series acceleration data the grew at x2.0. That means the measures quantities changed from 10 to 20 by the end of the week. A significant amount of growth!

Some change measures like the frequency multiplier require measuring from one data point to the next. Without a proper 0 convention some people will ignore the change measure or measure it incorrectly (using a second data point that is a value other than 0).

3. Consistent, accurate measurement of Precision Teaching change measures.

As previously mentioned, when people use the ? convention, we have trouble with things like frequency multipliers. Going from dot to dot or X from X makes sense but not from ? to dot or X. Therefore, some people who use the ? symbol do not calculate frequency multipliers correctly.

Look at the figure below. If we use a Finder, we can quickly work out the multiplier. As an example, a 1 minute counting time has 0 corrects. The next frequency has 2 corrects. Moving from 1 to 2 we see the distance at x2.0. The frequency multiplier says the second frequency jumped up x2.0 or doubled from the first frequency.

Frequency jumps and 0
Placing the 0 at a x 2.0 distance below the time bar with Finder has the dot on the .5 line. Measuring to the 2 yields a x4.0 frequency multiplier. The behavior has quadrupled or jumped up 4 times. The math also works out if you plug it into your formula (.5 x 4 = 2).

At this point you might ask how does a behavior going from 0 to 2 equal a x4.0 change? 0 x 2 = 0 not 4. The previous math doesn’t lie, but on the Standard Celeration Chart 0 does not exist. Therefore, we use a special convention to handle a zero count frequency. By adopting the “Zero at a x2 distance below time bar” the 0 will assume a value that we can then calculate. So zero for the 1 minute time bar means 0 takes on the value of .5. If we had a time bar at 30 seconds, the time bar would rest on the 2 frequency line. Zero for a time bar on the 2 frequency line would then be placed on the 1 frequency line (i.e., Zero at a x2 distance below 30 second time bar means 2 ÷ 2 = 1).

Why a x2.0 distance below the time bar? The answer brings us to the next point:

4. Going from or to 0 (zero) is a big deal.

Consider we have a child that can say 1 letter sound correctly. Going from 1 to 2 letter sounds demonstrates a frequency multiplier of x 2, a big deal! But from 0 to 2 we have a frequency multiplier of x4.0. Why the difference curious people want to know? Well, going from 1 to 2 means the behavior just doubled, a large feat of behavior change. However, going from 0 to 2 means we had the absence of behavior to the presence of behavior, an even bigger deal! A child that can’t say any letter sounds then says 2 letter sounds? Whoa!

The genesis of behavior, or going from nothing to something, should garner our appreciation and awe. In fact Ogden Lindsley (the founder of Precision Teaching) mused that we might have zero placed at a x3.0 distance below the time bar because he felt it was such an astonishing change.

What about the other direction? We can go from nothing to something but what about going from something to nothing? A student that calls out in class has a behavior that represents a deceleration target. A teacher that sees a student go from 2 to 1 talk outs has witnessed a ÷2.0 jump down in frequency. But what about the student that goes from 2 to no count frequency of 0? A jump down of ÷4.0! In Og’s words: “Performance lives in the multiply world – grows and decays by multiplying and dividing. When performance drops from 1 to zero it drops out of the multiply world where it can be reinforced and accelerated” (Lindsley, 2000 August 16).

If we care about reinforcing behavior, then it must come into existence for us to apply reinforcement to it. On the hand, if we want a behavior not to come into contact with reinforcement we must move it out of existence. Both achievements require extraordinary effort and we must recognize those instances as an empirical marvel.

The convention for zero (0): “Zero at a x2 distance below time bar.”

Let’s use it!


Graf, S., & Lindsley, O. (2002). Standard celeration charting 2002. Youngstown, OH: Graf Implements.

Lindsley, O. L. (2000, August 16). Re:Plotting celeration lines-Zero line [Electronic mailing list message]. Retrieved from http://lists.psu.edu/archives/sclistserv.html

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Using Precision Teaching for a better future

For my 2013 New Year’s resolution I have chose a lofty goal: help as many people as possible learn to use Precision Teaching (PT). I chose this as my resolution because I firmly believe PT embodies a life altering behavioral/educational system. In essence PT has the following advantages.

1. Precision Teaching helps define the critical pinpoint (problem or target) in need of change. While advantage number one may seem commonplace, most people have a very difficult time producing a precise pinpoint. Very often people will use verbs that disguise or obfuscate the true active behavior. For example “understanding the civil war,” “solving problems,” or “verbally aggressing to others” provides three inadequate descriptions of behavior. Instead of “understanding the civil war” Precision Teaching pinpoints exactly what the person does such as “says fact about civil war.” Rather than “solving problems,” “writes answer to multiplication problem” offers a much more explicit description. And “verbally aggressing to others” misleads people. A much better target uses the pinpoint “yells insult at teacher.”

Notice also how most people often describe behavior in the “Present Progressive tense” which communicates the activity in progress: hitting, smiling, running – when do they end? Pinpoints use the “Simple Present tense” to express the idea that the action repeats. And we care more about behavior that repeats than behavior that continues when we measure pinpoints. Without a proper pinpoint reliably detecting and measuring the behavior turns into a challenge.

2. Precision Teaching has one of the most advanced recording systems for human behavior. People who use PT learn how to precisely count behavior in time. The resulting data often take the form of the workhorse measure “frequency.” Frequency epitomizes a sensitive, informative measure. Think about one student who answers 8 math facts correct with 2 incorrect in a minute and another student who answers 16 math facts correct with 4 incorrect in a minute. Both have a score of 80% correct, but who has a better grasp on math facts (incidentally most everyone uses percent correct for decision making)? Would you feel comfortable saying both students have the same competency? Of course not, one student has answered twice the amount as the other even though both have the same accuracy. Frequency matters because our decision making matters.

3. Only Precision Teaching has the one-of-a-kind Standard Celeration Chart. The alternatives pale in comparison (see early blog post for a direct comparison). Two major advantages; the Standard Celeration Chart allows chart readers to see how fast learning occurs (called celeration) and how easily, or difficultly, learning progresses (called bounce or variability). Furthermore we can quantify those two measures. We can live in the world where we know the value of how fast and how easily someone has learned something. We can make exquisite comparisons for any intervention used. No longer do we have to rely on adjectives (e.g., describing trend changes as as rising slowly, moderately, or steeply) for communicating progress. No longer must we subject our decision making based on the vagaries of the chart design we make or someone makes for us – which will always change based on the whims of the chart maker causing potential problems in interpretation and communication. Additionally, a plethora of change measures tell us if the intervention has produced significant or insignificant results. We owe it to our learners and ourselves to use the best possible charting system out there for time series analysis. That the Standard Celeration Chart provides so much more information than typical linear line graphs is not a debatable notion. Let’s arm the world with a productive tool!

4. Precision Teaching has a series of interventions and analytical techniques prompting us never to give up on the learner. Indeed, the PT system exudes problem solving solutions starting with the pinpointed behavior, precise measures, carefully displayed behavior on the Standard Celeration Chart, and also covering quantitative and qualitative measures telling the chart reader exactly what has, and what will, happen with the targeted behavior. I would also point at the time of this blogpost the authors of The Precision teaching Book has started working on a second book devoted exclusively to problem solving (tentative title: Applying Precision Teaching to Behavior and Learning Challenges: The Is-Does Problem Solving System).

Join me

If you read this blog I hope you have actively started using Precision Teaching (or call yourself a veteran Precision Teacher). But if you find yourself on the fence or want to learn PT you can do the following:

-Join the SClistserv with over 350 members

-Make friends and professional connections with different Facebook groups: The Standard Celeration Society, The Fluency Channel, SCC Chart Share

-Ask professional questions and receive direct answers on the Forum at The Precision Teaching Book.

The stakes for educational and personal change have hit an all time time. From global competition with jobs to helping people become contributing members of science, business, and other important sectors of society, we need a method to foster competency and greatness. Precision Teaching forms an important piece of the puzzle. Namely, PT helps us measure behavior and make decisions. Those data judgements concern whether and intervention helps or hinders personal learning growth. And in the end, failure to make good decisions can mean failure thrive. I believe people attracted to Precision Teaching share the personal urgency to discover sensible and robust solutions for learners. I hope you join me in my News Years resolution teaching others, or learning yourself, how to use Precision Teaching.


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Year in review

Before the new year many people reflect on the past year’s events. This late date in late December finds me doing the same thing. As a Precision Teacher I tend to look at life as I do through the lens of our applied science – behavior and events occurring in time. Indeed, our life’s work and what we mean to others boils down to our behavior in time.

At the end of the year when we reflect, sometimes we recall very poignant moments in time where we read about or experience extraordinary behavior (e.g., Lebron James winning his first professional championship in basketball; receiving a college degree during graduation). Other times the opposite holds true where an individual’s behavior shocks and greatly saddens us (e.g., The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut; experiencing a failed relationship). On a personal level we experience the products of what other people do or say and it can greatly affect our personal or professional development. As a Precision Teacher I list some of the events and behaviors in time that highlight 2012.


This past year the Precision Teaching community loss one of its icons, Owen Roberts White (1945-2912). Owen had an incredibly distinguished career in Precision Teaching (PT), behavior analysis, and special education. Owen mentored students, published important articles, wrote seminal books, delivered insightful presentations, and always had a smile and a conversation ready to go for whomever he would talk to. My personal regret has to do with not spending as much time with Owen as I could have. Owen lived in Washington while I lived in Pennsylvania. But in today’s age with e-mail, instant messaging, and Skype distance should never come between good friends and colleagues.

The deepest and most profound questions I could ever think of received an answer from Owen. For example, how do we really know we live in the multiply-divide world rather than an add-subtract world. In other words when we examine phenomenon such as behavior it changes by multiplying and dividing, not adding and subtracting. I wish I could have taped the two-hour conversation I once had with Owen when he explained how the function of behavior, mathematically speaking, best fits the changes we see (along with all of his wonderful examples). Owen not only had wonderful technical answers but he also revealed wisdom which I found personally humbling. I speak for myself and all Precision Teachers – Owen you will be dearly missed. The Precision Teaching community will honor your memory by building upon all the lessons you left us with. And when we discover the answers to deep mysteries or solve day-to-day problems through our wonderful measurement system, we connect to you and the information you left for all of us; behavior in time we will never forget.


Precision Teaching has an annual conference which began in the 80s and endures to this day. The most recent conference occurred in early December held in Chicago; an impossibly beautiful city with the brisk winter air and bright lights adorning the buildings in a festive holiday display. The conferences provide an opportunity for new and veteran members to share data, ideas, and experience fellowship with like-minded measurement enthusiasts. In this blogger’s personal opinion the 2012 conference marked one of the best, if not the best, gathering we have ever had. I felt moved by this past year’s conference due to the large numbers of students and first-time members joining us. Additionally the information rose to a level of such fine technical detail that I felt acutely disappointed I couldn’t attend all sessions. The PT conference session content centers on applying top rate measurement procedures to socially significant behavior, this past year was no exception.

One session I attended by Elizabeth Haughton demonstrated how to use the “fluency bank.” The fluency bank refers to an individual’s collection of fluent behaviors. Different motivational strategies can occur with the fluency bank. For example Elizabeth explained that when her students would have 20 entries in the behavior bank they would receive $20. Elizabeth also shared that as part of her tutoring business she determined she spent over $5,000 paying students back for learning. Elizabeth’s data and charity was glorious. I cannot remember experiencing a more inspirational session; Standard Celeration Charts showing learners growing and Elizabeth delighting in rewarding her students (Elizabeth is my personal hero). The value that the parents received, not to mention the students, for the tutoring sessions and the fluency bank are life long contributions. Students who become fluent with more and more skills have an expanded repertoire of behaviors ready for handling complexity and new challenges. What a wonderful idea banking a student’s individual fluent behaviors.


In May of 2012 Kirsten and myself published The Precision Teaching Book. The book took two long years to complete and many hours of writing, researching, rewriting, having meetings, and doing more rewriting and writing. The picture above shows our exceptional copy editor Malcolm Neely delivering a speech upon receiving the Ogden R. Lindsley Lifetime Award Achievement. Malcolm spent a great deal of time looking for typos and ways for us to grammatically improve our message. But more importantly Malcolm reviewed the content and substance of what we tried to share. Namely, the vast information base discovered about and through PT. Malcolm’s edits always came across as informative but delivered in a nonjudgmental and gentle manner. Everyone should experience the good fortune of having a Malcolm in their life.

The genesis of the book means Precision Teachers have another source to learn how to practice a rigorous and elegant measurement craft. Additionally, Precision Teachers can appraise the logical and experimental justifications surrounding the superior measurement and graphical display system that is Precision Teaching.

Moving forward

My sincere hope for 2013 and beyond lies in showing others what Precision Teaching has to offer. The moments in time that will ultimately define each one of us in 2013 and beyond can be positively influenced by PT. The child who cannot read deserves core reading behaviors pinpointed, accelerated, and integrated into a well rounded decoding and comprehension repertoire. The partner or spouse who has a particular behavior that interferes with a fully realized relationship can count, chart, and decide what works best to improve their deceleration pinpoint. I learned from my dear mentor John Cooper that both inner and outer behavior fall within the bounds of a science of behavior and the concomitant measurement science Precision Teaching.

Whatever personal or professional goal you have for 2013 and beyond consider getting to know Precision Teaching better. You will learn how to find a solution through a process of first carefully pinpointing a real behavior. Next, you will precisely time and count the pinpoint. After the data are born, they immediately find a home on the Standard Celeration Chart where the distinctive and powerful visual display system tells you exactly what is happening (small changes always appear small and large changes show up as large – this is not always true with other time series charts). Many analytical strategies and interventions will come to bear upon your special data. Finally you will engage in a process where you continually monitor the behavior and determine if your intervention has worked (i.e., recursive problem solving).

Helping to improve yourself, your loved ones, or people you work for (students, clients) is a noble endeavor. The time proven method of Precision Teaching forces a revolution of careful attention directed to the measurement process of behavior. At present too few professionals experience the benefit from the innovations realized from PT.  But on a personal level you can change that for the people that matter. I encourage you to consider picking up some PT literature, joining SClistserv, or directly posting to the community forums on this website. Help, after all, comes in many forms.

On behalf of Kirsten and myself we hope all your acceleration pinpoints grow in 2013. And with that growth we wish all your moments in time are pleasing and meaningful to you and your loved ones.

Rick Kubina

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The celeration period

In my previous blog post I used the term “celeration period” in a rather cavalier manner. In Precision Teaching, however, celeration period has a distinct meaning. Namely, the celeration period refers to a fixed length of time on a Standard Celeration Chart (SCC). With four different types of charts in the SCC family (i.e., Daily per day chart, Weekly per week chart, Monthly per month chart, Yearly per year chart), each chart has its own celeration period. For the Daily per day chart, the celeration period = 7 days or one week (see figure below). The Weekly per week chart has a celeration period of one month. The Monthly per month chart and Yearly per year chart, respectively have celeration periods of six months and five years.

A celeration period for one week appears in the cross section above. Notice the celeration line technically starts on day 0 (recall all thick lines represent Sunday whereas the other thin lines cover Monday through Saturday). On the Daily SCC if we measured 24 hours of time we see the time frame starts at day 0 and goes to day 1. Then another 24 hours from day 1 to day 2 gives us 48 hours (see top of figure and hours). At the end of the week, we have a total of 168 hours and the celeration line stops on a Sunday line. Therefore, everyone using the Daily SCC to analyze the daily behavior will first see learning changes in one celeration period (1 week or 168 hours).

Learning = Celeration = minimum of 5 data points (though some prefer a 7-9 data point minimum)

Performance = Frequency = 1 data point

Therefore, on any chart you can see performance and performance change, which means looking at one data point to another. The change in one dot to the next tells you precisely how much a performance has improved, worsened, or maintained. To see learning changes we have celeration which tells us precisely how much a series of performances have improved, worsened, or maintained. With the Daily SCC a celeration period forms the nest where performance frequencies grow.  I do not know who is the bird in my previous analogy but let’s just go with it.

Each chart has 20 celeration periods. If you look at the cross section of the the Daily SCC you will see the 20 celeration periods. If a celeration period equals 1 week then 20 celeration periods cover 140 days. On a Daily SCC that covers quite a bit of ground! As a person interested in behavior change you have a lot of real estate to monitor learning changes.

One final note, the geometry of the chart contains standard angles which have mathematical significance. Notice how on the figure above the x2.0 celeration appears on the protractor. You will see the line almost perfectly matches a 34 degree angle; the line falls slightly below 34 to 33.52 but we round up and refer to it as a 34 degree angle. All of the charts in the Standard Celeration Chart family have the 34 degree angle across each celeration period which means the change has doubled. So if we start at 1, as in the figure above, and we double the performance, we end up with 2 (1 x 2 = 2). On the Daily SCC the doubling coupled with the standard 34 degree angle helps chart readers instantly spot significance growth (i.e., acceleration) and decay (i.e., deceleration).

If you want to employ a visually driven, informationally intensive, data monitoring system, consider the power of Standard Celeration Chart. The SCC offers celeration lines with a slope containing valuable quantification. Additionally, the data move within celeration periods giving the chart reader clear vision and a perspective forged in time.


Posted in Celeration, Precision Teaching, Standard Celeration Chart, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Celeration – Why growth rates matter

A headline read “Economy adds 103,000 jobs, but it’s not enough.” The news story indicated the United States added 103,000 jobs in September 2011 but the addition of jobs fell short of a meaningful gain. Think about that for a moment. Does 103,000 new jobs seem like a big number?

If you gave me $103,000 dollars that would make a huge difference in my life. $103,000 is a three order or magnitude change from the 1 dollar in my pocket. My purchasing power would really change.

If the platelet count in my blood dropped by 103,000 that count indicate a viral infection, sepsis, or a cancer like leukemia. I would have great concern with 103,000 less platelets traveling around the Rick Kubina blood stream.

I live in State College, if 103,00 people came to live here we would have serious problem. Out community is small and couldn’t integrate those numbers on a long term basis. Everything would change in regards to traffic patterns, food availability, health care services, safety – everything.

Why then, does the absolute amount of change, + 103,000 jobs, appear so gloomy? I have just demonstrated the importance of big number changes. It all comes down to absolute and relative change. Absolute changes only deal with how much more or less a person has. The reason absolute number change becomes a problem is looking at where the change emanated from.

If my net worth was $100 and I receive +$103,000, the change = 1,029,900% change – a huge difference! But if I had made it really big and had the 2012 net worth of Bill Gates , $61,000,000,000 (61 billion) receiving $103,000 more means my net worth changed 0.00017%, less than 10,000th of a change. It would be like if I had a $100,000 and someone gave me ¢16 (16 cents). A very, very small change.

As for platelets count, a normal or healthy range is 150,000 – 400,000 platelets per microliter or mcL. Going from 200,000 mcL to 97,000 mcL (-103,000) means I should see a doctor and have some tests run. The same holds true if I gained too many platelets. When the number of platelets is low, a person can bleed excessively. But when the number of platelets is too high, a person can develop blood clots and experience troubling health outcomes like a stroke.

Rates of change matter. Rates of change tell us if a person may have a life ending disease and whether a nation has a healthy unemployment rate. So many decisions rely on the information provided by rates of change. How fast is something changing and how much. But what about education and psychology? How often do researchers and practitioners reply on rates of changes? Open any journal and look at the graphs or experimenters and you will have your answer. Most people only care about how much something has changed, not how much and how fast.

Precision Teachers have long relied on rates of change. On the Standard Celeration Chart Precision Teaching offers a rate of change measure called celeration. Celeration has units of change over time (count/time) per time unit. Celeration visually portrays how a measured behavior changes – accelerates, decelerates, or stays the same over time. Each celeration has a value. The value states how fast and how much the measured behavior changes. Take the example below – a cross section of a daily Standard Celeration Chart.

The celeration value comes to x2.0 [7 days]. The celeration value communicates a vast array of important information. 1. The x2.0 means the measured behavior, or pinpoint, has doubled in frequency for the celeration period. In the figure above the starting of frequency of 5 doubled to 10 at the end of the celeration period. 2. The x2.0 also communicates the percentage change, a 100% change for the celeration period (a 100% gain of 5 = 10). 3. The celeration time unit, 7 days, always appears after the celeration value.  Knowing the celeration time unit allows the chart reader to evaluate the pace of change over time. A x2.0 over 7 days versus x2.0 over 77 days means the latter intervention creating a longstanding, doubling effect – exceptionally impressive! 4. The celeration line visually depicts the direction of the measured behavior and where it lies in relation to the frequency aim. By drawing or estimating a projection line (dashed line in the figure above), the chart reader can quickly evaluate if the behavior will reach the frequency aim in the time frame.

Therefore, anyone using a daily Standard Celeration Chart has a picture of change clearly visible for all to see. Additionally, all the math behind the celeration value helps the chart reader appreciate the dynamics of the behavior change. Does the celeration rise to a level the chart reader determines as significant? Does the celeration follow a trajectory that will lead to successfully meeting the frequency aim or goal? Also, and I cannot understate this, the Standard Celeration Chart is standard. In other words, every celeration value will have the same meaning for every chart reader.

Celeration, use it for all the learners!


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Og Came To Oz*

During the Fall 1964 semester, Professor Norris G. Haring, then Director of the Children’s Rehabilitation Unit (CRU) at the University of Kansas Medical Center, and Professor Richard L. Schiefelbusch, then Director of the Bureau of Child Research at the University of Kansas, actively recruited Dr. Ogden R. Lindsley, then Director of the Behavior Research Laboratory at Harvard University, to become a special education faculty member at the CRU and the Bureau. They were successful. Og arrived at the CRU at the start of the 1965 Spring semester.

Norris’ charge to Og was to develop standard procedures to collect and display data based upon observation of individual child or small group of children’s behaviors. The first source of data data were from students with disabilities in the CRU clinical research classrooms.  Norris rented a house for Og to work on the charge. It was across the street from the CRU, a short walk to observe students. It provided parking for Og and a few doctoral level students, a significant perk at the time. So, Og came to Oz and started a new phase of his professional career, one that led to the development of Precision Teaching (PT).

Try to visualize the context. Og came from experimental booths, relay racks, cumulative records, precise measurement, and all of the other accoutrements associated with the experimental analysis of behavior to join the messy settings of clinical research and school classrooms. To say that he faced a challenge is surely an understatement. But, he did not hesitate. He took it on with gusto, a characteristic he displayed until his untimely death at age 82.

Og started his quest to accomplish the charge Norris gave to him with a spring 1965 class in free-operant conditioning. A few special education graduate students enrolled in the course because they were eager to learn how to measure and display behavior by means other than static post-test scores and group statistics. While reluctant to do so, Og finally gave in to student requests to give a lecture on the history of operant conditioning—students gave him an A++. However, Og pressed ahead and assigned projects. Each student had to change a behavior of another person. So, Og taught and showed how to observe, count/record, and display behavior. Of course, the behavior display had to be frequency, number per unit of time which soon became per-minute in standard celeration charts.  Projects became Og’s signature method of teaching, one he never abandoned.

As I recall, Og entered college to become an engineer. I believe that interest, motivation if you will, never retreated even though he changed his career path when he returned to university studies after his extraordinary service in world War II. In the 1960s his desk at the CRU annex was a drafting table upon which he could place large sheets of paper and plot data that students and teachers brought to him. He always had a “slide rule”, an engineer analog computer at the time, attached to his belt and would use it extensively as he hunched over the draft table. And we all know that the slide rule is used with logarithmic graph paper and the semi version of it. I don’t remember the precise date that Og had a “eureka” moment about semi-log paper but he guided its first application during the 1966-1967 school year in a CRU classroom. The results were reported in a 1968 unpublished master’s degree thesis by the CRU classroom teacher.

There have been many refinements in the PT procedures, many developed by Og and many more developed by his students and others who believe that precise measurement of behavior is essential to the science of teaching and learning. A recent publication is the Precision Teaching Book by Richard Kubina and Kirsten Yurich [Kubina, R. M., & Yurich, K. K. L (2012). The Precision Teaching Book. Lemont, PA: Greatness Achieved].  This book is a capstone of the PT evolution and will also serve as a foundation for continued refinements.

I believe that Og belongs among the great list of ABA behavioral scientists. In education research, his contributions to evaluating teaching methods and curricula through precise measurement, Precision Teaching, are second to none. Norris, because of his work in PT and ABA at the CRU and the Experimental Education Unit at the University of Washington, and especially his foresight in bringing Og to the CRU to further develop applied operant research in classroom settings belongs on that list too.

I knew Og from the time he came to Oz until he died. I am writing this brief note because as I continue to read about PT, I have not found bold references to the location at which it was founded, Children’s Rehabilitation Unit, nor to the principal person who brought Og to Kansas, Norris G. Haring. I hope these few words will be used to record the remarkable time when two forward looking educators, Norris and Og, came together to start a movement that continues to evolve and serve in this 21st century.


*I wrote this brief historical note from memory of events that happened almost 50 years ago. Any errors of omission or commission are my own.


Richard J. Whelan

Professor Emeritus of Special Education and Pediatrics

Ralph L. Smith Professor Emeritus of Child Development

Director of Education Emeritus of the Children’s Rehabilitation Unit

Dean Emeritus of the School of education

University of Kansas and the University of Kansas Medical Center


September 2012

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