Importance of pinpointing

Precision Teaching promotes the use of clear, precise descriptors of real behavior, a process called Pinpointing. Behavior, in Precision Teaching, is synonymous with movement, action, and activity, something producing observable changes in the environment.

A passion to speak about, measure, and compare real behavior is universal. In fact, a recent example highlighted in the clip below, “Mark Cuban Calls Out Skip Bayless.” The video shows Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, disagreeing with Skip Bayless, a commentator on ESPN over the irrational and indefinable practice of using general descriptions to explain the result of a recent game. “Miami wanted it more,” explains Bayless, to Cuban’s dismay. Often the sports fans hear similar comments about specific players or particular games as explanation for outcomes. Team X overcame “unbelievable odds” and won the championship, or player Y (usually the poor kicker asked to make a last second field goal) choked under “enormous pressure”. Rarely are real, observable and clear behaviors used to define success or failure.

Mark Cuban exasperates as Skip uses meaningless descriptions to compare and reason why one team (or player) prevails over another. One team “wanted it more” than another, or a player was under “excruciating” pressure. What is the definition of wanting it more? Using such caviler expressions in place of authentic behaviors makes true comparisons or fact-based discussion difficult (and measurement impossible). Mark points out, “…everything is generality,” and as a result no one can question the so-called facts, different interpretations and conclusions are out of the question.

Tragically, explanations just a flimsy as “they wanted it more” (found in sports) are used in education to explain student performance and lack of performance.  Familiar phrases that ring similar in education include:

  • Your child’s learning style just isn’t a match to the rest of the class,
  • Your child is not progressing because s/he is going through puberty,
  • The student is a “hands on” learner and content is presented visually,
  • Your child is just choosing not to do his/her work,
  • Your child’s issue is developmental,
  • The student’s IQ is so low that progress may not be possible.

Blaming unmet goals on mysterious concepts (e.g., learning style) and generalities handcuffs teachers, parents, and counselors. A recent survey of Individualized Educational Plans revealed a top ten list of worst descriptions of behavior.


Top Ten List of Descriptions of Behavior within IEPs











To correct poor learning outcomes Precision Teachers rely on Pinpointing. Pinpointing is a solution for instructors who want to raise the level of their instructional power by helping them avoid imprecise and vague descriptions of behavior. Pinpointing supplies an exacting science the selecting, naming, and describing of important learner behavior. A guided process helps teachers choose important, real behavior that occurs at frequencies that facilitate measurement, describe the behavior using simple and concrete term in a consistent pattern and the identification of behaviors pairs.

After establishing pinpoints and applying an intervention, real behavior change is not only possible, but also hard to miss! Teachers skilled in Pinpointing hold the power to see the effects of their intervention by observing, recording, and interpreting changes in the frequency of the pinpoint. Significant and celebrated changes in behavior are easy to spot with Pinpointing: more words are read correctly during practice, more three-point shots are completed during a game, less hits to peers at recess, and more imitations during play all illustrate real performance changes.

No longer does education need to suffer general and nondescript terms for learning outcomes or useless measurement methods. Pinpointing, the first step of Precision Teaching, elevates education from art to science.


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One Response to Importance of pinpointing

  1. Rick says:

    Excellent points! Too many people taking pinpointing for granted. Without choosing the proper pinpoint to begin with then all intervention efforts become suspect. Measurement becomes untrustworthy and subsequent evaluation of the data takes a hit. How do we know if we have helped the person? Really like Skip getting schooled by Mark Cuban – who knew Cuban was a closest Precision Teacher!

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