Precision Teaching and Low Working Memory

Precision Teaching is a method of planning a teaching programme to meet the needs of an individual child or young person who is experiencing difficulty with acquiring or maintaining some skills, the child will have special needs.

child-teacher-1236x824In this instance we are thinking about children with memory issues and low working memory.

Precision Teaching has an inbuilt monitoring function and is basically a means of evaluating the effectiveness of what is being taught.

It can be used in early years, primary and secondary settings and can be applied to areas of the curriculum that can be broken down into clear objectives, eg: numeracy and literacy skills.

One area which I have experience with is children with Low Working Memory.

So what does Precision Teaching look like, here’s some examples:

Times Table are the backbone of mathematics but very hard for a child with Low Working Memory. In this instance the teaching is put in place and repetition is the key. So

I will use the 3 times table to demonstrate:

  • Spend 5 to 10 minutes teaching the child.
  • The child is shown a number of squares with a times table on it. 3×4 or 7×4 and using time and patience you help the child work at the answer.
  • When you have been through all the squares which may take some time you will use a timer and a sheet with the different times table in a random order.
  • The child then one minute and you run through the probe sheet seeing how many they can answer.
  • This needs to be done every day, repetition is the key.

Results differ depending on the learning issues with the child. In my experience some of teaching is absorbed, some for a few minutes, some for weeks and some for longer.

Precision teaching was developed in the 1970s to target teaching/learning key skills, it focuses on measuring fluency. Vygotsky suggested that effective teaching should be geared towards a learner’s ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD). Precision teaching encourages us to be very specific about the material used with the child, ensuring that it is within the ZPD.

Precision teaching also draws on Haring and Easton’s learning hierarchy which shows us how new learning needs to be fluent before it can be maintained effectively.