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The Personalized System Of Instruction 1962 To 1998

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.534.1 - 4.534.4

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Charles Roth

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2230

The Personalized System of Instruction -- 1962 to 1998

Charles H. Roth The University of Texas at Austin

Abstract This paper describes the Personalized System of Instruction (PSI) that was originally proposed by Fred Keller in the '60s. The history of the method, evaluation of PSI, development of PSI courses, problems with PSI, and recent developments are described.

Basics of PSI The basic characteristics of the Personalized System of Instruction (PSI) 1,2, also known as the Keller Plan, are: 1. A student is permitted to pace himself through the course at a rate commensurate with his ability and available time. 2. The student must demonstrate mastery of each study unit before going on to the next. 3. The written word is stressed; lectures are used only for motivation and not for transmission of critical information. 4. Use of proctors permits repeated testing, immediate scoring, and significant interaction with the students. A typical PSI course is divided into a series of 10 to 30 study units. A typical unit includes a clear statement of objectives, a study guide, and reading material. It may also include problems to solve and laboratory exercises. No required lectures are given, and class time is devoted to self-study and taking readiness tests. Each time a student finishes studying a unit, he takes a readiness test to evaluate his mastery of the material. This test is immediately graded by a proctor. In order to pass the test and go on to the next unit, the student must achieve an essentially perfect score, although he is given an opportunity to correct minor errors or explain ambiguous answers. No penalty is attached to failure, and the student must repeatedly take a different form of the readiness test until he demonstrates mastery of the material. The course grade is usually based on the number of units completed (70-75%) and a final exam (30-25%). In a well-designed and well-implemented PSI course, a large percentage of the students make A's.

History of PSI 3,4 It all began in Brazil back in 1962 when Fred Keller applied the principles of behavioral psychology to develop a new teaching methodology. Keller, together with Gil Sherman, later perfected the method -- known as the Personalized System of Instruction -- while teaching psychology at the University of Arizona. From there, PSI spread to other disciplines and to other universities. Billy Koen first applied the PSI method to engineering education in 1969 5. Based on his success, other engineering instructors adopted the method. PSI courses were developed in

Roth, C. (1999, June), The Personalized System Of Instruction 1962 To 1998 Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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