Evidence-Based Methods


The BDS Difference

At BDS, we have developed our instructional design model based on the early pioneering work of behavior analysts and other researchers, who emphasized the role of behavioral fluency in skill mastery. In addition to our overall approach being evidence-based, we also apply a scientific approach to evaluating each training module we create. The result is cost-effective and efficient learning outcomes.

What is Evidenced Based Practice?

Evidence-based practice refers to both a product of and a process in which scientific evidence is used to guide what practitioners do. In education, this means educators use teaching strategies that are supported by science; and that practitioners rely on and use science to select and evaluate teaching strategies. The goal of evidence based practice is to provide learners with the most effective methodologies for mastering, retaining, and generalizing skills.

In the field of behavior analysis, there is a long history of researching effective educational strategies. One result of this effort was the discovery of the role that behavior response fluency or “fluency” plays in effective learning.

The Fluency Model: When faster is better

Inspired by the work of his mentor B.F. Skinner, Ogden Lindsley’s early laboratory application of behavior analysis to learning problems of people with disabilities lead to the development of a unique, research-based teaching methodology called “precision teaching.”  Revolutionizing how we look at student progress, precision teaching established that “accuracy” or correctness of a response is not a sufficient criterion for mastery.  Instead, a minimum rate of responding – referred to as minimum component behavior frequencies – was key to mastering and building more complex skills.  Rate of response plus accuracy of response was referred to as “fluency” – rapid, effortless, correct responding – or building skills to the point where the learner can produce the correct response “automatically.”  This innovative approach to skill mastery became the foundation for fluency-based instructional methods and transformed the efficiency of instructional programming in education (Binder, 1996 for a review).

The benefit of establishing fluency in learning has also been recognized by other disciplines, most notably in cognitive psychology’s intense study of “retrieval practice”/“testing effects” and “fluency of retrieval” (see Smith and Karpik, 2014).

What We Know About Fluency and Learning

Since its early roots, the effectiveness, durability, and utility of fluency based instruction have been extensively researched. Fluency or quality-plus-pace approach to learning has been demonstrated to positively impact information retention and maintenance, task attention and endurance even in the face of distractions, and the application of learned information to new and novel situations (see Binder 1996).  Fluency methodologies have been used to teach countless children to read, perform mathematical functions, spell correctly, and to write (see Eckert et al, 2009). Additionally, it has been effectively applied to nontraditional education skills such as in teaching youth with disabilities to perform vocational tasks (Lee & Singer-Dudek, 2012), and in teaching elementary aged children bystander skills in bully prevention (Hagloch, 2015). Fluency of response has been studied in on-line and computer learning as well.  For example, research has demonstrated that computer generated learning tasks incorporating fluency strategies have been effective in teaching concepts in applied behavior analysis (Yaber-Oltra, 1993) and in teaching concept formation using multiple choice questions (Fox and Ghezzi, 1993).

Other Lessons from Behavior Analysis

In addition to emphasizing fluency in learning, behavioral research has identified other parameters of instruction that support effective learning. Attending to the presentation, timing, and construction of learning tasks, as well as to learner feedback and performance analysis have all contributed to enhancing the efficacy of teaching strategies. For example;

  • encouraging spaced practice to better learn and retain material (e.g., Caple, 1996)
  • building fluency using multiple exemplars (e.g., Marzullo-Kerth et al, 2011)
  • careful question construction to ensure that learning questions maintain stimulus control over the correct response (e.g., Strough, 1993)
  • immediately reinforcing correct responses and providing feedback for incorrect responses (e.g., Kelley and McLaughlin, 2012)
  • providing a record of individual data on acquisition and fluency performance on both correct and incorrect responding (Cooper, Heron & Heward, 2007; Worsdell, Iwata, Dozier, Johnson, Neidert & Thomason, 2005)

Best Practices

Combining fluency focused instruction, with other empirically validated behavioral learning strategies, while providing on-going performance analysis and feedback, creates the perfect storm; powerful tools to promote rapid and durable skill acquisition in any content area. The reliance on data and evidence for effective mastery of skills places the emphasis where it belongs - on “learning”. In the end, it is not about what we teach, but rather, what is learned.


Binder, C. (1996). Behavioral Fluency: Evolution of a new paradigm. The Behavior Analyst, 19 (2), 163-197.

Caple, C. (1996). The Effects of Spaced Practice And Spaced Review On Recall And Retention Using Computer Assisted Instruction. Doctoral dissertation, North Carolina State University, retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED427772

J. Cooper, T. Heron, & W. Herward (Eds.). (2007). Applied Behavior Analysis, (2nd ed., pp 76-78).  New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Eckert, T, Codding, R., Truckenmiller, A., and Rheinheimer, J. (2009). In A. Little, S. Little, M. Bray and T. Kehle (Eds) Behavioral interventions in the schools: Evidence-based positive strategies. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Fox, E. Ghezzi, P. (2003). Effects of Computer-Based Fluency Training on Concept Formation. Journal of Behavioral Education, 12 (1), pp. 1–21.

Hagloch, E. (2015). Teaching bystander skills through fluency training. Thesis, Utah State University, retrieved from http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/etd

Kelley, C and McLaughlin, A. (2012). Differences in Feedback use for Correct and Incorrect Responses. PROCEEDINGS of the HUMAN FACTORS and ERGONOMICS SOCIETY 56th ANNUAL MEETING - 2012

Lee, G. and Singer-Dudek, J. (2012). Effects of Fluency Versus Accuracy Training on Endurance and Retention of Assembly Tasks by Four Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities. Journal of Behavioral Education, 21 (1), 1-17.

Marzullo-Kerth, D., Reeve, S., Reeve, K., and Townsend, D. (2011 ).  Using multiple-exemplar training to teach a generalized repertoire of sharing to children with autism.  Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 279-294.

Smith, M. and Karpik, J. (2014). Retrieval practice with short-answer, multiple-choice, and hybrid tests. Memory, 22( 7), pp. 784-802.

Stough, L. (1993). Research on Multiple-Choice Questions: Implications for Strategy Instruction. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the Council for Exceptional Children (71st, San Antonio, TX, April 5-9, 1993).

Worsdell, A., Iwata, B., Dozier, A., Johnson, A., Neidert, P., Thomason, J. (2005). Analysis of response repetition as an error-correction strategy during sight word reading. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 38, 511-527.

Yaber-Oltra, G. (1993). Computer-Based Fluency Training with the Terminology of Behavior Analysis. Doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan, retrieved from http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/dissertations/1887/