Skinner Develops Method To Teach Writing Faster

Using a special system of invisible inks, a Harvard Professor has developed a new system for teaching children how to write.

B. F. Skinner, Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology, says the new series of programmed-instruction books he has developed will teach children how to write faster by giving them an "instant correction" as they learn. With present teaching methods, students must wait for a teacher's corrections to see where they have made mistakes. Skinner's invisible ink system will solve this problem by giving the student an "immediate report" on his progress, Skinner says.

Skinner's books show the student a letter or number for him to copy. Using a special pen, the student writes the letter on the work pages of the book, where it has already been drawn with an invisible ink. If the student is following the form correctly, a grey mark shows up; if he's making a mistake, the ink turns yellow.

Skinner says this "instant correction," along with the programming of the book that lets each student move at his own speed, will help grade-school children learn how to write "much faster" than they do now.

"I've been interested in programmed instruction for a long time," Skinner said, and in the last fifteen years he has developed machines to teach arithmetic and spelling. "But I found there was just no way to teach writing with a machine," he said, "and that's why I started on these books."

When he joined the Harvard faculty in 1948, Skinner introduced his new teaching ideas in his course, Nat Sci 114. For twelve years he taught the course--on "Human Behavior," in which students learned much of the material from machines in Sever Hall's self-instruction room. When Skinner retired from undergraduate teaching in 1962, the course was no longer given.