Fred S. Keller

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Fred Simmons Keller
Born (1899-01-02)January 2, 1899
near Rural Grove, New York
Died February 2, 1996(1996-02-02) (aged 97)
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Nationality American
Alma mater Tufts,
Harvard University
Known for Behavior analysis, Operant conditioning, Personalized instruction
Scientific career
Fields Psychology
Institutions Colgate,
Columbia University
University of Brasilia

Fred Simmons Keller (January 2, 1899 – February 2, 1996) was an American psychologist and a pioneer in experimental psychology. He taught at Columbia University for 26 years and gave his name to the Keller Plan, also known as Personalized System of Instruction, an individually paced, mastery-oriented teaching method that has had a significant impact on college-level science education system. He died at home, age 97, on February 2, 1996 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.


Keller[1]" was born Jan. 2, 1899, on a farm near Rural Grove, N.Y. and left school at an early age to become a Western Union telegrapher. He enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War I and served with the American Expeditionary Force on an ammunition train, attaining the rank of sergeant.

He earned a B.S. from Tufts in 1926 and an M.A. in 1928 and Ph.D. in 1931, both in psychology, from Harvard. Keller taught at Colgate from 1931 to 1938 and joined the Columbia faculty as an instructor of psychology in 1938. He was named assistant professor in 1942, associate professor in 1946 and professor of psychology in 1950. He served as chairman of the department from 1959 to 1962 and became professor emeritus of psychology in 1964.

He was the co-author with William N. Schoenfeld, a Columbia colleague, of Principles of Psychology, an influential college text published in 1950 that emphasized scientific methods in the study of psychology. Students first used it in courses at Columbia College, where the two professors offered two hours of lecture and, for the first time in psychology, four hours of laboratory work a week. Among their experiments, the students observed the responses of white rats to stimuli and rewards and measured human learning by testing people's ability to remember the pathways of mazes and other sensory processes.[2]

He was a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and a past president of the Eastern Psychological Association. He received the Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Psychological Foundation in 1970.

Personalized System of Instruction (PSI)[edit]

Keller's paper[3] "Goodbye teacher..." issued in Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis in 1968 introduced Personalized System of Instruction (PSI). This lead later to "Mastery learning" plan.


  1. ^ Columbia University Record -- February 23, 1996 -- Vol. 21, No. 17 "
  2. ^ Root, Michael J. "Keller, Fred S." In Carnes, Mark C., ed. (2005). American National Biography: Supplement 2, p. 306. Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ Keller, F. (1968). "Goodbye teacher..." Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 79-89.

See also[edit]