Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Communication Education 32:1 (January 1983), pp. 15–25.

doi: 10.1080/03634528309378510


Copyright © 1983 National Communication Association; published by Taylor and Francis. Used by permission.


The Personalized System of Instruction (PSI), often referred to as the Keller Plan after its founder Fred Keller, was developed to teach introductory psychology courses. Since it was first used, however, PSI has seen widespread use in many disciplines. Sherman estimates that six thousand PSI courses have been taught at all levels of education by virtually all disciplines. Boylan reports that more than thirteen hundred individuals presently use the PSI method on the university and college level; that 80.5% of the individuals surveyed represent four-year institutions, with the remainder representing two-year institutions; that 66% of the colleges and universities are public institutions; and that major users of the PSI method are in astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, English composition, mathematics, physics, psychology, sociology, and statistics, with less use in such areas as English literature, French, geography, home economics, music, philosophy, physical education, political science, reading, and Spanish. As can be noted, PSI has not been used in speech communication to the same extent that it has in other disciplines.

At the present, however, most educational institutions are facing declining enrollments, inflation, and “lids,” all of which are triggering lower financial support; in addition, a new type of student body that is older and more diverse is seeking an education. As a result of these developments, institutions must operate under limited budgets, which impair the educational quality or limit the appeal of learning for students; or must turn to new or innovative instructional practices and methods that utilize economical, individualized, and nontraditional approaches. PSI, it is felt, fulfills these requirements by combining the strengths of basic learning, individual instruction, and close personal relationships, all at low cost. This paper, therefore, discusses what PSI is, how it can be used in the basic speech communication course, why it is an attractive alternative method of instruction, and what its limitations are as an alternative method of instruction.