Pressey Teaching Machine


This machine is designed to teach by having students answer a series of short multiple choice questions and rewarding correct replies. It has a drum like that of a typewriter to which a sheet of questions is attached, a mechanism on the right with four keys at the front (numbered from one to 4), a counter, and a pellet dispenser.

According to a series of questions on the test on the machine, a user is to indicate what he or she thinks is the best of four numbered questions by pressing the key marked with the number of the right answer. If a shift lever at the back of the mechanism is up,the machine is in the “teach” mode, and a new question does not appear until the student presses the correct key. If the question remains in the opening, the student presses another key. Since the student thus must find the right answer to each question, the machine (Pressey assumed) would teach. The counter is supposed to count the number of tries.

Under the candy reward tube is a reward dial and pointer. When the lever is down and this pointer is set at 8, eight correct answers in a row will lead to release of a candy. The top of the housing can be lifted. Inside is a drum with three sliding fins. The fins can be slid along so that there is a space for the right answer. With the shift lever up and then occasionally down the student is given intermittent reinforcement plus a test with reward.


Ludy T. Benjamin, "A History of Teaching Machines," American Psychologist , 43, September 1988, 703-712..

Date Made: 1925

Maker: Pressey, Sidney

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: Ohio, Columbus

Subject: Psychology


See more items in: Medicine and Science: Mathematics, Teaching Machines


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Ohio State University

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2009.0204.01Catalog Number: 322449Accession Number: 2009.0204

Object Name: teaching machine

Measurements: overall: 17.3 cm x 43.7 cm x 32 cm; 6 13/16 in x 17 3/16 in x 12 5/8 in


Record Id: nmah_1367149

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