Easy methods for collecting and analyzing classroom data

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Data, data, data. We all agree how important it is to have accurate information about student behavior and performance. But collecting, sorting, analyzing, and reporting data can feel like a huge burden. And raw data is hard to understand until it’s put into some sort of graph. Still, data is a must-have for designing effective teaching strategies and interventions, gauging progress, and presenting at IEP meetings. So what to do?

There is a low-tech solution which allows you to collect, analyze, and graph data, all at once. You can even use this solution to train others to collect data for you anywhere, even after school.

Cindy Golden, Ed.D.

Cindy Golden, Ed.D.

The solution was presented at the edWeb.net webinar, The Data Collection Toolkit: Everything You Need to Organize, Manage, and Monitor Classroom Data, given Wednesday, November 8, 2017 by Cindy Golden, Ed.D. Golden is a former special education teacher and is now an autism consultant at Florida State University’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. She is also an adjunct instructor at the University of West Florida as well as a renowned author and lecturer.

Golden began her talk with some tips about the process and mindset of data collection, as well as how to reduce bad behavior.

  • “Put data collection in your lesson plan or it won’t get done,” said Golden. She added that a common schedule could be MWF, with some observation in the beginning or end of the day. And if you have a classroom aide or paraprofessional you can get their help with data collection.
  • Figure out the positive function that negative behavior provides to the student, so you can suggest constructive alternatives. For example, if a student is trying to escape an activity, suggest acceptable replacement behaviors, such as asking for a break using a visual, asking for help using a visual, or choosing an alternate task.
  • Follow a rubric when observing behavior, so you can objectively record its intensity. This ensures that you record what is actually happening instead of how you are feeling that day. For example, levels of behavior might be:
  1. Noncompliance with no physical aggression — simply refusing to comply.
  2. Noncompliance with no physical aggression — verbally refusing to comply.
  3. Noncompliance with no physical aggression to others — student throws himself on the floor, throws object, screams
  4. Noncompliance with threats of physical aggression — student throws himself on the floor, throws objects, screams, and threatens physical aggression
  5. Noncompliance with significant physical aggression — student throws himself on the floor, throws objects, screams, hits others, hits his head, and bites himself and others.
  • Record behavior frequency, duration, intensity, and time of day.
  • Use color-coding. Color-code student folders to keep them confidential and color-code behavior levels for easy identification.

Here is one of Golden’s forms which allows recording and graphical display of data. The form shows the date and time of noncompliance, and the color-coding shows behavior intensity. The form makes it clear that the worst behavior occurs mostly before lunchtime. This can lead to ideas for interventions.

Scatterplot of noncompliant behavior, color-coded by intensity and sorted by date and time

Scatterplot of noncompliant behavior, color-coded by intensity and sorted by date and time

Intensity levels of noncompliant behavior

Intensity levels of noncompliant behavior

Golden showed many other forms to measure and relate behavior and academic skill. Here’s one which shows when a student masters the skill of verbally relaying personal information, with the criteria for mastery being correct answers from the student three days in a row. Note that mastery is graphed with a green line, and the line ends on the date that the skill is considered mastered.

Form for recording and displaying mastery of simple skills

Form for recording and displaying mastery of simple skills

Here’s a line graph which shows academic progress and the effect of an intervention. Golden noted that when you should break the line before the intervention and resume the line afterward.

Line graph to record and display academic progress before and after an intervention

Line graph to record and display academic progress before and after an intervention

Since the goal is for the student to function independently, it’s also important to note whether or not the student required prompts to get the work done correctly. Golden advocated the following Work Sample Analysis form, which could be made into a sticker which would be placed or included on a worksheet. The sample shows that a verbal prompt and extended time was provided.

Academic worksheet with work sample analysis form

Academic worksheet with work sample analysis form

Golden had much more to say about data collection, including how to set IEP goals, how to put together a recommendation for parent conferences, and more about identifying data trends and organizational tips. The webinar is well worth a watch.

As a final tip Golden noted how important it is to date and number (page # of #) all data collection pages.

Golden’s book, The Data Collection Toolkit, is available from Brookes Publishing for $39.95, but if you order by November 30 you can get 20 percent off by using the code EDWEBCG.

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