The Data Dilemma


As a Diagnostician I use data all the time.  Best practice dictates that decisions about students, such as goals, testing and placement, are made based on data.  I know realistically we sometimes fall short and don’t always collect the “best” data, but ultimately we have to have something to support all decisions made.

Now while I use the data, I’m usually not the one collecting it.  It is usually a teacher or parent that I’m asking to collect data for me.  This is probably the main reason teachers turn the other way and RUN when they see me coming.  Academic data is pretty straightforward.  We look at grades, class tests and work, benchmarks, and yes that oh-so-popular state assessment.  (If you haven’t figured it out, I’m not a fan of the state assessment in Texas.  But I’ll keep that soapbox for another post.)

If we want to look at an academic area that we don’t have data for it is usually pretty easy for the teacher to get it.  Let’s say I need data on reading fluency for a 4th grade student.  It wouldn’t be hard for the students Reading teacher to measure her fluency and get me the results.  If we are looking at data over a certain period of time we may measure reading fluency once a week for six or nine week.  The point is a teacher usually knows what to do to obtain academic data.

But data on behavior is sometimes a little trickier.  Let’s say we want to get a child to stay in his seat during class.  We would need to start with a baseline of how often he’s out of his seat.  This is a frequency measure.  That one is pretty easy, keep tally marks for how many times you have to redirect the student to his seat.  You might even keep the tally marks in a sheet broken up in time segments, like the one you see when you click HERE. This way you can tell if the out of seat behavior is worse during a certain time of day as well as get a general measure of the behavior.

But lets say you have a student who is having “violent outburst”.  What kind of data do you need to create a plan for this behavior?

Before I look at this question I want to explain the two types of data.  In my option data can be put into two categories, statistical (or something you can graph) and analytical (a narrative of events).  Statistical data would be time, location, frequency, duration, intensity or anything that you can graph.  Analytical data or notes are a narrative account of what happened.   They are useful in completing the ABC’s of behavior (antecedents, behavior and consequence; these will be discussed in a later post.)

Now, back to the student having “violent outburst”.  First define what a violent outburst is; is he hurting himself or others if so how, is he destroying property, if so how?  Answer all the “common sense” questions first.   Then look at gathering the needed data.  You might want to keep a chart with the day/time, duration and intensity.  This would help you figure out if one day or time of day is more prone to outburst than another.  It will also help define how long and how sever the outburst are.   If the child is throwing chairs and breaking furniture for thirty minutes at a time you may need to start by reducing the duration and intensity of the outburst.  (Ideas for how to do that will be discussed in later post, remember this is just the data collection stage.)

The point is to implement an effective plan for modifying behavior you must have a grasp of what it is you want to modify.  To do this you need data.  The trick is to figure out what you’re looking for and how you want to measure it.  To help with this I’m linking some data collection sheets and graphing information that was shared with me during a workshop at the Region 14 service center. Click the link below:

Graphing made easy


One response »

  1. Pingback: ADHD Information for teachers and parents « More Coffee Please!

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