Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?
This post comes from my desire to explain what can be done with the set of behavioral data sheets I developed and put up on Teachers Pay Teachers (Link). I tried to put in a brief description of what each data sheet would be useful for, but I realize now that this may not be sufficient to help teachers use these tools.
In education, we demand that teachers collect lots of data, especially when they are working on some sort of behavioral or academic intervention with students. However, in our training and professional development we are woefully negligent in training teachers in data collection skills. This extends both to general education as well as special education teachers.
I think this is a tragedy and I look forward to contributing a solution. I will try my best to help teachers reading my blog understand the who, what, when, where, and why of taking data. I also hope I can provide somewhat intuitive data sheets to help teachers be able to not only collect necessary data, but also to size up the situation and select (or design) appropriate data tools accordingly.
So, with that in mind, this will be the first in a series of posts meant to highlight some of my more useful data sheets.
My Background in Data
Before I dive into any little tutorial of how to use my data sheets, I should briefly introduce myself to those of you that only have followed the education side of this blog.
By training I am a behavioral neuroscientist, more specifically a behaviorist/behavioral analyst. In college and for a few years afterward I worked in an experimental psychology lab studying the neurobiology of learning and memory. In this role I was required to develop behavioral tasks to answer questions about the brain, design data sheets that I could use to collect the data from rats on these behavioral tasks, and interpret what those data meant by plotting the data and harmonizing what I saw with the theories of brain function that were present in the field. I also trained high school students and undergraduate students how to collect data and how to interpret it.
My graduate work was with rats, mouse disease models, and human populations evaluating neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disease. Again, I had to develop behavioral methods and data sheets for use in human patient populations, mouse, and rat models of Fragile X related disorders, autism, and traumatic brain injury. All this time I also trained college and high school students in how to use data sheets to collect data. After I completed my Ph.D. dissertation (if you have a lot of time on your hands it can be downloaded for free here), I worked on brain development in monkeys and children with autism, mostly by evaluating how their brains developed using MRI techniques. My second job post Ph.D. was to work with mouse models of Down Syndrome. Again, more behavioral tests, more data collection, etc. Somewhere in the graduate school to postdoctoral work timespan I also tinkered around with some MRI and behavioral data from children with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome.
After my second postdoctoral position, I decided to enter the field of education, specifically K-6 special education. I did this because I had been working in different populations receiving special education services, but I felt like I was not making the kind of impact I desired (I wrote about this struggle here and here in the past). My goal was to apply the knowledge of the brain, behavior, development, neuropharmacology, and my skills as a behavioral analyst (read: data collection and interpretation) to directly help students with disabilities succeed in their education.
To that end, I have applied my obsession with data collection and love of interpreting data to help students. I also have striven to share my knowledge of data collection methods and interpretation with anyone that can use the assist (be fair, anyone that will listen).
What is my Behavioral First Aid Kit?
The Behavioral First Aid Kit (Link) is a set of data sheets that I made at the end of the 2014-2015 school year in collaboration with the special education teachers I worked with. The goal was to design a set of worksheets that we could give to the general education teachers to collect intervention data. In this way, we would have the data necessary to know if students qualified for special education services or not. These data sheets cover everything from very simple 5-trial data sheets to behavioral contracts to Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (ABC) charts and Functional Behavioral Analysis (FuBA) protocols.
The idea was to work as a group, but given I spent approximately 15 years of my life as a scientist and had spent that whole time teaching many high school and college students how to collect data, my special ed team just threw me at the task. They gave me ideas on what problems we needed to address and I went ahead and came up with the solutions.
An Application of the Behavioral First Aid Kit – Behavioral Self Management
For this application I will refer to eight (8) of the data sheets from the Behavioral First Aid Kit (Link, there is a watermarked preview):
- Behavioral Self Reflection Sheet
- Daily Behavior Rating Report Card
- Behavioral Chart
- Good Job Chart
- Token Chart
- Response to Intervention Monitoring Graphs
- Weekly Log
- Monthly Task Calendar
What is Behavioral Self Management?
Behavioral self management is the goal of all behavioral interventions. Technically speaking, behavioral self management it is the ability of a student to discriminate their own behaviors and collect data on themselves. More colloquially, it is the ability of a student to monitor and adjust their own behavior.
To begin this process, the teacher takes the role of manager for student behavior: the teacher collects data and develops a plan with the student to improve their behavior. During these early stages, the teacher provides high levels of feedback and rewards. At this stage the teacher is still collecting all of the data and sharing it with the student after it has been collected.
As the student is able to respond favorably to the plan the teacher is implementing, the teacher starts to fade back their role in directly managing student behavior and collecting the student data. This is where these data sheets come in: they are simple enough that the students can use them with only minimal training and supervision. The teacher will still need to provide some sort of reward based on achieving their behavioral goals (or help the student access natural forms of reward that don’t directly depend on the teacher).
The end goal of any self management program is that the student has control over their behavior and they are able to provide their own reinforcement (self praise) or else access reinforcement independent to the teacher (from peers, other adults, etc). This means they have achieved through great effort what most of us take on a daily basis: self control.
Now to the Datasheets
I will go into each datasheets individually and at the end I will wrap them into a coherent plan.
- Behavioral Self Reflection Sheet
This datasheet is a set of questions that the student can answer themselves about their day (or about the last few days). The students can answer these questions using a thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumb sideways. To teach students how to fill this sheet out, I recommend the teacher have a long discussion about honesty. Many times students feel they will get in trouble if they state they are less than perfect. They need to be shown by a caring teacher that it is okay to say they did not listen to you-they will not get in trouble for being honest. In fact, it is imperative that the students cannot get in trouble for being honest on this worksheets. The teacher can randomly answer the self reflection sheet after the student has in another color. This will help the student to see how others perceive their behaviors. It is important to note, the teacher can only do this at most 1 out of 5 opportunities or the students will cease to participate because they feel judged.
- Daily Behavior Rating Report and Behavioral Chart
These are daily report cards for students that can serve the role of a back and forth communication with home. These report cards optimally are filled out by the teacher and the student working together. In this way, the student gets feedback on their behavior as well as a written report they can use to either celebrate good behavior or else as data they can use to change their behavior for the next class. The Daily Behavior Rating Report was designed for K-5/6th grade, when students are in a single classroom throughout the day. It also has slightly more young child friendly statement for behavior – meaning they are more clearly defined. The Behavioral Chart was designed for 6/7-12th grades where there are many different classes. Similarly, the statements of behavior are stated as class rules that apply across classrooms and teachers.
- Good Job Chart and Token Chart
These are token charts. The Token chart is a very simple 10 token chart that is meant for students just beginning token economies. The Good Job Chart is a 100 square for students that are relatively advanced in a token system.
Although I am not a fan of the token economy, I am an advocate when the system is put into the hands of the students. For both of these, the teacher can set up a short list of behaviors that are desirable in the classroom. When the teacher signals the student by asking if they followed the rules, the student can answer in the affirmative and give themselves a token or else say they hadn’t. In a perfect world, the student will be given a MotivAider (Link) that will signal them independent to the teacher and the student can take care of the system on their own.
The teacher does not ignore the student during this time. To verify the student is being faithful in their self reports, the teacher chooses random times and marks if the student is following the rules. They can then check agreement with the student at the end of a predetermined period. If the teacher and student data match then the student is on track. If not, then the teacher engages in a reteach session with the student and the student self-corrects the next time they track their behavior.
I have seen the Good Job Chart used as a way to help students succeed in two ways. 1) It was used to help students understand the classroom can be a fun and rewarding place. My teacher mentor for the 2014-2015 school year was able to fill a 100 square reward chart in 2 days without a problem. I even watched her do it in 1 day when a student needed to understand school can be good. The student was able to take a full Good Job Chart home to his mom as well as he got a Sprite at the end of the day for being good. Totally changed the kid’s behavior and attitude toward this teacher. She then faded back the rate of reward until it matched the rest of the class (1 square got a star every 15 min or so in general during the year). And 2) This same teacher made the rewards the students could earn for a full Good Job Chart extremely palatable. She used sodas, candy bars, access to painting, markers, etc. Even the kids that could care less about class wide rewards worked hard to fill this Good Job Chart. She did not use her version of this Good Job Chart for self management, but I am sure you can infer how motivating it would be for students.
- Response to Intervention Monitoring Graphs
This is likely the hardest datasheet to implement. It is a math lesson and behavioral self regulation tool wrapped in one. This is a very simple graph datasheet. The teacher and the student can decide on the X and Y axis. I tend to favor time on the X axis (days). The Y axis can be something you want to see reduce or something you want to see improve. That being the case, it is very important that the scale of the Y axis be adjusted to maximize the visual punch of an increase or decrease in behavior. Kids love plotting their own progress, and if they see a function, all the better. For the students, this may well be the most powerful tool for self management. They crave success and if they see where they are and a goal on a graph, they will work to make their performance and the goal the same. And BONUS: having students plot their own data can often teach them what it is that the teacher is talking about. They don’t know we are taking data on them. If they do, they do not know what it looks like. I show them. Then I give them the graph and let them continue graphing the data after having them trace what I have already plotted. At first I collect the data and have them graph it. Then we both collect the data and they graph their data. Then they are in charge of both.
- Weekly Log and Monthly Task Calendar
This is a simple way of monitoring progress. K-12th grade students can use the Weekly Log to write down their homework and behavioral progress. 6-12th grade can use the Monthly Task Calendar to keep track. I limit this datasheet to the older students solely because a month is a long time to not loose paper – even if it is kept in a back and forth folder.
The Weekly Log can also be a good back and forth book for home if you print a school year’s worth and bind them. The box on the top right can be used for a teacher stamp, a sticker, parent initials, or whatever fits the needs of that particular student. The Monthly Task Calendar is a lot less user friendly. It is mostly useful for students that have longer term goals they need to keep track of rather than as a back and forth communication system.
Putting it Together into a System
I would put these datasheets together into a simple, self-contained system. I would print out a quarter or trimester’s worth of each (however your school district works), and print them out. Once they are printed out, I would also print out a monthly calendar online or use the Blank Monthly Calendar I include in my Behavioral First Aid Kit. I would mark what days the student is in school and which they are not.
I would find or make separators for each type of datasheet and place them between each section to label the sections and promote organization. I would then either spiral bind the lot or else place them in a 3-ring binder (though as a warning, the 3-ring binder will likely result in 10-15% of the pages being sacrificed to being closed sloppily and catching things. In backpacks).
I would then set up a simple, easy-to-follow instructions for each student on the inside of their book or binder. It will tell the students which days they are to fill out which of the datasheets. Optimally, this will be explicit. This means I prefer replacing instructions weekly because I gave complete daily instructions rather than say something vague like, “every other day you do…”. This will help the students be able to succeed.
As an example for effective instructions, I would say something like:
Monday, January 5, 2016: Fill out Behavioral Self Reflection Sheet, Daily Behavioral Rating Report Card, and Weekly Log.
Tuesday, January 6, 2016: Fill out Daily Behavioral Rating Report Card and Weekly Log
Wednesday, January 7, 2016: Fill out Daily Behavioral Rating Report Card and Weekly Log
Thursday, January 8, 2016: Fill out Behavioral Self Reflection Sheet, Daily Behavioral Rating Report Card, and Weekly Log
Friday, January 9, 2016: Fill out Daily Behavioral rating Report Card and Weekly Log. Plot data for the week on the Response to Intervention Monitoring Graph.
I would replace these instructions weekly, so I am not depending upon the days of the week, but it is clear that I am taking the care to give the entire date.
Explicit instructions also prevent, “but it says M,W,F, but we did not have school on Monday” or “Tuesday was a field trip” types of questions from students. These kinds of questions can easily frustrate the student and they lose any enthusiasm they had developed for the system because they feel uncertain or insecure. It is best to take that little extra effort to be explicit and help the kids out by mitigating anxiety at the outset.
As the teacher, I would implement any Good Job Chart or Token Chart as part of the classroom management system and would not place the burden of remembering to do it on the student. That is why it is not in the binder. The reminder would be the chart itself living on their desk.
Overall, I think it is critical that we as teachers help students in every any possible to self regulate their behaviors and become their own agents. Self Management is the long term goal of all behavioral management programs; but more importantly self management is the lynchpin to being able to succeed in college, career, life, and everything after school. We want our students to succeed. Let’s give them the tools.
I hope my Behavioral First Aid Kit can prove useful for all of you reading this post!
If you have any questions, please either leave it in the comments or send me an email. I am happy to answer any questions or even offer advice whenever applicable!