A Teaching Aside
This post will continue from where my last post left off. This post will describe how I apply data collection to specifically determine if students are showing success in an inclusion/mainstreaming setting. Again, this post will cover specific data sheets from my Behavioral First Aid Kit.
More to the point, I use these data to determine if students need a more or a less restrictive environment. As such, I need to focus my efforts on collecting relevant data pertaining to student success. At this stage I also focus on my student, and not on the general education peers in the classroom unless they are antecedents to any misbehavior on the part of the student I am observing.
What do I define as “successful” inclusion/mainstreaming
I define successful in mainstreaming as the student is accessing the material and social setting of a general education classroom without requiring more help from the classroom teacher or aides/paraeducators then their general education peers. This means the special education students can get to the general education class without assistance, sit down and gather materials without excessive prompting, follow teacher instructions, and do work without the classroom teacher having to figuratively hold their hand or spend valuable instructional time reteaching the student or repeating instructions.
Importantly, I do not define success as 100% mastery of the general education classroom material. Many times we have special education students that have not been given access to the general education core curriculum, so they are behind. My goal is often to get students in self contained classrooms independent (enough) in the general education classroom so they can receive core instruction from the general education teacher and then go to the resource classroom for supplementary instruction.
What types of data do I need to collect
My definition for success given above guides my data collection. I need to know if my students are capable of or willing to be be behaviorally independent, if they are on task in the classroom, and if they are doing their work. As such, I focus my data collection on On/Off task behavior with an Interval Recording data sheet, I assess classroom independence by quantifying aide/paraeducator support using an Inclusion data sheet, and I assess work avoidance with a Procrastination Data Sheet.
Importantly, all of these data sheets are simple enough that a teacher or paraeducator can collect the necessary data in a relatively short timespan. I favor empowering aides/paraeducators to collect any data they can while working with students. To explicitly facilitate this, my data sheets tend to be more yes/no or simple multiple choice forms with a short notes column when I intend paraeducators/aides to collect the data on the fly or file a daily report. For classroom observations, the data sheets are more complex, but the special education teacher can do a 15 minute observation from the back of the room at their leisure. There is no need to spend excessive amounts of time collecting data when a short time sampling will provide just as reliable of information.
A few words on data collection schedules
Overall, I like to collect as much data as possible, but that is my training as a behavioral analyst/behaviorist. But in reality, teachers do not have specialized training or time to engage in what I call “high density” data collection. So I have simplified my data sheets and data collection methods as much as I can while maintaining utility.
I am going to cover briefly the types of data collection schedules I have used in my Behavioral First Aid Kit. There are more types of data collection than this, but I will only cover these for the sake of brevity and usefulness.
- Continuous Recording
Continuous recording is good for collecting data on behaviors that have a clearly observable onset and offset and are relatively rare in occurrence. In other words, if you can describe what the behavior looks like when it starts and when it ends ends very clearly and it only happens a few times a minute, continuous recording is appropriate. However, if the onset or offset of behavior is hard to define or the frequency of the behavior happens is on the scale of >1 behavioral episode every few seconds, then continuous data collection may not be appropriate as the data would be impossible to collect.
- Frequency / Event Recording — This refers to marking down every time a behavior occurs. Behavioral occurrence can be defined as each time the behavior starts anew or else each time the behavior ends. Data take the form of tally marks on a data sheet.
- Rate Recording — One does not actually collect rate. Rate of behavior is computed as the frequency of behavior / the total time.
- Duration Recording — This refers to marking down how long a behavior lasts during a recording session. Data take the form of a running tally of time on a stopwatch and gets written on a data sheet as “X min during the session or as % total time”.
- Latency Recording — This counterintuitively refers to the time from a prompt to a behavior beginning. So this is time to begin behavior. A good example is how long after being told to start their math assignment does the student actually start. Data take the form of a list of times to begin tasks.
- Per Opportunity Recording — This is a recording of whether behavior happened when opportunity was presented. This is for behaviors that can only happen if there is a prompt. An example is answering the question correctly when the teacher calls on a student. Only when called on does the student have the chance to engage in this behavior. Data take the form of a list of opportunities and a mark if the student showed behavior or not.
- Interval Recording
Interval recording is good for behaviors that have a very unclear onset and offset or else occur at a high rate. Basically in situations where continuous recording does not make sense. In all cases with interval recording, there is a predetermined time interval (usually 10 or 30 seconds) selected that guides data collection during that interval.
- Whole Interval Recording — This refers to marking down if a behavior occurred for the entire duration of the interval. In other words, if there is a 30 second interval, a behavior would have to span the entire 30 seconds to be recorded. If it lasted 29 seconds then one would record that the behavior did not occur. This underestimates the actual occurrence of behavior so it is best used when the goal is to increase the behavior being measured. Data take the form of + and – on a data sheet separated into intervals.
- Partial Interval Recording — This refers to marking down if a behavior occurred at any point during the interval. In other words, if there is a 30 second interval and a behavior occurred for 1 second, it is marked that the behavior was present. This overestimates the actual occurrence of behavior so it is best used when the goal is to decrease the behavior being measured. Data take the form of + and – on a data sheet separated into intervals.
- Momentary Time Sample Recording — This refers to marking down the presence of a behavior if and only if the behavior was present at predetermined points in the interval. This means if there is a 30 second interval, then the instant or moment that the 30 second timer clicked over the behavior is recorded. If the behavior was present right before and right after, but was absent at the moment data were collected, it is marked that the behavior was not present. This form of data collection is very common in classrooms because it is relatively easy to do and the person collecting data only has to observe behavior for very brief intervals to ascertain whether behaviors are present or absent. Surprisingly given the sparseness of data collection, this method does a quite good job at capturing the actual presence or absence of behaviors. Data take the form of + and – on a data sheet separated into intervals.
How do I collect my data
Again, these data sheets are from my Behavioral First Aid Kit, so they can be downloaded from there. There is a watermarked preview available for download so you can see where I am going with all this prior to making any purchases.
- Interval Recording
I use this data sheet as a momentary time sample for student on-task behavior. I sit myself at the back of the room in an inconspicuous location where I am not in the eye-line of my student. I do not conceal from the student that I am taking data, I feel it is important for the students to know why I am there, but I try not to be a cue for good behavior. In most conditions, I set the interval on the data sheet to 30 seconds and set an interval timer on my iPhone to keep track and signal me when to collect data. At the 30 second mark on my timer, I look up at my student and decide if he is on or off task at that moment. I also write down if within the last 1 second there has been a teacher prompt. If I have a student with ADHD or an attentional or executive function diffuculty, I will use 10 second intervals, but that can get rather difficult and hectic for the teacher collecting data – so I recommend 30 seconds or 1 minute interval lengths depending up on the what data the teacher needs to collect. So in the end I have a series of + and – on a data sheet. I can then just add up the +s and divide by the total number of bins to get an on-task percentage.
In the general education classroom the goal is 80% on task behavior. Importantly, this only means behaviors appropriate to the task at hand; whether the student is successfull during that interval does not enter into data collection. As such I use 80% on task as my benchmark. I actually ignore the Behavior column unless I have pre-chosen a behavior of interest and can code it with a single letter and if I feel that specific behavior significantly competes with on task behavior. I also, and this is rare for me, ignore the general education student behavior. Unless I get the feeling the class as a whole are not on task, I work to teach my students the self regulation skills required to ignore nonsense from other students and to focus on their own learning and their own success. If the whole class is going off, that is not my student’s fault. I tear up the data sheet and collect data another day. Sometimes I will stand up and help the teacher get control of their students if I have a good rapport with the teacher. Otherwise I slip out so the teacher does not feel embarrassed about my seeing their class at their most difficult.
This data sheet is useful for me when I send an aide into a classroom with a student. The data collection is simple for this data sheet. The paraeducator writes the date, whose class the student is in for mainstreaming, and what the activity is (ELA, Math, Science, etc.). They then simply circle how much support they needed to give the student and whether the student was focused on the lesson. They also mark if the paraeducator needed to modify the activity for the student to access the lesson, and if there were behavior issues during that activity. I find the Amount of Support and Modified Activity the most useful. If I have a student in the class with a paraeducator that is marking “none” under the Amount of Support column, that tells me I need to rethink having that aide go with the student. There may be a more useful way to spend their time. A “none” in that column suggests independence-evidence that the student is ready for a less restrictive or more purely general education experience. If students need the activity to be modified, that tells me the students are not quite ready for the curriculum in the classroom and I need to focus on bridging that gap (alternately it may mean the aide is helping too much, but that is an issue for another post).
If a student is needing no support, are focused on the lesson, do not need activities modified and are not showing behavioral issues that require paraeducator intervention, then we need to re-evaluate this student. They might just be ready for a placement change into the general education environment, at least for that subject.
- Procrastination Data Sheet
This data sheet is actually meant for general education students, but I use it for my students in the general education setting. This is a latency recording type worksheet, but it is also a Per Opportunity worksheet because a student cannot procrastinate unless given a task first. The Procrastination Data Sheet measures the amount of time between when the teacher gives instructions to begin an task and when the student actually starts. This data sheet has the date, activity (ELA, Math, Science, etc.), whether the student starts on time (I give “they start work within 30 seconds of being given instructions” as my directions for what “on time” means, but it is up to general education classroom expectations), how many minutes the student delays, number of times the teacher gives prompts to get to work, and a column to note the behavior the student uses to avoid work (sharpening pencil, filing in desk, looking around, flipping pages in book slowly, etc.).
If students are not procrastinating at all, then that tells me they are not avoiding the curriculum and either they enjoy doing the work, they have mastered it, or both. If students are consistently delaying or procrastinating beginning their math independent work, then I have to ask myself what they are finding unpalatable or difficult with the math. If they procrastinate for all subjects but are otherwise engaged (based on the data collected using the above 2 data sheets), I look into reteaching some study skills to the student: the student may have avoided work so long that they are out of practice with exactly what it means to get to work, or else they may be just trying to annoy the aide or teacher to get some 1:1 attention before they finally settle down to work (I have seen this one many times).
Overall, I take the data from these data sheets and develop a simple succes profile of the student. I use the amount of academic and behavioral support the student needs as evidence to leave them in the placement they are in, apply a more restrictive environment to teach them skills so we can regroup and try again with out inclusion/mainstreaming, or more toward a less restrictive environment (i.e., more general education setting with perhaps less aide/paraeducator support).
My general plan and rationale behind this strategy is located here. As always, the goal is to maximize student success and find that ever elusive butter zone wherein the student feels sufficiently supported that they are not anxious but they are also being academically challenged-which is necessary for student growth!
Overall, I think it is critical that we as teachers collect data on our students’ independence. It is only by collecting, plotting, and interpreting these types of data we know for certain how successful our students can be!
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! I also can tweak any of these data sheets for a specific use if you need it. My goal is to be universally useful, so do not hesitate to just kick me an email.