Data Collection Flowchart
Data Collection Methods
FREQUENCY or RATE
These methods involve counting the number of times a behavior occurs in a specific time period. Use these methods if the behavior can be easily counted and the behavior has a clear beginning and end. Do not use these methods if the behavior is occurring at such a high rate that an accurate count is impossible (e.g., pencil tapping) or the behavior occurs for extended periods of time (e.g., 2 tantrums, but the duration of each tantrum is one hour). A frequency measure should be used only when the length of observation time is consistent from day to day (e.g., always 2 hours). A rate measure should be used if the length of observation time varies from day to day (e.g., 60 minutes on Monday, 300 minutes on Tuesday).
The observer divides the observation period into a number of smaller time periods or intervals, observes the student throughout each interval, and then records whether the behavior occurred or not in that interval. This method is considered a partial interval method and it is useful for understanding how behaviors are distributed across an observation. Use this method if the behavior occurs at a high frequency or if the behavior occurs continuously. Do not use this method if the behavior is a low frequency behavior.
Interval recording often takes less time and effort, especially if the behavior occurs at a high frequency, because the observer records the behavior only once during the interval, regardless of how many times the behavior occurs. However, interval recording only provides an estimate of the actual number of times that a behavior occurs. If the intervals are too long (e.g., 1 hour), the results can overestimate the frequency of behavior. The shorter the interval, the more accurate representation of how often the behavior is occurring.
This method documents the length of a behavior by recording the time the behavior begins and ends. Use this method if your primary concern is the length of time the student engages in the behavior and the behavior has a clear beginning and end. Do not use this method if the behavior occurs at a high frequency or the behavior starts and stops rapidly.
Use latency recording if you are interested in measuring the time that it takes for the student to respond to a prompt. For example, if a teacher makes a request for a student to put an activity away, the observer would be interested in the length of time it takes for the student to comply with the request. Use this method if the opportunity and the behavior have a clear beginning and end. Examples of behaviors where you might want to measure latency include how long it takes to go sit at one’s desk, how long it takes to take out materials, how long it takes to begin writing, etc.
This method is useful for determining how often the behavior occurred when given the opportunity. Use this method if the opportunity to engage in the behavior is easily observed and the opportunities are not high in frequency. Do not use this method if the opportunity to engage in the behavior is continuous or if the opportunity is not always easy to observe. Examples include compliance or non-compliance with requests, completing assignments, greeting peers, and responding appropriately when told “no.”
The definition of an opportunity must be previously established prior to collecting this type of data. For example, if the team would like for the student to comply with teacher requests, the opportunity would be defined as anytime the teacher makes a request. This type of method can reduce the number of times the observer has to record data; however, the observer must remember to record each opportunity in order to produce an accurate representation of the behavior.