Behavior Management Data Collection

Introduction to Behavior Management Data Collection

This lesson on data collection will introduce you to the methods and procedures used to collect behavior management data. As you have learned data collection is a very important element of the skill repertoire building component of ABA therapy. Data collection is also a critical component of behavior management. The data collected in behavior management is used by the BCBA to make decisions about the effectiveness of a Behavior Intervention Plan. In other words, if the data indicates that an intervention is effective, than that intervention is continued. Likewise, if the data indicates that an intervention is not effective than the BCBA modifies the intervention or discontinues it altogether. For this reason, it is important that the data collected provides an accurate and consistent representation of the target behavior. The specific forms that will be used for the collection of behavior management data will be covered in subsequent lessons.

What is Data Collection?

Data Collection it the observation of a target behavior or skill, the measurement of that behavior, and a permanent record of the measured behavior. For example, when implementing a behavior intervention plan designed to reduce a child’s vocal stereotypy of saying “AyEe”, data collection requires that the therapist must observe the child repeatedly saying “AyEe”, measure the number of times the child says “AyEe”  and record that number on a data sheet.

Data collection is a critical component of any behavior analytic intervention used to treat problem behavior. This is because data collection allows the BCBA to make data-based decisions about the effectiveness of a behavior intervention plan. Through data collection, a BCBA is able to assess problem behavior, monitor progress and determine whether a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) is working or not. Moreover, data collection allows the BCBA to make informed decisions regarding how to treat the problem behavior, when and where the BIP should be implemented, and when an intervention is no longer necessary. Because the BCBA uses the collected data to guide BIP decisions it is extremely important that the data is reliable. Therefore the data must be accurate and consistently collected. Recall that there are two guidelines for ensuring reliable data collection:

  1. Data should be recorded immediately following the occurrence of behavior. When there is a delay between the occurrence and the recording of the behavior it is more likely that the therapist may make errors or even forget to record the data all together. For example, if a therapist waits until the end of a session to record data on a child’s problem behavior the therapist risks forgetting the exact number of times the behavior occurred or how long the child engaged in the behavior.
  2. Data should be complete. In other words all relevant information regarding the observation and measurement of the behavior should be recorded immediately in order to provide a complete account of the target behavior. This means that in addition to recording on a problem behavior the therapist may also need to take data on the antecedents (what happened immediately prior to the behavior) and the consequences (what occurred immediately after the behavior), as well as the date and time the behavior was observed.

By following these guidelines a therapists data is more likely to be accurate and reliable. Moreover, the BCBA will be able to make decisions that will be most beneficial for the child.

Recording Methods Used in Behavior Management:

An effective BIP must include a detailed description of the recording method used to collect data.

The BIP has a section for data collection and this includes the recording method, the recording measure, summary measure, and observation period. Recall that a recording method specifies the observation period and when to record data. The observation period is a specific time frame when the behavior is likely to occur and the therapist should be prepared to observe, measure and record this data. The recording method also specifies when the therapist should record the behavior that was observed. In this lesson we will take a look at two methods commonly used for recording behavior management data:

Continuous Recording

Continuous recording is the recording of every instance of behavior. This means observing, measuring, and recording the target behavior each and every time that it occurs. Recall that the observation period in continuous recording is typically the entire session.

Example:

A child frequently throws toys at their therapist. If the observation period is an entire session than the therapist must be prepared to observe, measure and record any occurrence of the target behavior (throwing toys) during the session.

However, the observation period may be a shorter period of time, such as the first hour of a session or during a particular activity.

Example:

The child throwing toys is most likely to throw toys during their independent play lesson. So a shorter observation period would be limited to the time that the child is working on independent play. Therefore, the therapist must be prepared to observe, measure and record any occurrence of the target behavior (throwing toys) during the shorter observation period (play session).

Recall that in continuous recording the data is recorded every time that the target behavior occurs. This means that the therapist records the measured behavior immediately following each occurrence of the target behavior. Because each and every occurrence is recorded in continuous recording it is possible to measure and record several dimensions of behavior. In previous lessons you learned about three types of measurement used in continuous recording, this lesson will review these measurements and introduce a fourth:

  1. Frequency: The number of times a behavior is observed. To measure the frequency of behavior the therapist counts the number of times the behavior occurs within the observation period. For example, to measure the frequency of a child’s hitting behavior the therapist “tally’s” each time the child hits during the session. The number of times the child hits is the frequency of the behavior.
  2. Duration: The duration of behavior is the total amount of time engaged in the behavior from start to finish. In other words, duration is how long a behavior lasts. To measure the duration of behavior the therapist times the behavior when it begins and stops the time when it ends. The resulting measure is the duration of the behavior. For example, to measure how long a child tantrums, the therapist starts the timer at the onset of the behavior and stops the timer when it concludes. The total time the child engaged in the behavior is the duration.
  3. Latency: The latency is the amount of time between a stimulus event and the onset of a behavior. In other words the latency is how long it takes to start the behavior after a stimulus has been prevented. Consider this the delay or lag period. To measure the latency of behavior the therapist starts the timer after a stimulus has been presented and stops the timer when the child engages in the target behavior. For example, to measure how long it takes for a child to cover their ears after the radio is turned on a therapist would turn a radio on, start the timer and then stop the timer when the child covers their ears. The total time between the stimulus event and the onset of behavior is the latency.
  4. Inter-Response Time (IRT) : The inter-response time is the time between consecutive occurrences of the target behavior. In other words, the IRT is the time between problem behaviors (i.e. the time between the end of one presentation of the target behavior and the onset of the next occurrence of the same target behavior). To measure this, a therapist starts the timer once the presentation of the target behavior ends and then stops the timer once that same behavior begins again. For example, to measure the time between occurrences of a child’s head banging problem behavior a therapist would start the time on the clock when the child bangs their head on the wall the first time and then stop the timer when the child bangs their head on the wall the second time. The duration between bangs is the inter-response time.

Interval Recording

Interval recording involves recording the occurrence or nonoccurrence of a target behavior during consecutive time intervals. Practically speaking, interval recording involves observing, measuring, and recording whether the target behavior occurred during several consecutive time intervals. Let’s look at each component of the interval recording method in more detail:

  • The Observation Period: Is the specific time frame when the behavior is likely to occur. And the therapist should be prepared to observe, measure and record this behavior. With an interval recording method an interval is typically a short period of time in which the target behavior is most likely to occur. For example, a child is known to make inappropriate statements during circle time at school, so the observation period is during circle time. Therefore the therapist must be prepared to observe, measure and record the occurrence of inappropriate statements during circle time. With interval recording the observation period is further likely to be broken down in to shorter periods with the typical interval length being between 6 and 15 seconds depending on the behavior being observed and the length of the observation period.
  • When to Record Data: In interval recording the data is recorded at the end of every interval. This means that the therapist records the occurrence or nonoccurrence of the Target Behavior at the end of each interval. For example, the child who makes inappropriate statements during circle time. So, the observation period circle time is broken down into several consecutive 10 second intervals. So every 10 seconds the therapist records the occurrence and nonoccurrence of problem target behavior during each interval throughout circle time.
  • How Data is Recorded: Recording a child’s behavior includes observing, measuring and recording the occurrence or nonoccurrence of the target behavior. In interval recording the occurrence or nonoccurrence of a target behavior is determined by the actual occurrence of the behavior AND the type of interval recording procedure used. There are three types of interval procedures used:
    1. Whole Interval Recording: In whole interval recording the target behavior is recorded as an Occurrence only if it occurred throughout the ENTIRE interval. In other words, an occurrence of the target behavior if it is observed throughout the entire 10 seconds of a 10 second interval. Alternately, if the target behavior is observed for only part of the interval, then the behavior is recorded as a Non-Occurrence. For example, when collecting data on a child’s tantrum behavior using 10 second whole interval recording the therapist records an occurrence when the child tantrums throughout the whole 10 seconds, but does not record an occurrence if the tantrum does not last the whole interval.
    2. Partial Interval Recording: In partial interval recording the target behavior is recorded if it occurs at any point during the interval. For example, if the child tantrums for six seconds during a 10 second interval, that is recorded as an occurrence. Only if the behavior does not occur at all can a non-occurrence be recorded.
    3. Momentary Time Sample Recording: Momentary time recording requires that the behavior is observed at a particular moment in the interval, usually the moment the interval ends. In other words, if the behavior occurs at the end of the interval then an occurrence is recorded, however if the behavior occurs at any other point during the interval than an occurrence is not recorded and instead is recorded as a non-occurrence.

In both the continuous recording and interval recording methods the written record of the observed measures is called the raw data. In other words, the frequency, duration, latency and inter-response time recorded with the continuous recording method and the occurrence and non-occurrence measures of behavior recorded with the interval recording method are the raw data. This information is critical but as has been previously discussed it can be difficult to see a child’s overall behavior simply by looking at the raw data. As a result the raw data is converted to summary measures to help summarize a child’s behavior. Let’s review the three types of summary measures:

  1. Rate: The rate is the frequency of behavior per time. Practically speaking, rate is the number of times a behave occurs in a specified amount of time. Rate is calculated when frequency is divided by a specified amount of time. Although the time is specified by the BCBA, it is typically one hour. Therefore the rate is typically frequency per hour. For example to measure the rate of a child’s throwing behavior, a therapist would record the number of times the child threw during the time period and then divide that by the time period. So if the child hits 12 times in 3 hour period then the rate is 4 FPR.
  2. Percentage: Percentage is a comparison between two quantities or types of data. Percentage is calculated when one measure of behavior is divided by a second measure of behavior and the resulting proportion is then multiplied by 100%. In Behavior Management Data Collection two percentage measures are commonly used:
    1. Percent of Time: Percent of time is the duration of the target behavior divided by the total time of the observation period. In other words, the duration of each episode of the target behavior is added together to achieve the total Target Behavior Duration. The total is then divided by the total observation period, then multiplied by 100%.
    2. Percent of Intervals: Percent of intervals is the number of intervals in which an occurrence of the target behavior is recorded compared to the total number of intervals in the observation period, this proportion is then multiplied by 100%. For example, to measure the percentage of intervals in which a child blurts inappropriate statements the therapist would divide the number of intervals in which the behavior occurred by the total number of intervals within the observation period and than multiply that proportion by 100%.
  3. Average: An Average is a value that represents a larger set of intervals (again think batting average). In other words, an average is a summary measure that describes the typical level of behavior observed. In Behavior Management Data collection there are three types of average measures that are commonly used:
    1. Average Duration: Is how long the behavior typically lasts. Average duration is calculated by dividing the total target behavior duration by the frequency of the target behavior. For example, if a child tantrums 6 times for a total duration of 20 minutes the therapist divides the total duration (20 minutes) by the number of tantrums (6) and gets an average of 3 minutes and 20 seconds per tantrum.
    2. Average Latency: The average latency is the amount of time that has passed between the presentation of a stimulus and the start of the target behavior. Average latency is calculated by dividing total latency by the number of responses made. For example, the therapist turns on music 3 times during a session and the child covers their ears after 10 seconds, 5 seconds, and 15 seconds for a total of 30 seconds. The total latency is than divided by the number of times the child covered their ears which is 3. So the therapist divides 30 by 3 and achieves the average latency of 10 seconds.
    3. Average Inter-Response Time: The average inter-response time is how much time passes between occurrences of target behavior. Average Inter-Response Time is calculated by dividing the total IRT by the number of IRT’s recorded. For example, a child bangs their head 4 times during a session. The intervals between head banging are 25m, 35m, and 45m for a total of 105 minutes, this is than divided by the number of occurrences which is 3 for an average inter-response time of 35 minutes.

This lesson has discussed the terms and procedures used in Behavior Management Data Collection. It is essential that therapists are familiar with the data recording methods, the types of measures used to record raw data, and how data is summarized. As previously discussed, the BCBA will indicate on the BIP the Recording Method, the Recording Measure, the Summary Measure and the Observation Period.

In the Recording Method section the BCBA will indicate which recording method to use by circling either Continuous, or WI (Whole Interval), PI (Partial Interval) or MTS (Momentary Time Sampling), additionally if an interval recording method is used the BCBA will determine the interval length in this section.

The Recording Measure is also indicated. If the continuous method is used the BCBA will select either the Frequency, Duration, Latency or IRT as the recording measure. Similarly, if the interval recording method is used the BCBA will select Occurrence/Non-Occurence (though redundant) as the recording measure.

In the Summary Measure section the BCBA will indicate which type of summary measure to use, either Rate, Average or Percentage.

The Observation Period will also be specified by the BCBA. If data collection should occur throughout the entire session than the BCBA will check this box, likewise if the BCBA determines that data should only be recorded during a particular activity or lesson that box will be checked and the specific activity or lesson will be written in the space provided. Additionally, the setting in which the observation should occur will be indicated and the observation period and when necessary the number of intervals specified.

Therapists are required to follow the guidelines for data collection listed on the BIP, while collecting data on problem behavior for every therapy session. It is important that the guidelines listed on the BIP are followed so that the data is reliable because the BCBA uses this data to make critical decisions regarding a child’s BIP.


Continuous Recording Data Sheet

In the last lesson you learned about the terms and procedures used in Behavior Management Data Collection, and how to identify the Recording Methods, Recording Measures, and Summary Measures that the BCBA specifies for a given child’s Behavior Intervention Plan. In this lesson the goal is to learn how to complete a Behavior Management Continuous Recording Data Sheet, one of the forms used as species on a BIP.

The Behavior Management Continuous Recording Data Sheet is used when the BCBA specifies the continuous recording method on the BIP. Though the format of the data sheet may vary between BCBA’s or agencies, the data within will remain the same. The data sheet has three basic sections:

The Identifying Information section includes the full name of the child whose data is being recorded (though in some cases this may be abbreviated according to the necessities of discretion and security). The title of the lesson being taught, and the month/year that data was recorded. The identifying information must be completed each time that a new data sheet is used.

The Problem Behavior Description section includes:

  • Therapists Initials: So it is clear who recorded the data.
  • Date: MM/DD/YY
  • Length of Observation: Recall that the total time spent observing and recording the behavior.
  • Behavior: The behavior being observed as specified by the BCBA on the BIP. Note that the data sheet (example sheet) can be used to record up to 4 behaviors each describe on its own BIP. Because the operational definition of each Target Problem Behavior is noted on its BIP it is not included here. So the therapist simply writes the name of the behaviors being observed.
  • Recording Measure: Either Frequency (F), Duration (D), Latency (L), or Inter-Response Time (IRT)
  • Summary Measure: Either Rate (R), Percent (%) or Average (A)

Each time a therapist uses a continuous recording data sheet to observe and record data on a child’s problem behavior the therapist notes their initials, so it is clear who recorded the data. The date.

The Behavior Management Data section contains two areas, raw data and conversion.

  • Raw Data: In this section the therapist records the raw data as specified (either F, D, L, or IRT). Frequency would use a tally mark method, duration would use time as would latency and inter-response time. This section of the data sheet must be completed for each problem behavior listed on the data sheet even if that problem behavior is not observed during the session. No matter what recording measure is being used, a zero is written in the raw section of the data sheet if the behavior is not observed.
  • Conversion: Here the raw data is converted into the summary measure as specified in the BIP by the BCBA.

This lesson has introduced you to the three sections of the Behavior Management Continuous Recording Data Sheet and explained how to record and summarize behavior management data. As a therapist it is important to carefully complete the necessary Identifying Information, a description of the Target Problem Behavior and the Behavior Management Data. The BCBA uses this data to make informed decisions about the effectiveness of a child’s BIP, so the data recorded must be complete and accurate.


Interval Recording Data Sheet

Interval recording involves recording the occurrence or the nonoccurrence of a target behavior during consecutive intervals. And the Interval Recording data sheet is used when the BCBA specifies on the BIP to use Interval Recording. Though the format of the data sheet may vary between BCBA’s or agencies, the data within will remain the same. The data sheet has three basic sections:

The Identifying Information section includes the full name of the child whose data is being recorded (though in some cases this may be abbreviated according to the necessities of discretion and security). The title of the lesson being taught, and the month/year that data was recorded. The identifying information must be completed each time that a new data sheet is used.

The Problem Behavior Description section includes:

  • Target Behavior: This is where the therapist writes the specific target behavior to be observed and recorded on the data sheet. The operational definition of the behavior can be located on the BIP and does not need to be written here.
  • Setting: The place where the child was observed.
  • Lesson/Activity: Answers the question what was taking place during the observation period.
  • Observation Period: The observation period is specified by the BCBA.
  • Interval Length:  In interval recording the interval is typically a short period of time in which the target behavior is most likely to occur, so the BCBA will specify when the therapist should collect data on the Target Problem Behavior
  • Number of Intervals: Also specified by the BCBA
  • Type of Interval: Whole, Partial, or Momentary Time Sampling

Behavior Management Data section includes:

  • Date: The date the behavior was observed, measured and recorded. mm/dd/yy
  • Initials: To clearly indicate who recorded the data
  • Raw Data: Notice there are 10 boxes (on the sample form) in a row, each box indicates a separate interval. When collecting data for interval recording the therapists records an occurrence of the behavior as “X” and a nonoccurrence of the target behavior as a blank box. While every attempt should be made to collect data on every interval throughout the observation period there may be times when an activity is terminated or other events that make it impossible for the therapist to observe and record data for a given interval. If it is not possible to record data for a given interval a horizontal line is drawn through the box. Recall that an occurrence or nonoccurrence of behavior is indicated by the actual occurrence of a behavior and the interval recording method used:
    • Whole Interval: In whole interval only a behavior that occurs for the entire interval is recorded as an occurrence of the behavior.
    • Partial Interval: In partial interval any occurrence of the behavior is recorded as an occurrence of the behavior.
    • Momentary Time Sample: In momentary time sample only an occurrence that occurs at the specified time within the interval is recorded as an occurrence and this time specific moment is usually at the end of the interval.
  • Summary Measure: The last portion of the section is used to convert the raw data into a summary measure. The Percent of intervals is the summary measure and the raw data is converted by dividing the number of occurrences by the number of intervals and then multiplying that proportion by 100%.

This lesson has introduced you to the three sections of the Behavior Management Interval Recording Data Sheet and explained how to record and summarize behavior management data. As a therapist it is important to carefully and completely record the necessary Identifying Information, a description of the Target Problem Behavior and the Behavior Management Data. The BCBA uses this data to make informed decisions about the effectiveness of a child’s BIP, so the data recorded must be complete and accurate.

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