We all know we need data. We all know parents and administration require data. And we all know that data can save us if there is ever a question about what the student knows or doesn’t know and what he has been taught. Hopefully we all also know that research shows that teachers who take data and review it regularly have students who make more progress. What many people aren’t always so sure about is how much data is enough data?
Do you have to take data every minute of the day to make it meaningful? Answer: NO.
Is it OK if I just take data once during the 9-week grading period? Answer: NO
Is it OK to just have anecdotal notes about an individual’s progress that I write at the end of the week? Answer: Again NO.
To help answer some of what I hear as the most frequently asked questions about data, I thought I would address How much data is enough data? and talk about considerations in deciding about how much data is enough.
What Do I Need to Think About When I Take Data?
1. Take data on skills / behavior as it happens (or as soon afterward as possible).
I once worked with a district that was really proud of how well their teachers took data. It was the first time I had visited, so I asked about how they took it, what their procedures were, etc. They assured me that when I walked back into the classroom we were visiting I would see teachers taking data all the time. Instead, we ended up walking into the classroom just after the students had gone home and the teachers and aides were talking as they cleaned. The conversation went like this.
Teacher: Did anyone see [child] make a request today?
Aide 1: I did today at snack. (Note there is no indication of how many requests, whether they were independent, whether they were correct, or whether other opportunities to make requests were missed).
At this point I turned to the administrator I was with and said, is this how they take data? She was surprised. All this time she thought the data she was reviewing was reviewing had been taken at the time the instruction was taking place. Some of the problems with this system of taking data include:
- It’s memories of data, not actual observations. My memory is getting worse as time moves forward so it’s not reliable for data collection for very long after the behavior/skill has occurred. You also tend to remember what fits with what you think is happening–so if you think Child X is getting better at requesting, you are likely to remember the times he requested instead of the times he should have but didn’t.
- They didn’t capture the number of times he didn’t do it but should. If Child X’s goals are written as he will correctly label something 8/10 times….we don’t know how many times he did it independently and correctly and how many times he didn’t. One data point (remembered from the whole session) doesn’t tell the whole story.
2. Take more than 1 data point.
3. Take More Data if the Student is Not Making Sufficient Progress
4. Take Data In More Than 1 Activity
5. Make Sure You Take Data Samples ONLY During the Sample Period
In general, if you take data once or twice a week, you are taking a data sample. The thing you need to remember with data samples is that they have to be taken in a consistent manner. So, if you are taking data on how often a student follows a teacher direction during morning meeting, you need to make sure you only record how often it occurs during morning meeting. That means being careful to catch every time the student has the opportunity to follow a teacher direction and record the student’s response. It also means that you have to make sure not to add data from other time periods into your sample, as it will contaminate it. So, that means you can’t come back in from the playground excited that a student followed directions on the playground and record it in the morning meeting sample. Particularly since you probably missed times that the student should have followed directions on the playground and haven’t recorded them. You can decide that on another day you should take data on the playground and take a sample there if that is something you think is important.So, to help you start thinking about naturalistic data collection with samples, I’ve included a group data sheet similar to what I use. In my next post I will talk about some different ways I use it, but I’ve included an example to get you started.
Any suggestions to share about data collection? Sound off in the comments!
Until next time,