I personally have a love-hate relationship with collecting data. It’s tedious and time-consuming. To me, kids are not data points. Though that’s true, IEPs are not really a go-by-how-you-feel document. They are a go-by-evidence document. So I’ve had to acclimate to the fact that its part of the job.
For some students, case managers are able to collect data efficiently without a ton of help or can work through the regular education teacher to get information. For other students though, the data collection is extensive or ongoing or daily. Because case managers can’t be with a student every hour, they enlist the help of others who are with students and are the best placed to collect information. So here are 3 strategies that will allow you to be the best support to the case managers you work with:
- become familiar with the data collection tool
- take data with fidelity
- be a questioning observer
Become Familiar with the Data Collection Tools Being Used
The first part of data collection for case managers typically includes things like reviewing district and state testing, previous evaluations and IEPs or talking with other teachers who’ve worked with the student. These along with what we’re seeing in class and what we want to see in class, are the basis for creating some sort of tracking page that we can use that will inform how often, how intense or when things are happening.
Some student data will be tracked by week, by assignment, or we may be tracking several things at once over the course of a day. Point or daily sheets often do this. Here is a sample of a basic type data tracking system you might see. You may hear the words Check In Check Out Sheet.
Most students with IEPS who need some type of daily charting have a system that’s tailored specifically to their need areas and what will work for them. Some students carry their sheets, others do not so they are all going to look a little different. Sheets generally:
- track one behavior, or several
- go across classes, so we can see differences across the day
- have a system of rating behavior with some sort of key
- include some sort of goal and incentive
Take Data with Fidelity
The definition of fidelity when it comes to data refers to the degree of exactness to reproduce something. This basically means use the sheet as its intended. It’s very easy to get sidetracked by other behaviors or issues that are not being tracked. The sheet focuses on the biggest concerns or goals that are part of the students IEP. Use the comments section often included if you have other concerns. If the data tracking system becomes cumbersome, talk to the case manager about your struggles to get the data and find some resolution to that.
Be A Questioning Observer
Some types of data collection veer away from the more objective observe-record tallying of point sheets. It’s more about uncovering the “why of a behavior”. If a case manager is asking you for feedback in this way, become a questioning observer in the class you support.
When you engage with a child around a need area use the questioning observer stance, it’s a more mindful way to engage with a problem. You essentially are collecting information about what’s going on without judgment. A judgment or consequence may have to be made at some point, but not at first. Here’s how I do it:
- I am always watching student behavior for patterns and habits– the ways that they do things, the way they don’t do things, what they avoid, what they engage in, how they handle each various situation
- I assume students want to do well if they aren’t, there is a reason
- So then I usually ask myself “why”? Why would a child engage in that way? Is there a social issue, an academic concern, are there home things going on? did they get decent sleep? Are they hungry? Generally, I have a few potential ideas when I go into a conversation with a student that I may or may not share
- I talk to the child to find out what’s going on for them. I don’t assume things, I always ask.
- It is a continuous cycle of observe, ask, observe ask. This cycle is the basis for any Functional Behavioral Assessment.
It can be time-consuming to collect data, but it’s important for IEP goal updates and to adjust and make programming better for students. Any way you can help case managers collect data is much appreciated!
What questions do you have about data collection? What kinds of data are you collecting? Let me know in the comments below.