Taking Data on Independent Work Stations

Independent Work


Independent work tasks are a must-have within the classroom. These are also beneficial within the home and the clinic settings if your child or learner struggles with working and playing independently. Independent work is a life skill that is beneficial to all learners. In a general education setting, there are many times when a student needs to sit and work on worksheets or read a book. At home, a learner needs to work on homework, or when mom or dad are making dinner or cleaning, the child will benefit from working independently. Taking time to yourself is necessary for all humans. In this post, I will review best practices for independent work as well as how to use a task analysis to see where our learners are functioning.

Best practices for independent work


  1. Use only mastered tasks: Tasks in the independent work station should truly be independent. These tasks can be taught and practiced in all other areas of a classroom until mastery is accomplished. If there is a task in a learner’s work station that they are no longer able to do independently, I will remove it from the area and practice it in a different area of the classroom.
  2. Schedule and clear expectations: Open ended activities haven’t been the best choice for independent work tasks. From my experience, tasks that have a clear beginning and end work best for prompting the learner to end the task and get to the next one. Using a mini schedule for the work tasks are a visual for students to know which order the tasks are to be done.
  3. Don’t take apart the task that the child just did nor should they take it apart after doing it. I would not appreciate if someone deleted this entire article when I was finally done writing it.
  4. Individualize what type of station works best for each learner: The stations themselves can look any way that is best for the learner! Some ideas are using small 3 drawer bins that the work transfers to the table, a large 3 drawer bin that the work transfers to the top, or a shelf next to a student desk that the learner brings the work to.
  5. Rotate the work: I like to rotate the work task materials such as paper, file folders, toys, and other hands on materials. This helps gain and hold learner attention and engagement. I also like to rotate the work tasks to match our unit theme.
  6. NO TALKING! In order to be sure that our learners are truly independent in this functional routine, we say zero verbal prompts or praise. If a learner is struggling, we can use other prompts following the prompt hierarchy. Of course we can praise their great work, at the end of each task!
  7. All done work bin: having a clear space for our learners to put their work gives them a defined space to put finished tasks and clears off their work space.

Taking Data


A task analysis is a way to take data on complex skills into smaller and smaller steps. Many functional routines gather more accurate data when using a task analysis. Using this form of data collection has been the easiest way to track progress on independent work. A task analysis helps the team and I see which skills within the functional routine are missing or our learner is struggling with. Once we break down the steps, we know what steps need to be tracked and taught. Keeping a task analysis even once our learners have mastered a skill or routine is still necessary to make sure they are maintaining the skill. We also add steps to the data sheet when our learners are ready to advance. Some examples of advancements and edits in a data sheet for independent work are:

  • a learner going from two tasks to 3 or 4.
  • a learner using a mini schedule with colors to using a schedule with letters.
  • a learner sitting at a table to standing with a 4 drawer system.
  • a learner doing 4 different tasks and working to doing one 8 step task.
  • a learner benefiting from a break in between tasks to a learner using a break at the end of all tasks.


Favorite Materials

Some of our favorite Autism Helper resources that help make our independent work stations a breeze:



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