You all know I love talking about data. To me, data is the backbone of a successful classroom. It lets you know if things are working, tells you what to do next, and identifies which skills are fully mastered and which need more help. What more could you ask for? Data is something many teachers have a love/hate relationship with. Many teachers want to take data and use that data to inform their teaching decisions but the one million other job responsibilities get in the way. Nobody wakes up on Monday morning thinking, “I’m gonna refuse to take data today.” We wake up well intentioned but let’s face it: our jobs are hard and we are all understaffed. So sometimes we struggle to make the time for data. Today the whole Autism Helper team is going to share their tips and best practices when it comes to the data collection process to give you a little inspo. This month we will be talking all about data collection strategies and I encourage you to check out the small novel’s worth of other data posts I’ve already written. We will convert you to be a data lover, too! 

Gina says… 

Taking data.  Simple, terrifying, exciting, trendy, NECESSARY! Whatever word or phrase comes to mind about taking data know that we have all felt the same way at some point! Finding a way to take data that’s simple will ensure success! I love data sheets that encompass multiple skills or students; this will allow you to be efficient and grow more confident in the first step…just taking that data! You’ve got this!

Sarah shares her SLP perspective… 

Data drives therapy!  Speech therapists use data all the time to determine if students need to receive speech-language therapy, what therapy goals to create for each student, if students are making progress toward their goals, and also to determine when students are ready to be dismissed from speech therapy.  How to collect all that data is challenging.  The goal is to find a system that works for you with your student population and stick with it.    

Holly’s thoughts…

So many times in education, we are tempted to ask “why”- why isn’t this student making any progress? Why that student is behaving this way? People get so into finding out why something is happening, they forget to ask the basic “what” question- What is going on? The “what” is data and we can’t answer “why” if we don’t know what is actually going on. Take a step back, an see what is actually happening and collect the data, it is easier to see what that student needs. 

Advice from our OT, Katie… 

My advice for collecting data is to make it as easy as possible! If you put in the work at the beginning to setup a solid and clear system, whether that’s a data sheet or a google form or whatever, it will help make the day to day data collection so much smoother. If the system is easy to use, others can also take the data, including paras, teachers and students themselves. As a related service provider who may only be in the building one time per week, it is so amazing to have multiple team members on board with data collection! Not only does it help me track the progress and update benchmarks, it also brings us together as a team. 

Meredith’s Words of Wisdom… 

It doesn’t have to be pretty! Data taken on white boards or scraps of paper is better than none! Beautiful data sheets don’t have to be in place to get started… but they are wonderful to have once good habits are in place.  If the method of data collection isn’t working, be confident in adjusting it. There is a method for every situation, but it may take time to find it. If your data isn’t speaking to you, you need to graph it! Seeing data trends on a graph is one of the most satisfying things to me as a special educator. Sharing graphs to show improvement with parents or other professionals is off the charts fantastic.  One of my favorite things to do is to empower parents to take data at home. They can gather a realistic baseline and have the same joy of seeing improvement as we enjoy as teachers. 

Chrissy’s Parent Viewpoint… 

I’m a words, NOT a numbers gal. So for many years data intimidated the junk out of me. I rely on our BCBA for the majority of data, but I jump in when snapshots are needed outside of therapy hours, or for big things like Behavior Intervention Plans. Making data based decisions and collaboration is directly related to success, so it’s worth it!

The bottom line: jump in and get started. Make it simple. If it doesn’t work, try again. Keep at it. You’ll get there!

Sasha Long
Sasha Long

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