Taking Effective Data: ABC Data Collection

abc data collection

Continuing our look at the RBT™ Task List, we are looking at A-02 Continuous Measurement procedures which is probably the most used method in school if you’re taking any direct observation data. These include ABC data collection, frequency or count, rate, latency, and a few more. Let’s start with ABC Data!

data collection abc1

ABC Data Collection--the WHAT

Probably the most common introductory data collection is the A-B-C or Antecedent Behavior Consequence.

A combination of information about what happens before, during and after a behavior.

Most basic and generic term used when discussing continuous measures.

data collection abc2

ABC Data Collection--the WHY

I like to use this when gathering new information to guide my next decisions where I can take more specific and targeted data collection. This is also really easy to teach a teacher or staff member to take because it’s basically notes about a situation.

PROs: Easy to teach someone else to take, good to gather basic information so you can drill into what you want to look at more in depth, allows for anecdotal notes and information that is harder to gather with other methods

CONs: Subjective unless it’s really detailed, allows for interpretation prematurely, allows emotional language to cloud objective information, can take a lot of time to write notes to describe a situation

data collection abc6

ABC Data Collection--the HOW

It’s important to teach WHAT the A-B-C mean, though, so that they collect useful information!

A = Antecedent or what was happening BEFORE the behavior. Did the student come in hungry? Was there an argument at recess? Did you ask the student to do something? Had the student been on task for an unusually long time?

B = Behavior or what the behavior LOOKED LIKE. Specific. Instead of “disrupted group,” I want to see “cried, hit table, pushed papers away, lasted about 10 minutes.” 

C = Consequence or what happened AFTER. How did the situation resolve? How did staff react? How did the student respond? How long until student was back to baseline and moving forward? 

I like to have staff also add what they think the function of the behavior was. Not only helps me in analysis, but also helps them start to think about WHY the behavior might be happening. Our interventions going forward will rely on understanding the WHY!

Check out this large group of IEP or ABA data collection forms and ideas. Everything from challenging behavior data collection forms to parent communication sheets to toileting data. 

And here you will find 300 IEP Goals and Objectives for 3-6 year olds (developmental). Includes goals in 5 domains: Adaptive, Behavior, Cognitive, Language, and Social Emotional. Makes your teaching life so much easier!

And Now What?

So we have a buttload of notes about a student. What do we do with it? I mean, it wasn’t just for fun that we took all those notes, right? 

Well, I’ll tell you what I get to do with it and maybe you can do some of the same. I go through all those notes and I look for TRENDS

Did the behavior occur mostly at the same time of day? Most often when the student was asked to do something they didn’t want to do or when they wanted something they couldn’t have? Was the student trying to communicate the same thing most of the time but didn’t know how? Was it happening with the same staff but not with others? Did the incidents resolve when staff gave in or when the student’s behavior was ignored or when a certain amount of time passed?

These are all the pieces of the puzzle I want to put together. 

Once I have the “most of the time” idea, I will create a way to collect more specific and measurable data around those circumstances only. Drilling in more! 

Further along, then, I get to look at more systematic data and add interventions and then, get this!, see if they work!

Because once I have clear and concrete data to work with, I can put something in place with forethought and *measure* if it worked. 

Gotta love me some data.

data-or-it-didnt-happen
ABC data collection sheet
ABC data collection form

Let’s look at FREQUENCY and RATE data collection measurements next! Come back and see soon!

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Hi! I'm Audra!

I am a special education teacher, behavior analyst, and parent to an autistic adult. I love sharing the insights and resources I have gleaned over the past 25 years. Thanks for being here!

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