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Preparing for Data Collection in ABA or Special Education

data collection

Looking at the RBT™ Task A-01 Prepare for Data Collection, we're looking at why we take data and what we need to do before we even start.

Why do we collect behavior data?

ABA data collection is what helps us monitor progress and make sure we are using the most effective methods of intervention. 

It helps us make meaningful decisions and not based on emotions or fleeting thoughts.

It helps our field play in the “hard science” sandbox.

Most importantly, we can actually SEE if our interventions are working to help our student reach their fullest potential!

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We want behavior to:

  • Increase (e.g., time on task, play initiation, eating vegetables)
  • Decrease (e.g., spitting, starting an assignment, nose picking, snarky comments about how long the work day seems)
  • Maintain (e.g., all our prosocial behavior!)
student data collection

What is NOT considered data?

  • A guess or estimate 
    “He is off task at least half the time.”
    “She only gets her pencil out when I tell her to.”
  • Parent or staff opinion
    “I don't think we need to work on that.”
    “I only need to take data in the morning when she has a hard time.”

What do we do to prepare to collect data?

  • Gather information from last session or previous staff if possible. It will help you prepare for your student! If you need to reduce expectations because he's having a hard day or prepare new materials because she mastered a skill,  you'll know!

  • Prepare material. Get ready! If possible, get everything you need before the student walks through the door. This is where a good organization system comes in handy. If possible, have each student's materials pre-gathered in a box or binder and your data collection sheets clean and ready to go!

  • Put on your best face! Make your positive attitude and demeanor be the first thing the student sees and let it set the tone for your time together! Make YOURSELF the best reinforcer!

That's all there is to it! You are ready to take on the world.

Remember Gather Info Prepare Materials SMILE!


Next up! RBT Task A-02 Continuous Measurement (e.g., frequency, duration recording).

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