Data Sheets:

Data collection is a critical component of a comprehensive education program.  Professionals are responsible for documentation and often spend substantial amounts of time developing data sheets and task analyses to target goals or to monitor progress towards standard curriculum skills.  Parents typically have little exposure to educational documentation and struggle for ways to track their child’s progress.  Consistently addressing goals and verifying improvement is important for parents and professionals to gain a clear view of progress and to determine if parts of a program need to be changed.  Sandbox Learning’s Monitoring Materials include a variety of forms.  See Full List and Purchase.


Overall Guidelines for Data Collection:

  1. Make sure the data collection is meaningful.  Don’t just take data to have it.
  2. Identify the goal(s) to be achieved through data collection.
  3. Note modifications, such as visual or verbal prompts, in order to identify when prompts can be reduced to increase independence.
  4. Take baseline data.  Three days of data is usually enough to give an indication of the student’s current level.
  5. Document ongoing progress (formative evaluation).  When documenting make sure day of the week, time of the day, and other factors are not inadvertently affecting results.
  6. Whenever possible, keep hard copies of work samples to further support progress.


Anecdotal Documentation Click here to see example

  1. Anecdotal notes include any written documentation of progress or behavior.  Even extra notes on work samples can be considered anecdotal.
  2. The wording of any anecdotal notes or goals should be written clearly so they can be understood by an outside reader. 
    1. Difficult to understand notes: Simon did not attend well during circle time.
    2. Clear notes: Simon attempted to leave the circle time group 3 times during the 15 minute activity.  He participated by singing the calendar song but did not respond to any questions or raise his hand to ask questions for the remainder of the time.
  3. Examine the data carefully.  By analyzing the events, it may be clear that additional or more detailed data is needed to fully diagnose the behavior.  Continuous data may indicate the behavior is part of a pattern (e.g. Early in the week is more difficult) or is triggered by another event (e.g. ABC collection could indicate when the door slams in the hallway the student gets up).  This analysis can lead to a number of modification ideas or changes that may greatly improve the individual’s skills. 


Basic sheets:  These sheets are used to document if the individual has correctly completed a skill or expressively (verbally) or receptively (through selecting) identified the stimulus (object or picture presented). 


Expressive Identification Click here to see example

The steps for expressive identification and documention are: 

  1. Give a prompt (e.g. “What color is it?”).
  2. Wait 5 seconds for a response.
  3. If correct, reinforce on a chosen schedule (e.g. Every 1, 3, or 5 correct responses or at variable intervals the child plays with their favorite toy).
  4. If incorrect, use a correction procedure (e.g. “No, it is red.”).
  5. Document response as + for correct and – for incorrect.


Receptive Identification Click here to see example

The steps for receptive identification and documention are:

  1. Determine how many distraction stimuli are appropriate and write the total number of items presented on the data sheet.   Depending on the child’s level and his/her ability to scan and attend, the number of stimuli presented will vary.  Initially, having one item may be appropriate then gradually add additional objects.
  2. Decide on a reinforcer and a schedule of reinforcement.
  3. Put the target stimulus with distractors in front of the student.
  4. Give a prompt. (e.g. “Show me what you eat with.”).
  5. Wait 5 seconds (or other set time 0 or 3 seconds are commonly used) for a response.
  6. If correct, reinforce on a chosen schedule (e.g. Every 5 correct responses the child plays with their favorite toy).
  7. If incorrect, use a correction procedure (e.g. Moving the child’s hand toward the correct item or selecting the correct item, showing it to the student, and saying, “I eat with a fork.”).
  8. Document with a + for correct and a – for incorrect.
  9. Wait 5 seconds (or other selected time as discussed in number 5) and present the next series of items. 
  10. Move the correct answer to different positions so the individual is not guessing correctly or reaching for one location.


Task Analyses Click here to see example

         Task analyses are data sheets for chained tasks or skills that require individual steps to be completed in a specific order.  Since each step may be a challenge, a systematic approach is used to work with the person to develop each step and successfully learn the overall skill.  The use of the system of least prompts is a common way to teach chained tasks.  In the system of least prompts the student is given the appropriate level of support to complete each individual step.  The most common method is using least to most prompt levels.  In this method the student is able to attempt the step independently.  Then the person teaching the skill gives increasing levels of support until the student completes the step. 

The levels typically used are:

Independent – child does the step completely on his/her own without any prompting

Verbal – the instructor tells the student what to do (e.g. Get soap)

Model (or Gesture) – the instructor models the behavior or points to the

object a student uses next

Partial Physical – the instructor guides the person’s hand to the next skill

Full Physical – the instructor hand over hand helps the individual complete the skill


Three ways to teach tasks:

Forward chaining – the instructor has the student learn one skill at a time starting with the first step, but the instructor finishes the remaining steps for the student.  When step one is mastered the student completes step one and has instruction on step two.  The instructor finishes the remaining skill for the student.  This continues until all steps are mastered.

Backward chaining – this is the reverse of forward chaining.  The instructor completes all steps, but allows the student to learn the last step using prompts.  When the last step is mastered the student learns the second to last step. 

Total task – the student learns each step as the skill is taught and the instructor gives the correct level of prompts at each steps to allow the student to procede to the next step.


In order to collect data using task analyses:

  1. Print or create a task analysis that sequentially outlines the individual steps.
  2. Document present level of performance on the skill by observing the student attempting the skill and writing down the level of prompt currently required at each step.  Use at least 3 baseline trials.
  3. Determine if forward, backward, or total task is the most appropriate means of instruction for the student and the task.
  4. Determine reinforcement type and frequency.
  5. Monitor progress using data collection sheets.  In many cases, graphing the number of skills completed independently may be helpful.



            It is human nature to want recognition for a job well done.  Whether the reinforcement is a paycheck for going to work or a “Thank you” for helping someone: we all behave differently when given support and feedback.  Children also look forward to rewards.  In working with individuals it is important to find what inspires them to complete their work or to learn something new.  We all have a feel for what our children or students enjoy.  It may be computer time, trampoline, or a special sensory toy.  Providing time for these materials to be used is a way to reinforce appropriate behavior or completion of work.  Providing individuals a choice in what they use as a reinforcer is a way to give them more control of their surroundings and to make sure they are truly getting what they enjoy. 

            Creating a program with reinforcements embedded in the day is important and increases the chance for success.  Increasing the time between reinforcements is a way to heavily reinforce difficult skills at first and then decease to more natural periods of reinforcement.  The use of naturalistic reinforcers is also recommended.  Naturalistic reinforcers are benefits of completing a task that would traditionally occur in life.  An example of a naturalistic reinforcer is putting on a coat correctly means the student gets to go outside.  Using words to request a favorite toy means an adult hands it to the student so they can play with it.  This type of reinforcement is recommended since it reflects life.  With practice, the parent or professional learns to seek out opportunities to provide these ‘moments of learning’.  For example, if a parent or professional is working on increasing the use of adjectives and recognition of concepts they might have two different size pizza slices for lunch.  When he/she says, “Pizza” this is a great opportunity for learning “big” versus “little” or “square” versus “circle”.   





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