Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Data, data, data...

As a special ed teacher, I've been asked this question many, many time - "Where's the data?". In special education this has been the mantra for several years now! I know I've spent countless hours developing systems, creating materials and analyzing data that I've taken and I'm sure many of you out there have too!

I have been through several different data collection systems and along the way I've set upon several points that need to be addressed:

1. easy! (I have to be able to use it, and so do my parapros)
2. portable
3. adaptable
4. confidential

Let's look at these points. Confidential - As teachers, we are required to keep all information about students, including data, confidential. I've used systems where I use separate books for each student, a sheet where all students are on one page, and other such things. The problems with those systems is a 3 ring binder for each student is bulky and hard to use; using a sheet where all students data is on one sheet does not keep things confidential and requires you transfer the data to another form (a book or such) to keep it confidential. How I overcame these obstacles at the end of this post.

Adaptable - students change! That's all we need to know. We have to be prepared for this at a moment's notice. Or maybe you just want keep data for something new, that's not actually a goal for the student. A system that takes that into account is needed for this.

Portable - As I said before I've used a system where all the data is in a data book and I took the book around the room to take the data. It worked, but the problem is that it's bulky, and can make it difficult to change directions with a lesson if needed. Other issues with those type of systems is that the pages fall out and you can lose stuff. Something to consider when developing a system.

EASY! - isn't that what we all are looking for.

So here's what I do. It takes a little while to set up, but once it's done you don't have to fuss with it until you change goals. I have 2 templates that I use together. One template is for a data book (I didn't give them up totally). Basically it is a page that has the students name, goal with specific attainment criteria. That's it, the rest is blank - more on that in a minute. Here's a photo of that page:

The second file that I use is a modification of an address label sheet. I use the Avery 8160 address labels, which have 30 per sheet. I set it up so that each goal is on one label, and fill in all reading goals for example. This is just for 1 student. Then I copy the set of goals to cover the sheet. That way I have 1 sheet of reading goals per student, and I can keep all the sheets for a group on one clipboard and it's easy to find, pass along, and use. The grid allows me to write what I am taking data on and how they did. Here's several examples of that sheet:

You'll notice that I have written 3 things, the date, what the student was working on (i.e. the time I put out, or what question I asked), and how they did - 1/1 for correct on first try, 1/2 for correct on second try, 1/3 correct on 3rd try or with some sort of cue (visual or verbal). This works for me, but you can use anything you like. It could be as simple as plus or minus. Whatever works for you.

Data Label Template

So I take the data on a label, and then later put it into the correct data book page. I usually have extra labels that you can use if you run out of pre-made labels or write a new goal. The system is easy, portable, adaptable, and confidential - and it works!