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Collecting Data, Tracking Change, and Honing our Acting Skills

Today, our teachers came together for a training on data collection and how it can be used in the classroom. This is a skill that will be useful to them, not only when they are working with children with autism, but also when they are managing their classrooms, where they at times support children who display challenging behaviors or children who struggle to learn according to the ways they teach.

Our teachers teach 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 10th grade boys and girls and have students with a diversity of needs in their classrooms. While they are creative and entrepreneurial in their approaches to teaching, they all acknowledge that their are gaps in the knowledge and training they need to meet their students’ learning needs. Teachers can use data collection to identify their students’ needs and to measure their students’ progress in the classroom.

We started our session with a review of expressive and receptive communication. For those of you unfamiliar with these concepts, expressive communication is known as speaker behavior, but it doesn’t have to involve speaking. Some people point, sign, use gestures or exchange pictures to communicate expressively.

Receptive communication is also known as “listener behavior,” or, when people respond expressive communication. Some examples of receptive communication include:

-Bending down to tie your shoes when someone says “tie your shoes”

-Opening the door when being told to open the door

-Picking up a phone and handing it to a child who points to it

After reviewing these concepts, we also talked about strategies for teaching expressive and receptive communication and the importance of using prompts that can be easily faded so that children do not learn to rely on a prompt to complete an action, and can become independent in their skills. To assess children’s progress in receptive and expressive communication, data collection strategies are very valuable.

A teacher and parent perform an example of non-verbally prompting a child’s behavior. Our teacher, Taghreed, took on the role of A’s Father’s mother and prompted him to hand her the beanbag without verbally telling him to do so.

We reviewed how to take partial interval, frequency and percentage data and then went on to practice defining behaviors in ways that are specific, observable and measurable so that consistent data can be collected. We had the teachers write down behaviors and practiced acting out throwing food, opening the door and hitting a peer, while challenging the teachers to make these behaviors more and more specific until they all agreed on the number of times the behavior was displayed during each example.

Teachers cheer each other on as they perform and take data on different “specific, observable and measurable” behaviors.

At the end of the session, we gave our teachers a homework assignment to collect partial interval or frequency data on a behavior displayed in their classrooms. The teachers all agreed that they want to reduce the behavior of students calling out in class “me, me, me” or “teacher, teacher, teacher” and to replace this behavior with students raising their hands quietly. We’ve promised them that we can help them reduce this behavior and look forward to getting their data sheets back next Sunday.

We shared lots of laughter, movement and games in our session today (we are proud of our teachers’ theater skills!) and look forward to more engaging sessions like this one in the coming month!

-Melissa

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