How to Measure & Collect Social Behavior Data in the Classroom

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  • 0:04 Social Research in the…
  • 0:37 Verify the Problem
  • 2:18 Gather Data
  • 3:19 Chart Data
  • 4:43 Categorize Behavior Data
  • 6:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will look at how to collect and measure data of social behaviors in the classroom. We will also identify how to recognize behaviors that should be measured and other factors that warrant attention.

Social Research in the Classroom

Sara is a teacher in a mainstream classroom with a large portion of special education students as well as other students in the class who have a history of being disruptive. She notices a pattern in her students' behaviors and wants to figure out ways to anticipate problematic behaviors in an effort to prevent them. Sara needs accurate data of her students and their specific behaviors to assist her in identifying the triggers and developing prevention strategies. She decides to look into ways she can collect and measure data about her students' social behaviors in the classroom.

Verify the Problem

Sara knows that many disruptive behaviors in the classroom can be easily managed by defining the rules, creating a structured environment, strategically assigning seats, posting and adhering to a class schedule, and other standard classroom management strategies. However, after implementing these strategies, there usually remains a portion of the students in the class that require more in-depth interventions. These students are more likely to exhibit behaviors that are ongoing and impede their ability to learn. Some of these behaviors might include talking back to authority figures, being rude to other students, talking out of turn, or getting up from their seats.

The first step in addressing these issues is to identify and verify the source and type of the problematic behaviors. After identifying students likely to benefit from data collection and measurement, the next step is to identify the specific behaviors that interrupt the learning process for both the student and those students around them. Note that some behaviors that may be considered problematic are elements of someone's cultural expression. For example, making eye contact may be a sign of disrespect in one culture and a sign of respect in another.

There are a few basic guidelines for determining the validity of a potentially problematic behavior. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the student's behavior significantly different than their classmates?
  • Do these behaviors reduce that student's chances of success in learning?
  • Were previous efforts at intervention unsuccessful?
  • Is it a behavioral issue or a cultural difference?
  • Is the behavior serious, persistent, or threatening to student safety?
  • Do these behaviors often result in disciplinary action?

Gather Data

The next step is to gather data about the specific behaviors. Examples of problematic behaviors may be observed first-hand by the data collecting instructor, or it may be taken from interviews of other adults and students observing behavior in the cafeteria, on the bus, or in the library.

When there's an incident of problematic behavior, it will help for the instructor to observe other classmates nearby to have a comparison. Sara takes detailed notes about the behavior and the other students' reactions. It's critical that behavior is described in precise, concrete terms rather than in generalizations.

For example, notes about an incident on the playground might say, ''John raised his arms up and yelled, ''Get away from me!'' to Gwen, and she took a step back'', rather than something vague or ambiguous like, ''John gestured aggressively, yelling at Gwen.'' ''Gestured aggressively'' could be interpreted in different ways, and it's important to note the specific words being yelled, as well as how the other student responded.

Chart Data

Because the goal is to identify patterns and exhibiting problematic behavior, other information besides the detailed description of what happened is also necessary. Chart the data using a spreadsheet with specified columns including each of the following details in addition to the specific behavior observed:

By using a spreadsheet, researchers can organize information in a chart to identify patterns and see which high-risk situations lead students to exhibit problematic behaviors.
image of a spreadsheet

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