Data, data, data. Another struggle in our field. Working with a multitude of students across the spectrum with a diverse set of needs. The struggle is real. Many of us feel a sense of discomfort when inputting notes that record our data based on a group that are all working on different goals. Many have communicated their concerns that they can’t capture all of that data at the same time while also administering therapy. It is hard if you were to try to get every piece of data that correlates to each person’s goals and provide the best therapy session that you can. We are great multitaskers, but it is hard to split our attention in a way that supports both for collecting data.
Here are a few tips that can help you through our favourite part of the field... or maybe why we didn’t choose another career such as finance…numbers!
1. Keep your goal of progression simple
Percentages can make this tough. As communication experts, numbers are not always our forte (for some, it might be!) Limiting the number of trials can save you the headache of dividing percentages. Also, many goals have a difficult time lining up to percentages ie. an individual switched roles in conversation - how can we take a percentage from a communication exchange. Well, technically we can if we do an equation but you’re better off not turning data into an Algebra homework assignment.
2. Use a simple tracking system for collecting data
There are SO MANY data collection worksheets across the web. Many are complicated and for some, that works well. In an effort to save time, the simplest ones that incorporate the most important aspects of data collection can make your life easier:
Goal, cues/ level of support, type of support, and check boxes for tallies is what you should be looking for. I like to keep it simple for myself and for those I’m mentoring. A special shout out to the creator of this - which can be modified to include groups by adding names under each box and omitting “client” from the top.
While I like to keep things simple, a great website I like looking at for references for myself and my graduate students is the Speech Bubble. Some people find it helpful to collect data in a more nuanced way. This is also very practical for beginner SLP’s who are still developing their gut instincts to guide the sessions. Data Collection Options for Speech Therapy - many rubrics are available on this website, as well as ways to tally data in the session through simple checks, clickers, and other ways to keep track of the numbers.
Speech life hack 👉 Go to Teachers Pay Teachers and type in “SLP data collection sheets.” You will be presented with a plethora of data collection sheets.
Note: Some of my colleagues love SLP Toolkit as it monitors progress daily and is an easy reference point to look back at when it is time to work on your monthly goal reviews or progress progress reports. While I have not used this virtual tracking system, it can work well if you want something very detailed oriented. Caution: it is costly, but if you buy it as a team it can relieve the costs.
3. Informal eyeballing
While the professors in graduate schools warned us all about the unprofessionalism associated with informal data approximations, there are many times that you will have to forgive yourself for that. When a group of students are in your room and there are many different things happening in the environment, it won’t always be an option to take full control of the data. This where once again (as mentioned) in the previous blog, your gut comes in. Data may have to be approximated and you can do that by reviewing the student’s goal and lesson plan to help remind you of small moments you may have missed. For example, if students start fighting in your room or keep going off task, while other students may be “on” and checked in; you will have to deal with behaviour management first. Reflect on the moments you missed.
4. Go back to prior session note
If you are having difficulty with the data collection for specific sessions, you can always go back to the prior session note that you created and that will help guide you towards whether or not progress was made from looking at the prior session’s information (since we can’t remember every session through our memories, no matter how advanced our ability to retain information is!)
Last but not least, we are guided by our SMART goals. Our data must reflect that as well. As long as the data can help formulate goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relatable, and Timely - you can rest easy knowing that you collected data effectively!