Congratulations on entering the world of teaching. And let me guess, you thought you were going to be teaching, right? Well, I mean, you will do some teaching. But currently, a good portion of a teacher’s day is data collection and analysis. Teaching practices, student work, and testing results are just a few areas where this process is required. Just collecting the data in itself can be a very time consuming process that can easily bog any teacher down. Don’t get me wrong, I personally love data collection and analysis and truly believe it’s a useful practice. Remember, data should drive your instruction. Data collection and analysis allow educators to determine if their instruction and interventions are working. I have had a lot of practice doing it in my career as an educator and a diagnostician and I have adopted several methods that make data collection easy. If you want to quickly and easily collect meaningful student data, keep on reading for 5 simple methods. To purchase a more detailed collection of strategies with additional examples (it's only $2.50!) visit our store on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Data should drive your instruction. Click To Tweet


Before we get into the specific ways to collect data, there are a few guidelines that should be mentioned. Before a teacher starts to collect data to analyze, the area of analysis needs to be objectively defined and described. Take subtraction as an example. The student ‘subtracts the highest number from the lowest number, regardless of position’ gives us a lot more information than saying the student ‘cannot subtract’. After a definition has been established, determine a performance goal. What do you want the student to be able to do? Is it a specific skill they should master or is it the frequency with which the skill should be performed correctly? Finally, develop a progress monitoring plan. Will you collect data every day, every week, every quiz? Approaching data collection with direction from these three steps will make the job considerably easier. Ok, on to the fun stuff.




1. The Exit Ticket

An exit ticket is just that, a ‘ticket’ for the student to leave the classroom and go to the next class. This is probably the fastest and easiest way to collect a specific piece of data. Before beginning your lesson for the day, identify the key concept or skill you want students to leave knowing. After the lesson, and maybe 3-5 minutes before students are dismissed, post a question for students to answer that requires a response to the data point you want to analyze. Collect student responses as they leave class for the day. You can flip through their answers in a matter of minutes, and quickly see if the majority of the class got it, which students may need extra practice, or if you need to teach the lesson again in a different way. Informal, efficient, and informative.


PRO-TIP: Sort the responses into three piles, labeled ‘nailed it’, ‘starting to get it’, and ‘still needs some work’ for a quick visual of student performance.


2. The Standards-Based Method

This strategy is a little more in depth than the exit ticket, but is still considered a ‘beginner’ strategy because the data points have already been established for you. Look at the standards established by your state for your grade and content area. If you need help locating them, visit your state education website or ask your department chair. Your school (hopefully) should have a calendar of when those standards should be taught throughout the year. Create a template or find one online and plug those standards in for analysis. Check out the example below.

Standards-Based Method


You can see in this example that baseline data was obtained to determine the student’s present levels of performance. This teacher decided to analyze the data weekly by the standard, which tells them how the student is progressing. A teacher can easily decide if a student needs supplemental materials for more practice or has mastered a skill and needs to move on.


PRO-TIP: Easily create those lesson plans you have to turn in at the end of the year: Print a blank calendar and fill it in with the state standards based on when in the year you teach them. Your whole year is planned out!





3. Task Analysis

If you are a new teacher and you’ve heard of task analysis, you’re already ahead of the game, as this concept in itself can be incorporated into all types of data collection. If not, no big deal, I’ll cover it. Put simply, task analysis is just breaking down a skill into small, specific steps. When those steps are put together in sequence, it leads to successful completion of the skill. We all use task analysis when doing things everyday, and we probably don’t even realize when we are doing it.


To start, list the steps involved in a skill. An easy way to visualize this process is to create a flow chart. Check out the example below. Your flow chart can include as many steps as necessary. Be thorough when listing the steps involved in completing a skill or goal, it will lead to an increase in student success.

Task Analysis Flow Chart

After you have produced the required steps, look and see which step the student is missing or not completing correctly. If you aren’t sure, assess the student to see how many steps they can do. When you get to one they can’t do, stop. That’s the step you need to teach. Students may just be missing that one step, or may need further instruction on the steps that come after it. But using task analysis as a data collection tool provides specific, detailed information that helps teachers really target their teaching methods. Data from the task analysis can be easily compiled and tracked on a Google doc or Excel spreadsheet to monitor progress.

Using task analysis as a data collection tool provides specific, detailed information. Click To Tweet


PRO-TIP: Mention to an experienced teacher that you have a student who can’t figure out ________ (a skill step you identified in your task analysis). They may have already created an activity that would perfectly complement the task!


4. Frequency and Interval Recording

Frequency recording is a great way to operationalize a skill or behavior that you need to collect data on. Instead of saying that a student is ‘off-task all period’, doesn’t it sound so much better to say a student ‘was working on his classwork for 30 minutes but talked to a classmate for 15 minutes’? Frequency recording allows you to collect data and report out in this manner.


To begin, establish the specific skill or behavior you want to target. This strategy works well with either, but it does an excellent job of collecting data on behavior. You can spend time creating a nice and neat data tracking form, or you can just record slashes on a sticky note. Either will work! After establishing the behavior, collect some baseline data on how often the student is performing or not performing the skill or behavior. You can also determine a time frame as to when you are recording your data, known as interval recording. For example, if you are determining the percentage of class time that a student is working on classwork, you may want to check every minute and record a Y or N for yes or no. If your class period was thirty minutes, you would have 30 data points. If 15 out of 30 of those are ‘Y’, then you can conclude the student was working on classwork for 50% of the time. Simple, right? Next, teach the student the intervention or replacement behavior you want to see. Finally, do another frequency or interval count to see if the behavior has increased/decreased depending on the goal.


PRO-TIP: Have a teaching assistant or other teacher observe a class period to collect your data. Even an administrator would probably do it for you and may want you to share with others what you are doing #bonuspoints.


5. Self-Monitoring

Self-monitoring refers to teaching students how to observe, monitor, and record data about their own behavior. This really empowers students and gets them invested in making positive changes. It also allows you to analyze quite a bit of data without having to spend time collecting any once students become familiar with the process. This data collection procedure lends itself well to behaviors, like participating in class or bringing the right materials, but can be used with academic skills as well.


To utilize this strategy, you will have to teach students to self-monitor and record their own data. Use the same steps we have identified above: determine a specific behavior to increase or decrease and identify a goal. Depending on the behavior, students could use a frequency recording method or a quick data collection sheet that you have created. At a set interval, meet with the student to review the data to celebrate success and determine if any changes are necessary. See below for an example.


Self-Monitoring Data Collection


PRO-TIP: Have students chart their progress over time to increase buy-in and celebrate success.


We hope you liked this post on 5 easy ways to collect data. Have you tried using one? Let us know in the comments below and how it worked for you. Have questions or want some additional discussion about data collection methods? Comment below!


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JCB Diagnostics

Jonathan is the owner and founder of JCB Diagnostics. He has worked in education and mental health for the last 15 years. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Special Education.