Measurement is an essential component of any applied behavior analysis (ABA) service. Measurement includes collecting data on various skills or behaviors.

Data collection and measurement are valuable in that, when completed correctly, these processes provide the information needed to accurately assess any situation or behavior. They also provide an opportunity to monitor progress or setbacks and ensure that interventions are effective.

Data collection and measurement could also be useful in everyday scenarios, such as attempts to lose weight (measuring pounds and calories), academics (getting grades on assignments), and building new habits (tracking completion of the identified habit).

Tips for measurement and data collection in ABA services or everyday situations:

  • Prepare your materials
    • It is important to have the materials easily accessible when planning to collect data or measure a behavior. For example, you could use a habit tracking app to measure how well you are doing on building a new health habit or you could keep a paper and pencil record of the number of spelling words your child gets correct while practicing his spelling words every night. Be sure to have the materials you need available so that you are able to take the data when needed.
  • Decide what type of data you will collect (and implement it consistently)
    • There are various types of data that can be collected on any skill or behavior. You should evaluate the data collection method that would be most useful for the specific skill or behavior you are tracking.
      • Data collection examples:
        • Frequency how many times did the behavior occur
          • Everyday Example: number of times your child asks for help during homework time
        • Rate Frequency per a specific period of time
          • Everyday Example: how many times you bit your nails throughout the day divided by the total number of hours you were awake gives you the rate of how often you bite your nails.
        • Duration How long a behavior occurred
          • Everyday Example: The amount of time you spent going for a walk or run
        • Partial Interval Measuring whether a behavior occurred or did not occur during specific intervals of time
          • Everyday Example: You could divide the day (or the evening if you are with your kids after school or after work at night) into intervals (such as 30 minutes). You could indicate on a data sheet whether they argued (or whatever their common problem behavior is) at any time during each 30-minute interval. The idea would be for them to have fewer and fewer intervals of problem behaviors over time.
        • Whole Interval Measuring whether a behavior occurred for an entire interval
          • Everyday Example: Your child struggles with staying on task when doing homework or chores. You track whether they are on task every 2 minutes during the period of time they are supposed to be doing the activity.
        • Momentary Time Sampling Measuring a behavior at specific moments in time
          • Everyday Example: You want your child to clean his room but dont want to watch him the whole time. You look in at him at certain moments in time to see if he is cleaning his room or not.
        • Permanent Product Measuring an outcome or product that a behavior produced
          • Everyday Example: Chores. You evaluate whether your kids completed their daily chores by inspecting whether the chore is complete or not.

Data collection and measurement is an essential component of ABA services, but it is also very helpful in day to day life when working on any form of personal improvement activity, when trying to improve a childs performance (as a parent or teacher), and much more.

Assessing and graphing the data is also valuable but those topics are for another post.