Behavioral Recording 

 Click here for Powerpoint presentation on Behavioral Recording



    A method of evaluating a student's behavior that provides you with a very precise picture of its regularity or severity is "behavioral recording".  The teacher or aide observes the student directly and collects data on how long or how often a certain behavior occurs. Using this method, you can compare the degree of occurrence of the behavior with the degree to which it is exhibited by other students.  This comparison can be used as support for enrolling the student into a certain educational placement.  This method can also be used to obtain an accurate perception of whether the student's behavior is improving over time.  There are three basic types of behavioral recordings that are found in the classroom: frequency recording, duration recording, and interval recording (although many other variations are sometimes used for certain purposes).  The recording procedure that you choose will depend on the kind of behavior that is demonstrated and the type of information that would be most beneficial to you.

    Frequency recording is a simple counting of how many times a behavior occurs during a designated period of time. Those designated periods might be a minute, an hour, a day, or a week.  It is most useful with behaviors that are discrete and short in duration (e.g., number of curse words, number of short talk-outs without raising hand), or are things that the student has created (e.g., number of correct math problems, number of homework assignments submitted).  There is a second type of frequency recording in which you count the number of items (e.g., homework assignments, math problems, adjective in an essay) that a student has produced.  It is known as "permanent product recording". (Although the product isn't really permanent...especially when the student claims that the dog ate his homework.)

    Duration recording monitors the percent of time that a behavior occurs during the observation period, or it can be used to calculate the average time of display for the number of times that the student showed the behavior.   To calculate the percentage, the sum of the times (duration) that the behavior occurred is divided by the total observation time (For example, if the behavior was displayed for a total of 10 minutes during your 30 minute observation of the student, the behavior was happening 33% of the time).  This type of recording is used for behaviors that last for more than a few seconds and/or for varying lengths of time (e.g., paying attention, tapping a pencil, in-seat behavior).

    Interval recording is a shortcut procedure for estimating the duration of a behavior.  In this method, the teacher periodically looks at the student at predetermined (NOT spontaneously selected) intervals and records whether the behavior is occurring.  There are three types of interval recording.  In whole interval time sampling, you observe the student for a few seconds at designated intervals and notice whether the behavior occurs for the whole interval that you are looking for it (mark "yes" or "no" as to whether this behavior occurred for the whole time that you were watching).  In partial interval recording, you mark whether the behavior occurred at least once during the short observation interval.  In momentary time sampling, you look up immediately at pre-designated points and notice whether the behavior is occurring at that precise moment.  In all three types, the teacher then figures the percent of observations that the behavior occurred.  Interval recording is used for the same behaviors as duration recording, but this procedure takes less time and effort, and does not require that the student be observed continually.

   How to Use Behavioral Recording

1. Define the behavior that you wish to observe.  Be very specific.  Be sure that your definition is so narrow in scope that others would observe only what you had in mind.

2.  Decide which type of behavioral recording is best suited to monitor the behavior.

3.  Decide when you will observe the behavior.  Do you want to observe the behavior in a number of situations or just one (e.g., math class, story time)?

4. Decide how long each of your observations will last. Ten to twenty minutes is usually adequate, but the more time you spend observing, the more accurate will be your results.  Repeat your observations at least three more times to give a more representative picture.

5. Observe and record the student's behavior.

6. If you used frequency recording, figure the average number of occurrences per minute, hour, period, or day (whichever makes the most sense in talking about it with others).  If you used duration recording, figure the percentage of the total observation time that the behavior occurred.  If you used momentary time sampling, figure the percent of intervals when the behavior was occurring.  Plot the occurrence rate on a graph.

7. Repeat steps 5 and 6.


Click here to read a teacher's description of how she used behavioral recording to evaluate a behavior and guide intervention for a student who calls out answers.                                                                                          



Activities and Discussion Questions

1. For which of the following would frequency recording be appropriate?  For which of the following would duration recording or momentary time sampling be appropriate?
a. Incorrectly pronounced words
b. Homework assignments submitted
c. Correct math problems
d. Items assembled
e. Being "on task"
f. Humming (decide whether its humming a tune or just uttering "Hmm.")

2. You have defined "head hitting" as: "Any time that contact occurs between the palm of Kirby's hand and any part of his head or face."  However, would the following actions fall within your definition or not?  What exactly do you mean by "head"?  Should you change the definition?  Should you identify another behavior to record also?

 -Kirby hits his head with a closed fist.
 -Kirby hits his ear.
 -Kirby hits his teeth
 -Kirby grabs onto hair
 -Kirby picks his nose  (Remember: You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose,
                    but never pick your friend's nose.)
 -Kirby rubs his eyes with the heels of his hands

3. Define the following in very specific terms. (If you're not quite sure of what to do, see the link on the home page to DRL and DRO for practice complete with answer key)
a. In-seat behavior
b. Resists help from teacher
c. Daydreaming
(You don't have to cover every possible way that kids display these behaviors, just describe the manner in which the student you have in mind shows the behavior.  Specifically describe ONE way of showing the above behaviors)
Click here to practice defining other behaviors

4. While conducting frequency recording, you find that the student has exhibited a certain behavior eighteen times in a ten-minute observation period. What is the average amount of occurrences per minute? (If you're not quite sure of what to do, see the link on the home page to DRL and DRO for practice that also provides answers answers)
Click here to see the answer

5. Using duration recording during a twenty-minute observation period, you observe the student displaying the defined behavior for one minute, then two minutes and fifteen seconds, and then forty-five seconds.  What percentage of time did the behavior occur?
Click here to see the answer


6. Using interval recording, you look up once a minute for fifteen minutes.  You see the designated behavior on or during the 3rd, 8th, 9th, 13th, and 14th observations.  What percent of intervals was the behavior observed?
Click here to view the answer

7. Locate a student, relative, teacher, professor, or other person for you to observe.  Define three behaviors displayed by that person.  Choose one for frequency recording, one for duration recording, and one for momentary time sampling.  Remember that the behaviors can be either appropriate or inappropriate in nature.  Conduct four ten-minute observation sessions for each of the three recording techniques. Graph your results.

8. List several ways that you could use frequency recording to keep track of a behavior while teaching class.  How could you manage to keep count of a behavior's occurences without it interfering with your teaching? 
Click here for a list of different ways to keep a tally of behavior



FREE data collection forms and instructions for their use at: Once you're there, be sure to thank Denise for creating a web site that offers educators FREE downloads of data recording instruments. She also provides direction for their use.


"BEHAVIOR NOTES"   At, you can find information on a program that allows you to enter and analyze data on student incidents.  For a small fee, individual teachers (and for a larger fee, schools) can enroll for one year in this data collection and analysis site.  In essence, you complete "incident reports" and the program compiles the data and graphs it.  The forms appear on the screen with the time and date already entered, and several pull-down menus with your students' names, types of behaviors, and staff responses.  Several incidents can be recorded in in less than a minute.  The analysis function allows for comparisons of individual students and groups on colorful bar graphs.  It also allows you to view the numbers of different types of incidents for each youngster or group of kids.  This program would be of great use to settings that keep a great deal of data on behavior.


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