ON THE REPRESENTATIVENESS OF BEHAVIOR OBSERVATION SAMPLES IN CLASSROOMS

Authors


  • Joslyn Cynkus Mintz is now at the Marcus Autism Center.
  • Thank you to the staff of the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired for their participation and assistance and to Nicole Heal, Wayne Fisher, Brittany Putnam, Caitlin Peplinski, and Matt Capriotti for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jeffrey Tiger, Department of Psychology (219 Garland Hall), University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, 2441 E. Hartford Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201 (e-mail: tiger@uwm.edu).

Abstract

School consultants who rely on direct observation typically conduct observational samples (e.g., 1 30-min observation per day) with the hopes that the sample is representative of performance during the remainder of the day, but the representativeness of these samples is unclear. In the current study, we recorded the problem behavior of 3 referred students for 4 consecutive school days between 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. using duration recording in consecutive 10-min sessions. We then culled 10-min, 20-min, 30-min, and 60-min observations from the complete record and compared these observations to the true daily mean to assess their accuracy (i.e., how well individual observations represented the daily occurrence of target behaviors). The results indicated that when behavior occurred with low variability, the majority of brief observations were representative of the overall levels; however, when behavior occurred with greater variability, even 60-min observations did not accurately capture the true levels of behavior.

Ancillary