Home Private Practice 6 Tips to Ease Data-Gathering During Group Sessions in Schools

6 Tips to Ease Data-Gathering During Group Sessions in Schools

by Sarah Lockhart
written by
Four rolls of different colored masking tape

Taking data for speech-language groups isn’t easy.  Whether you’ve been an SLP for a long time or are just getting started, chances are you have—at some point—found it pretty tricky to record data for group treatment sessions (especially big groups) with a variety of goals (especially goals in different areas).

You aren’t alone. I struggle, too, so here are some tips that help me get through. My hope is they help you, too.

Keep goals on an index card

When getting to know new students, I write each one’s main goal or goal area on a different note card. I know my schedule will go through many iterations across the school year, so this allows me to easily adjust and reorganize my system as groups change.

These cards will help you see where goals (might) overlap as you develop session ideas. Remember, getting specific isn’t the name of the game here—instead, the intention is to make a memory aid.

Have students track their own data

Students can take more ownership over their progress when they know their goals, and when they record their own data. Of course, as the SLP you closely oversee what they count, but this can increase self-monitoring skills, independence, and motivation.

Use token/penny boards or masking tape

An ideal strategy for toddlers and pre-k students, a token board—typically used as a visual reinforcement strategy—makes an easy and fun method for keeping data. The board features five to 10 spots for attaching tokens with Velcro. Or make your own using pennies, sticky tack, and poster board. Each correct trial earns a token. For example, if a student gets two out of five trials correct, I put two tokens on the board.

Another option is the masking tape method, which I learned from Jenna Rayburn Kirk. This method involves attaching five pieces of masking tape to a nearby object—like your pant leg—and either ripping off or keeping a piece of tape on for each correct trial. If you prefer writing down your data, consider a digital notepad. I use a Boogie Board to write down my goals/tallies during the session, write my session note from the Boogie Board, and then press the button to erase and start again.

Write goals with groups in mind

You should always write goals for your individual learners. However, if you create too many goals for a student, or goals that are too specific or too general, the process becomes much more difficult.

Ultimately, running groups means you’ll get a lot better at writing student goals. You’ll probably figure this out through trial and error over time!

Don’t take data during the entire session

Decide how many trials to use for taking data and then stop. I mean it. It’s tempting to get as many trials as possible, but that keeps your head down in your data instead of up in the group. Focus on the purpose of your data, and once you get what you need, just focus on working with your students.

Implement data collection using rubrics

There are some skills we teach—such as social language skills—where taking tallies won’t actually tell you much. Try using rubrics to make collecting data much easier. Rubrics allow us to zoom out just a bit and determine if a student can demonstrate mastery of the skill. Places to look for rubrics are Google and Teachers Pay Teachers. Check out how SLP Lisa Kathman uses rubrics to measure goals.

Go forth and tally!  I hope these ideas are helpful and that you’ve found at least one take-away to implement in your next group session. Want to share more? Please add your insights in the comment section below. I’d love to hear your tips!

Sarah Lockhart, MS, CCC-SLP, owns Sarah Lockhart Speech, serving preschool and school-aged children, and is the co-host of the SLP Happy Hour Podcast. Follow her clinic or her podcast on Instagram. slphappyhour@gmail.com

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Dina September 4, 2019 - 2:02 pm

Thanks SarahI I often wonder how many trials per period is ‘enough’ when working with preschoolers. Do you have any guidelines for an goal number to aim for in a session?

Sarah Lockhart September 20, 2019 - 1:24 pm

Let’s see, if it’s productions my aim is for 100, which is a lot but I’ve seen good progress with that. For taking data, what’s reasonable given your student’s activity level? For me, I can sometimes only get 3-5. My grad school professors might roll their eyes at that, but I do what I can and sometimes kids are active and so having a minimum of 3-5 data-keeping trials but then more total trials works for me and the caseload I have now – but it would totally depend! I think that mass practice is so much more important than the exact number of trials we keep data for esp with articulation and phonology.

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