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Lesson 3: Observable and Measurable Behaviors

As discussed in the previous lesson, one of the problems associated with observing and evaluating student behavior is the accuracy of the results. In order to be accurate the observation procedure must be established so that it remains consistent from from one observation time to another and from one observer to another. A key element in making the observations consistent is the definition of the exact behaviors being observed. The accuracy of the observation is improved if the behaviors being observed are defined so that they are observable and measurable. This allows the observer to accurately count the number of times a behavior occurs or determine when a behavior begins and ends. Without specifying exactly the behavior being observed it is difficult to be consistent and the meaning of the observation may vary.

Observable Behavior
A behavior which can be noted through one of the senses (seen, heard, tasted, smelled, or felt). Observable behaviors are usually described by action words such as touching, walking, saying, or writing. These do not include feelings or intentions which are inferred from other behaviors.
Measurable Behavior
In order to be measurable a behavior must first be observable. In addition, an observer must be able to clearly determine whether the behavior is occurring, count the occurrences of the behavior and/or time the duration of the behavior. Behaviors which have a discrete beginning and ending are the easiest to measure.

Even though the teacher may be interested in complex behavior problems or in students' feelings or attitudes, such as anger or sadness, these concepts are difficult to define and measure. By identifying specific observable and measurable behaviors associated with feelings, the teacher can more easily and accurately measure and record progress.


Johnny talks to other students during silent reading.

This is both observable and measurable. We can hear and see Johnny talking and we can count the number of times Johnny talks or time the length of time that he spends talking.

Johnny has a poor attitude toward school.

It is not possible to determine exactly what Johnny is thinking. The teacher must rather identify exact behaviors which only infer Johnny's feelings about school.

Practice Activity

Johnny calls Mary Lou stupid.
William is out of his assigned seat.
Alvin does not understand a concept presented by the teacher.
Laura dislikes the other students in her group.
Dewaine writes six correctly spelled words.
Reece is not attending to his assignment
Irv is unhappy on the playground.
Barbara speaks without permission.
Toni raises her hand to ask for additional help from the teacher
Janet doesn't like to work with other students in classroom.
Donna enjoys reading.
Lee hits Sheldon in the face.
Jill taps her pencil on the desk.
Allen does not complete his worksheet within the class period.
Jon is surly in class.
Herbert is lazy.
Charlie participates in class discussion.
Lynn is unpopular
Polly talks to the teacher
Sharon looks at the teacher
Karen cries during reading class.
Vicki sucks her thumb during personal reading time.
David takes Mary's paper off her desk.
Dewaine asks for teacher instructions to be repeated.
Reece leaves the room.
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