Behavior observation data is often graphed because it makes it easier to quickly review the data and to see changes in student behavior or performance. After a number of observations have been made, the result of each observation is marked on the chart. Numerous observations can be quickly summarized on one chart. Charts are also beneficial for providing information and feedback to students and parents. Teachers often utilize paraeducators to maintain updated copies of performance charts in students folders.
The graph has two axis. The vertical axis is used to record the frequency of the behavior which is being observed and the horizontal axis is used to indicate the observation period on which the frequency data was recorded. In the example below, on the first day of the observation the paraeducator observed a student ask the teacher for help 35 times, on the second day the student asked for help 25 times, on the third day 20, on the fourth day 15, and on the fifth day 10 times. A vertical axis was created which would accommodate the range of frequencies (In this case from zero to 35 times). Marks are created on this axis to indicate the number of times the behavior was observed. In this case, one mark indicated one observation. For each five marks the number of marks was indicated to the left of the vertical axis.
A horizontal axis was created with an interval for each day of the observations. A mark is placed on the chart for each day's corresponding frequency. Often a line is used to connect these points and indicate a trend in the performance or behavior.
Labels are provided for the vertical (Frequency) and horizontal (Days) axis.
The number of observations and the length of the observation period is determined by how the data was collected and the number of observations which occurred.
When changes are made in the instructional program, classroom organization, or behavior management program these are often noted on the chart by a vertical line. The teacher can then easily compare performance before and after the change. If more than one change occurs then a vertical line is provided for each change and the nature of the change is noted. The chart below provides an example where after the third week of recording, the student was provided an extra 15 minutes of practice time each week to study the spelling words.
Sometimes comparisons between students or behaviors are of interest. When this is the case, data from more than one set of observations may be included on the same chart. After the first set of data is plotted, a new set of points and a connecting line is drawn on the chart for the second set of data. Often a different color or symbol is used to help differentiate the two sets of data. In order for this to work properly, the data from the second observation must match the scale used on both the vertical and horizontal axis.
Charts can also be used to display the results of observations based on the duration of behavior. In the following example, the scale of vertical axis is minutes. For each day of the observation the number of minutes the behavior occurred is noted and a line is used to connect the points. From this graph it can quickly be noted that the duration of the behavior has decreased over the five day period during which the observations were done.