#043: A Crash Course in Data Collection for SLPs

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OK, self-identified nerds: Wave those sleeve protectors in the air!

Data collection doesn’t get just anybody excited, so if this week’s episode title sparked your interest then I know you are my people. 🤓

SLP Kristin Bowers joined me for today’s podcast episode to share some incredibly practical advice related to all things data collection.

Kristin has a broad background in the SLP field, ranging from early intervention to the Bosnia Autism Project (!!), and I am so stoked that we got a chance to connect.

I have to say, what struck me the most about Kristin’s data collection strategy is her commitment to having just a single sheet of paper on her clipboard for the duration of the session… even if it’s a group session!

Mind = blown.

Her theory is that if you can be super clear and organized around what it is you’re measuring, and what each group’s metrics are, you can streamline your system in a major way. (And the trees will thank you for using less paper, too.)

I’ll admit that it’s a far cry from my early days as an SLP — when my “system” involved stacks of paper, post-it notes, QR codes, stone carvings…and only one of those mediums is an exaggeration! 😂

So. Whether you fancy yourself a Marie Kondo of paperwork, or you identify as a data hoarder, you can learn something from this conversation. (TLDR: Less is more!)

Grab your beverage of choice (I’ll have a macchiato today!), put your feet up, and listen in.

Key Takeaways + Topics Covered

– Introducing Kristin Bowers: Her background and expertise
– Data collection OR therapy: Can you do two things effectively in the same moment?
– Why more isn’t always MORE!
– Why consistency is key (ie. Collect data at the start of your session every week, OR the end every week, but don’t switch it up!)
– How to collect pure data
– Set probes
– Kristin’s simple and clear data collection and progress monitoring sheets
– Setting clear goals for progress monitoring before session begins
– Productions without your feedback (vs. with your feedback) for cleaner data

Links Mentioned in the Podcast

Kiwi Speech
Complete Progress Monitoring Pack
Irregular Plurals Puzzle

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Transcript

Marisha: Hello there and welcome to The SLP Now Podcast. I am so excited to be introducing Kristin Bowers today. She is an ASHA certified speech language pathologist, she graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2007, and she graduated in 2010 with a master's in speech language pathology as well. So Kristin has utilized her skills as a speech language pathologist abroad, including her participation in the Bosnia autism project in 2012. I wish we had time to dive into this more, because that sounds super interesting. But she is here today to talk about data collection. We've been getting a lot of questions on this topic lately, and I thought she would be the perfect person to break this down with us.
Just a little bit more background, she has experience in early intervention, working with three through five-year-olds, she's also worked in private practice, and she currently works in the schools, and she serves kindergarten through fifth grade students. She's also the owner of Kiwi Speech, and she creates amazing materials for speech language pathologist, and she also has some amazing resources for clinicians in private practice. But without further ado, let's dive into all things data collection. Hi Kristin.

Kristin: Hi, how are you?

Marisha: Amazing. We were talking about this before we went live, but I feel like such a nerd when it comes to this topic, and I'm like genuinely excited.

Kristin: I totally agree. I definitely geek out over the data helping people do it more effectively, because I just think it's... No, it doesn't need to be as complicated as we all make it. So hopefully we can simplify it a little bit.

Marisha: Yeah, I totally agree. I wish I had you to talk to when I was first starting out, because I felt like I tried about 5 million different tools and strategies and just all the things to try and get a hold of my data collection. I had these super elaborate systems with like labels and I was printing things all the time and it was just kind of messy, and so I'm really excited to hear... Maybe you have had some of that experience too. crosstalk.

Kristin: Are you even an SLP if you have not already tried all the things? No. Of course, I have. I wish I had had the things I knew now when I was... Even if you years ago, I wish I had it figured out. Not that I have it figured out now, but I think I have a much clearer picture for myself now and I found a system that has worked for me consistently. Over the last probably three years, I've used the exact same system. That's when you've figured it out for yourself, because usually at the end of every year you think, "Oh, next year... This is okay, but next year I'm going to do like that a little bit differently or that a little differently." And when you come back and you're like, "Nope, I'm going to stick with it. Okay, I'm onto something."

Marisha: That is amazing. I used to switch things like on a monthly basis. I had a caseload in the triple digits at one point, and I was just drowning and I felt like it was so hard and that there had to be an easier way. So yeah, I was... I probably made it much harder for myself. crosstalk. But can you give us a little bit of a tour in terms of the different systems that you have tried and maybe just tell us a little bit about kind of why you switched? If your list is as long as mine, just highlighting like a few potential.

Kristin: I think more than anything, when I... Before I did data the way I do it now, I think I just really didn't have a consistent system, and it just made it really hard to write a progress report and compare apples to apples, because you'd collect data on something one day, and you'd collect data on something on another day and you just really want to write that progress report and you're like, "All right, well, I can see that they're doing R in the initial position of words independently at 20%. Oh wait, that was back in November. Let me see where they're at now. Oh, I haven't collected data on that recently."
So you didn't really feel like you had anything to report on your progress reports or whatever was current inaudible. It was just all over the place, and I felt like I was just mentally trying to pull all this information together, and I knew I needed it to be laid out for me. I had tried collecting data. Even just with my data sheets, I'd have a data sheet per kid or I'd have a data sheet per day or... I had data sheets changing every year. So now, I do my data logistically, I collect daily data and I have data sheets that are by group. So I just pull out the group's data sheet and I collect daily data on that.
And then three times a year, I collect more what I consider my progress monitoring data. So I kind of have my daily data, and then I have these three overarching data collection systems. Between the two of them, I find it really easy to write a progress report. All the data is like right in front of me now. Hopefully, I never go back, because it's working out much better.

Marisha: Yeah. No, that makes a lot of sense. I definitely went through all the different types of data collection sheets too, like by individual student and by day and by group.

Kristin: And by post-eds, like I did the post-ed system for a little while, or the labels, that was a good one for a while. Yeah, I've tried them all.

Marisha: Yeah, I did. I tried setting up Google Forms, and I printed like QR codes for-

Kristin: Yeah. God.

Marisha: ... then their links won't-

Kristin: Marisha, why am I not surprised that you made QR codes?

Marisha: Yes. It was super exciting. I thought it would work really well and I thought it would be fun to involve kids in their process, but it's just like Google Forms wasn't meant to help us manage our caseload. There's definitely issues with using Google Forms as well. So yeah, it just gets messy.

Kristin: Yep. I totally agree.

Marisha: Okay. But if you are listening and you are an SLP who has tried a lot of different things, you're definitely not alone. So hopefully that helps you feel that way. Kristin, you told us a little bit about how you currently use group data sheets and you do daily data and then you do your... you said it three times a year?

Kristin: Yeah. crosstalk. We send out progress reports just in my district. We send them out mid year and then at the end of the year. So I try to do a big data collection probe in one of my first sessions for all my kids. And then again, I do it in the middle of the year and then at the end of the year. So if nothing else... like if all my data through the rest of the year turned out really poorly or I wasn't... whatever, I always have these like three really excellent data points to run back on. So I tend to use those for... We use rubric based progress report, so we can check kind of zero to 50%, 50 to 75%, that kind of thing. I use the progress monitoring data to do those, but then I tend to use the daily data to do more anecdotal stuff or make more subjective comments.
So I might be able to say, they produced R in the initial position of words completely independently 30% of the time. However, when they're in a session with me and I'm giving them feedback on productions or some visual cues, they're actually able to do it 80% of the time, that sort of thing. So I usually read through those progress reports to give that kind of more subjective descriptive data that I think resonates with the parents when they're reading the reports.

Marisha: Yeah, that's super helpful. So we're definitely going to dive into more of the logistics for both of those in just a little bit. But I'm curious if you have any suggestions for SLPs who are struggling with data collection, like they're hopping from system to system. What suggestions would you give them to work a system that is sustainable and that you can stick with for three years and not have to change?

Kristin: I think there's probably a million systems out there that could work for you, depending on your style. But if I could give one bit of advice, it would be to separate your therapy from your data collection. So if you're collecting data and you're finding that you are playing a large role in that moment and you really have your therapist hat on, then to me that is just not the greatest time to be collecting data. So I think it's really important to conceptualize, you're either giving therapy or you're measuring progress. Because you're not supposed to be measuring yourself. We're not there to collect data on how great of a therapist you are in that moment, we want to know how the child's performing.
So, when I do my data, whether it's the daily data or the more progress monitoring data that's intermittent throughout the year, and like you said, we'll go into that, but in both situations, I'm really never collecting data at the same time that I'm giving therapy. I'm either doing one or the other. Just conceptually separating out those two things, to me, will change the way you collect data, no matter how you record it or what sheet. If you use the labels or you use the post-it's, it really doesn't matter. But being able to separate those out would be like my number one takeaway from this podcast or from when I presented. That to me is like the one point, is just really learned to think it's okay that you're not collecting data in a moment if you're giving therapy, and it's okay to not give therapy in a moment when you're collecting data.

Marisha: Yeah, that's perfect. Is there anything else that you want to share before we dive into more of the logistics in terms of broad suggestions?

Kristin: Maybe just that sitting down and coming up with a plan can really make a difference. It doesn't mean you have to sit down for a whole day and come up with an elaborate plan, but just taking a minute before a session to think, "Okay, what am I going to collect data on today?" For me, at the beginning of the year, taking a moment to say, "All right, what am I going to work on probably in this whole semester? I need to make sure I collect date on that now so I can show their progress." So little bit of planning goes a long way. Again, just keep it simple. It doesn't need to be super complicated, I promise.

Marisha: Ooh, I love that. Have a plan and keep it simple. Because you probably don't want to be like me during my CF where I was juggling all of these QR codes, making it way, way, way too complicated. And then I would also... I love how you said that we want to know what we're going to measure. I think this is one that... I definitely agree with what you said about separating therapy from data collection. That's what I've landed on as well. And then the next important thing is knowing how we're going to measure what we need to measure. So whenever I write a goal for a student, like when we update an IEP, I make sure that I have... that I really know how I'm going to measure that goal and I have... I just make sure I have a sheet, like, this is the probe that I'm going to use for that goal. It makes it really easy because then all you need to do is have time to collect that.

Kristin: Absolutely.

Marisha: So I think those are... like, if you only listen to a part of the podcast, hopefully that helps get you started. But let's talk a little bit more about your daily data collection. What does that look like today?

Kristin: So when I say daily data collection, I mean I collect data on most days. There are definitely days that I'm so involved with what we're doing that I maybe don't. But most days I collect data. To me, the main thing is that more data points doesn't mean better therapy or better data for that... Oh gosh, I just inaudible. Anyway. More data points doesn't mean better therapy, and it definitely doesn't mean better data either. So if you think about if you were to collect data on the first 10 productions a child makes and they were 50%, if you were to continue to collect data over 20 data points or 50 data points or 100 or 1,000, the more data you're getting over a session, you're really just diluting that and that initial number.
Because assuming you're a good SLP and you're helping them improve their production of their sound over the course of the session, the longer you collect data, the closer it's going to get to 80, 90%. So all you're doing is taking out the sensitivity of that number you're recording, and it's going to be really difficult for you to show progress or change over time. So I really just stick with 10 data points typically. So kids will come in, I might have a therapy activity ready to go, and my therapy activity does not necessarily... it's not necessarily the exact same thing I'm collecting data on. It's okay to collect data on a skill in a slightly different way than you're teaching it.
I always think about teachers who give a spelling test. They do a pre-test at the beginning of the week, and they have the kids spell the words. And they don't help them or give them clues, they just say the words and kids write them down. And then they probably do the same thing at the end of the week. They say the words, they're not giving clues are not helping them, they're not giving feedback, they're just measuring. But in between, they're using all sorts of brilliant strategies to teach those spelling words. They don't just continue to administer that same test over and over and over. So that's how I like to think of my daily data, is I this little probe at the beginning to see how they are, to see what they remembered from last time and then I can spend the rest of the session teaching it in whatever way that I feel is best, and that's where our professional expertise comes in. Anyone can collect data, but only... we are the people who are trained to get the therapy.
So they come in, I pluck 10 data points, and it's usually as independent as possible. I might flip them 10 flashcards, I might run through... Like we're doing some sort of worksheet, I might run through the words on there, I really don't give them any feedback about it, I'm just measuring, and then we jump into the therapy. But that data takes me 30 seconds per kid at the beginning of a session. So it really doesn't suck up a lot of time, and it's a really nice data that I can compare from one day to another.

Marisha: Awesome. I have a couple of questions that always come up when I talk about this too. But why do you choose to take data at the beginning of a session?

Kristin: It's really funny, that question. When I was in grad school, we did like a big project, and part of it was asking us to look at a case and ask how we would ideally collect data or how we would turn it into almost like a single case study. I had given an example which was similar to this. Now that I think about it, it kind of came full circle. But they asked me the same question, why are you collecting data in the beginning? My answer inaudible. I don't think it really matters if you collect it at the beginning or at the end as long as you're being consistent with it. Because obviously, how a child is performing when they walk out of my speech room is very different than how they perform when they walk in, and we all know that's the case. We've all got kids that walk in, aren't using their sound, by the end of your session, they use it 100% of the time and then they walk out into the hallway and don't use it again.
So I think as long as you're consistent, it really doesn't matter. I collect it at the beginning because I think that that's a better representation of probably how they're using it outside my speech room. At the end of the day, that's what I care about. There are definitely kids who walk through that threshold and see me and turn on those sounds, but a lot of them are not necessarily thinking about it until we kind of get into our direct activity. So I collect it at the beginning because I just think it's more representative of what they're doing independently. But I think if you're consistent, you could make either one work.

Marisha: I agree that consistency, and you get to use your clinical judgment, you get to decide how to inaudible your caseload and your data and all of that. But I think starting at the beginning makes sense because it also... I also think about it as... Because if it's at the end, I feel like it's a measure of how well I'm doing-

Kristin: Absolutely.

Marisha: ... versus inaudible in fresh. And then it's also helpful me to know where they're starting because I feel like if we're working on K and I give a student 10 initial K words and they're at 20% accuracy, that's going to... I will prepare and make sure I do some initial teaching or just make sure I cue up my visual strategies or whatever type of queuing I want to use with that student, versus if they get 80% accuracy, I would approach things a lot differently, like I might jump to the next level. That would drastically change what that therapy session looks like. Granted, we can get that information as we dive into the therapy activity too, but I think this just helps me be more prepared and just use my time a little bit more efficiently.

Kristin: No, I totally agree. I supervise some grad students for one of the local universities, and that's one of the things that comes up that we score them on, is, are they using session data to guide clinical decisions? That's exactly it. If we collect data at that first session and they're at 90%, I want to see my students changing the complexity of what they're giving them or making it a little bit harder somehow and challenging them versus if they come in and they're at 0% in that initial data probe. I want to see it, like you said, doing some initial teaching or using some new strategies or prefacing the lesson with something that's going to help them. So I totally agree.

Marisha: I love that you have that experience too. Because you work at... Is it a university too?

Kristin: No. I supervise students from the University of Pittsburgh. That is really local.

Marisha: It's amazing.

Kristin: So one of the schools I work at is on a university campus, but no, I don't work at a university.

Marisha: But you get to supervise-

Kristin: Yes, I do.

Marisha: ... students.

Kristin: So yeah, it's nice. They send the students out, so all their placements are out in the community, they don't have an in house clinic. So they're there with us getting really hands-on knowledge and skills and being taught by a variety of people out in the field. So I think that's a real strength to the program.

Marisha: Yeah. That's amazing. I love that. Oh, I was going to ask something else about data at the beginning of the session, but it's escaping me, so we'll just have to come back to it.

Kristin: That's fine.

Marisha: Another question that comes up a lot is how you get through your probes quickly. Because you said it takes you 30 seconds. Because I talk about this strategy too, about just collecting those quick probes at the beginning, and every time I talk about it, people ask like, "How do you get through it quickly?" So I'm curious what you say to that.

Kristin: Yeah, I don't know. I guess part of me is... you just keep it simple. Like I said, I try to keep these probes as independent as possible. So with some of the younger students, I may be giving them a model. And this isn't an exaggerated model that has sort of built in cues to help them, it's literally just, I'm providing them with the stimulus. But I don't give them... During this data collection, I really don't often give them feedback, even, I just want to know how they're doing on those words. So it's just a quick Amandy from hand to speech, it's just quick data sampling. That's what she calls it, data sampling. That's what it is. Boom, boom, boom, I go through 10 words. I often don't tell them, yes, no. Oh, can you fix that, or try it this way. I'm literally just measuring. So it takes them exactly as long as it takes them to say 10 words and really not a lot more.
I also save time just by sticking... Typically, I use whatever we're going to do for that activity that day. I use the stimulus items straight from there. So I'm not shuffling around other things. When all else fails, I have a word list, and I just go down a word list. So I keep it really, really simple, and I keep myself out of it a lot, which saves a lot of time. When I'm not talking, it saves everybody a lot of time.

Marisha: I love that. And then if you have your... Because you use the strategy of using the treatment activity. So you have that on the table already, so you can just run through it-

Kristin: Exactly.

Marisha: ... super quickly, and that makes sense. I think this is where our approach is just a little bit different. It's like, that's a cool part of this, because like you said, there's not one... There're so many ways we could set this up, and it really just depends on our style and our caseload and just all the millions of factors that play into all of that. But I like to use like a set probe for the different goals, and so I just have those ready to go. Like I have a really simple but like very intentional system on how I keep those organized so I can quickly pull up whichever probe I need. So that's been super fun too. But whether you're using the therapy activity or some probe that you already have prepped, just being prepared for the session makes it really, really simple to run through that.

Kristin: Yeah, totally I agree, and I love that idea. I do have a set of probes I use for the interim progress monitoring that I'm doing a little bit less frequently. Those are always the same words, and they're ready to go. But I do mix it up throughout the week. I like it, because you know how every now and then you come across a word that for whatever reason is really tricky for them? I feel like sometimes when you're mixing up the stimuli between sessions, you come across this little subset of words and you're like, "Wow, they really struggle with that context for some reason." So I do love that about it. As you said, either way works, and I love your organization.

Marisha: I am definitely an organization nerd, so we can talk about that all day long. I remembered what I wanted to circle back to. I use this especially as a newer clinician when I wasn't feeling as confident in terms of taking data at the beginning of the session, because I feel like data is power, and if we know exactly where the student is, it sets us up to be that much more successful, and I feel like it helps us... we can approach the session just a little bit more confidently.

Kristin: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Marisha: Even if you end up taking data at the end of the session, having that information is... it's what enables us to provide amazing therapy because we are able to adjust and all of that. So I think it's a great confidence tool.

Kristin: Absolutely.

Marisha: So I just wanted to inaudible. It's funny, I definitely took more data on the weeks where I was feeling like I don't know what I'm doing, and then I have the data and be like, crosstalk.

Kristin: Yup, I totally agree. Every now and then, it's really nice. Especially if we've had a week off where I haven't seen a child and I am lesson planning in the morning and running through my lessons and I'm like, "Man." Sometimes I'm able to just look back at the last session, and it's just like given to me. Even with very few notes from a quantity standpoint, I'm able to look at it and be like, "Oh, I know exactly what we're doing today." It's just really nice.

Marisha: Yeah. That's amazing. So speaking of that, how do you keep it organized? How do you organize all that data so that it is easy to go back to? You mentioned the group data sheets.

Kristin: Yeah. So it takes a little bit of work, and this would be the one thing I don't like about it, but to me it's well worth it. Again, knowing that I've stuck with the system now for a few years, tells me it is. During the first few sessions of the year, I actually do just collecting on like a blank piece of paper and save it because I like my data organized by group. So each group has like a packet of data sheets, and I can usually fit... I don't know, depending on the size of the group, like if it's a three child group, I can usually fit like three weeks on one side of the paper, and it literally just has the date on the left side for that day and then it has each child's name and then each child has two lines. The first has one line that's split into a 10 boxes for my 10 data points, and then there's a blank line where I could write some notes and then there's a little space down the bottom where I could write additional notes.
So we're talking like a three inch section for an entire group for the week. So the reason I said, in the beginning, I collect on a blank sheet of paper is, at the beginning of the year, it just takes you a while to get those groups ironed out, and kids are moving from this group to that and the times they're changing. But once I feel like I've got them, I do sit down, I take a day to make these data sheets. I make them on my computer, so all their names are typed on there. And then I just use that same sheet throughout the year. So like I said, I can probably get three weeks on a page, so it's not a ton of papers.
During a single session, I'm never flipping between pages, all the kids are there in one section on one page. I absolutely loved... I resisted doing that for a while because I didn't want to take the time up front to set it up. And then they also had this thought that I needed all these data sheets filed in each kid's individual file, but when it came down to it, like I just don't think I need that. So like no one ever said I did, and I finally just did it. I said, "If I absolutely needed it, I could copy them and blackout the other kids or something." But that has never happened, and having them organized by group to me is 100% the way to go. Flipping through pages is definitely not me. So that's what I do for my daily data.
And then for my progress monitoring, I have these big data sheets, it is one like eight and a half by 11 page. Now, it is jam packed with a grid, but I use that one side of one sheet for an entire year for one sound. So it typically has, I think, 10 words for each. So say I'm inaudible, those will all be on one page and it'll have 10 words for each of those sounds in the initial, medial and final positions and enough space for me to collect it three times. So I can use literally one side of one piece of paper for my entire year for my progress monitoring that I just do the three times. So I am not a paper flipper, I just want everything on one page. I feel like we just use so much paper. I'd like to be better, and I'm no environmentalist, but come on, the amount of paper we waste just kills me. So I'm trying to keep it down to one page, it is the least I can do.

Marisha: Yeah, that's super helpful. Because you have those data sheets in your teachers pay teachers store? Right?

Kristin: I do. So I have them in my store and then they come with printable stimuli, so you can put a page in front of the child and they can just read through the words and look at the pictures. But I also made it as like an interactive PDF, so you can pull it up on your iPad and they just... I've kept it real simple, there's not a ton of buttons or anything, but they can just swipe through the pictures, and it has the picture real big in a work. They like it because it's on the iPad, so that means apparently it's a game, even though they're literally just swiping pictures. But Hey, whatever works. It moves really quickly because I don't have to facilitate it. I typically let them swipe through themselves. If they're moving too fast, I just let them know to slow down, and I can get through... I can easily do an entire group of four kids working on R in an under a session if they're all pretty on track.
I tell them, "Hey, this is not going to be the world's most thrilling therapy session, but it has to be done. We only do this three times a year, so we can get through this in one session, we're done." So most of them buy into that and we get it done and move on with therapy.

Marisha: I have that articulation, I forget what it's called. But I have that progress-

Kristin: Yeah. I think it's literally called-

Marisha: It's beautiful.

Kristin: ... the ultimate Progress Monitoring Kit. I can't remember exactly what I've labeled it, but it's pretty self explanatory.

Marisha: You definitely have a knack for design, and so it's just like... I don't know. I feel like especially when it comes to... Well, I kind of enjoy progress monitoring because I geek out about the data. But it makes it even that much more exciting when it's just something that's beautiful to look at. crosstalk.

Kristin: I geek out about it now that I have a good system. Whereas before, it just overwhelmed me. But now it's like, yeah, you go back to something exactly four months later and you're seeing little check or a little pluses where before there were little minuses, and it's just so nice to see it because you're... it's so easy to see. You're comparing apples to apples. With some of my older kids, I have them charted and... No, I totally agree. I geek out over it too. When you keep it simple like that, oh, it just makes your life so much better.

Marisha: Yeah. There's nothing like seeing those minuses turn into the classes over the year.

Kristin: Totally agree.

Marisha: So I do like that one sheet for the year idea. That makes a lot of sense. And then since I love organization, I feel like I have to jump into... I assume you just keep the sheets just in a binder and then you would just flip through those. Or do you keep them in individual folders-

Kristin: I have actually... It's funny, this is one thing I switched this year. I used to just file them after I collected it at those times back in their folders, but then I was like, "Why am I continuing to file these just to pull them out again in four months?" So now I have a folder in my filing cabinet right at the front of all the kids' folders and it just says progress monitoring. So all their data sheets are in there, and they'll stay there until the end of the year and then I'll put them in their folders. But no, it was like three times a year, I was pulling them out and putting them back in, and I was like, "Wait a second, this doesn't make any sense." Actually, I think this is the first semester I had this like, aha moment and thought, "Wait a second." So now I just throw them in a folder. Like I said, they'll all be there ready for me in May or June.

Marisha: What about your data sheet?

Kristin: The data sheets, so I don't have like daily folders for my kids or anything, so I just have one of the hanging file folders and they... I make a real quick kind of cover sheets, so to speak, that has each of the kids and their goals on it that came straight from their progress reports just to make sure that I'm always reminding myself what ultimate goal we're working on, and then the data sheets are just stapled. So each group has a packet, and then if I have materials or something I'm using for them, I will just paperclip them to the back of that and they just get filed.

Marisha: Perfect.

Kristin: I'm pretty minimalist as far as keeping papers around for data collection and stuff. If you can't tell, I just can't stand it.

Marisha: Yeah, it definitely adds a lot of clutter, because we have like all the data sheets and all the paperwork that we have pending, plus the therapy papers, and it's just... it's a lot. So anything to minimize that is-

Kristin: crosstalk. I would obviously keep all the sheets I needed to if felt like having the meetup better, but I honestly think it makes it worse for me when I'm trying to write those progress reports and I have to flip through so many things. It's just so much harder. Now, I can usually just look at one side of my daily data notes and one page of my progress monitoring, and I can very quickly and easily write up a progress note that has a lot of great information in it. More is not always better.

Marisha: Oh, and then I meant to ask too, with your data, at the very beginning of each session, do you pick one goal, or how do you decide what you're taking data on?

Kristin: I typically pick one goal per session. I have a lot of articulation kids on my caseload more so than language. So yeah, we're typically only working on one speech sound in a session, so that part's easy. For language, it depends on honestly what I have planned that day as far as activities. So if I'm going to do, I don't know, some irregular plurals and I don't know, some pronouns, I might collect data on both. Or I might collect data on one, see how we go time wise and then do the data probe on the other one as we move into that. But I typically only do one per session. You know how it is, we only have 30 minutes, so depending on what I'm targeting, that's usually what I collect data on.

Marisha: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And then another question that always comes up is, how do you manage data collection with mixed groups? So if you have like three or four kids sitting in front of you, like you're obviously collecting data on one student at a time. Do you have any strategies to help that run smoothly? What do the kids do while they're waiting?

Kristin: For me, so much of that comes in the planning for the session anyway. Like I said, I collect that data on... Well, if you're talking about the daily data I often am using stimuli straight from the activity, so I've picked whatever stimuli it is or whatever activity, and I'll go through that. As I said, I keep it so quick that it's not even a question of what the other kids do during that time. They all know they've got... If there's four kids in the group, they've got one minute and 30 seconds. They just have to sit there and be quiet while I do the data and then we'll move on to our fun activity. They learn pretty quickly. If we can't get through it, then they have less time in their game. So there's that.
For the progress monitoring at the session or that I do intermittently, now, that one sometimes does take a little bit longer. If I have... this is going to sound complicated, it's one of those things, verbally, I feel like it's going to sound confusing. But if I am using my progress monitoring kit with the stimuli on the iPad, if I've got say like two R kids and to S kids in our group, I will try to get my hands on two iPads and I'll have one pair switching one iPad and one pair switching the other, and I'll have them do 20 at a time. So they do 20 words, and then I move on to the next 10 and do 20 words, and then once they get to the end, we start over, but start at the other person. So they're like alternating which stimuli they do.
I know it sounds super complicated, but it's really not. So basically, by the end of it, they've all done all the words with their sounds in them and they've only had to sit quietly for maybe a minute at a time. Again, I know I said before, it's just one of those days that's not super fun. It is what it is. There's no gains, there's no antic, but I think most of them at the expectations there can handle it for one day. They know typically in the next session we'll do something a little bit more interactive and fun. But hey, it's three times a year, it's got to be done, and if we can get through it in one session, then so be it.

Marisha: I think that's a good skill to work on too.

Kristin: Yeah. Totally.

Marisha: It's an important life skill to be able to sit and be quiet and wait patiently. So we get to practice that in speech too.

Kristin: I agree. But I also think from the standpoint of the SLP acknowledging to them, like, "I know that this session is going to suck a little bit. Sorry about that." I recognize that. I think that that goes a long way, rather than having them come in and you pretending like this is the most thrilling thing ever and being frustrated that they are bored. So we all know it's boring, but it has to be done, and I think if we can all get on the same page with that, the kids and I, then we kind of just have this mutual understanding. It's not all that thrilling for me either.

Marisha: I think just being able to crosstalk is... that goes a very long way.

Kristin: Exactly.

Marisha: So that's perfect. So you've told us a little bit about this already. In terms of the articulation, you have your set stimulus items that you use three times a year, and if you're working on... like in the daily data you use just whatever you're using in the session. Do you have any favorite tools that you like to use for the language goals when it comes to that three times a year progress monitoring?

Kristin: I don't. It's been on my list of something to do, is to create some similar types of things for language. But I do have so many fewer language kids on my caseload, and I also just find... For me at least, their goals are also vastly different. So that one I do honestly on a really case by case basis, and I don't have as well set up of a system as far as what probes I'm using. I do try to keep the same theoretical plan about it, where I think in September, what can I use right now that's really going to measure their progress in this? So if that is... I'm just thinking of one example. So I have like an irregular plurals puzzle, and it's just a simple puzzle, I think it came probably from some old reading curriculum and it just happened to be at one of my schools when I got there. But it's great, because it has a whole bunch of irregular plural words. So that may be the task I use as my progress monitoring, and I may not use that same task again until I progress monitor again in January.
So I do really collect data for my language kids on a case by case basis, but I try to keep that same idea of keep being consistent with whatever I used to measure in September is the same thing I used to measure in January is the same thing I used to measure in June and then that way I can really see their progress. And then that thing, whatever it may be that I use to measure, is typically almost completely excluded from materials I use to teach throughout the rest of the time.

Marisha: Yeah, that makes sense. Like I said before too, when you're setting up your caseload at the beginning of the year or when you're writing an IEP, it's really helpful to be able to identify what you're going to use-

Kristin: Absolutely.

Marisha: ... and just make a note of that or attach it, like add it to that folder with all the other progress monitoring stuff, because then it's not even a question, you're just ready to go. I agree that language is a little... Because the goals can vary so much, it's not as easy as the articulation. It would be lovely if it all fit crosstalk into a nice little box like that.

Kristin: Even kids with "the same goal", they're all kind of... sometimes they struggle with it in a different way or have difficulty with different examples of that. So yeah, I definitely... Language is a little bit harder, and I have few enough on my caseload that inaudible on a really case by case basis isn't too big of a deal for me. I'm also reporting on progress reports, those things, a little bit differently. To me, they take just a little bit more. Not that they can't be reported in numbers, because they can, but to me, they take just that little bit more explanation of exactly what they're doing and what this looks like when they're speaking more so than like, they say S about 50% of the time and words independently. That's relatively self-explanatory.

Marisha: Yeah, that definitely makes sense. Because I feel like that's the more subjective aspect of what we do, and it's just like really being able to describe things. Do you have any strategies that you like to use when tackling that in progress reports? I guess you would just be looking back at your data sheets to see-

Kristin: Yeah, and that's why I think I... When I presented on this topic at The Flash at a CEU on the cruise, I really talked about these two methods of data collection, and there's daily data collection and then intermittent progress monitoring. But one thing I probably at that point didn't make as good of a point is that I combine the two. I do both, and they both can serve a purpose. So they're not mutually exclusive. I think depending on what your data requirements are from your district, you may be able to use just one. But for me, it's a really good fit to use both. I typically keep that progress monitoring that happens infrequently really, really independent. If that means there is 0% to measuring periods in a row, I'm okay with that.
So think about those kids who just started R. Some of them take well more than four months to get a true R. So if I got them for the first time in September and I collected data on their initial R, it's 0%. I either just literally looking at a picture and saying these R words, if they're still at 0% independently in January, that doesn't concern me. But what I want is some daily data that shows how they performed with support or with feedback or with cues or with prompts. Because I don't want to just say they went from zero to zero independently, I want to say, "Right. So they still can't say it independently, and that's okay, but look what they can do now."
Now, if I give them a model and I remind them about their tongue placement and I give them a visual cue, they're at 70% in the initial position of single words. So being able to use both the internet and progress monitoring and then that daily data collection, that really helps with some of those more subjective things. Plus, I often just make notes on my daily things. Oh, I tried the L to R slide, that was really effective, or today they did a really nice job not rounding their lips, those kinds of things. So I do make notes like that outside of just my numerical data, and those often make it into progress reports just to be supportive of the families and the kids and the progress they are making even when the numbers don't always show it, as you know is the case, unfortunately.

Marisha: I'm so glad that you broke that down and talked about why you include both types of data, because I think that's incredibly important. I feel like that... It definitely applies to R and some of the... that can happen with some of the other articulation sounds, but I feel like it's especially applicable when it comes to some of the language aspects too. When you were describing that, I kept thinking back to like when I was in the autism preschool, that was something that would happen a lot. Like, they wouldn't be doing things independently, but at the beginning of the year, they would need a tremendous amount of support, and then by the second reporting period, they could do all these things with just a verbal-

Kristin: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Marisha: ... versus hand over hand to all of those things. That is still indicative of progress, and I'm so glad that you broke that down.

Kristin: Yeah, absolutely. crosstalk. Right. There are so many increments to progress. I know, I always refer to R, but I feel like it's... First of all, I think it's one of those things that almost all SLPs are struggling with, but you can also tell what a large majority of my caseload is working on. But I do think R in particular has so many steps when you're shaping from, just say W to the actual R, more so than I feel like these other sounds do. I don't feel like there are as many incremental steps between FNTH, as one example. But R, there are just so many little steps along the way, and I want to be able to report that progress.
For some of the kids that are really struggling with it, I will make it a short term goal. This isn't an official short term goal, but I'll kind of write it in my notes that I'm accepting any production, any production that is not a W, and I do not care if it sounds like an L. I do not care what it sounds like, but if it is not a W, they are getting cheers and claps and applause, because that is the first step, for me, getting away from that W. So in the same thing, when I'm using some strategies, if they produce an R that sounds more like an L, I tell them what a great job they did because at least that means they're finally moving their tongue instead of it sitting on the bottom of their mouth. If they made an L, that means they're moving their tongue, they're getting towards the roof of their mouth and you're in the right direction. So Hey, they get praised, for that, and I'm calling that a win for the day.
But again, that goes back to deciding what you're going to collect data on at the beginning of your session. So it's okay to collect data, for me, on anything that's not a W, but I have to define that and I have to write it down so that when I refer back to it, I know that yeah, they were 90% on anything that wasn't a W. It doesn't mean they got 90% Rs, that just means only 10% of them were Ws. So that's something I definitely work with my students on, is just taking that moment to define what you're working on and what you're measuring. Within reason, I think measuring almost anything within the course of one day is fine, and that's where we're going to get that subjective data that's going in that progress report.

Marisha: And then a followup question to... Because I feel like I've read a lot of notes where it'll just say, gave mean cues or a mean support or a mean mod or... and I feel like that's not incredibly transparent in terms of what actually happened in the session. So do you have a strategy or any kind of system in terms of how you're describing what you're doing in this session? One example you said was the L, like the slide, that that was like a helpful strategy. I think getting super specific like that makes sense. But do you have any other strategies? How do you typically approach-

Kristin: That's one of the reasons that I try to keep, in many cases, those daily data probes as independent as possible, because you take that gray area out of, exactly how did you obtain that data, or what was that data really showing? So that's one reason I just tried to keep it as minimal as possible as far as my input is concerned.

Marisha: So I think that's a question that comes up a lot too. But id write support and crosstalk, but how do I do that? So I think that we should... I think it makes sense to write a goal without support because it's really clear how that's going to be measured. Any SLP could measure it, and there's ways to adjust the goal so that it's still achievable. It might just be at a simpler level like saying R in isolation versus R in sentences-

Kristin: Absolutely.

Marisha: ... for example. But then I was curious about just the data in... When you're taking your subjective notes in the session, do you have any tips or strategies for how you're describing your support?

Kristin: Absolutely so. I do still keep it as simple as possible. So I consider, did I give them a model? Yes or no? And then the other thing I consider, and I think that gets forgotten a lot... So like you said, some people are writing mean cues or maybe even writing independently. But the question I always have is, if someone's writing independently, so say they're giving words, with or without a model, and the child is supposedly producing them independently. The question I always have is, did you give them feedback? So I think sometimes people write independently, but they're telling the child after each production, "Yeah, you've got that one," or, "Oh, can you fix it?" Whether or not they mark that one that was corrected as correct or not, feedback is a type of cue that you're giving, it impacts their performance on any production that comes after it.
So to me, there's a huge difference between giving 10 productions with no feedback and giving 10 productions where you're telling them after each or after some whether or not they got it correct. So sometimes I know I've seen people write, Oh, they did it with a model independently, but they gave feedback, and they're calling it independent because they didn't give a cue before they elicited each response. But giving a feedback after where response is really the same thing. So that's the one thing I always want to point out, is that feedback really is a type of input that you're giving them, even though it comes after the stimulus.
But going back to the question, I think I try to keep it simple. Did I give them a model? Did I give them feedback? And then did I give them some sort of verbal cue? Most of my kids are responsive to a pretty simple verbal cue. I only have kindergarten through fifth grade. I don't have a lot of preschoolers. I'm not doing a lot of like tactile queuing, that kind of thing. So all that other stuff really is coming during that teaching period where I'm not heavily collecting the data. So when I am collecting data, yeah, I just try to keep it kind of those three things, model, yes or no, feedback, yes or no, verbal cue, yes or no. So a verbal cue might literally look like, "Okay, we're going to do this. Don't forget to get your tongue back, rabbit." And that would be it. So yeah, I do avoid use of minimal, moderate or max queuing. Because as you said, it's really open to interpretation.

Marisha: I like how you said it before, like the student benefits from this type of cue or this specific verbal prompt, because different students will respond to different ones differently. Or if they respond to like you making a gesture at how their tongue is supposed to move, that's helpful for the next SLP to know or for us to remember when we're jumping into the next session to set them up for success. So I think that's a very useful and meaningful way to set that up, and it's incredibly transparent. Because yeah, it's super clear what that-

Kristin: Oh yeah. You've got to write down those little tricks that did or didn't help because as you know, we're trying... In some of the cases, we're trying so many of them, so it's like, did that L to R slide work? So sometimes telling the kids to smile works like a charm and sometimes it makes it worse. So yeah, writing down those little notes, they do a ton of time in your next session trying to figure the same thing out again.

Marisha: Ooh yeah. I like the point of writing what didn't work too. That can be helpful-

Kristin: I probably have some session notes that they're like, "Do not bother trying eggs."

Marisha: Well, it does save time. You got to work smarter. Okay. Awesome. So I think that was a super helpful overview of how you set things up and just some really actionable, just really simple tips that I think can make a really big difference. Is there anything that you wanted to close with or anything you wanted to emphasize before we wrap up?

Kristin: Nothing we haven't talked about. But I would say that... If I could emphasize one thing, it would just be that more data points does not mean better data. It certainly doesn't mean better therapy. But it doesn't mean better data, so just really give yourself permission to take less data, but take that moment to think about it so it's more meaningful and useful to you. Because having 200 data points that mean nothing probably means you weren't as present as you could have been during that session, and you still don't have data to help you write your progress reports or all the other things that data is great for. So yeah, give yourself permission to collect a little bit less data. That would be my one takeaway.

Marisha: I love it, and that definitely makes a ton of sense, like everything else that you said during this podcast. So thank you so much for sharing all of your tips and tricks with us today. I definitely walked away with some new ones myself. So I so appreciate you. If SLPs are interested in checking out any of the things that we talked about during the podcast, they can head to slpnow.com/43. I'll also include some links in case SLPs want to connect with you. So where are your favorite places to hang out in the online world?

Kristin: So Instagram, I am reasonably active on. I would say that's probably the best place. Best place to reach out to me would be on Instagram, that's just at Kiwi Speech. I do also have a Facebook page, I'm just not there as much.

Marisha: You have super helpful content-

Kristin: Thank you.

Marisha: ... on there. If you liked what Kristin shared today and if you are as obsessed with her materials and design as I am, you definitely want to hang out with her on Instagram. But yeah, thank you so much, Kristin.

Kristin: Thank you so much. crosstalk. I appreciate. Thank for having me.

Marisha: Yeah. And we'll-

Kristin: Bye.

Marisha: ... see you next time.

 

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Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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  1. Susan Thompson says

    Please excuse my ignorance but what time are the podcasts? The time is likely listed somewhere and I’m missing but after days of this online, distance learning and trying to leanr everything really quickly I miss some things on my screens.
    Thanks

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