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Data Collection Hacks

In this week’s episode of the SLP Now podcast, I break down my data collection routine (and how the routine helps me and my students)!  My favorite!  We alluded a little bit to this in the first section, but I am going to break down my process a little bit and share how I set that up.

There are  three steps to the data collection process:
– Probe
– Treat
– Summarize

Topics Covered

– My data collection process
– Why start with a probe?
– Organizing your data
– Documenting the level of support
– Medicaid billing hacks

Links Mentioned

SLP Now Digital Goal Card

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Speaker 1: The third thing that we get to talk about is data collection. My favorite. So we alluded a little bit to this in the first section, but I am just going to break down my process a little bit and share how I set that up.
So there's three steps to the data collection process. The first part is to treat, I mean, probe, then I treat, and then I summarize. And I'll give a little bit of a rationale in terms of why I do it that way. So I like to start my session knowing exactly where my students are starting. And I like to have just a really nice snapshot of how they're coming into the session. And for example, if I give a student a probe and they score a 90% accuracy, like if we're looking at WH questions, when we dive into whatever contextualized activity, I want to give that student very little support, because they've demonstrated at least emerging mastery of that skill. It might be a little bit more challenging in context, but I sure do need to give them the opportunity to show and demonstrate that they can do that.
I think as clinicians we're really good at giving enough support because we don't want our students to be frustrated and we're really good at picking up on that, but it sometimes as easy to over support our students, which hinders their progress and their ability to internalize these skills. So if we're always giving, for example, if we're working on answering questions and I'm always giving the student support, they're going to become dependent on me, they're less likely to generalize that into the classroom, and that's just not very fun. But on the other hand, like if I give a probe and a student scores 0% accuracy, I know that I'm not diving into a contextualized activity anytime soon. We are going to do some teaching and really break down the skill before I expect them to do anything, and that just saves some time in the session, because if I didn't do the probe, I could just jump into the activity, start asking the questions, and then realize, "Oh no, this student is not ready," and then back off. This is just a little bit more of a proactive step to make sure that I'm providing students with the support that they need.
And just for third example, like if a student scores 60% accuracy on the WH questions probe, it means that they're making some good progress and they probably just need a little bit of support. So I might look at my past notes and see what types of support were effective, and maybe I'll just back it up a little bit and kind of navigate it that way. So that's how I use that super quick data collection opportunity to set myself up for success in the session. And just as a refresher, in terms of what that looks like in the context of the therapy sessions. So the student comes in, we do a quick check in, they get their goal cards and they start reviewing their goals. And as they're doing that, I just quick hop around, well don't literally hop around, but if I was at like a kidney table, I had the luxury of having one of those, as the students are reviewing their goals, I would start with Johnny, be like, "Okay, let's do these five questions," ask the questions, then move to Joe, then move to Sarah, and we would just wrap that up in a matter of minutes.
And I keep the probes, this shows the example of a probe on an iPad, but I like to keep them, you could keep them digitally, or you can keep them in a binder, whatever works. And then I really like, if I'm in person, I really like taking data on my phone and just documenting that super quick. Or if I have a laptop, I'll just enter the data there and then just save it, and then I put it away. I put away the data binder and then I am present for the second step, which is treatment. And I can jot down a quick note, but usually I just internalize, like I know how they did, and then I know how I'm going to tackle that in the session.
So if Johnny scored 0% on the WH questions probe, then I'm going to pull the visual and make sure that we do some teaching, and then we will just navigate it that way. And then if Sarah got 60% accuracy on pronouns, then I know that I'm definitely going to continue recasting them, and I might start ask, I will have increased expectations of her to start producing those targets on her own in context. So I'll just set her up for success and use that information to make that happen.
And then at the end of the session, I'll regroup and look at how the students did. How much support did I give? How did Joe respond to the teaching? What cues or prompts and cues did I provide Sarah? How did that impact her performance? And I usually try to aim for 80% accuracy, because that helps me make sure that I'm giving Sarah for example, enough prompts and cues, but not too many where she's out of that sweet spot or that Goldilocks zone of support. So I'll just make a note, like provided verbal cues or whatever it may be, and then the accuracy that she achieved with that support. So I just brought that up super quick. It takes me a quick, like 30, 60 seconds to do, to jump through those, to plug in like that level of support in the dropdown. And then I save the session, and I'm ready for the next one. So that's how I set that up.
And then in terms of the binder, I really like a binder for probes, because like I said, on each student's goal card, I put a number on it, which corresponds with a number in my binder. And I'm obsessed with these Avery index tabs, I think is what they're called, but they're just the beautifully colored number dividers that Avery makes. And usually I use the one that goes from one through 31, but then each goal card has a number. I just flip to that tab, open that assessment, run through it, enter the data, then turn to the next student, flip to that tab, enter the data, flip, enter, and that's the process.
And then if we're doing this with teletherapy, like I said before, I really like setting up Google slides. So each student will have their own slide or their own set of slides, and I just keep the probes in there. And then we can just use that to keep track of where we are, because I assume that with teletherapy, most of us are seeing students individually, but I might be wrong. So if you want to brainstorm different ideas with that, we can definitely do that, but if I had multiple students, I would just set up multiple Google documents and keep it organized that way. It is a little bit more set up initially, but then you know that you have all of the students probes like right there, ready to go. And like I said, just one quick probe at the beginning of every session and that's all I do. And then the rest is then on treatment.
Okay, and then this is just a quick look at what the data collection piece is, people always ask about that. So as I'm collecting the probe, this is actually a good example, but I would just collect the accuracy without support, and then I would save it and put it away, and then at the end of the session, I would just enter the accuracy with support in the treatment note. And then we would be good to go.
And I don't know about you guys, but I always struggle to be consistent with how I was describing the support that I was providing. So one thing that was really helpful and we will go ahead and add this to the handouts, if we haven't already. I will make sure that that is in there, but this is a helpful way to just, if you're like, "I don't know what I did. Like I know I'm an amazing therapist, but I don't know what kind of support I gave." This is a nice overview of the different types of support that we might give. So whether we point towards the answer, give them field of choices, whether we're giving hand over hand support, or whether we redirect a student's attention, whatever the support that we're using, we can use this kind of as a menu of different options and use that to describe what we're doing. And I like to be as specific as possible.
So if I give a verbal cue, especially for articulation sounds, if it's a specific placement cue, I'll write that in the notes so that it's really helpful for me next time. I know what worked well, but if another therapist happens to see the notes, then they'll know, like if someone else reads my note, they should be able to know exactly what that type of support looked like, and be able to re replicate that. So I think this just gives us some language to make that a little bit easier.
And then the cool part is when we are tracking that data and being consistent, we get to see progress over time and just making sure that our students are on track and ready to go.




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.

Reader Interactions


  1. Hi Marisha! After listening to the data hacks podcast I have a few questions. 1. Do you pull your probes from the SLP Now assessment section or do they come from other sources? and 2. Do you use the same probe every time?

    • Most of my probes come from the SLP Now library, but I do create “custom” probes depending on the students’ goals.

      I do use the same probe every time. I don’t provide any corrective feedback, and we circle back to each goal about once a month. That makes it so the student doesn’t just memorize the answers. 🙂 And it gives me a consistent measure of progress!

  2. Hi Marisha! Thank you for all of these amazing strategies, reminders, and tools to make the therapy portion of our job run smoothly! In this podcast, you said that you take data on your phone. Do you have an SLPNow app? Or do you just go to the website on your phone and track the sessions through that? I’m slowly trying to break free of my love of paper, pens, binders, and highlighters, but it’s a struggle. 😉

    • Yes! SLP Now is a web application, so you can pull it up on your phone’s web browser. I save the page to my home screen, so it’s super easy to access! It feels just like any other app. 🙂

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