Anecdotal Records as a Foundation for Behavior Intervention

A Routine to Support Intervention

Recording anecdotes
Recording anecdotes. Websterlearning

Preparing for “Back to School”

Some special education programs, especially those for children with autism spectrum disorders, multiple handicaps or behavioral and emotional disabilities, need to be ready to manage and improve problem behaviors. As we begin the school year, we need to be sure that we have the resources and the “infrastructure” in place to deal with problems pre-emptively. That includes having the tools we need to collect data and inform the interventions that will be the most successful.

We need to be sure that we have these forms at hand:

  • Anecdotal Record: I will explore this at length below.
  • Frequency Record: For a behavior that you quickly identify as a problem, you can start collecting data right away. Examples: calling out, dropping pencils, or other disruptive behaviors.
  • Interval Observation Record: For behaviors which last for more than a few seconds. Examples: dropping to the floor, tantrums, noncompliance.

Clearly, successful teachers have positive behavior supports in place to avoid or manage many of these problems, but when they are not successful, it’s far better to prepare to do a Functional Behavior Analysis and a Behavior Improvement Plan early in the year before those behaviors become seriously problematic.

Using Anecdotal Records

Anecdotal records are mere “notes” that you would make quickly following and behavior event. It might be a specific outbreak or tantrum, or it could just as easily be a refusal to do work. In the moment you are busy intervening, but you want to be sure you have a record of the event.

  1. Try to keep it objective. We often experience a surge of adrenalin when we respond quickly to an event, especially when we are containing or restraining a child whose aggression creates danger for you or the other students. If you actually restrain a child, you will most likely file a report mandated by your school district to justify that level of intervention.
  2. Identify the topography. The terms we use for behavior can be freighted. Write about what you see, not what you feel. Saying a child “disrespected me,” or “talked back” reflects more how you felt about the event than what happened. You might say “the child mimicked me,” or “the child was defiant, refusing to comply with a directive.” Both of those statements give another reader a sense of the style of the child’s non-compliance.
  3. Consider function. You may want to suggest a “why” for the behavior. We will examine using an A, B, C reporting form to help identify function as part of this article, because it is, in fact, an anecdotal rather than experimental form of data collection. Still, in your short anecdote, you might note something like, “John seems to really dislike math.” “This seems to occur when Sheila is asked to write.”
  4. Keep it succinct. You don’t want the event record to be so short that it is meaningless in terms of comparing it to other behavior events in the student's record. At the same time, you don’t want it to be long winded (like you have time!)

An A B C Record

A useful form for anecdotal recording is an “ABC” record form. It creates a structured way to examine the Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence of an event as it occurs. It will reflect these three things:

  • Antecedent: This examines what happens immediately before the event. Did a teacher or staff member make a demand of the student? Did it occur in small group instruction? Was it triggered by another child’s behavior? You need to also examine where and when it happened. Before lunch? In line during transitions?
  • Behavior: Be sure you describe the behavior “operationally,” in a way that any observer would recognize it. Once again, avoid the subjective, i.e. “He disrespected me.”
  • Consequence: What “pay out” is the child getting? Look for the four main motivators: attention, avoidance-escape, power, and self-stimulation. If your intervention is usually removal, then avoidance may be the reinforce. If you chase the child, it may be attention.

When, Where, Who, Whom: When: If a behavior is a “one-off,” or rather it happens rarely, a regular anecdote will suffice. If the behavior happens again, later, you can consider what happened both times and how you can intervene in the environment or with the child to prevent it from happening again. If the behavior happens over and over again, you need to use an ABC reporting form and approach in order to tie together the behaviors and better understand their function. Where: Anywhere the behavior occurs is an appropriate place to collect data. Who: Often the classroom teacher is way too preoccupied. Hopefully your district provides some short-term support for difficult situations. In Clark County, where I teach, there are well trained floating aides who are trained to collect this information and have been a great help to me.

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Your Citation
Webster, Jerry. "Anecdotal Records as a Foundation for Behavior Intervention." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Webster, Jerry. (2023, April 5). Anecdotal Records as a Foundation for Behavior Intervention. Retrieved from Webster, Jerry. "Anecdotal Records as a Foundation for Behavior Intervention." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).