A unique aspect of our work as a therapist, educator, or clinician is identifying the place between what we “think” is happening and what we “know” is happening in regards to client progress. The only way to make this jump from feeling to fact is to dive head first into the dreaded “D” word. You know what I am referring to…data. Last week I shared how to leverage a tech tool to duplicate yourself. This week I will show you how to use this same tool to create data collection forms that will efficiently inform your practice with much less effort.
When I started my work 15 years ago this “D” word consisted of paper forms, pencils, and calculators. Eventually there was a shift to using Microsoft Excel to manipulate the data as wider access to computers was provided. Now we have moved forward to cloud based tools. One of the most simple to use tools at our fingertips is google forms (and it’s free!). Here are 4 steps to getting in deep with data to drive your intervention.
Design. No matter how good the technology is that you use, it is always limited by the strength of the collection instrument you design. So start with identifying the goal of the intervention and then ask the question “how will I know if we are making progress towards that goal?”. Attempting to answer that question will help you determine what measures need to be included in the form you create. Once you have identified the measures, then it is time to create the form digitally. Click here to read how to create a data form in google.
Collect. This is greatest time saving element in the data collection process. Rather than passing out papers that people are to write on (or lose and ask for another one), you can email links so that the forms can be accessed at any time from any device with a web based connection. The variations in which this can be delivered and accessed is limitless. Jason C. also wrote about how to use your smartphone to collect data (here). Though the technology has continued to advance since the time his post was written, the idea is still the same.
Interpret. The easiest way to drive the people insane filling out your forms is to not do anything with the information you are gathering. If you are able to communicate meaningful information back to those you are working with in regards to progress, you will get buy in. Collecting data via a google form will automatically dump the data into a spreadsheet so there will not be the need for repeated data entry. Now that you have it, you can do the work to derive meaning from what you see. I wrote about how to access your data that has been collected here.
Adjust. Now that you’ve identified an accurate picture of how the intervention is working you have two choices: (a) continue the intervention because it is working or (b) adjust the intervention because it is not. You can only make this determination because you went through the process of knowing how your intervention is working.
One quick reminder before you get started with this tool. Be sure to check with your facility or district about the existence of any policy against using cloud based tools for data collection. Each location is different in how they view this. To ensure privacy, you can create a numeric code for each student that only you and those who are submitting the data have access. This will allow you to keep student names off of any form and ensures confidentiality.