FBA Data Collection

Posted by Katie Justice on 11/30/2021

Well, it is that time of the year again, and no it isn’t the holiday season-- it is FBA season! As staff members begin this process, two of the biggest questions that arise are: what behaviors should be tracked and how do I track these behaviors. In Stephanie Lawless’s article, she references PENT and the importance of focusing on observable behaviors when completing an FBA as opposed to behaviors that relate to emotions and feelings. Observable behaviors are those behaviors that can be seen and can be operationally defined by other people. For example, yelling could be defined as making noises or saying words in a loud manner and jumping could be defined as pushing off a surface into the air. Our students are engaging in observable behaviors all day long, some appropriate and some not. So when thinking about completing an FBA, and focusing the lens on the target behavior, a key aspect is looking at what is going to be the most socially significant behavior(s) to address first.  These behaviors are the most important behaviors that might impede their learning (both academically and socially) as well as impact the safety for themselves and others.  It is best to limit the amount of target behaviors to ones that can be accurately measured through your data collection process.

There are multiple tools that can be utilized when collecting data, but for this article I am going to focus on two: ABC (Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence) recording, and interval recording.  The first in the ABC recording sheet.  Below are two examples:

The ABC recording sheet is utilized to attempt to identify patterns of behavior and identify possible functions to the behaviors.  When a target behavior occurs, staff will write down the antecedent (what occurred directly before the behavior), the behavior (the specific behavior that occurred), and the consequence (what happened directly after the behavior).  Other information can be written down as well such as time, location, and staff members involved.  Patterns don’t always have to be found only in the antecedent, but there might be patterns of how staff responds, locations, and time of day that could be affecting behavior as well. The antecedent can also give a strong indication of triggers that may influence a particular behavior.  

The second data recording tool is an interval recording sheet. Here is an example:

Partial Interval Behavior Documentation 

Date: Goal - define target % of intervals without a number.  Daily Total = number of intervals without a number / total number of intervals


Behavior 1Add operationally defined behavior here

Total Occurrences:                       Percentage:


Behavior 2 – Add operationally defined behavior here

Total Occurrences:                       Percentage:


Behavior 3 – Add operationally defined behavior here

Total Occurrences:                       Percentage:


The interval recording sheet helps identify patterns of time of day, behaviors that occur together, and a percentage of time throughout the day or a specific time in which the behaviors occur. When the student engages in a target behavior, staff will indicate the target behavior by the identified number above in the time increment in which the behavior was displayed.  If the number of the targeted behavior is already indicated in that interval, DO NOT add the same number. It is unnecessary to duplicate the same target behavior once the behavior occurs in the interval. In other words, there should only be one 1, 2, and/or 3 per interval.  See example:

This has been found to be a quick and easy tool to get a snapshot of the behaviors that occur together, the duration, and/or frequency of targeted behaviors.  It does not necessarily give a function of the behavior, but can give more information that can lead to help identify the function. 

There are many other tools that can be utilized to get more information such as interviews, checklists, and assessments. 

Check out https://www.earlywood.org/Page/813 for additional tools and resources.


Katie Justice, BCBA