Anecdotal Observation

2015-07-07 14:39:42Uncategorized

Definition: A narrative, or story, of the events occurring during an observation is recorded.

Why it matters: It can be helpful in guiding future data collection by providing context and information not provided through other collection methods. However, it only represents a single moment, is hard to turn into measurable data, and can be cumbersome. It is not effective for progress monitoring or intervention evaluation.

Example of use: A teacher is having trouble determining the best way to collect data and measure the progress of a student’s off-task behavior. He asks the school psychologist to conduct to anecdotal observations. They use these observations to decide the what behaviors to measure and the best way to measure them.


Adamson, R. M., & Wachsmuth, S. T. (2014). A Review of Direct Observation Research within the Past Decade in the Field of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 39(4), 181-189. Smith, R. G., & Iwata, B. A. (1997). Antecedent influences on behavior disorders. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 30(2), 343-375. doi:10.1901/jaba.1997.30-343

Heward, W. L. (2003). Ten faulty notions about teaching and learning that hinder the effectiveness of special education. The Journal of Special Education, 36(4), 186-205. doi:10.1177/002246690303600401

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