Scatterplots: Behavior Charting

What are scatterplots and why use them in the classroom?

Scatterplots are a behavior tracking tool that allows a user to be able to quickly and easily see trends in behavior by just visual observations.  Scatterplots can give us insights to behavior and if it is impacted by a specific day, time or location.  It is easy to see trends within these charts and then implement a targeted behavior plan.

A team can learn what activities or locations a child does best in. The information gathered from a scatterplot can be used to analyze what is occurring in those locations where the behaviors are occurring.  Some questions to consider are: is it the presence of a specific person, is it the lighting, noise level, or task/ demand being placed on the student etc.?

Scatterplot data can be easily collected by various team members as well. 

Benefits of using scatterplots:

-Easy to see trends

-Can determine frequency

-Locate places and times behavior is more likely to occur

-Quick data recording

-Can chart multiple behaviors on one graph

Drawbacks of using scatterplots:

-Does not record antecedents or consequences

-Need for additional observations to determine function of behavior


Be sure the behavior is clearly defined when determining what will be tracked.  This means the people collecting the data must be able to have a definition where they easily know if a behavior has occurred or not.  For example, if a child does not comply with a directive right away, how much time must pass before they comply to mark it as noncompliance?

These specific details of targeting behavior will be individualized to your student and the behaviors they are displaying.

Considerations when using scatterplots:

When setting up time intervals, it is important to consider several different factors.  Would it make sense for the student’s behavior to be broken down by half hours, hours, or even 15 minute intervals?  It also may help some students to break it down by activities in the classroom.

Another consideration is which behavior(s) should be targeted.  Would it help for multiple behaviors to be targeted or just several?

Let’s practice!

Here is Charlie’s behavioral scatterplot over the past two weeks.  He has two target behaviors: noncompliance and hitting.  These target behaviors have been previously defined with the team.  It has been set up who is tracking data at which points of the day as well.

When we look at this chart, we see mostly purple X’s at the top (or in the morning) for noncompliance, and the hitting behavior (green slash) are between 12:30-1:30.  

This can lead us to several conclusions.  We must look at what is happening in the morning of Charlie’s day.  He is pulled from the classroom for services as well as engaging in reading rotations.  With more investigation into Charlie’s day, we know he does not have a visual schedule and the change in routine in the mornings is difficult for him.  It is also noted that reading is significantly more challenging that math (that happens in the afternoon).  This may lead to a specific behavior plan to be put in place in the morning.

The hour of 12:30-1:30 is lunch and recess.  It is determined that he becomes over-stimulated and struggles to remain in control of his body.  This results in him hitting others.  The team decides to place him on a behavior plan during this time that involves the use of breaks, calming down techniques, and the use of sound reduction headphones.

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