3 Major Perks for Using Interval Recording Based on Research

If you talk to ABA business owners and clinical directors and ask them how they collect data, you will get very different answers! The response is usually based on how they were trained (reinforcement history, etc.). But is there a best way? What if we are looking just at the question of continuous vs. discontinuous data collection?

If you’re having trouble remembering every definition from the Cooper, Heron & Heward book (as most of us do!), here is a quick refresher on the difference between continuous and discontinuous data collection.

“Continuous measurement is a measurement that detects all instances of the target behavior during the observation period.”* Some examples of continuous measurement are frequency count, rate, and duration.

“Discontinuous measurement is any form of measurement in which some instances of the response class(es) of interest may not be detected.”* Some examples of discontinuous measurement are whole interval, partial interval, and momentary time sampling.

Cooper, Heron & Heward, 2020

So, which is better? Each situation is different and one may be a better fit for different behaviors but we often see that interval data is getting the shaft. This could be that some clinicians shy away from interval data because it can be cumbersome to set up and confusing for BTs to use in some electronic data collection systems.

What are the perks of choosing discontinuous measures (AKA interval data)? Luckily, this question has already been studied!  Here are studies and research findings related to interval data:

Interval Data can be…

  1. More Efficient for Learner’s Acquisition. Cummings and Carr (2013) found that learners reached acquisition criteria more quickly when the data were measured discontinuously, which resulted in less training (by almost an hour average for 6 of the participants). They found that about a third of trials were maintained better after 3 weeks for the group where continuous measurement was used, but that almost two thirds showed equal maintenance.
  2. Easier and More Preferred by Clinicians. Taubman et. al. (2013) discovered that continuous recording was most accurate while “estimation” recording was most efficient. They also looked at preference of clinicians, most of whom preferred time sampling.
  3. Just as Accurate and Informative and Continuous Recording (in some instances). However, Ferguson et. al. (2019) evaluated the accuracy of “estimation data collection” and “trial-by-trial data collection” and found estimation accurately matched trial-by-trial data. They also found that both methods were equally efficient in terms of sessions to mastery and number of trials delivered per session.

With all the benefits of interval recording, we believe clinicians deserve a better way to collect interval data! We spent months of time meeting with clinicians, creating and beta testing a tool that we think will make interval data cool again.

Check out Motivity’s new interval tool. For a preview check out this article.

What type of data collection do you use most?

Cummings, A. R., Carr, J. E. (2013). Evaluating progress in behavioral programs for children with autism spectrum disorders via continuous and discontinuous measurement. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42(1), 57–71.

Taubman, M. T., Leaf, R. B., McEachin, J. J., Papovich, S., Leaf, J. B. (2013). A comparison of data collection techniques used with discrete trial training. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7(9), 1026-1034.

Ferguson, J. L., Milne, C. M., Cihon, J. H., Dotson, A., Leaf, J. B., McEachin, J. Leaf, R. (2019). An evaluation of estimation data collection to trial-by trial data collection during discrete trial teaching. Behavioral Interventions, 35(1), 178-191.

*Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2020). Applied Behavior Analysis. Pearson.

Christy Evanko, BCBA, LBA
Subject Matter Expert