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Using Partial Interval Recording to Track Behaviors

We all know that data collection is a cornerstone of effective ABA practices. Specifically, today we are shining a spotlight on partial interval recording – a valuable tool in our toolbox for understanding and supporting the unique needs of students with autism and developmental disabilities. In this blog post, we’ll explore the intricacies of partial interval recording and how it can efficiently track behavior data in the classroom.

Understanding Partial Interval Recording

First, let’s break down the concept. Partial interval recording involves observing and recording whether a behavior occurs at any point within a specified time interval. Unlike other methods, this approach acknowledges the reality that behaviors, especially in a classroom setting, may not be continuous throughout an entire interval. When using this method, you also much acknowledge that you are not seeking to gain an exact count of problem behaviors.

Why Choose Partial Interval Recording?

If you are wondering why you might want to utilize a data collection method that is not yielding an exact count of behaviors, the answer is- balance. In the hustle and bustle of a busy classroom, continuous data collection for every single occurrence of a high frequency behavior can be impractical. It is also beneficial for behaviors that do not have a clear start and end time, making any type of exact count difficult.

What I love most about partial interval data is that it allows me to focus more on my student, and less on the data collection aspect. Especially during times of behavior episodes, my full attention is often required, particularly if I need to provide verbal or visual de-escalation strategies. Partial interval recording strikes a balance between accuracy and feasibility, providing a realistic snapshot of behavior occurrence within manageable intervals.

Steps to Utilizing Partial Interval Recording

  • Selecting Behaviors: Identify the behaviors you want to track. Choose priority behaviors that align with your intervention goals.

  • Setting Intervals: Determine the length of your intervals. This could range from 10 seconds to a few minutes, depending on the nature of the behavior and your observation goals. The shorter the interval, the more accurate the representation of the true frequency. With this in mind, try to choose intervals that are small enough to be representative, but large enough to be realistic for you and your staff to track.

  • Recording Occurrences: During each interval, mark whether the behavior occurred. Regardless of whether the behavior occurs one time or 25 times during that single interval, you are merely circling that interval one time. This method allows for quick and efficient data collection without the need for constant tracking. To yield a percentage, calculate the total intervals in which the target behavior occurred divided by the total number of intervals observed (if your student arrives late, leaves early, has minimal supervision at recess, etc., these intervals cannot be included in your calculation).

  • Analyzing Patterns: Over time, analyze the data to identify patterns and trends. Is the behavior improving, or are there specific times when it tends to occur more frequently? This valuable insight can inform your interventions and adjustments.


In the realm of ABA and autism education, data collection guides our interventions and helps us monitor progress and success. Partial interval recording offers a practical, realistic, and manageable approach to tracking behaviors. This tool not only simplifies the process for classroom staff to be free to ut also paints a clearer picture of the strides your students are making. Here’s to tracking triumphs and fostering growth in every interval!


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