Digital Data Collection using Google Forms

Types of Data Collection

In graduate school, I remember learning about discrete data collection. I remember being told to take data on every trial, every single session. I was shown once, maybe twice how to take discrete data on a blank piece of paper. It was a one-size-fits-all approach to data collection.

There are actually many different ways to collect valuable data to inform your clinical decisions!

Discrete Data Collection

Discrete data collection is the most familiar data collection method. It involves writing down pluses and minuses for each trial and obtaining a percent accuracy by dividing the total pluses by the total trials. This method of data collection is great for objective, straight forward tasks like articulation, following directions, grammar, wh-question comprehension, etc. Discrete data collection can be challenging for more subjective tasks like story retell, writing, describing, etc.

In graduate school, I was taught to collect discrete data for every single trial, every single time. The problem with that is if you are constantly testing the student, it is easy to forget that you need to take time to teach the skill. That is why many SLPs opt to take discrete data only on designated data days or just during the first five-minutes of the session. Also, discrete data by itself does not capture scaffolding and cueing levels.

I do not take data every session! I make sure I take plenty of time to teach the skills and document subjective, observation data about scaffolding and cueing during the instructional phases. Once a skill has been taught and I have moved on to guided practice, maintenance, and generalization I take data more often.

Observational Data Collection

Subjective data collection is awesome, because it provides room to document changes in scaffolding and cueing! For many skills, the fine development in a student’s level of independence is not reflected in percent accuracy. I use rubrics and notes about level and type of cues to document those fine changes. I use several different rubrics, which I have embedded into my master data form.

My Data System

During my Clinical Fellowship, I quickly realized that the one-size-fits-all approach from graduate school was not working for me! First, I am terrible at organizing and managing paper! Second, I had a busy, full-time caseload that did not provide time to log, organize, and analyze the data I was collecting. I had tally marks on random scraps of paper, was always several weeks behind transferring the data to my data logs, and was guessing at whether my students were making progress at the end of each progress reporting period.

Photo of Getting Started with Google Forms for Digital Data Collection Guide

It was right around that time, that I met a teacher who was using Google Forms to administer self-grading mid-term and end-of-term quizzes for progress monitoring. I immediately thought, I can adapt Google Forms to manage my data collection!

Initially, I made individual Google Forms for each of my students with each “question” on the form focusing on the individual student’s IEP objectives. It was too time consuming!! Since that first year, I have streamlined my Google Form Data Collection System!

Now, I have one Master Template that features all of the building blocks to meet my data collection needs for ANY student. At the beginning of each IEP period or whenever I receive a new student, I simply make a copy of the template and copy and paste the student’s specific IEP objectives from my school’s IEP program on to the form. That is it, I am ready to take data!

Screenshot of discrete data and in-session notes available in freebie library.

I still take discrete data on a simple paper form (pictured left) that is available in my freebie library. Then, either before, during, or after the session, I pull up each of my student’s Google Data Forms and fill in the appropriate information for that session.

I LOVE Google Forms, because I never have to transfer information or file papers away. PLUS, Google Forms automatically exports data to Google Sheets, making data analysis during progress report season super simple!

I have created a free step-by-step guide to help you get started with Google Forms for data collection. It includes video demonstrations and a copy of my master data form, so you can get started right away! Check out the video below to see what is included!

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Do you have questions about using Google Forms for data collection? Post a question in the comments below, send me a message on instagram, or email me at! I would love to help you get started with digital data collection, because it was a game changer for me!

Thanks for reading!

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