Defining Goals for Exceptional Students

You know what data you're collecting, but what does it mean?

by Dr. Rod Berger

To say that Mia Laudato and Robin Williams are passionate about exceptional student education is a massive understatement. Between the two of them, they have almost 40 years of experience and know a thing or two about gathering the all-important data to track and analyze behaviors in the classroom. I recently sat down with both of them to discuss their innovations in professional development for teachers of exceptional students and their presentation on gathering and analyzing behavioral data this coming January at the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC 2019) in Orlando, Florida from January 27-30, 2019.

To gather relevant and actionable information, you must first know what questions to ask. How can teachers easily and effectively pull together information to help guide them in selecting the appropriate interventions for each student, and then determine how well those interventions are working?

“We started with the simple yes or no questions,” Mia says. “They didn't give us the best graphs or maybe the best information, but then this really neat thing happened.” Teachers who were getting the circle graphs based on simple yes-and-no questions were excited because it was more information than they ever had before. “The graphs didn't give much information, but the teachers were excited and asked, ‘How can we get that information? I want that information.’”

As their research progressed and more sophisticated questions were asked to generate better data, Mia and Robin started utilizing Microsoft and Google Docs and “Got Behavior? Got Data? Get Google!” was born. “We needed to ask better questions and put them in the right format to get the line graphs to give them better information so that they could better help their students,” Mia continues. Google Docs gave them those tools, and from there they developed professional development for teachers of exceptional students based on four questions:

  • What information do we want to know about our students?
  • What are some of the ways we can collect and analyze that information?
  • What are some examples?
  • How do we get started?

With this professional development offering, Mia and Robin found that teachers began to feel empowered because those simple visual representations were helping them begin to understand what was happening in their classrooms. Better behavioral data analysis gives teachers the tools and confidence they need to adjust their teaching techniques and develop effective interventions to serve their students better. “The empowerment of teachers is something that just makes me happy as an educator and a behavior analyst,” Robin smiles. “I love it when the teacher is getting it, that mind-blowing moment of ‘Oh my gosh, I get it now!’ It's amazing.”

About Mia Laudato

Mia Laudato received her MSEd in Exceptional Student Education specializing in Learning Disabilities and Emotional Behavioral Disorders from the University of Miami. She continued her learning at the University of Central Florida and the University of Florida receiving an Autism Endorsement and Pre-K ESE certificate. She has taught students from Pre-K through college in inclusive and separate classroom settings. Her love of teaching students with ASD and passion for using assistive technologies to create successful learners, contributed to her being recognized by Orange County as a district top five finalist for Teacher of the Year 2016. At FDLRS Action she provides professional development on instructional and assistive technology for teachers, administration, and staff in 5 Florida Districts.

About Robin Williams

Robin Williams earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with University Honors from the University of Central Florida in 1998 and continued her education at Florida State University where she earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Exceptional Student Education in 2000. She has over 18 years of experience working with children and adults with severe developmental disabilities, including those with autism spectrum disorders and intensive behavioral disorders. Throughout the years, Robin has written and developed a variety of trainings for teachers, parents and staff who have regular interaction with children and adults with disabilities. She has also presented at local education and behavior conferences.

FETC Orlando FL January 27-30, 2019

Mia Laudato and Robin Williams will be presenting at FETC 2019, January 27-30 in Orlando, Florida. The conference will bring together thousands of educators and technology leaders for an intensive, highly collaborative exploration of new technologies, best practices and pressing issues. Registration is now open.

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