Methods for Tracking Behavior Change in Students

student behavior

Nothing lights up a classroom like a student discovering they can do something they did not think they could. Witnessing student achievement is a reason why teachers show up every day. This is not only true for academic achievements but with social emotional learning as well. Student behavior contributes to educational success. Cultivating positive student behavior is foundational to positive learning outcomes. Creating a classroom environment that encourages behavior change in students supports this cultivation. Tracking student behavior is a tool to build a successful classroom foundation. 

The Importance of Tracking Student Behavior Patterns

If positive student behaviors contribute to educational success, then measuring those behaviors can help with student achievement. Students require certain skills to apply positive behaviors consistently. Teachers can help students build these skills. Knowing the skill level of students in applying successful behaviors assists teachers in helping students. Behavior monitoring provides teachers with the data and information they need to help students succeed.

Monitoring classroom behavior helps teachers:

  • Identify student skill gaps
  • Deliver needed student support to acquire appropriate skills
  • Partner with families to reinforce a behavior change plan
  • Create a positive learning environment
  • Enrich classroom lessons and teaching practices
  • Analyze behavioral patterns and measure progress
  • Address problem behaviors at their root cause
  • Pinpoint the right method to support behavior change in students
  • Provide a positive student behavior change plan

Tracking behavioral data helps schools:

  • Form equitable school policy and educational practices
  • Gain insight into the learning environment
  • Learn more about students’ needs
  • Develop system supports for creating a positive school culture 
  • Create a safe learning environment for students
  • Apply discipline and rewards fairly and consistently 

Defining What Student Behaviors to Track

There are two main categories of student behavior that point to educational success: academic behavior and social behavior. Each category includes skills that can be nurtured to assist students in reaching higher educational achievement.

Positive academic behavior skills include:

  • Work completion
  • Test scores and grades
  • Time on task/work focus
  • Class participation
  • Class contributions
  • Consistent attendance
  • Arriving ready to work

Positive social behavior skills include:

  • Following directions
  • Speaking kindly to others
  • Adopting a growth mindset
  • Waiting in line or for your turn
  • Sharing tools and materials
  • Making decisions
  • Apologizing to others
  • Asking for help
  • Coping with consequences
  • Coping with losing or making mistakes
  • Using appropriate language

A student behavior tracker assesses these skills to see where gaps exist. It helps teachers understand how to best support students in fostering positive behaviors. Helping students build the skills to create positive behavior change is key. 

How to Track Student Behavior 

There are a lot of methods for tracking student behavior. Teachers can choose methods ranging from a hard-copy behavior tracking sheet to a behavior tracking app. The key is to analyze the data and incorporate it into a behavior change plan. Finding the right method for individual students that aligns with school culture fosters stronger results.  

Methods for Tracking Behavior

Antecedent-Behavior-Consequences (ABC) Data Collection

A structured data collection method that focuses on gathering behavioral information and also seeks to understand what triggers behaviors. It helps support behavior change by discovering both how and why a behavior occurs. 

Scatterplot Analysis

A visual data collection and analysis tool is used to understand patterns of how behavior occurs and how it shifts over time. 

Task Analysis

A data analysis tool that evaluates the components of a specified behavior. It identifies the skills associated with behavior and helps provide ways to manage and change it. 

Data Forms or Interval Recording

The use of prepared sheets to track targeted behaviors during key times. Data forms can organize information to help identify patterns across critical measures. It is possible to use interval recording to monitor the time a behavior begins, how long a behavior lasts and whether skills were used for positive refocus. 

Behavior data sheets for teachers help educators collect data points on social and emotional learning experiences. It includes frequency counts of behavior within given time parameters. It can show the average rate a behavior occurs at certain times and within certain circumstances.

A behavior sheet for students is a form that assists students in recording their own behavior and sets up a structured method for teacher feedback in changing the behavior. Students are empowered to target behaviors and use specific skills for positive change. 

Stages of Behavior Change

There are five stages of behavior change. Getting students to the next stage starts with understanding what stage they currently occupy. Teachers can foster intentional change in students and improve their personal decision-making skills through each stage. 

Stage One: Precontemplation

Students have no interest in changing their behavior or no recognition of the need for a change. They have no thought that they could acquire skills to change their behavior. 

Stage Two: Contemplation

Students are thinking about their behavior and see the need for a change. They may even understand the skills needed to change their behavior. 

Stage Three: Preparation

Students begin to take small steps in the direction of making changes to their behavior. They may devise a plan or start working on ways to build their skills. 

Stage Four: Action

Students work to actively make changes to their behavior. Students work through their plan, seek help when needed, monitor their progress and continue to build skills over time. 

Stage Five: Maintenance

Students engage in an ongoing practice of their new, healthier behavior. They use the skills they have acquired to continue to practice and improve. They also reap the benefits of their behavior change. 

Effective Student Behavior Change Methods

There are many strategies for dealing with inappropriate behavior in schools. Methods that concentrate efforts on positive student behavior change can be the most effective. Replacing inappropriate behavior with an acceptable alternative motivates students to work through the stages of behavior change. Collecting and analyzing data can empower students who lack self-awareness to set behavior change goals. Setting up behavior change strategies and helping assess student progress is a step towards building the foundation for student success.

Checking through a good and bad behavior list does not dig down to the triggers causing the list of behaviors. Teaching students strategies for self-monitoring allows them to make positive behavior decisions for themselves. Students choose good behavior not because someone is watching but because they want to be their best selves. 

Cognitive Behavioral Problem-Solving

A behavior change method that prompts a stop and think strategy. It asks students to make a behavior choice, follow it and then evaluate how it worked. 


A method that uses a point card at the start and end of each day. It includes defined goals, feedback and parental review. It can prompt appropriate behavior with structured intervention and a stronger school and family connection. 

Behavior Contracts

A method that supports simple positive reinforcement to monitor and change student behavior. Teachers and students define positive behavior skills and measurements. Then, a commitment is made to demonstrate their use in the classroom environment. 

Daily Behavior Report Cards

A general intervention strategy designed to change student behavior through structured feedback and communication. The student, parents and teacher develop a list of appropriate behaviors along with a rating method. The rating form demonstrates and rewards progress. It can show risk indicators and provide early intervention. It can also help sustain progress over time and increase consistency between home and school behavior. 

Behavior Skills Training

Teachers can incorporate a behavior skills training checklist for personal, emotional, social and academic student behavior goals. Students have a chance to not only see and feel their own progress but also how their progress affects others. Behavior skills training is best with support and reinforcement from peers, family and the community. 

The National Theatre for Children creates educational theatre programs that inspire students to commit to positive behavior change. Our programming empowers students to share their experiences with their friends, family and communities. 

Building a Foundation for Educational Success

Tracking student behavior is a tool to build a successful classroom environment. Collecting and analyzing data on student behavior assists teachers in evaluating where students are at and what skill gaps exist. This information can be used to cultivate positive behavior change in students and deliver better learning outcomes.

Methods for Tracking Behavior Change in Students