Behavioral Observations of Students in Schools

THEORY TO PRACTICE, ISSUE NO. 5, FALL '13

Parents and teachers often hear about the importance of keeping young children engaged. In the education research world, this engagement translates to the amount of time children spend interacting with their environment—adults, other children, and materials—in a way that is developmentally appropriate.

To measure how well individual children engage, researchers need the right instruments. “These tools need to yield objective data that can be effectively summarized to inform intervention development, implementation, and evaluation,” says Robin Hojnoski, Ph.D., associate professor of education and human services at Lehigh.

They must also take into account actions of children’s peers, for comparison, as well as the type of activity they’re involved in. “In addition, such tools must be easy to use in a range of settings and demonstrate adequate technical properties,” she says.

Enter the proposed solution—The Behavioral Observation of Students in Schools—Early Education (BOSS—EE ). The original Behavioral Observation of Students in Schools (BOSS) was developed by Lehigh Professor of Education Ed Shapiro in 2004.

“The BOSS is a direct observation system frequently used in schools to assess the on-task and problematic behavior of students; it provides a good template for developing a similar tool modified for early education settings,” Hojnoski says.

To create BOSS’s early education counterpart, Hojnoski and her fellow researchers on the project—Shapiro and Assistant Professor Brenna Wood—are currently collecting data from experts in the field as they review portions of the tool. 

“We are also gathering videotape data in early education classrooms in the Lehigh Valley area,” Hojnoski says.

With their findings, Hojnoski and her fellow researchers will begin the initial development stage of BOSS-EE to measure the engagement that is such an important part of children’s social and academic well-being.