Observational Measurement of Behavior, Second Edition

Authors: Paul J. Yoder, Frank J. Symons Ph.D., Blair P. Lloyd Ph.D.

Format: Paperback, 272 pages, 7.0 x 10.0
ISBN: 9781681252469
Price: $59.95

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An essential textbook for anyone preparing to be a researcher, this comprehensive volume introduces graduate students to key principles of observational measurement of behavior. Based on a course the highly respected authors taught at Vanderbilt University and the University of Minnesota, this text delves deeply into a highly effective approach to observational measurement: systematic observation.

Students will master both the theoretical principles of systematic observation and recommended research methods and techniques. They'll learn from practical examples that illustrate complex concepts, clear explanations of recommended research methods, definitions of key terms, and exercises and assignments that help them practice putting principles into action. Online companion materials include two free licenses for proprietary observational software that students can use to complete the exercises and assignments in this book.

Ideal for use in research methodology courses in diverse fields—including special education, communication sciences, psychology, and social work—this fundamental graduate text will prepare future researchers to skillfully collect, summarize, and communicate their observations of children's behavior.

  • Fully understand key methods of observational research and measurement
  • Get comprehensive information on both foundational and advanced topics
  • Learn from real-world examples based on the authors' extensive experience
  • Apply specific recommendations for effective techniques and best practices

SELECTED TOPICS COVERED: validity and reliability * representativeness * measurement theory * behavior sampling and coding * observer training * metrics of observational variables * modifying and designing coding manuals * sequential analysis * generalizability theory

ONLINE COMPANION MATERIALS: To enhance their courses, instructors will get a full package of online materials, including two licenses for observational software, video clips students can use to practice coding behaviors, a suggested schedule for a semester-long course, exercises for students, and assignments with corresponding grading rubrics.


Review by: Rebecca McCauley, Ohio State University
“From time to time, a book comes along that can help a field ‘up its game&#46’ Clearly, Observational Measurement of Behavior, Second Edition is just such a book for speech-language pathology, and undoubtedly other fields in which knowledge can be built from meticulous ‘noticing’ and recording of human behaviors and characteristics. Its blending of theory and practice make it a necessary addition to the libraries of both novice and seasoned researchers and a valuable resource for the graduate classroom.”
Review by: Daniel Messinger, University of Miami
“Yoder and colleagues have created a readable guide to observational research that I will recommend to my students as a one-volume, simple exposition one-stop-shopping experience for those learning to study children's behavior. From creating a coding manual to analyzing contingencies, the early stage researcher will have everything they need in a clear, accessible volume that will also give the seasoned investigator access to all topics relevant to the meaningful analyses of what children and others do.”
Review by: Joe Reichle, ASHA Fellow and Professor of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences, University of Minnesota
“Yoder, Lloyd and Symons have written an exceptionally readable primer on observational measurement that is a must read for any serious student of the replicable study of behavioral phenomena. This very readable text that is well suited to a semester long course on observational methodology. The authors done a masterful job of choosing the topics to emphasize leaving less commonly used applications to other resources.”
Review by: Jon Miller, Emeritus Professor, University of Wisconsin Madison, CEO of Salt Software
“[This book is] a master work detailing observational methods so important for charting complex behavior. [This] comprehensive and authoritative text of methods…deliver clarity and understanding to the most complex clinical problems.”
Review by: Steven Warren, University Distinguished Professor, University of Kansas
“Yoder, Lloyd and Symons have given us an observational methods opus that is rooted in the real world of human behavior. Their book is thorough, systematic, appropriately nuanced, concise and remarkably interesting. This book is a gift to present and future generations of behavioral scientists who's research is dependent on the observational measurement of human behavior.”

Table of Contents

About the Online Companion Materials
About the Authors
  • The Scope of This Book
  • Topics and Corresponding Chapters
  • The Books Iterative Teaching Style
  • Using the Online Companion Materials

Section I. Foundational Topics

Chapter 1: Introduction to Systematic Observation and Measurement Contexts
  • Systematic Observation Using Count Coding
    • Alternatives to Systematic Observation
    • Ways to Quantify Observations
    • The Rationale for Systematic Observation Using Count Coding
  • The Importance of Falsifiable Research Questions or Hypotheses
  • Objects of Measurement: The Continuum of Context-Dependent Behaviors to Generalized Person Characteristics
    • Context-Dependent Behaviors
    • Generalized Person Characteristics
      • Generalized Behavioral Tendencies
      • Skills
  • Judging the Relative Scientific Value of Different Measures
    • Reliability
    • Validity
    • Ecological Validity
    • Representativeness
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
Chapter 2: Validation of Observational Variables
  • The Changing Concept of Validation
  • Consequences of Not Attending to Validation
  • Overview: Types of Validity by Objects of Measurement and Purposes
  • Content Validation
    • Varying Importance Ascribed to Content Validation
    • Weaknesses of Content Validation
  • Sensitivity to Change
    • Influences on Sensitivity to Change
    • Weakness of Sensitivity to Change as Way to Judge a Variables Validity
  • Criterion-Related Validation
    • The Primary Appeal of Criterion-Related Validation
    • Weaknesses of Criterion-Related Validation
  • Construct Validation
    • Convergent Validity
      • Discriminative Validation Evidence
      • Nomological Validation Evidence
      • Weaknesses of Convergent Validity
  • Methods That Combine Convergent and Divergent Validity
    • Multitrait, Multimethod (MTMM) Validation
    • Confirmatory Factor Analysis as a Method of Validation
  • Putting It All Together With Literature Synthesis
  • An Implicit Weakness of Science?
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
Chapter 3: Estimating Stable Measures of Generalized Person Characteristics Through Systematic Observation
  • A Brief Overview of Measurement Theory
  • Why Stable Estimates Maximize Convergent Construct Validity
  • Two Ways to Stabilize Observational Measures
    • Estimating Stable Skills Through Observation
      • Definition of Measurement Context
  • How Controlling Influential Contextual Variables Stabilizes Skill Estimates
  • Why Skills Are Often Assessed in Clinics or Labs
  • Estimating Stable Generalized Behavioral Tendencies Through Observation
    • Representativeness, Revisited
    • Definition of Contextual Measurement Error
    • Contextual Measurement Error in Measures of Generalized Behavioral Tendencies
    • How Averaging Scores Across Contexts Improves Measures of Generalized Behavioral Tendencies
  • Naturalness of Observations and Representativeness, Revisited
  • Computing Stability Coefficients
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
Chapter 4: Designing or Adapting Coding Manuals
  • Definition of a Coding Manual
  • Deciding Whether to Write a New Coding Manual
  • Recommended Steps for Modifying or Designing Coding Manuals
    • Define Start and Stop Coding Rules
    • Conceptually Define the Object of Measurement
    • Define the Highest Level of Codable Behavior
    • Determine the Level of Distinction Coders Have to Make
    • Organize the Coded Categories into Mutually Exclusive Sets
    • Decide How to Use Physically Based and/or Socially Based
    • Definitions
    • Define the Lowest-Level Categories
    • Determine Sources of Conceptual and Operational Definitions
    • Define Segmenting Rules
  • The Potential Value of Flowcharts
  • Recommended Length of Coding Manuals
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
Chapter 5: Coding
  • The Elements of an Observational Measurement System Behavior Sampling
    • The Superordinate Distinctions: Continuous Versus Intermittent
    • The Subordinate Distinctions: Continuous Versus Intermittent
      • Timed-Event Sampling
      • Event Sampling
      • Interval Sampling
    • Types of Interval Sampling
      • Whole-Interval Sampling
      • Momentary-Interval Sampling
      • Partial-Interval Sampling
    • Summary of Interval Sampling
    • Which Dimension of Behavior Should Be Estimated
    • Summary of Behavior Sampling
  • Participant Sampling
    • Focal Sampling
    • Multiple-Pass Sampling
    • Conspicuous Sampling
  • Reactivity
  • When to Code Relative to When the Behavior Occurs
    • Live Coding
    • Coding From Recorded Sessions
  • Recording Coding Decisions
    • Paper and Pencil
    • Observational Software
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
Chapter 6: Common Metrics of Observational Variables
  • Definition of Metric
  • Quantifiable Dimensions of Behavior
  • Proportion Metrics
    • How Proportion Metrics Change the Meaning of Observational Variables
    • Scrutinizing Proportions
    • An Implicit Assumption of Proportion Metrics
    • Testing Whether the Data Fit the Assumption of Proportion Metrics
    • Consequences of Using a Proportion When the Data Do Not Fit the Assumption
  • Alternative Methods to Control Influential Contextual Variables
    • Statistical Control
    • Procedural Control
  • Aggregate Measures of Generalized Person Characteristics
    • Weighted Counts
    • Unit-Weighted Aggregates
  • Group Analysis of Observational Variables
    • Transforming the Metric
    • Bootstrapping
    • Analyzing Count Variables
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
Chapter 7: Observer Training and Preventing Observer Drift
  • Point-by-Point Agreement and Disagreement
    • Point-by-Point Agreement of Interval-Sampled Data
    • Point-by-Point Agreement of Timed-Event Data
    • Discrepancy Matrices
  • Discrepancy Discussions
    • Using Discrepancy Discussions to Train Observers
      • Creating Criterion-Coding Standards
      • Training Observers: Remaining Steps
    • Preventing Observer Drift
      • Choosing a Method of Selecting Sessions for Agreement Checks
      • Preventing or Addressing Observer Drift: Remaining Steps
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
Chapter 8: Interobserver Reliability of Observational Variables
  • General Principles of Interobserver Reliability Estimation
  • Single-Case Design Concepts of Interobserver Reliability
    • Session-Level Agreement Indices
      • Summary-Level Agreement
      • Point-by-Point Agreement
      • Base Rate and All Indices of Point-by-Point Agreement
      • Summary of Point-by-Point Agreement Indices
  • Group-Design Concepts of Interobserver Reliability
    • A Sample-Level Reliability Index: Intraclass Correlation
    • Why Session-Level Reliability Is Insufficient for Group-Design Studies
    • The Interpretation of IMB SPSS Software Output for ICC
  • The Relation Between Interobserver Agreement and ICC
  • The Special Case of Fidelity of Treatment Data
  • Selection of Interobserver Reliability Index
  • Consequences of Low or Unknown Interobserver Reliability
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
Section II. Advanced Topics

Chapter 9: Introduction to Sequential Analysis
  • About the Terminology Used in This Chapter
  • Sequential Versus Nonsequential Variable Metrics
  • Requirements for Sequential Analysis
  • Why Sequential Associations Are Insufficient for Causal Inferences
  • Coded Units and Contingency Tables
  • Four Types of Sequential Analysis
    • Event Lag
    • Event Lag With Pauses
    • Concurrent Interval
    • Interval Lag
  • Observational Software for Sequential Analysis
  • The Need to Control for Chance
  • Indices of Sequential Association
    • Transitional Probabilities
    • Risk Difference
    • Yules Q
    • Relative Advantages and Disadvantages Across Indices
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
Chapter 10: Research Questions Involving Sequential Associations
  • Sequential Analysis in Within-Group and Between-Groups Designs
    • Testing the Significance of Mean Sequential Associations
    • Testing Between-Groups Differences in Mean Sequential Associations
    • Testing Within-Group Differences in Mean Sequential Associations
    • Testing Summary-Level Associations Between Participant Characteristics and Sequential Associations
  • Sequential Analysis in Single-Case Designs
    • The Meaning of Contingency in Behavior Analysis
    • Why Significance Testing Is Controversial at the Individual Participant Level
    • Types of Within-Participant Research Questions and Methods to Address Them
      • Descriptive Questions to Inform or Supplement Single-Case Experiments
      • Transitional Probability Comparisons and Contingency Space Analysis
      • Contingency Indices as Dependent Variables in Single-Case Experimental Designs
      • Contingency Indices as Procedural Fidelity Measures in Single-Case Experimental Designs
  • Data Sufficiency for Sequential Analysis
    • Consequences of Insufficient Data
    • Defining Sufficient Data for Estimating Sequential Associations
  • Proposed Solutions When Data Are Insufficient
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
Chapter 11: Generalizability Theory
  • The Scope of This Chapter
  • Overview of G Theory and Definition of Terms
  • A Sample Observer-by-Context G and D Study
  • The Rationale for Preferring the Absolute G Coefficient
  • Sample Applications of D Studies
  • An Ongoing Controversy
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
Section III. Putting It All Together

Chapter 12: Summary of Recommendations for Best Practices in Observational Measurement
  • Identify Research Questions and Objects of Measurement
  • Validate Observational Variables
  • Design or Adapt Coding Manuals
  • Select Each Component of the Coding Enterprise
  • Select Observational Variable Metrics
  • Train Observers
  • Prevent, Detect, and Address Observer Drift
  • Estimate, Report, and Interpret Interobserver Reliability
  • Use Sequential Analysis to Address Research Questions Involving Sequential Associations or Contingencies
  • Apply Generalizability Theory to Improve Reliability of Observational
  • Measures of Generalized Person Characteristics

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