Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Efficacy of Using Momentary Time Samples to Determine On-Task Behavior of Students with Emotional/behavioral Disorders

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Efficacy of Using Momentary Time Samples to Determine On-Task Behavior of Students with Emotional/behavioral Disorders

Article excerpt


Momentary time samples (MTS) of 2, 4, and 6 min were compared to continuous recording samples of on-task behavior for 3 elementary-aged students with emotional/behavioral disorders (EBD). The comparison revealed that the data trends across observation sessions produced by the 2-min interval MTS were consistent with, albeit generally slightly higher than, the continuous measure. While both the 2 and 4-min interval MTS measures correlated at a statistically significant level with the continuous measure, the 4-min, and more so the 6-min interval MTS measures each produced a data path that held a variable relationship to the continuous measures. That is, the data paths produced by the 4 and 6-min MTS were substantially different from the data path produced by the continuous measure. Considerations for the use of MTS measures in research and in classrooms for students with EBD are discussed.


Gunter (2001) wrote "that data collection and analysis in classrooms can positively impact academic achievement of students with disabilities ... has been demonstrated beyond question" (p. 51). He indicated that one of the challenges, however, is to develop data collection systems and procedures that can be managed and used by teachers. The anticipated result of such endeavors would offer procedures to assist teachers who voice the concern "I can't collect data and teach at the same time!"

One method for data collection that could benefit teachers' efforts to collect data on such behaviors as attention-to-task, a behavior often of concern particularly to teachers of students with emotional/behavioral disorders (EBD), is the momentary time sampling (MTS) procedure. In the MTS procedure, data are collected only at the exact moment that timed intervals end, rather than requiring continuous monitoring and data collection of a target behavior for an entire period of time (Alberto & Troutman, 2003). These moments generally are spaced equally over an observation period. This method is recommended to collect data over long periods of time, and the intervals are usually minutes in length rather than seconds which are often suggested for whole or partial interval recording (Alberto & Troutman, 2003; Maag, 1999). Alberto and Troutman (2003) suggest that the method is practical when teachers are required to simultaneous teach and collect data. However, they cite the work of Saudargas and Zanolli (1990) when they state that "as the interval gets longer ... similarity between the data recorded and the actual occurrence of the behavior probably decreases" (p. 123). Not withstanding this concern, little information is available regarding a comparison of continuous samples of behavior and samples resulting from MTS procedures, particularly MTS procedures when used in classrooms.

One early account comparing MTS to other data collection procedures is provided by Repp, Roberts, Slack, Repp, and Berker (1976). They compared reports of data representing electromechanically produced pen deflections when recorded as a frequency of occurrence of the event and when measured using time-sampling procedures. While the experimental procedures were somewhat more elaborate than to deserve a simple interpretation, they concluded that time-sampling held little promise for representing the frequency of events occurring.

Saudargas and Zanolli (1990) evaluated the use of MTS procedures in a field setting. The participants in their study were 16 elementary school children engaged in independent school work activities. Their findings were contradictory to those of Repp et al. (1976) in that they found that when observers were trained to use MTS procedures in field settings they were able to accurately measure child behavior with only one observation of that behavior. In their study only a 15-s MTS was evaluated. A major limitation of the study was that no interobserver agreement data were collected. …

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