1. Data is an important part of running a home program but should never interfere with teaching. The data taken must be correct and valuable or it will just be a waste of valuable teaching time.
2. Probing refers to "testing" the target the first time it is introduced during the day. The goal is to minimize the "teaching effects" of the previous day to determine if the child has maintained the correct response the following day before any teaching has occurred.
3. Targets are probed and data is taken once as either "Independent" or "Prompted".
4. A target is considered "Independent" only if the child responds accurately, with no prompting, within 2 seconds.
5. If the child does not respond within 2 seconds, the response is prompted and the data is recorded as such.
6. If the child responds incorrectly, the correct response is taught and the target is recorded as prompted.
7. Depending on the number of programs running and the number of "open" targets, probe data can be taken in different ways. If the child has many current targets, it may be best to probe a different verbal operant each day. For example, every Monday, probe tacts, Tues, probe receptives, Wed. probe intraverbals, etc. If the child has fewer targets, they can all be probed at the beginning of the first teaching session of the day.
8. An important consideration when determining how often to probe current targets is the learning history of the child. If it typically takes at least one week of solid "teaching" for a child to respond correctly with no prompting, taking probe data daily would not be necessary or advised.
9. Some children can "handle" just probing the new targets on a very rich schedule of reinforcement or while engaged in a reinforcing activity. (So long as it's not "thematic" in nature. We don't want to teach the child to ask random questions!) Others will require a great deal of mixing in with mastered responses to keep them successful. If this is the case, as with teaching, keep the ratio of "mastered" to "acquisition" targets at 80% or higher.
10. Once the probe is completed, review the results to determine what needs to be focused on during the teaching session.
11. The number of Independent probes required for "Mastery" is also dependent on the learning history of the individual child. Some children will master a target within one teaching session and others will take a week. An "average" 3 independent "cold probes" but make sure this isn't slowing you down. If you see the child is consistently responding independently by the second day of teaching and shows no signs of losing mastered skills, drop the probe requirement to 2. On the other hand, if you find the child is frequently, "losing" mastered targets, you may want to increase the number of "cold probes" required to determine mastery to 4.
12. It's always a good idea to have at least 2 different people taking probe data to be sure there are not "instructor variables" confounding the data.