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  • Writer's pictureAbigail Blackman

Creating an Observation System

All supervisors should have an observation system that guides their supervision practices. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board requires that supervisors provide supervision for a minimum of 5% of the hours that credentialed behavior technicians work (BACB, 2022). Unfortunately, I am not aware of any research that outlines best practice recommendations for creating and implementing an observation system. Or how frequently supervisors create observation systems for themselves to follow. Due to this lack of research, I provide suggestions for how to set up an effective observation system. Insight in this installment was provided by Dr. Kerry Conde. Thank you for your input, Kerry!

Although there are standards for how often supervisors must provide supervision, the standard is a minimum requirement. This means that some supervisees will likely require more observation, provided through supervision, to successfully complete their job responsibilities. Without an effective observation system, it may be difficult for supervisors to determine who to support.

There are two components to creating an observation system. First, supervisors must develop appropriate tools to support their efforts when conducting observations. Second, they must use that information to guide their supervision practices.

Developing tools to support observation efforts

Data should be collected during observations to document that supervision occurred and detail what was observed/discussed. Supervisors must first identify what information they would like to gather and how they would collect that information. Observations may be completed in the moment with clients, through a review of permanent product data, or while engaging in role plays, to name a few.

Regardless of the manner of gathering the data, integrity checklists are necessary to document how well the supervisee did during the observation. Creating standardized assessments to complete for all supervisees allows for the same data to be collected and compared. Most often integrity checklists are task analyses of what is necessary for the supervisee to implement the program/procedure correctly.

Determining when supervision is necessary

Once the data have been collected, supervisors should graph the data to see supervisee performance over time. A regular review of the data will ensure that the observation system is tailored to the needs of each individual supervisee. That is, additional observations may be conducted for those who need additional support. Each supervisee may not require the same level of support. With that said, each supervisee still requires observation and feedback on a regular basis - even the high performers!

Based on conversations with other BCBAs, most supervisors do not graph and review integrity data gathered through observations. Supervisors report that they ensure they have provided the minimum required supervision using a paper and pencil or Excel spreadsheet system. These systems, as well as post-it notes and calendar reminders, are great starting points for supervisors to document the observations they’ve completed. However, they are often very time-consuming to keep up with and do not trigger for the supervisor when additional support is necessary.


BACB (2022). Registered Behavior Technician Handbook.

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