February 2022 Newsletter – Child Observation: Tips for Collecting Observations

Tips for Collecting Observations

Collecting enough evidence to make informed decisions can be a challenge given all of the other tasks that are required of ECE professionals.  Here are a few tips that may be helpful.

Shift the paradigm – Rather than seeing observation gathering as just another task that has to be done, teachers can remind themselves of the benefits of collecting this information.  Observation collection is the basis upon which curriculum decisions should be made. If curriculum planning is not based on observations, there could be a huge disconnect between the plan and children’s interests and abilities. This can cause problems in the learning environment – so collecting observations can make the job easier!

Teamwork – Divide and conquer the task of collecting observation notes. Be sure that teachers are collecting a variety of observations and that one teacher doesn’t have to do all the work. Make a plan for the week or the month and work together to implement the plan.

Multi-task – If an observation contains multiple children, be sure to note the language or skills that each child used in the interaction. Copy the observation note or image and place a copy in each child’s folder.  If there is something noteworthy for each child, this strategy can be used to save time.

Use time wisely – Observations can be written down in the moment or after the event has occurred.  Some observations are quick and can be jotted down on a sticky note. Other observations may require more time to accurately capture the event.

Materials at the ready – Teachers should store observation materials available in different areas of the learning environment.  This will make it easier to capture those important, impromptu events that often occur in early childhood.

Step back and stay back – Let children play. Observe them as they play. Refrain from interrupting their play to ask questions.  Just observe and make notes.

Only the facts – Observers should do their best to collect the facts and only the facts of the event.  Facts are considered anything that the observer sees or hears. This is called objective observation.  Teachers should avoid assigning meaning to children’s actions.  For example, an observation that a child bit another child because they were upset could be completely inaccurate if the child actually bit because they were overcome with excitement.

What’s missing? –  As teachers prepare to summarize their observations into a progress report or other form of assessment, they may notice that some data is missing. Missing information is a great way for teachers to focus their observations for the coming week. They may even have to adapt the curriculum plan to create opportunities for children to demonstrate the skills for which observations are missing.

Environmental cues – Post sticky notes with reminders of skills to look for in different learning areas.  Rotate these around the room each week to see if you can see skills being used differently in different learning areas. These cues can be generated during curriculum planning (This is what I want to look for during this activity this week) or they can be unrelated to curriculum activities.

Don’t forget the date –  Date every observation. Dates allow you to create a timeline of skill development. An un-dated piece won’t fit into the timeline (with accuracy) and can be sent home. Other details like the time of day and learning area can also be noted on the observation.

For the main article Child Observation, CLICK HERE

For the article NAEYC Professional Standards and Competencies for Early Childhood Educators, CLICK HERE

For the article Types of Observations, CLICK HERE

For the article Include the Children and Families, CLICK HERE