February 2022 Newsletter – Child Observation: Types of Observation

Types of Observations

To complete child assessments accurately, teachers need data. They need to have evidence that backs up the scores and ratings they are marking down on assessment tools. This evidence is also necessary to carry on an informed and confident conversation with families about how their child is developing.  And finally, this evidence should inform overall curriculum decisions as well as adaptations to activities and interactions with the children in their care.

Here are just a few ways that teachers can gather evidence of learning that will help them achieve all of the objectives discussed above.

Anecdotal records – Simply put, anecdotal records are written accounts of events that take place in the learning environment.  These written notes can be a few, short sentences or longer if necessary. They should include the details of what the teacher observed and describe the specific skill(s) demonstrated by the child or children.

Photography – Teachers don’t need to be professional photographers to capture evidence of learning through images. As children attempt new skills and engage with peers, teachers can capture their activities in photos. Immediate notes should be made about what each image contains, otherwise, teachers could have a folder full of photos, but no idea why they took the pictures.

Work samples – Often, programs will establish portfolios where children’s work can be stored. Each item in a portfolio should be accompanied by a note describing the skills used to complete the piece of work. Without these notes, the pieces of work may not tell you much, especially if they were collected months earlier.

Learning Stories – Some programs have begun to transform some of their anecdotal records into learning stories. Learning stories are exactly what they sound like, a story that describes a moment of learning that occurs in the classroom. The observation is written like a story that one might read in a book.  Learning stories are great to share with children and families because they are more engaging to read than traditional anecdotal records.

Datasheets – Datasheets are a great way to collect information for every child in the class or to collect information over time.  For example, children’s names could be listed down the left side of the paper and names of shapes can be listed across the top of the paper.  When a teacher notices a child recognizing a shape correctly, a note about the date of the accurate identification can be noted on the datasheet.  Teachers may also collect information about a single child, using a data sheet to document the length of time it takes a child to engage with materials after separating from their parent at drop-off.

Audio and video files – It may be possible to integrate audio and video recordings into the observation practice at your program. Be mindful of how these tools are used and be sure to match them appropriately with the skills you are trying to capture.  For example, reviewing a video of a group of children on the playground may allow teachers to observe gross motor skills they might have missed as they were supervising other areas of the playground.

Many of these items can be stored in an electronic file folder or in a physical binder that can be organized by date and area of development.

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 Tips for Collecting Observations, CLICK HERE

For the article Include the Children and Families, CLICK HERE