Archive for the ‘Observation & Assessment of Young Children’ Category

Following the particular child around and take detailed field notes for analysis later. Favoured by education practitioners as it can help in improving learning environment for children.

Use specifically on “new” child or “problematic” baby or whenever there is an obvious reason to get detailed observation of that particular child.

Recording on a pro forma or observation sheet in form of short-hand codes and long-hand details providing an account of what the child said, do and with whom.


  • Flexible
  • For research interests and questions


  • Hard to use
  • Need qualified observer

Graphic Scales

  • Similar behaviour could be listed on the same scale.
  • Drawn horizontally or vertically.
  • Easier to construct but not easy to use.
  • Must know the child well, interpret behaviour, make objective judgment within limited time.

Numerical scales

  • Numerical in form, scored by number of the behaviour that is circled
  • Rate children for as long as it takes, can average the scores if observe on daily average
  • Number on scale also represent words

Osgood scale aka semantic differential

  • Not easy to use
  • 7-point range with adjectives of opposite (bipolar) meanings at either end
  • A number of traits have to be included to have a comprehensive profile of the child


  • Easy to design
  • Convenient
  • Observe large number of traits at one time or more than one child a a time
  • Measure difficult-to-quantify traits e.g. shyness, friendliness
  • Anyone can use
  • Easier to score and quantify


  • Closed method
  • Only for specific traits/behaviour, will overlook other important traits/behaviour
  • Feature negative and also positive side of each trait
  • Differentiating between each point and sometimes can be difficult
  • Difficult to eliminate bias when judgment needs to be made immediately
  • Different people has different way of interpreting a trait or behaviour

Checklist is a list of specific traits or behaviour arranged in logical order. Marks or check only when they are present. All checklist items should be positive, short, descriptive, understandable, parallel in constructions, objective, not judgemental, not repeated, and representative of behaviour.


  • Easy, quick, efficient
  • Don’t have to be trained to use it
  • Can use in presence of the child or later
  • Several observers can gather the same information to check for reliability
  • Focus on many behaviours at one time
  • Useful for curriculum planning for individuals


  • “Closed” in nature, can only observe what is stated in the checklist
  • Limited to “presence” or “absence” of behaviour
  • Lack of information about quality and duration of behaviour and a description

Time sampling

  • Observe what happens in a given period of time
  • Record the frequency of certain behaviour occurrence over time
  • Behaviour must be overt and frequent (at least every 15 minutes)
  • Observe specified behaviour of an individual or a group
  • Record presence or absence of behaviour
  • Can record whom children interact with
  • Can record what experience they engaged with
  • Can record experience of routine time
  • Must prepare ahead of time (the specific behaviour, time interval, how to record)
  • Duration recording, simply record “1″(behaviour occur) or “0″(does not occur)
  • Event recording, shows the frequency of the behaviour event

Concurrent time-sampling technique

  • Single time unit stipulates how long the observer observes and records before moving on to next subject
  • Observation and recording done at the same time

Delayed time-sampling technique

  • Two separate time units, one for observation and another for coding


  • Less time and effort compare to narrative recording
  • Objective and controlled
  • Record one child or more child at one time
  • Useful information on intervals and frequencies of behaviour
  • Qualitative result


  • Not an open method, may miss important behaviour
  • Does not describe the behaviour
  • Does not keep units of behaviour intact
  • Might be biased
  • Limited to observable behaviours that occur frequently
  • Focuses on one type of behaviour

Event Sampling

  • Wait and record specific preselect behaviour
  • Study condition under which particular behaviour occur
  • Learn what triggers a particular behaviour
  • How man time a certain behaviour occurs
  • When behaviour occurs at odd times or infrequently
  • Analysis of cause and effect
  • Must define the event
  • Determine setting
  • Takes most advantageous position to observe the behaviour, wait for it to occur

ABC analysis event sampling

  • Causes and result
  • What precedes and what follows
  • A = antecedent event
  • B = behaviour
  • C = consequent event

Tally event sampling / frequency count / frequency event sampling

  • Similar to ABC analysis event sampling
  • Determine how often a specific event or behaviour occurs
  • Record a tally or tick every time the behaviour occurs
  • Qualitative data
  • Useful for research
  • Wide range of topics


  • Event or behaviour intact, allows easy analysis
  • More objective as it’s defined ahead of time
  • Useful in examine infrequent or rarely occur behaviours


  • Take the event out of context
  • Closed method
  • Misses the richness of detail

Narrative observation is the most popular, oldest, and most informative method to record observation done on child. It attempts to record everything that happens.

Anecdotal records

  • Brief narrative
  • Describes what happen, how, where and when it happened in a factual objective manner
  • Records after the observation, therefore a camcorder is recommended to ensure nothing is being left out
  • Qualitative in nature
  • Provides clear, true-life account
  • Conclusion in past tense


  • No special training
  • Open-ended, record everything not restricted to one kind of behaviour
  • Catch unexpected incident no matter when it occurs
  • Look for and record the significant behaviour and ignore the rest
  • Rich source of documentation for charting developmental growth, such as language development
  • Useful for curriculum and instruction planning, designing environment, an writing summaries for portfolios and useful for parents conference


  • Does not give complete picture
  • Depend too much on memory as it’s recorded after the event
  • Incident taken out of contest, interpreted incorrectly or in a biased manner
  • Difficult to code/analyze narrative record, not useful in scientific studies

Running records

  • Detailed narrative in sequential manner
  • Sits or stands apart from the children and write everything at specific period
  • Does not interpret any specific information
  • Qualitative in nature
  • Conclusion in past tense


  • Rich, complete, comprehensive record not limited to particular incident
  • Open-ended, record anything, not restricted
  • Written at the time the incident happens, more accurate
  • No need special skill
  • Can be referred to throughout the year
  • Useful instructional planning


  • Time consuming
  • Might be interrupted by the children along the way and cannot record accurately
  • Not suitable for observing a group
  • Keep away from the children but it’s not easy for a teacher

Common observer errors:

  • Insufficient evidence
  • Omitting some facts
  • Record things that did not happen
  • Record things out of order


  • Record only the facts
  • Record every details without omitting anything
  • Do not interpret what you observe
  • Do not record anything you do no see
  • Use words that describe and not judge or interpret
  • Record facts in order

These are all short notes for my own reference.

Why observe?

  • Different child reacts differently.
  • Help in child growth and learning.
  • Understand the child.
  • Most effective way to assess and determine the child progress.
  • Link theory and practice.
  • Develop realistic curriculum and goals.
  • Help parents keep up to the the child’s progress.
  • Solve problem.

Attributes to observe:

  • Interest and preferences.
  • Level of cognitive and social development.
  • Skills and accomplishments.
  • Personalities and temperaments.
  • Strategies for creating desired effects.

Ethical issues:

  • Ensure families are comfortable with the observation and allow access to information if they request for it.
  • Children needs to be involved as partners in process and documentation.
  • Offer explanation of what is intended to be observed.
  • Offer child rights to refuse at anytime.
  • Ask questions that are developmentally appropriate.
  • Take place in naturalistic environment.
  • Information is confidential.

Who to observe?

  • Children from own class or other class

Who can observe?

  • Teacher/teacher’s assistant
  • Other staff in the child care centre or kindergarten if the teacher is busy.
  • Student interns.

When to observe?

  • Anytime of the day that is considered appropriate.

Steps of observation:

  1. Prepare to observe – identify time that all staff can meet to discuss and determine techniques for observation.
  2. Clarify observation goals – why, what, when to observe.
  3. Organize for success – prepare materials and identify place to keep records.
  4. Involve the children – let children keep their records with materials.
  5. Visit the classroom – find a suitable spot in the classroom to do observation that will not cause distractions to the learning process.
  6. Ethics and confidentiality – all information should be confidential.


  • Find comfortable place and with good view.
  • Keep in the background.
  • If a child ask you for help, direct him/her to the teacher.
  • If a child ask you what are you doing in the class, just tell something ambiguous such as you are writing.
  • Describe records objectively without interpretation.
  • Do not be act too obvious when you are observing certain child.
  • Include “staff comments”, have balance of positive and negative feedback.