As an educator, it is our responsibility to help our students grown and develop; This scan be done by a variety of observations. Th authors of this paper point out 9 different forms of observing and how these types of observations can help a student that may have a learning disability, reading deficit, or outside providers such as a behavior analyst to help them achieve their goals.
The Importance of Observation
Observing can be a real game changer in the classroom. According to Wortham and Hardin, Observation is defined as any systematic method for gathering information about children by watching them; observation is also considered an informal assessment (p.34). With so many ways to observe a child in the classroom, it can be challenging to find the right form of observation for a child at that specific time. Listed below are nine detailed observation methods:
According to Kostelnik, Soderman, and Whiren, anecdotal records sometimes called narrative records, descriptive narratives, specimen records, continuous narratives or jottings; anecdotal records contain both typical and unusual behaviors of a child recorded as they occur; what distinguishes the anecdotal record from the rest however, is that the anecdotal record is usually a briefer account of a single event and the method used by busy and involved classroom teachers (p. 196).
One of the positives of this form of observations is that it focuses on the everything the child is doing in real time. Using various supplies such as a clipboard, sticky notes, and even mailing labels can help keep the educator organized and place the right observation with the right child. With this form of observation, the teacher has to document the name of the student, the time of the observation and the setting. Without this information, it may be difficult to create a baseline.
One of the cons of this observation is that because it is used as a long-term way of observing, it can be difficult to provide adequate observing time with on child. Having an aide or a co teacher in the classroom can assist in making sure each child is getting the observation needed to make lessons more meaningful
According to Mena and Eyer, running record is defined as a method of documenting that gives a blow- by-blow, objective, written description of what is happening while its happening; a running record can include adult interpretations about the meaning of observed behaviors, but it must separate objective data from subjective comments (p.368).
In my opinion, a running record is a great way for a teacher to have 1:1 time with their student. This method of observation is used mostly in during reading and language development time. Teacher are able to write a few notes during the observation, but then go back letter to write a more formal observation.
One of the disadvantages for this form of observing is that is a teacher writes a simple note during the time of observation, he or she may forget the little details in the observation, or put their opinions in the note versus factual information.
According to Wortham and Hardin, time sampling is an observation to determine the frequency of a behavior; the observer records how many times the behavior occurs during uniform time periods (p. 287).
Time sampling is essential when a teacher is needing to document how often a child is exhibiting a certain behavior. One of the advantages with this observation is that the teacher can determine what behaviors he or she wants to observe and document. This kind of observation is ideal when a teacher is needing to meet with the child’s parents for a variety of reasons. I can speak from experience that this form of observation is a great foundation of behavior monitoring, especially is a solution is needed to modify a behavior quickly.
One of the cons with this observation is that a teacher can begin to observe a different behavior versus the one they decided to observe, which could affect the data they are attempting to collect.
If a particular behavior, incident or action is happening in a setting and not during a time period, event sampling is used. In childcare, short observations are made in a particular situation. The teacher will decide on what event to observe well in advance. The behavior can happen infrequently, the teacher waits for the behavior to happen to observe. It is also used to observe how many times the child shows a specific behavior, why it happens and to determine what specific event triggers those activities in the child. It can be created using a grid or chart in advance (Elfer 2012).
- Easy to use
- Can be used for a specific behavior without mixing with other concerns
- In any circumstance’s observation can be made
- Monitor and intervention can be suggested
- Will be helpful to find the cause of the behavior
- If the behavior doesn’t happen, then the teachers time is wasted
- Will need more time as teacher won’t know when the behavior will happen
- Cause of the behavior can be tough to establish
- Have to concentrate on clues
Checklists and Rating Scales
It is used to know about a child’s learning and development and can be used in both formal and informal settings. It is used to assess whether a child has a particular skill, knowledge or shows a behavior. It has “yes” or “No” questions. Just checking on it whether yes or no completes this type of assessment. Rating scales are similar to checklists, but it is used to measure the degree of a skill, knowledge or behavior. Rating scales are used to rate a wide range of behaviors (Elfer 2012).
Rating scale – Advantages:
- More detailed than checklist
- Can be revisited to see the progress
Rating scale – Disadvantages:
- Is not useful for spontaneous events
- Easy to use
- Doesn’t need much time
- Lot of areas can be covered
- When teacher has lot to observe, this method is easy
- Can be used for many children once
Checklist – Disadvantages:
- Not much details are covered
- Might be biased
- Is not clear
Observation and Technology
There are numerous ways to observe children. When a teacher observes the children, the observation record must be stored somewhere so that she can compare with previous results and see the development of the child. Nowadays, there are a lot of apps to store data. Teachers can also store computers, tablets, smartphones and the data recorded. It is easy to keep the electronic device handy to record and to store. For example, I always keep my camera handy to take pictures and videos of the children. It will be helpful to show/send to parents and will store the data in the computer in the child’s folder (Groarke, S. 2008).
But the most important thing is to get parents’ permission before taking pictures or videos. For language observation, I’ll record it in my mobile voice recorder. Also, during observation video can be recorded and can be used later to analyze. Sometimes, the teacher may miss some observations and while watching the video later she may get some ideas. While working with other teachers when interpreting the results, these videos and audios will be helpful (Wortham, Hardin 2015).
Now in this lockdown, teachers are teaching online and using digital whiteboards. It can be used as an interactive tool as well as a projector to share information to parents or co-workers when observations are stored digitally.
- Easy and compact way to observe and store data
- Data can be stored instantly
- Sharing data is easy
- Information stored can be retrieved anytime anywhere
- Don’t need much space
- Data can’t be based on bias
- The data might not be secure if not stored with password
- Can be on to wrong hands
- Elfer, P. (2012). Psychoanalytic methods of observation as a research tool for exploring young children’s nursery experience. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 15 (3). 225-238.
- Groarke, S. (2008). “Psychoanalytic infant observation: A critical assessment.” European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling 10 (4). 299–321.
- Kostelnik, M.; Soderman, A.; Whiren, A. 2011. Developmentally appropriate curriculum. Pearson Education INC.
- Mena, J.; Eyer, D. 2012. Infants, toddlers, and caregivers. McGraw Hill Education, INC.
- Wortham, S.; Hardin, B. 2016. Assessment in early childhood education. Pearson Education, INC.