Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

3.4: A Closer Look at Observation Methods, Tools and Techniques

  • Page ID
    42522
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    No single observation can give you all the information you will need about a child’s development. In order to truly understand a child’s unique attributes, preferences, personality and strengths, you must observe them consistently, using several documentation tools and techniques. Each observation method has strengths and limitations. In this section, we will review some of the more commonly used techniques and tools that teachers use to gather objective observation evidence: Running Record; Checklists; Frequency Count; Anecdotal Record; Work Sample; Learning Story; and Technology.

    person writing notes on notepad
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Notetaking is one of the oldest forms of recording observations. (Public Domain; Glenn Carstens-Peters from Unsplash)

    Running Record

    One of the oldest observation methods used in early child education is the Running Record. Running Records are considered by some as an “informal method” of observation as compared to Narrative Description or Specimen Records which are considered to be a more “formal method” of collecting data. The primary difference between the two methods is that with a Running Record, evidence is gathered in a more spontaneous (informal) manner as it occurs, whereas with a Narrative Description a (formal) plan would be arranged in advance, prior to the observation. More specifically, you would schedule a day, time and setting, you would select a specific child or group of children, and you would decide on the purpose, reason or focus of your observation (e.g. cognitive skills, social interactions, play patterns). Both methods provide rich, detailed evidence and both methods provide written accounts of everything you see and hear a child doing during a specific timeframe (Bentzen, 2009).

    For the purpose of this text, we will use the term Running Record and recommend that you, as an intentional teacher, conduct Running Records (whether spontaneous or planned, informal or formal) as part of your regular or routine observations. The primary goal for using a Running Record is to “obtain a detailed, objective account of behavior without inference, interpretations, or evaluations” (Bentzen, 2009, p.112). You will know you have gathered good evidence when you can close your eyes and you can “see” the images in your mind as they are described in your Running Record (Bentzen, 2009).

    Collecting Your Data

    All you need is time, paper and a pen to gather your observation evidence. The goal with a running record is to write down everything you see and hear - exactly as it occurs, without adding any comments or attaching any opinions. As the saying goes, “just the facts, ma’am!” With the Running Record format, not only will you highlight children’s behaviors, you will record the “setting, situation and sequence” in which the behavior occurred. Be as descriptive as possible and yet be as concise as possible. Children move quickly, so you must write quickly. When conducting a running record, you need to be out of ratio. You are to step back and observe from a distance. Do not interfere with the child’s natural play, do not ask questions and do not run after them. Be as invisible as possible.

    Organizing your Data

    As you collect rich, detailed data throughout the school year, you will begin to recognize patterns of development, and you will see each child’s unique attributes, personalities, and abilities as they emerge. Be sure to date all your running records; having 12-24 children in your classroom can add up to a lot of running records. You will need to store your running records safely in a portfolio or file folder. When it comes time to assess a child’s development, you will be able to look back and review all the evidence you have collected and to monitor the child’s progress over time.

    Note: A Running Record is an ideal observation method for “students”. Teachers may not always have the time or staff coverage to conduct a Running Record.

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Running Record

    Advantages

    Disadvantages

    1. Provides detailed data about the who, what, where, and when
    2. Evidence is documented as it occurs, in a sequence
    3. Provides objective and descriptive evidence
    4. Appropriate for gathering baseline information about the child’s interests, abilities and skill level
    5. Ideal for tracking a child’s development over time
    6. Less structured, more free flowing
    7. Evidence can be gathered formally or informally
    8. Interpretations and reflections can be added later
    1. Time consuming
    2. May be difficult to keep up and follow along as children move quickly from one activity to another
    3. Not a practical technique for teachers who are in ratio
    4. Behaviors may not be typical for that observation day as compared to other days

    Let’s Practice Gathering Evidence

    Example 1:

    Running Record: On 7/2/2019, Jorge played in the sandbox for 20 minutes.

    What did you “see” with this example? What was the setting, situation and sequence of events?

    What did you learn about Jorge?

    Was the evidence objective? Was the evidence descriptive?

    Let’s try again.

    Example 2:

    Running Record: 7/2/2019. Time: 10:10am

    During outside play and exploration, the following activities were available: bikes, sandbox, sensory table with goop, hula hoops, balls and a reading area with a basket of books. Jorge played in the sandbox for 20 minutes. With his left hand, Jorge dug a hole using a shovel. Jorge asked Julissa if he could have the dinosaur, “When you are finished, can I have the dinosaur for my cave?” Julissa handed Jorge the dinosaur and said, “Can I see?” Jorge nodded his head up and down.

    At 10:30am, the teacher announced that it was time to clean up. Jorge stood up, dropped his shovel, ran over to the door and got in line. While in line, Jorge waved his hands and said “Come on Max. Come on. Here. Come here.” Max ran over and stood next to Jorge in line.

    What did you “see” with this example? What was the setting, situation, and sequence of events?

    What did you learn about Jorge?

    Was the evidence objective? Was the evidence descriptive? [22]


    Running Record Template #1

    Date:

    Start Time:

    End Time:

    Setting:

    Activity Area:

    Who did you observe:

    Running Record


    Running Record Template #2

    Date:

    Start Time:

    End Time:

    Setting:

    Activity Area:

    Who did you observe:

    Running Record

    Interpretation


    Tally marks
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): When is a frequency count used? Whenever you need to tally and record how many times a behavior is occurring. [23]

    Frequency Counts (Time or Event Sampling)

    A Frequency Count is an informal observation method that is used to gather information about a child’s interests, social interactions, play patterns, and temperamental traits. As the teacher observes the children at play, a tally mark is made every time the noted behavior or action occurs within a set timeframe. Frequency Counts are also used to track undesirable or challenging behaviors, as well as ideal or positive behaviors.

    Collecting your data

    To create a Frequency Count, you must first decide on what social interactions, behaviors, interest areas, or types of play you want to monitor. You may decide to track your child during one focused activity or timeframe, or you may map out what a typical day might look like for your child and track all the interactions and experiences they engage in throughout the day. Either way, as you observe your child, you will make a tally mark every time they play in a specified area or display one of the action items as listed on your Frequency Count.

    Here are some examples of how you might use a Frequency Count to gather data:

    1. Sue has been hitting a lot lately and displaying other challenging behaviors . You will want to track how many times she hits in a typical day, along with any other challenging behaviors. You will also want to track where the incidents are occurring – are there more incidents while inside the classroom or are things happening during outside play? You will want to look at when the incidents are occurring most often– are there more incidents earlier in the day or later in the day? You may want to observe what is happening at drop-off time, mealtime and at naptime. Lastly, you may want to track who Sue is socializing with and how she plays with others. Does Sue display a consistent play pattern (parallel play, cooperative play, onlooker play)?
    2. Thomas is a new student and his mother wants to know how he is doing. You may want to observe which centers Thomas goes to most often throughout the day and track his interests. You may also want to track whether he plays alone or with other children.
    3. You and a child in your class are constantly butting heads . How can you create a supportive environment and provide a “goodness of fit?” You may need to track the child’s temperamental traits and observe how the child approaches activities and how they respond to social situations.

    Organizing Your Data

    After you have collected all the data for that timeframe, count the tally marks. What can you interpret from this data? What areas or action items received a high number of tally marks? What areas or action items received a low number of tally marks? Do you see any patterns? As you consider those questions, reflect on a plan of action that you might use to further support that child’s development.

    Table \(\PageIndex{2}\): Advantages and Disadvantages of Frequency Data

    Advantages

    Disadvantages

    1. Quick and easy to use, and no training is required
    2. Can be personalized or designed to gather specific baseline data (play patterns, challenging behaviors, social situations, temperamental traits)
    3. Provides immediate quantifiable data
    4. Ideal for tracking behaviors over time and for noting an increase or decrease of incidents
    5. Can be useful when planning behavior modification strategies
    6. Data can be graphed or charted to find consistent patterns
    1. Does not provide rich details or context like anecdotal notes or running records
    2. There is no clear sequence of events regarding certain actions or behaviors
    3. (Although the behavior is tracked, information about the antecedent and the consequence is missing)
    4. Does not provide qualitative evidence
    5. Results may be misleading

    Frequency Count to Track Areas and Interests worksheet


    Frequency Count to Track Play Patterns and Social Interactions worksheet


    Frequency Count to Track Temperment and Behavior worksheet


    Checklists

    Checklists are an efficient and practical way to collect information about a child’s development. Checklists are based on “developmental norms” as determined by developmental theorists. With each age range, there are certain expectations and skills that a child should be able to achieve. Checklists are designed to track a child’s competencies in all the developmental domains including physical, cognitive, language, social and emotional. With a checklist, teachers can easily see what a child can do, as well as note what areas of development need further support. Teachers can create their own checklists based on certain skill sets, or they can download a formal developmental milestone checklist from a reputable source to look at a child’s full range of development. Checklists can be used to track a large group of children or an individual child.

    Collecting your data

    Whether you design your own checklist or download one, use it regularly to collect data. The checklist can be utilized in two ways:

    1. You can observe a child on a specific day while they are engaged in an activity (either child-directed or teacher-directed). As you observe, you will check off the skills or milestones that the child can do on that day, at that moment.
    2. You can also review data from other observations (e.g. running records or anecdotal notes, work samples) that you collected, and ADD any other skills or milestones that were mastered during those previous observations.

    *Note: It is vital that you note the dates that you observed the skills being mastered. A check mark alone will limit the reliability and validity

    Organizing your data

    Schedule a day and time to regularly review your observation data. Data collected from other observations (mastered milestones and developing skill sets) can be added to the checklist so you can clearly see a child’s progress over time. You may use colored pens to track all the different dates that milestones were achieved. As you review the checklist, what can you interpret from this data? Does the child demonstrate strengths in any of the developmental domains or areas of learning? Which milestones and skills need further support? As you consider those questions, reflect on a plan of action that you might use to further support that child’s development. How can you provide opportunities for the child to gain more practice? What adjustments need to be made to make the activity more challenging? What extensions can be added to continue the learning pattern? [24]

    Table \(\PageIndex{3}\): Advantages and Disadvantages of Checklists

    Advantages

    Disadvantages

    1. Ideal for tracking a child's progress over time
    2. Different observers (the teacher, assistant or a support team) can check off skills that they observe the child doing
    3. Checklists can be created to measure specific areas of development, or a subset of developmental skills
    4. Checklists can be used to observe a group of children or an individual child
    5. Checklists are quick and easy to use, and no training is required
    6. Checklists can be used in conjunction with other observations
    7. Checklists highlight the developmental strengths a child has mastered, as well as those skills that need further support
    8. Developmental Milestone Checklists are readily available on-line through various agencies (i.e. Center for Disease Control)
    9. Data can help plan curriculum activities
    1. Checklists do not provide rich details or context like anecdotal notes or running records
    2. There is no clear sequence of events to regarding certain actions or behaviors
    3. Checklists focus on developmental norms and typical development with no regard for environment, family influences, cultural influences and individual development
    4. Teachers tend to focus on the skills and milestones that haven’t been mastered, focusing on the deficits rather than highlighting the strengths. This can make the child and parents feel as if they have failed or add unnecessary stress
    5. Checklists must be updated regularly using other observation methods

    Checklist for Physical Milestone

    Perceptual Movement

    Skills

    Can Do

    Needs Further Support

    Date and Evidence

    Moves in a zig-zag pattern – able to change directions with ease

    Plays follow the leaders and mirrors others movements

    Moves body to music cues

    Speeds up and slows down while running or riding bike

    Gross Motor Movement

    Skills

    Can Do

    Needs Further Support

    Date and Evidence

    Completes tasks on an obstacle course

    Changes directions and stops quickly while running

    Pumps legs on a swing

    Runs and uses arm and legs in opposition

    Climbs

    Walks up and down stairs with one foot on each stair step

    Hops on one foot

    Kicks balls

    Catches and throws (bean bags and balls)

    Pedals a 3-wheeled bike (tricycle)

    Bounces a ball several times

    Walks along a balance beam

    Jumps up and down, jumps forward using arms

    Fine Motor Movement

    Skills

    Can Do

    Needs Further Support

    Date and Evidence

    Cuts with scissors

    Uses writing utensils (markers, crayons, pencils) to scribble

    Prints letters, numbers

    Uses stamps and stamp pad

    Strings beads

    Pours liquid into cup

    Manipulates, moves and picks up small objects

    Uses utensils to feed self

    Buttons and zips

    Peels a banana or orange

    Opens and closes a Ziploc baggie

    Scoops and pours materials (sand, dirt, rocks, beads)

    Anecdotal Records

    An Anecdotal Record is “an informal observation method often used by teachers as an aid to understanding the child’s personality or behavior. It provides a running account of behavior that is either typical or unusual for the child” (Bentzen, 2009, p. 178). Anecdotal Records, also referred to as “anecdotal notes,” are direct observations of a child that offer a window of opportunity to see into a child’s actions, interactions and reactions to people and events. An Anecdotal Record is an excellent tool that provides teachers with a collection of narratives that can be used to showcase a child’s progress over time. As compared to a Running Record, Anecdotal Records provide brief notes that are focused on a specific event or activity.

    Collecting Your Data

    To gather effective observation evidence, you need to include the following components:

    1. Accurate and specific details of the event (vivid descriptions exactly as you see and hear them happening - do not summarize, assume or make judgments)
    2. The context, setting and situation that surrounds the event (the where, when, who, what, and how)
    3. Objective facts about the child’s behavior and interactions (report actions and conversations)
    4. Write records in the past tense

    Here are some examples of observation evidence you might want to gather:

    • Social interactions with peers
    • Everyday routines, like mealtime and transition times
    • How they utilize materials at the various centers (library, block, math, science, art, music)
    • How they engage in teacher-directed activities (structured learning opportunities)
    • How they engage in child-directed activities (open exploration opportunities)
    • How they are inside and how they are outside

    Organizing your Data

    Once you have completed the Anecdotal Record you will take a moment to interpret the data. You will look for patterns and you will note whether the data reflects typical or unusual behavior for the child. To measure a child’s developmental progress, you will look for their strengths (skills and milestones that have been mastered) and their needs (skills and milestones that the child needs further support with). The summary notes help you to clarify instructional recommendations (adjustments that you will make to the environment to accommodate the child’s individual learning style). The notes you take can help you generate developmentally appropriate lesson plan activities and interactions. All Anecdotal Records need to be dated and stored safely in the child’s portfolio or file folder.

    Table \(\PageIndex{4}\): Advantages and Disadvantages of Anecdotal Record

    Advantages

    Disadvantages

    1. Provides vivid details about the who, what, when, where and how
    2. Takes less time to write up an observation as compared to using Running Records
    3. Evidence is documented as it occurs, in a sequence
    4. Provides objective and descriptive evidence
    5. Interpretation notes can be added afterwards
    6. Evidence can be gathered formally (planned) or informally (spontaneously)
    7. No special training is required
    8. Provides qualitative data over time and is helpful in tracking changes in a child’s development over time
    1. Data can be tainted if it is not written in the moment
    2. Focuses on one event, situation or behavior at a time and can miss or overlook important information
    3. Does not provide quantitative data results
    4. 4. May not always report a child’s typical pattern of development or behavior

    Thumb tack icon

    Pin It! Writing an Anecdotal Note

    Watch this video to learn how to write an anecdotal note : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsXvbflrLu4&t=92s

    Watch this video to learn how to use an anecdotal note : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAczTiO1rUg&t=3s

    Anecdotal Note Template worksheet

    flat lay photography of a childs painting
    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): A Childs Masterpiece. [25]

    Work Samples

    Teachers have been collecting pieces of children’s artwork and posting them on the classroom walls forever. Not only do the children enjoy seeing their work of art on display, parent’s appreciate seeing their child’s work as well! To create an official work sample however takes more effort than hanging a picture on the wall. What exactly is a work sample? A work sample is a tangible piece of evidence that showcases a child’s effort, progress and achievement. More specifically, not only does a work sample highlight the final product , it can highlight the process as well, by highlighting the child’s problem-solving efforts, experimentation methods or collaboration skills. Work samples are authentic artifacts that provide information about the child’s learning experience.

    Collecting your data

    Work samples can be gathered throughout the school year. Typically, you would collect a variety of samples that highlight the child’s overall development in each of the developmental areas: Physical; Cognitive; Language; Social -Emotional. More specifically, you might include a child’s drawing or painting, a writing sample from their journal, a cutting sample, or photographs of the child engaged in activities such as building a block tower or sandcastle or riding a bike.

    Organizing your data

    Whether you post a work sample on the classroom wall (using a documentation board ) or you collect a sample for a child’s portfolio, you must add documentation. Not only will documentation help families recognize the value of play, it reinforces the concept that every activity is an opportunity to learn. For accuracy, be sure to include the following information: Child’s Name; Date; Setting; and an Anecdotal Note with a description about how and why the sample was collected. Work samples should be organized in a chronological manner to showcase progress over time. Be sure to store work samples in a safe place like a file-folder or portfolio, or electronically in a computer file.

    Table \(\PageIndex{5}\): Advantages and Disadvantages of Work Samples

    Advantages

    Disadvantages

    1. Provides tangible/ visible evidence that teachers can use to track a child’s learning, growth and development over time
    2. Parents and children both enjoy seeing the work on display
    3. Provides authentic documentation which is ideal for assessment
    4. Teachers can use information to plan and adjust curriculum to help children achieve their learning goals
    5. Families can see how children learn through play
    6. Children can share their insights as to how they created the work sample and offer their perspectives as to what they were thinking (authentic evidence)
    7. Children enjoy seeing their work on display and they can feel empowered when their work is valued
    1. Can be time consuming adding anecdotal documentation and creating documentation boards
    2. Requires ample storage space
    3. Requires a financial investment in technology (camera, video or audio recorder)
    4. Concerns over confidentiality and privacy when using photos, audio or videos

    Work Sample Template

    Work Sample Template

    Learning Stories

    In an article published in NAEYC’s Teaching Young Children, Judy Pack shares her thoughts on Learning Stories, “I like to think of it as observing small moments that provide big opportunities.” [26]

    As compared to Running Records or Anecdotal Notes, a Learning Story is an observation method that is written in a narrative story format to highlight a child’s learning. The Learning Story communicates more than facts about how a child approaches or accomplishes tasks, it spotlights key moments in a child’s day and focuses on their strengths. When writing a Learning Story, a teacher not only writes down what she saw and heard, she can also write down what she thought about while she watched the child play. More than that, this method encourages the child and their families to be active participants in the reflective process. When the teacher shares the Learning Story with both the child and family members, they can add their comments, ask follow-up questions and make suggestions on how to move forward based on what was reported in the Learning Story. One unique aspect of Learning Stories is that when used regularly, they can help teachers connect to families and build strong, respectful relationships. [27]

    Gathering your data

    Whether you plan an observation, or you spontaneously watch a child as they play, and whether you observe during a teacher-directed activity or during a child-directed moment, you can gather some suitable evidence for your Learning Story. As you watch and listen to a child at play, you can take some pictures and jot down some objective and descriptive facts that you will use to write a story. As suggested by Park (2016), if you want to learn about a child’s interests and capabilities, and how they process information; you will want to watch the following:

    • Engagement: How long does the child stay focused and engaged in an activity?
    • Intentionality: Does the child have a goal in mind or express a plan of action?
    • Relationships: Does the child interact or connect with others?
    • Learning disposition: Does the child have a particular approach to figuring things out or a preferred style of learning? [28]

    Organizing your data

    Whether you want to write a short paragraph or a full page, there are some key components that you must include in your Learning Story. We will refer to the EarlyWorks tool and the guidelines as recommended by Tom Drummond to write up your observation data. [29] Your Learning Story should include the following:

    1. A Title – All good stories have a title that draws the reader in. Titles can act as a reminder of the content of the learning story, making it easy for educators to revisit at a later time.
    2. Photos – Learning Stories should have at least one photo. Visual images evoke emotion and a connection to the story.
    3. Narrative – This is where the storyteller (you) describes what is seen and heard. It is best to write in the first person, using “I…”. The narrative is the body of the story and highlights authentic observation evidence (facts and vivid details).
    4. What it means – This is where the storyteller (you) interprets the learning that took place. It is best to write in the second person, using “You…”.
    5. Opportunities and Possibilities – This is where you reflect on planning for the next step and building on what the child knows.
    6. Family & Child’s Voice – The child’s family is encouraged to provide their understanding of the story. Families can create stories and provide valuable insight into the learning that happens at home. Children can also share their perspectives. [30]

    *Note: A Learning Story Template is available

    Table \(\PageIndex{6}\): Advantages and Disadvantages of Learning Stories

    Advantages

    Disadvantages

    1. The child receives positive messages that their ideas and way of thinking are valued and they enjoy hearing stories about their successes
    2. The teacher, child and family have an equal opportunity to reflect on the child’s thinking and learning
    3. The stories provide insight into the best way to plan for a more meaningful curriculum.
    4. The stories capture moments in a child’s daily life that can be used with other observation tools to create a comprehensive profile on a child
    5. Provides authentic information about a child’s strengths in a friendly and personal format
    6. Informs families how children learn through play and how they are natural learners, eager investigators, and problem solvers.
    7. Opens a door for respectful conversations with parents about school experiences
    1. Can be time consuming
    2. Can be difficult to remain objective
    1. Focuses on one event, situation or behavior at a time and can miss or overlook important information
    2. Does not provide quantitative data

    results

    1. May not always report a child’s typical pattern of development or behavior

    Learning Story Template

    Learning Story Template

    Technology

    Finding ways to utilize technology into regular routines can make collecting observation evidence much more efficient for busy teachers. Photographs, video, and audio recordings can authentically capture children’s explorations, investigations, play and learning experiences in the actual moment. With this type of documentation, teachers can replay key moments in a child’s day to look for specific interactions, play patterns, developmental milestones, struggles and accomplishments. With this technique, teachers can also listen for language development by recording actual conversations that children are having with their peers. Teachers can also monitor how children problem solve and can tape special moments as well as capture every day moments. As with work samples, teachers can share their observation evidence with the children. Children are fascinated with seeing and hearing themselves. This type of documentation provides the most authentic evidence of all the observation methods.

    Collecting your data

    There are numerous ways to incorporate technology into your classroom. It is important to keep in mind that each early care and education program would have their own protocol, policies and procedures regarding the use of technology to document children’s learning, growth and development, so be sure to verify what you can and cannot do. Here are a few suggestions that you may want to incorporate:

    • Use a camera, laptop, tablet, or smartphone to record observations and take pictures
    • Ask a child to dictate a story and you can type it up on a computer or use an audio recorder
    • Scan or make copies of children’s work, such as drawings or writing, to create a visual timeline that shows a child's skill development over time.
    • Use email or a parent communication app to post work samples
    • Use voice-to-text software to document important discussions. For example, children can explain how they created their piece of art.
    • Take pictures of three-dimensional work. For example, woodworking projects, block towers, sandcastles, and culinary creations.
    • Film dramatic plays and musical performances that the children produce.
    • Use a video camera to document how children are progressing with their developmental milestones in each of the domains. For example, look at playful interactions to track social-emotional development; watch children on the playground to track physical development; observe how children tackle science or math activities to track cognitive development. [31]

    Organizing your data

    Observation data can be conveniently stored on a computer and each child can have their own digital portfolio or file folder. For every child, you would include photos of them at play, photos of their work samples, and any audio recordings or video clips that you may have collected (as suggested above). When using smartphones to take photos or videos, you can easily upload information to your computer or transfer information to other devices. Some teachers may want to use an app to formally organize observation evidence, and some schools may purchase a program that links families to daily observations. Some centers may even use an electronic assessment program (e.g. the Desired Results Developmental Program - DRDP) to track children’s developmental progress and teachers would regularly upload observation evidence as part of the assessment process. Here are a few added suggestions on how you can organize and use stored electronic observation evidence:

    • Photos can be scanned, printed and posted in the classroom
    • A photo slideshow can be created for family nights or as a screen saver
    • The children can watch a video montage of a themed project they completed
    • Children can look at “old” photos to monitor their own developmental progress and can make comments regarding their work, their thought process and their developmental outcomes. [32]
    Table \(\PageIndex{6}\): Advantages and Disadvantages of Technology

    Advantages

    Disadvantages

    1. Provides tangible/ visible evidence that teachers can use to track a child’s learning, growth and development over time
    2. Parents and children both enjoy seeing the work on display
    3. Captures authentic documentation which is ideal for assessment
    4. Teachers can use information to plan and adjust curriculum to help children achieve their learning goals
    5. Families can see how children learn through play
    6. Children can share their insights as to how they created the work sample and offer their perspectives as to what they were thinking (authentic evidence)
    7. Children enjoy seeing their work on
    8. display and they can feel empowered when their work is valued
    9. With using multi -media, children can be observed in their natural settings
    1. Can be time consuming adding anecdotal documentation and creating documentation boards
    2. Requires ample storage space
    3. Requires a financial investment in technology (camera, video or audio recorder)
    4. Concerns over confidentiality and privacy when using photos, audio or videos

    3.4: A Closer Look at Observation Methods, Tools and Techniques is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Gina Peterson and Emily Elam.

    • Was this article helpful?