Observation, Assessment and Planning

Alert observation – looking and listening – is a crucial part of being an adult who will be helpful to young children. Parents are most supportive of their children when they notice what is happening and adjust what they, the adults, do in response to what has interested their child.

Early years practitioners have a professional responsibility to fine-tune their skills of observation, realising that a great deal of valuable observation is relatively informal. It is a case of keeping your eyes and ears open and maintaining an open mind when you make sense – interpret – what you have noticed.

Good early practice involves a continuing process of observation, simple assessment (making sense) and flexible planning. Mary Jane Drummond (2003) usefully described this process, or cycle, as being all about seeing children’s learning, understanding their learning and then putting our adult understanding to good use for the children themselves.

What is actually happening?

Good quality observation homes in on what is actually happening. What has caught children’s attention in this exchange with an adult? What have they done or wanted to tell the adult – whether the ‘telling’ is actual words or a stream of sound? Recorded excerpts give you the opportunity, not available in daily life, to look and listen again and again. It is possible to polish up your skills of observation towards those small details that happen quickly and so may be missed – unless you are on the look-out for them.

Assessment – What sense do you make of what is happening?

What sense do you make of what is happening? You can fairly comment that babies or children are ‘enjoying’ themselves or that they ‘like’ the experience that has been captured on lm. However, what leads you to say that the children are enjoying themselves? What is it, in more detail, about this activity that makes it so welcome to this baby or child? What have you, the adult, learned from this observation – about this individual child and in general? It might be something that appears simple, like the importance of regular, friendly eye contact with young children.

In ordinary daily life with young children, as well as the extra opportunities of recorded events, what strikes you about individual children and their current interests? What motivates them most strongly? On the basis of what you have observed, what do you think are these children’s preferred ways of learning? In the DVD you are looking especially at the foundations to early literacy. But these questions are relevant to all aspects of learning and development.

Planning – What next?

What next – what have you learned about this individual child and what works well for them, along with what are sensible next steps for him or her? Effective and sensible planning within days with young children is led by what you have noticed recently. It is never good practice for group settings like a nursery, nor for childminders, to have a rigid forward plan for activities that happen tomorrow or next week, regardless of what has happened today. Of course, you have plenty of good ideas up your sleeve. But what you notice today should in influence how you fine tune any flexible plan for tomorrow. But just as important, your observations will highlight those crucial aspects of good planning around young children, such as allowing generous time for experiences and respecting that young children need personal attention.

Extract from Supporting Early Literacy User Guide by Jennie Lindon

Learn all about observation with the new online clip library

With 100s of short video clips to search through there's always going to be something that fits your needs. You can search by area of child development, specific theories, areas of play, learning strategies, age or setting and find just what you need to enhance your training and make learning stick.

Visit the online clip library →

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/customer/www/sirenfilms.co.uk/public_html/wp-content/themes/siren-films/includes/includes/videos.php on line 25