Improving Observation Skills


Observing young children is one of the most rewarding things a Childcare Student can do. It is also a new skill to learn. Do not despair when you are asked to improve your work. This happens at first, but you will learn to be successful. Learning to observe child development takes patience and practice.

Each observation has criteria:

This learning resource is designed to help you revise the process of observing children.
1. Understanding the terms.

2. Planning to observe.
  1. Planning and Preparation:
    • Research the area of development you plan to observe.
      (This will focus the observation and show you what to look for)
    • Decide which child, or children, you will observe.
      (Ask your Placement Supervisor for advice)
    • Ask permission to observe this child.
    • Decide on a convenient time.
    • Choose a suitable method to record this observation.
    • Tell the other adults what you are doing.
    • Ensure you have all the resources you will need.
      (E.G. pen and paper, or a working tape-recorder etc.)
  2. Observe the child and make notes of your findings.
  3. Write up the observation as soon as possible or you will forget what happened.
  4. Write the evaluation. Use text books and developmental charts.
  5. Complete a Front Sheet before submitting work for marking.
    • Date you observed the child.
    • The time you started and finished observing.
    • The first name and correct age of the child.
      (It makes a difference if the child is 2 years or 2 years 6 months)
    • Additional information that may affect the observation.
    • The number of other adults and children present.
    • The specific aim and rationale for the observation.
    • Details of the setting - indoors or outdoors? What setting?
    • Who gave permission for this observation?
  6. Ask your Placement Supervisor to read and sign your work.
    • To confirm that you did carry out this observation.
    • To ensure your work does not break confidentiality.
  7. Presenting work.
    • The Front Sheet must be correctly completed.
    • The work must be signed by a Placement Supervisor.
    • Written work must be submitted for marking within 6 weeks.
    • Work of a pass standard can be included in the portfolio after being recorded on the matrix.

Remember children have rights when being observed.
Maintain confidentiality. Ask permission to observe the child and ask if you are allowed to use the information.
Ensure the interests of the child are protected.
Be objective. This means being fair and non-judgemental. Describe the child's main activities do not be side-tracked on to events you have heard about, but not observed.
When you evaluate development, be positive and highlight the strengths rather than weaknesses.

Remember Perfect Planning Prevents Pathetic Performance


How to Observe

  1. Introduction
  2. Aim
  3. Rationale
  4. Observation
  5. Evaluation
  6. Bibliography
  7. References

Observation Techniques

  • Introduction
  • Anecdotal
  • Schedule
  • Time Sampling
  • Event Sampling
  • Target Child
  • Charts and Pictograms

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