Observation Techniques


Your portfolio of Observations of Children should demonstrate a variety of different observation techniques and various ways to present your work.

Observations of child development can be recorded in:

The advantages and disadvantages of different methods of recording observations.

WRITING Convenient and requires no special equipment except a notebook and pen. Things may happen too quickly to accurately record every detail.
AUDIO TAPE RECORDING Records all the sounds so no details are missed. This is helpful to record language development, especially in school children. Requires a tape recorder, audio tape and a quiet area with a minimum of background noise. Very young children use non-verbal communication in gesture, facial expression and actions which are not recorded.
VIDEO TAPE RECORDING Records all the details that can be seen and heard by the camera. This is helpful to record planned activities in one area of a room. Requires special equipment and knowledge to use it effectively.
Lighting and background noise can affect the recording. Children may be inhibited, move away or play to the camera.

Now we know how to record observations of child development writing
audio tape
video recording
So the next step is choose an appropriate observation technique.

Anecdotal Schedule Charts and Pictograms
Time Sampling Event Sampling Target Child
OBSERVATION TECHNIQUE Different observation techniques help to focus the observation so appropriate data is collected and presented in meaningful ways.
ANECDOTAL This is a written narrative that tells the story as it happens. Observations can be of planned activities, but spontaneous observations can show surprising things about a child's development that might never be seen.
SCHEDULES It is helpful to research the area of development before observing. A pre-planned development checklist helps to focus the observation, but can be limited unless individual details are recorded.
CHARTS AND PICTOGRAMS Charts and pictures can present observation data in colourful ways to make your portfolio appear more interesting.
TIME SAMPLING Observations of children are recorded at fixed regular intervals of time to note what is happening at that moment. For example children's play during a morning can be recorded every 15 minutes.
EVENT SAMPLING Observations focus on particular events to build up a pattern of a child's behaviour over a period of days or weeks. For example to discover what provokes tantrums, or how a child reacts to leaving their carer at the start of each day in nursery.
TARGET CHILD A series of observations to give a picture of an individual child's holistic development. A baby will change rapidly during your time in placement and a longitudinal study of a child's development over several months is fascinating.

Find out more about different observation techniques

Anecdotal Schedule Charts and Pictograms
Time Sampling Event Sampling Target Child

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