This assignment will discuss the importance of observation techniques and examine the advantages and disadvantages for each method of observation that I have used in my book of celebration. I will identify how observations inform the childs learning and how they fit into the assessment cycle. The analysis of the observations will enable me to reflect on any developments needed and implications for future practice within the setting.
It was during the eighteenth century when children first became a focus of systematic observation when Rousseau studied children’s behaviour in an attempt to promote their ‘natural development’ (Fawcett, 2009: 10). Following Rousseau’s lead, there was a succession of educationalists who recorded children’s early development, such as Pestalozzi, Montessori and Isaacs. “By patient listening to the talk of even little children, and watching what they do…we can wish their wishes, see their pictures and think their thoughts” (Isaacs, 1971, p.15).
Child observations have contributed to the compilation of developmental norms (or milestones) that most children pass through as they mature. Mary Sheridan devised what is perhaps one of the most well known of these schedules of development (Sheridan 2007). This method has been criticised for advocating a ‘universal approach’ to child development because it does not necessarily take into account the wide variety of factors that might impact upon the development of children, including culture, religion and economic disadvantage. Therefore, using checklists or milestones could lead practitioners to form a deficit view of children if they cannot achieve these perceived ‘norms’.
The Department for Education (DfE) (2012) describes ongoing formative assessment as being integral to effective early years practice. It states that
“Ongoing assessment ...involves practitioners observing children to understand their level of achievement, interests and learning styles and to then shape learning experiences for each child reflecting those observations.” (Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework, pg 10). (EYFS)
We understand from research and the EYFS and that the purpose of observing is to assess children’s achievements and understand their learning and development needs, in order to ensure that planning and provision is appropriate to meet their individual needs. Through effective observation, practitioners find out what children are interested in as individuals and what motivates them, as well as how their skills and knowledge are developing. Hutchins describes the steps needed to take in order for the planning cycle to work effectively, she says in Principle 5 “Observation should note the child’s interests, passions and concerns as well as how the child is learning”. (Hutchin, 2007:39). She explains that practitioners need to consider how they can make use of this vital information in their planning and assessments.
There are different types of observation techniques that can be used. Each one is beneficial in different situations and environments, dependant on what method is used and how skilled the observer is. “A skilled observer who is also a reflective practitioner ...can apply an appropriate method to a specific need and then use the data for focused reflective analysis” (Macleod-Brudenell, Kay, 2008:334)
Practitioners need to be as knowledgeable as possible about the child in order to begin to plan his learning journey. “The more knowledge the adult has of the child, the better matched their support and the more effective the subsequent learning”. REPEY (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2002). The starting point for understanding where children are at developmentally comes from what parents tell us about their children. From here effective observation can begin that will lead to effective planning and support for children’s individual developmental pathways. When building relationships with parents, professional