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By Dr. Dora Ho Choi Wa (何彩華) Hong Kong Polytechnic University

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1 By Dr. Dora Ho Choi Wa (何彩華) Hong Kong Polytechnic University
The Use of Observations for Understanding Child Development and Learning in Preschool Contexts By Dr. Dora Ho Choi Wa (何彩華) Hong Kong Polytechnic University

2 Focusing questions: What are differences between watching and observation? What is child observation? Why do we observe children? What can we see or cannot? What can learn from observing children? How can we improve teaching practices through observing them?

3 To observe is to take notice, to watch attentively, to focus on one particular aspect of all of the massive stimulus in the environment

4 Observation is an important tool that helps you to fill in the gap between theory and practice. Direct observation as an assessment method has four features: Behavior is observed in natural setting Behavior is recorded or coded as it occurs Impartial, objective observers record behavior Inference by the observer Ramsay, et al. (2002) Essentials of behavioural assessment, New York : J. Wiley & Sons.

5 Observation Methods Anecdotal observations/narrative descriptions range from notations about developmental milestones to behavioral descriptions The observer determines the events, timeliness of the record, and the richness of detail. Time Sampling observations record behavior over a period of time or during a particular event. In time sampling, staff record what children are doing every ten or fifteen minutes. (Head Start Information and Publishication Center, 2007)

6 Event Sampling observations
In event sampling, the observer watches for a specified behaviour (e.g. cooperative play) and then records exactly what preceded the event, what happneded during the event, and what the consquences of the event were. Checklists are observations of a specific list of items, skills, or behaviors to be performed. Checklists generally require a response of yes, no, or sometimes and can be completed during the observation period or later. (Head Start Information and Publishication Center, 2007)

7 Rating scales focus on specific behaviors and require the observer to judge the degree to which the behaviors are exhibited. Rating scales usually are numerical or use descriptive phrases that cover a range of behaviors. Running records are brief, continuous descriptions. Staff use a narrative style to record information. (Head Start Information and Publishication Center, 2007)

8 Diary observations are written narrative accounts of what happens in a setting during a brief period of time. Entries can vary from a minimal, daily commentary to detailed reports Head Start Information and Publication Center Observation and Recording: Tools for Decision Making Retrieved on 12 March 2007

9 Goals and objectives The data generated from observations can help teachers develop (Feeney, 2001, p ): Increased sensitivity to children and a heightened awareness of the unique qualities of childhood Greater knowledge of individual children: how they think, feel, view the world, and how this compares to developmental norms A comprehensive picture of each child, based on many situations that changes as new information added over time

10 Understanding of the kinds of social relationship among children and among children and adults and how these can be facilitated in school Awareness of the classroom environment, schedule and program, how well these are meeting the needs of children and staff, and how they might be improved Greater insight into our own ways of responding to children and situations

11 The observation process
Preparation - background information of the child - context of the learning environment - time - space

12 Data Gathering - try your best to suspend interpretation and evaluation - to look and listen carefully - try to avoid value judgment (objectivity vs. subjectivity) - to carefully separate what you see from what you might/might not have wanted to see - to be aware of your own characteristics

13 Interpretation to be aware of your own assumptions about the children’s behavior. based on your professional knowledge and experience (i.e. child development, socio-cultural influences, individual experience, etc.) to discuss your interpretations with someone else. to be ware of different perspectives that can contribute to a better understanding of the children’s behavior

14 Acknowledgement of feelings and reactions
take the opportunity to reflect on your responses without distorting the observation These feelings and reactions don’t belong in a file on the child or in the written information to value the process as part of professional growth

15 Written Observation 1. Background information - observer
- name of the child - age - sex - date and time of observation - context/setting

16 2. Observational Data to note some of the child’s unique personal qualities: way of moving, facial expression, gestures, tone of voice, etc. to describe the child’s activities and interactions careful choice of words conveys the essence of the child and situation avoid words that have a strong emotional impact or bias built into them. value judgments about children should be omitted (Feeney, 2001)

17 3. Writing interpretations
being essential that your interpretations be based on description to make liberal use of the words might and seems to in written interpretations (Feeney, 2001)

18 4. Reflections to use descriptive data and your interpretations to substantiate your conclusions to use observational data and your interpretations to inform, plan and improve your teaching practices to reflect on your professional growth Feeney, S. (2001) Who am I in the lives of children, Columbus, Ohio : Merrill Publishing Co.

19 Logistics Challenges Schedule observation time regularly into the program day Include times for doing observations in the written schedule. staff are free to observe without having to worry about the children. Establish a schedule for observing children in individual interest areas Assemble observational materials and put them at predetermined observation stations to encourage their use. (Colker, 1995)

20 Suggest staff wear clothing or aprons with pockets containing index cards or Post-Its so they can quickly record observations. Enlist parent volunteers and even children to assist in some types of observation. For example, parents can complete time or event sampling checklists of their children. Children can track how often they use activity areas by putting clothespins in a bottle every time they enter the block or art area. Observation schedules should be periodically reviewed Colker, L. J. (1995) A Trainer's Guide to Observing Young Children: Learning to Look, Looking to Learn (Washington, D.C.: Teaching Strategies, 44.)

21 Activity 1 Focus on ______ development of the child by using anecdotal observation method (*You may make reference to Performance Indicators: Domain on Children’s Development) Observe a child engaged in an activity or an interaction with others (10-15 minutes) and do video-recording simultaneously Keep detailed records and prepare to share your observation and experience in next workshop

22 Activity 2 Focus on ______ development of the child by using a checklist Observe a child engaged in an activity or an interaction with others (10-15 minutes) and take some photos during the observation process Keep detailed records and prepare to share your observation and experience in next workshop

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