Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Observation and Recording to Improve Learning Like every other aspect of intentional teaching, assessment engages teachers in professional decision making. They must decide what evidenc | WriteDen

Observation and Recording to Improve Learning Like every other aspect of intentional teaching, assessment engages teachers in professional decision making. They must decide what evidenc

IT HAS TO BE PRESENTATION

 Observation and Recording to Improve Learning

Like every other aspect of intentional teaching, assessment engages teachers in professional decision making. They must decide what evidence is important to collect, as well as how and when to gather information. The process of gathering evidence of children’s learning is also called documenting, and involves two kinds of decisions: (1) how to gather information about children, and (2) how to record the findings (McAfee & Leong, 2015). Thinking of these processes separately opens up more options for assessment, or more “windows” into children’s learning (McAfee & Leong, 2015).

Observation is the most frequently used method of gathering information. However, there are many ways of recording findings from observation—among them, anecdotal records, checklists, or rating scales—that increase teachers’ options for learning about children. In the sections that follow, we describe ways teachers can observe and collect information about children, then we describe various ways to record or document the information for later reflection and analysis.

Observing and Gathering Evidence

The most effective classroom assessment procedures need to be part of every teacher’s repertoire. These include systematic observation, eliciting responses from children, collecting work products, and gathering information from family members and other adults (McAfee & Leong, 2015). We begin with observation, which is the foundation of effective, developmentally appropriate practice.

Keen observation skills are the most important assessment tool a teacher can develop and use. Effective teaching requires positive relationships and building on children’s prior learning. Therefore, teachers must know as much as possible about children’s strengths, needs, interests, temperament, typical behavior, and much more. Careful observation is the best way to get to know individual children, especially infants, toddlers, and young preschoolers who have limited ability to create products and communicate verbally. During preschool, kindergarten, and the primary grades, teachers continue to regularly observe children’s interests, interactions, and performance of tasks to assess their skills and understanding as part of an overall assessment plan (Mindes & Jung, 2015). Since play is so central to young children’s experiences, it is also an important context for assessing children’s interests, interactions, and skills. In the feature Promoting Play: Play as an Assessment Context, read how one teacher uses play to assess and document children’s progress, and applies the information to inform her teaching.

Accurate, objective observation can be quite difficult. Consider the fact that eyewitness accounts of events tend to vary considerably. Likewise, even everyday experiences may be described differently by different participants. For instance, a teenager’s view of a holiday gathering she didn’t want to attend would be quite different from her grandmother’s, who savored seeing the whole family together. Similarly, if two teachers observe the same preschooler’s boisterous behavior, one might see happiness where the other might see rowdiness.

Learn to Observe

Systematic observation means that teachers focus their attention on individual children or groups, watch what children do as they work and play together, and listen carefully as they speak. Table 11.3 lists the important skills of systematic observation that every effective teacher needs and why.

Table 11.3  Learning to Observe

Effective teachers must be skilled observers in order to assess children’s learning and development accurately, as described in this table.

Effective Observation Practice

Explanation

1. Describe behavior objectively and avoid judgmental labels

An objective statement (“During clean-up time, David ran from one center to another for 10 minutes making siren sounds”) provides specific information that can be interpreted accurately. A judgmental statement (“David is hyperactive”) may be meaningless or inaccurate, and can lead to false assumptions and ineffective interactions with a child.

2. Observe in different contexts

Children’s behavior varies depending on the context, their engagement, and interest. David loves center time and will engage with table toys for extended periods of time, but often acts out during cleanup. Observing his behavior in only one context would be misleading.

3. Observe at different times of the day

Children’s behavior and learning are affected by many variables such as fatigue, hunger, boredom, exhilaration, fear, and anxiety. Accurate interpretation of behavior and effective teaching depends on having the most complete information.

4. Observe children as individuals and in groups

Children learn and display their learning, both as individuals and as members of groups. Obtaining the most complete picture of a child’s abilities, such as their language, social skills, and problem solving, requires observing their interactions with other children.

5. Plan to observe each child during a given time period each week

Teachers’ time is limited by many conflicting demands. Too often, some children receive most of the teachers’ attention while others are overlooked. To guard against this natural tendency, teachers need to set aside specific times weekly to systematically observe each child, if only for 10 minutes.

6. Devise a system for recording information that works for you

Every system for observing and recording assessment evidence places demands on teachers’ time and energy. Teachers need to experiment with and adopt strategies that work for them, whether using sticky notes, strategically placed clipboards, iPads, laptops, digital cameras, or handheld devices.

7. Be aware of and avoid individual and cultural biases

The same behavior may be interpreted differently depending on a teacher’s personal or cultural perspective. Such bias can never be completely eliminated but requires that teachers become self-aware and strive for understanding of others’ points of view.

8. Gather information from other teachers and parents

The eye of the beholder always influences what is observed and how it is interpreted. To avoid misinterpretation and inaccurate conclusions, gather information from as many people as possible. Family members are essential informants about what children know and are able to do outside of school.

At times, teachers stand back and observe children as they engage in the ongoing life of the classroom or on the playground. Who does Marcus play with and for how long? Does he play alone or with a friend? At other times, teachers arrange specific tasks or activities and observe children’s performance. First-grade teacher Ms. Victor adds frequently used words to the “word wall” each week and observes which children refer to them as they are writing. In most situations, teachers are participant-observers who converse with children, listen carefully, and assess while they teach individuals as well as small and large groups.

Promoting Play Play as an Assessment Context

Adele understands that schools have increased expectations of kindergarteners’ academic performance over the years. But her professional education convinced her that much of young children’s learning happens in the context of play. Adele uses intentional, short periods of direct instruction, and includes longer periods of supported and free play for children to learn and practice. However, Adele also knows that play is where children’s learning and development is demonstrated, and she takes full advantage of play as an assessment context. Because she often uses the project approach, Adele engages children in the assessment process as well.

All of Adele’s centers are stocked with reading and writing materials and appropriate learning equipment. Children are encouraged to experiment and imagine. Problem solving and socio-dramatic play are valued equally. As part of their “food” study, children play and demonstrate learning in a grocery store center. Food items are sorted and priced, and children add and subtract pennies to spend their grocery money and fulfill their planned grocery lists. At the garden center, children plant different seeds and nurture their growth. They compare different types of plants as they grow, writing descriptions and recording plant growth. They use a classroom iPad to take photos and record oral descriptions of their garden progress. Children compare how carrots grow in soil that is fed different ways. They have conversations about the weather, pretending to be farmers, and consult a website called “Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids.”

Everywhere in Adele’s classroom, children are engaged, exploring, and producing products that provide evidence of powerful learning. For each project, children create vocabulary lists that they use in their writing and work together to produce a class book. The book becomes part of their classroom library.

Adele uses video, audiotape, photographs, and work products to document children’s learning. After collecting and uploading artifacts, she consults her online assessment tool, identifies the area of evidence, and rates the products according to proficiency. She meets with each child every two weeks for portfolio review, and helps children set learning goals for the upcoming weeks. Adele uses an app on the classroom tablet to share updates to children’s portfolios and their goals with families. Children’s learning goals are posted on the online assessment tool, which parents can access. Using play as a context for learning and assessment keeps Adele focused on children’s development while also addressing learning standards. All the while, children are motivated to learn and take responsibility for their learning.

© Jules Selmes/Pearson Education

Observation is most effective if teachers think in advance about what they want to observe while remaining flexible to observe events as they proceed. Janice planned to observe the babies in her care during feeding time to see how their fine-motor skills were developing. She observed that two of the 13-month-olds, Josie and Ana, could pick up the cereal on the highchair tray. However, 15-month-old Tania became frustrated and started to cry. Janice watched to see whether and how soon Tania would calm herself before she had to intervene. In this case, an observation of fine-motor skill turned into an observation of emotional self-regulation, an example of the kind of shift that occurs constantly in early childhood programs.

Elicit Responses from Children

Aspects of children’s learning and development that cannot be directly observed, such as their conceptual understanding or reasoning, can be elicited from children through questioning, conversation, or other informal teacher–child interactions. Eliciting children’s responses—drawing out their ideas or reflections—is an efficient way of gathering information; this way, teachers do not have to wait for behaviors or responses to occur spontaneously (McAfee & Leong, 2015).

Teachers can have interviews and conferences to elicit children’s ideas, problem-solving strategies, and feelings (McAfee & Leong, 2015). Interviews usually involve the teacher asking predetermined questions that are designed to reveal what children understand. For example, rather than asking a closed question such as “How many is 9 + 5?” the teacher might ask, “How would you figure out what 9 + 5 is?” Such an open-ended question is valuable because it requires an extended response that reveals more about children’s thinking and understanding.

interviews

Teacher-created, predetermined questions that are designed to reveal what children understand.

Conferences engage children in reflecting on their own work. Second-grade teacher Ernestine Cunningham holds regular writing conferences with her students to discuss their writing samples and identify ways to edit or improve them.

Small group discussions provide opportunities to elicit children’s thinking in collaboration with other children. At the end of each science unit, rather than giving a multiple-choice test to see what facts children remember, third-grade teacher Devon Kerns meets with small groups of children and asks them to discuss the phenomenon they have been studying. During one such discussion, Mr. Kerns begins this way: “We’ve been learning about sinking and floating. So why don’t giant ships weighing several tons sink?” The children’s responses reveal varying degrees of understanding of the concept of displacement. Barry stays silent until the end when he admits, “I think there’s something magic going on.”

Observation and Recording to Improve Learning

Like every other aspect of intentional teaching, assessment engages teachers in professional decision making. They must decide what evidence is important to collect, as well as how and when to gather information. The process of gathering evidence of children’s learning is also called documenting, and involves two kinds of decisions: (1) how to gather information about children, and (2) how to record the findings (McAfee & Leong, 2015). Thinking of these processes separately opens up more options for assessment, or more “windows” into children’s learning (McAfee & Leong, 2015).

Observation is the most frequently used method of gathering information. However, there are many ways of recording findings from observation—among them, anecdotal records, checklists, or rating scales—that increase teachers’ options for learning about children. In the sections that follow, we describe ways teachers can observe and collect information about children, then we describe various ways to record or document the information for later reflection and analysis.

Observing and Gathering Evidence

The most effective classroom assessment procedures need to be part of every teacher’s repertoire. These include systematic observation, eliciting responses from children, collecting work products, and gathering information from family members and other adults (McAfee & Leong, 2015). We begin with observation, which is the foundation of effective, developmentally appropriate practice.

Keen observation skills are the most important assessment tool a teacher can develop and use. Effective teaching requires positive relationships and building on children’s prior learning. Therefore, teachers must know as much as possible about children’s strengths, needs, interests, temperament, typical behavior, and much more. Careful observation is the best way to get to know individual children, especially infants, toddlers, and young preschoolers who have limited ability to create products and communicate verbally. During preschool,

kindergarten, and the primary grades, teachers continue to regularly observe children’s interests, interactions, and performance of tasks to assess their skills and understanding as part of an overall assessment plan (Mindes & Jung, 2015). Since play is so central to young children’s experiences, it is also an important context for assessing children’s interests, interactions, and skills. In the feature Promoting Play: Play as an Assessment Context, read how one teacher uses play to assess and document children’s progress, and applies the information to inform her teaching.

Accurate, objective observation can be quite difficult. Consider the fact that eyewitness accounts of events tend to vary considerably. Likewise, even everyday experiences may be described differently by different participants. For instance, a teenager’s view of a holiday gathering she didn’t want to attend would be quite different from her grandmother’s, who savored seeing the whole family together. Similarly, if two teachers observe the same preschooler’s boisterous behavior, one might see happiness where the other might see rowdiness.

Learn to Observe Systematic observation means that teachers focus their attention on individual children or groups, watch what children do as they work and play together, and listen carefully as they speak. Table 11.3 lists the important skills of systematic observation that every effective teacher needs and why.

Table 11.3  Learning to Observe

Effective teachers must be skilled observers in order to assess children’s learning and development accurately, as described in this table.

Effective

Observation

Practice

Explanation

1. Describe

behavior

objectively and

avoid

judgmental

labels

An objective statement (“During clean-up time,

David ran from one center to another for 10

minutes making siren sounds”) provides specific

information that can be interpreted accurately. A

judgmental statement (“David is hyperactive”) may

be meaningless or inaccurate, and can lead to

false assumptions and ineffective interactions with

a child.

2. Observe in

different

contexts

Children’s behavior varies depending on the

context, their engagement, and interest. David

loves center time and will engage with table toys

for extended periods of time, but often acts out

during cleanup. Observing his behavior in only one

context would be misleading.

3. Observe at

different times

of the day

Children’s behavior and learning are affected by

many variables such as fatigue, hunger, boredom,

exhilaration, fear, and anxiety. Accurate

interpretation of behavior and effective teaching

depends on having the most complete information.

4. Observe

children as

individuals and

in groups

Children learn and display their learning, both as

individuals and as members of groups. Obtaining

the most complete picture of a child’s abilities, such

as their language, social skills, and problem

solving, requires observing their interactions with

other children.

5. Plan to

observe each

child during a

given time

period each

week

Teachers’ time is limited by many conflicting

demands. Too often, some children receive most of

the teachers’ attention while others are overlooked.

To guard against this natural tendency, teachers

need to set aside specific times weekly to

systematically observe each child, if only for 10

minutes.

6. Devise a

system for

recording

information that

works for you

Every system for observing and recording

assessment evidence places demands on

teachers’ time and energy. Teachers need to

experiment with and adopt strategies that work for

them, whether using sticky notes, strategically

placed clipboards, iPads, laptops, digital cameras,

or handheld devices.

7. Be aware of

and avoid

individual and

cultural biases

The same behavior may be interpreted differently

depending on a teacher’s personal or cultural

perspective. Such bias can never be completely

eliminated but requires that teachers become

self-aware and strive for understanding of others’

points of view.

8. Gather

information from

other teachers

and parents

The eye of the beholder always influences what is

observed and how it is interpreted. To avoid

misinterpretation and inaccurate conclusions,

gather information from as many people as

possible. Family members are essential informants

about what children know and are able to do

outside of school.

At times, teachers stand back and observe children as they engage in the ongoing life of the classroom or on the playground. Who does Marcus play with and for how long? Does he play alone or with a friend? At other times, teachers arrange specific tasks or activities and observe children’s performance. First-grade teacher Ms. Victor adds frequently used words to the “word wall” each week and observes which children refer to them as they are writing. In most situations, teachers are participant-observers who converse with children, listen carefully, and assess while they teach individuals as well as small and large groups.

Promoting Play Play as an Assessment Context

Adele understands that schools have increased expectations of kindergarteners’ academic performance over the years. But her professional education convinced her that much of young children’s learning happens in the context of play. Adele uses intentional, short periods of direct instruction, and includes longer periods of supported and free play for children to learn and practice. However, Adele also knows that play is where children’s learning and development is demonstrated, and she takes full advantage of play as an assessment context. Because she often uses the project approach, Adele engages children in the assessment process as well.

All of Adele’s centers are stocked with reading and writing materials and appropriate learning equipment. Children are encouraged to experiment and imagine. Problem solving and socio-dramatic play are valued equally. As part of their “food” study, children play and demonstrate learning in a grocery store center. Food items are sorted and priced, and children add and subtract pennies to spend their grocery money and fulfill their planned grocery lists. At the garden center, children plant

different seeds and nurture their growth. They compare different types of plants as they grow, writing descriptions and recording plant growth. They use a classroom iPad to take photos and record oral descriptions of their garden progress. Children compare how carrots grow in soil that is fed different ways. They have conversations about the weather, pretending to be farmers, and consult a website called “Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids.”

Everywhere in Adele’s classroom, children are engaged, exploring, and producing products that provide evidence of powerful learning. For each project, children create vocabulary lists that they use in their writing and work together to produce a class book. The book becomes part of their classroom library.

Adele uses video, audiotape, photographs, and work products to document children’s learning. After collecting and uploading artifacts, she consults her online assessment tool, identifies the area of evidence, and rates the products according to proficiency. She meets with each child every two weeks for portfolio review, and helps children set learning goals for the upcoming weeks. Adele uses an app on the classroom tablet to share updates to children’s portfolios and their goals with families. Children’s learning goals are posted on the online assessment tool, which parents can access. Using play as a context for learning and assessment keeps Adele focused on children’s development while also addressing learning standards. All the while, children are motivated to learn and take responsibility for their learning.

© Jules Selmes/Pearson Education

Observation is most effective if teachers think in advance about what they want to observe while remaining flexible to observe events as they

proceed. Janice planned to observe the babies in her care during feeding time to see how their fine-motor skills were developing. She observed that two of the 13-month-olds, Josie and Ana, could pick up the cereal on the highchair tray. However, 15-month-old Tania became frustrated and started to cry. Janice watched to see whether and how soon Tania would calm herself before she had to intervene. In this case, an observation of fine-motor skill turned into an observation of emotional self-regulation, an example of the kind of shift that occurs constantly in early childhood programs.

Elicit Responses from Children Aspects of children’s learning and development that cannot be directly observed, such as their conceptual understanding or reasoning, can be elicited from children through questioning, conversation, or other informal teacher–child interactions. Eliciting children’s responses—drawing out their ideas or reflections—is an efficient way of gathering information; this way, teachers do not have to wait for behaviors or responses to occur spontaneously (McAfee & Leong, 2015).

Teachers can have interviews and conferences to elicit children’s ideas, problem-solving strategies, and feelings (McAfee & Leong, 2015). Interviews usually involve the teacher asking predetermined questions that are designed to reveal what children understand. For example, rather than asking a closed question such as “How many is 9 + 5?” the teacher might ask, “How would you figure out what 9 + 5 is?” Such an open-ended question is valuable because it requires an extended response that reveals more about children’s thinking and understanding.

interviews

Teacher-created, predetermined questions that are designed to reveal what children understand.

Conferences engage children in reflecting on their own work. Second-grade teacher Ernestine Cunningham holds regular writing conferences with her students to discuss their writing samples and identify ways to edit or improve them.

Small group discussions provide opportunities to elicit children’s thinking in collaboration with other children. At the end of each science unit, rather than giving a multiple-choice test to see what facts children remember, third-grade teacher Devon Kerns meets with small groups of children and asks them to discuss the phenomenon they have been studying. During one such discussion, Mr. Kerns begins this way: “We’ve been learning about sinking and floating. So why don’t giant ships weighing several tons sink?” The children’s responses reveal varying degrees of understanding of the concept of displacement. Barry stays silent until the end when he admits, “I think there’s something magic going on.”

,

Collect Work Products Much of children’s work and play produces a product such as a drawing, a painting, a construction in a particular medium, a piece of writing, a dramatic performance, or speaking in a group. These products, if systematically collected over time, provide evidence of changes in children’s development and learning. Examples of individual work might be one child’s journal or an art project. When maintaining web-based portfolios, teachers can take a photo of work products or video of intangible products such as skits.

Teachers may also collect or evaluate the work of a group, such as a mural, or a compilation of children’s observations from a field trip, such as a PowerPoint presentation with digital photos. Portfolio assessment, which is discussed later in the chapter, is one strategy for systematically collecting and analyzing children’s work samples.

Gather Information from Family Members Parents are often thought of as the audience for assessment information, passively receiving report cards or listening attentively during parent–teacher conferences. However, teachers must not only give information to parents, they must get information from parents as well. Parents can provide insights about children’s behavior and capabilities outside the school or child care center. They can also serve as key informants about children’s culture and language. Family involvement is so necessary to valid assessment of children with disabilities and special needs that it is legally required (DEC, 2014). Each of these methods of gathering assessment information has advantages and disadvantages, which are summarized in Table 11.4.

Table 11.4 Methods of Gathering Assessment Information: Advantages and Disadvantages Teachers can gather assessment information in several ways, but they should consider the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Method Advantages Disadvantages Observation Truly authentic assessment Best way to obtain information about children’s behavior Can observe without interfering with the ongoing activities in the classroom Can see children’s performance in relevant context (play, routines, group projects, outdoors) Time consuming Children’s thinking and/or problem solving cannot be directly observed Can distract teachers from interacting with children Can be affected by individual and cultural biases Eliciting Responses from Children (interviews, conferences, and discussions) Saves time Provides insight into children’s thinking and learning that cannot be directly observed Engages children in thinking and reflecting about their own learning—important metacognitive processes that contribute to further development

Demonstrates a child’s ability in interaction with other children and adults If children do not respond, teachers may inaccurately assume that they don’t know the answer Wording of questions may influence the child’s response Cultural or emotional factors such as lack of self-confidence may inhibit child’s response Collecting Work Products Gathered over time Provide multiple sources of information Can be used to evaluate children’s progress and analyze where help is needed Concretely demonstrate children’s progress to parents and to children themselves Teachers may not be sure which products to keep, how many to save, and how to evaluate them Organization and storage can be difficult Information from Family Members Provide insight into children’s cultural and linguistic backgrounds Describe children’s abilities in familiar context Required for children with disabilities and special needs May be intimidating or threatening to families Language and/or cultural differences may create communication barriers May not be reliable Source: Based on O. McAfee , D. Leong, and E. Bodrova, 2015. Assessing and guiding young children’s development and learning (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson; J. J. Beaty, 2013. Observing development of the young child (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Effective assessment systems—those that provide valid, reliable, and useful information for decision making—use all the ways of gathering evidence discussed in previous sections. Intentional teachers regularly gather evidence and then use it to inform their teaching decisions about individual children. In the feature Becoming an Intentional Teacher: Using Assessment to Inform Teaching, we see this process in action for one teacher.

What Children Know and Can Do

Observation, eliciting children’s responses, collecting work samples, and other authentic assessment procedures are generally informal and therefore not subject to the technical requirements of standardized testing. Nevertheless, for informal assessment results to be accurate and useful, they need to be as objective and nonbiased as possible. Various methods of documenting assessment are designed to increase the likelihood of gathering reliable and valid information. We turn now to a description of the most commonly used methods of documentation. These methods include descriptive records, frequency counts, checklists, rating scales and rubrics, and portfolios.

Descriptive Records Narratives are stories in which the narrator stands outside the experience and describes the people, situation, and events that occur. The same is true of narrative approaches to observation. Narrative records are teachers’ attempts to record detailed descriptions of children in a situation or event that is the focus of the observation (McAfee & Leong, 2015). It is

important for narrative records to focus on the observed behavior rather than implying judgment. “Kery kicked over Stan’s building, threw the sand toys on the floor, and pushed Mimi down” is much more informative and useful later than “Kery was disruptive at school today.”

narrative records Teachers’ attempts to record detailed descriptions of children in a situation or event that is the focus of the observation. Becoming an Intentional Teacher Using Assessment to Inform Teaching Here’s What Happened Four-year-old Moses is a gentle boy who plays alone and rarely speaks up. I made a point of observing Moses with other children during center time and when we were doing things that interested him. I also spoke with his mother.

One morning, I recorded a short video of Moses in the block corner with two other boys for 7 minutes. Buddy and Eugene were building a house and kept up a running conversation about what they were doing. Buddy: “This is the bathroom right here. This is the bathtub and toilet.” Eugene, picking up a block: “This is the frigerator.” Moses sat silently right next to them, frowning, and watching every move they made. After 6 minutes, Moses went to the shelf, picked up three plastic people, and said, “This is fun, too.” Buddy grabbed the people from Moses’s hands, put them in the house, and said, “This is my family, my mommy and daddy.” Frowning, Moses quietly sat down and continued to observe. He then picked up the bin of plastic people figures and went to the table to play with them alone.

Here’s What I Was Thinking Before I can take action to help a child, I need to know as much as possible about the child’s skills, abilities, and needs. That’s where assessment comes in. Maybe Moses did not successfully join the play because he was intimidated by Buddy, in which case I would focus attention on helping him become more comfortable expressing himself. Or maybe he was behind in language and vocabulary development, so I should work on that. Observing him in different situations was the key. I also needed to ask Moses open-ended questions about how he felt about the experience. It could have been that his sad face and frown meant that he longed to join in the play, or he could have been patiently but unhappily waiting a turn to play alone with the blocks.

I shared the video with Moses’s family and spoke with his grandmother about what she thought about the interaction. From my observations and conversations with Moses’s family, I now have a working hypothesis. It seems likely that not participating in cooperative play is related to his limited vocabulary and lack of experience interacting with other children because he is an only child. To help Moses with both of these issues, I will set up situations to encourage his ease when talking with others. I will also plan some activities that work directly on his social skills. This observation also gave me insights into Buddy’s and Eugene’s behaviors, and I plan to work with them on their skills at making friends.

Reflection

How else might the teacher have interpreted her observations of Moses’s behavior during the play sequence? What other tools could she use to assess his social skills and then plan accordingly?

© Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock Teachers use various methods of collecting anecdotal records for later reflection and analysis. They may take brief notes while observing children in action or as soon as possible, adding more detail later. After documenting their observations, teachers reflect on and interpret their records and plan how to improve teaching and learning. Anecdotal records should include the date and time of observation, names of children observed, location of the incident such as lunch table or hallway, and what the children said and actually did (Mindes & Jung, 2015). Photographs may accompany anecdotal notes. Figure 11.2 presents contrasting examples of anecdotal records about the same situation. A teacher would have difficulty interpreting the first example because it is too general and judgmental to be helpful. By contrast, the second example lends itself to deeper reflection and more effective intervention.

Figure 11.2 Contrasting Examples of Anecdotal Records Compare these examples of anecdotal records. Which one provides more useful information for the teacher? Figure 11.2 Full Alternative Text Here are some types of narrative records:

A running record is a chronological record, much like a diary, of an individual child’s behavior that helps teachers better understand that behavior (Wortham & Hardin, 2015). The diary format allows the teacher to compare and analyze a child’s behavior and development over time. Ms. Dollan worries about Jennifer’s shyness and is concerned that it is interfering with her ability to become involved and learn in kindergarten. She keeps a running record for one week, noting as many of Jennifer’s social interactions as she can observe. At the end of the week, Ms. Dollan is surprised to find that Jennifer engages much more than she thought; Jennifer just tends to wait and observe before she gets involved. running record A chronological record, like a diary, of an individual child’s behavior that helps teachers better understand that behavior. Anecdotal records are short descriptions of incidents, or anecdotes, involving one or more children (McAfee & Leong, 2015). “Monday 5/8—When I read Hansel and Gretel to 5 children, Sam (a child with special needs) sat up front and counted the pebbles on the page. He kept his eyes glued to the story for 15 minutes. He frowned when the children were lost and smiled at the ending. He picked up the book on his own afterward.” When his teacher, Joanne, reflects on her anecdotal record about Sam, she realizes that previously she underestimated Sam’s attention span. Sam’s attention during whole group wanders, but she had never assessed it in the small group context before. Joanne is looking forward to sharing this newly found strength with Sam’s dad.

anecdotal records Short descriptions written by teachers and based on observations of incidents or anecdotes involving one or more children. Videotapes, audiotapes, and digital photography are tools for capturing ongoing streams of behavior or performances that are difficult to document in writing.

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