Using Observation in Early Childhood Education

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9780138884963: Using Observation in Early Childhood Education

Written by a prolific, well-respected author, this book teaches how to observe, document, and assess children's development and progress—emphasizing how powerful ethical, responsible observation can be in a teacher's professional life. Focusing on observations as an intrinsic part of authentic assessment, the author advocates a protective, respectful attitude toward it. Provides an overview of various informal and formal observation and assessment strategies, as well as instruction in how to embed observation into the daily routine of the early childhood classroom. Explores ways to prevent problems, ways to solve problems, and ways to work cooperatively with parents. Included is coverage of the ethics of observation and the pros and cons of standardized testing as it relates to observation and assessment. For early childhood teachers.

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Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Welcome to Using Observation in Early Childhood Education. My purpose in writing this text was to give students a book that will help them understand the process of observation. I want students to be able to observe, document, and assess children's development and progress. I want students to know just how powerful a tool ethical and responsible observation can be in their professional life.

I have constructed this textbook so that it, like my other textbook, Guidance of Young Children, reflects my beliefs about children.

  • I believe that protecting children is a teacher's most important role. Students reading this text should understand that we teach and protect children most effectively by making active conscious choices about our practices, including how we assess and observe children. We protect children when we refuse to use inappropriate assessment strategies that are potentially harmful. We protect children by observing ethically and responsibly and by protecting children's privacy.

    The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), in its Code of Ethical Conduct, notes that the most important part of the code is that early childhood professionals never engage in any practice that hurts or degrades a child. I take this advice seriously. Students who use this textbook will learn only responsible, ethical strategies and a respectful approach to observing and assessing young children.


  • I believe that observation is a powerful tool. Students who read this book should come away convinced that they can use observation to increase their effectiveness as professionals. Students will learn how to observe children and document their development and progress. They will also learn to use observation to observe children's behavior, to become reflective practitioners, to prevent or solve problems, and to work with parents.


  • I believe that we have a choice about how we observe and use observation. Students have a choice about how they responsibly observe and assess children. Students should know that the methods they choose do matter, and should know how to choose informal and formal observation and assessment strategies. They should also know how to embed the observations in the daily life of a classroom.


  • I believe that there is no one right way to observe and assess children's development and progress, but that there are many good ways. This textbook will give students a clear and precise picture of major observation strategies. It will urge them to use a single developmentally appropriate observational strategy, or a combination of these, to get the information that they need. My hope is that they will value the opportunity to use a variety of observational strategies.

SPECIAL FEATURES OF THIS TEXT

  • Students will see how these teachers have woven observation into the fabric of their teaching: Mrs. Vargas (preschool), Mr. Claiborne (first grade), Mr. Nellis (K-2), and Mr. Lee (third grade).
  • An emphasis on observation as a part of authentic assessment of young children.
  • Discussion of problems associated with standardized testing of young children.
  • A discussion of the ethics of observation.
  • Practical and specific help in doing observations in a time-efficient way.
  • Clear descriptions of specific major observational methods.
  • Many examples of observational methods—examples from real classrooms. If running records are under discussion, then several running records are presented. They are not just described. Students see real examples.
  • Case studies for many of the chapters.
  • Helpful figures throughout the text, such as a timeline for observing, checklists, and rating scales.
  • Real-life examples of observations from primary, kindergarten, and preschool classrooms. Terms that are clearly defined.
  • Student-friendly writing style. Web sites for each chapter.
  • Two appendices (Appendix A and B) providing an outline for writing observation reports and suggestions of what to look for when observing a play material or activity.
  • An appendix (appendix C) with reproducible forms for different observational methods.

STRUCTURE OF THIS TEXT

This book is organized by chapters within three parts.

Part I: The Power, Process, and Ethics of Observation in Early Childhood
Part I of this text consists of two chapters, designed to do two things. First, I want students to understand how powerful a tool observation is for early childhood professionals. Second, I want students to understand that they have a professional obligation to observe ethically

Chapter 1, "The Power of Observation in Early Childhood," emphasizes that there is real power in observation. One of the things that is emphasized is that observation is an essential element in authentic assessment of young children. Students will see that they can use observation to prevent or solve many of the problems that they will face as professionals.

Chapter 2, "The Ethics and Process of Observing," explains ethical observation. Students will learn how to protect children's privacy while observing. They will also learn how to protect their observations. This chapter will introduce two major categories of observation—narrative and nonnarrative—and also several of the major practical strategies for observing nested within each of these categories.

Part II: Methods of Observing and Documenting Progress and Development in Early Childhood
When students are finished with Part II, they will have a good start in understanding several of the major methods for observing and documenting young children's development and progress. They will read a sound rationale as well as specific, detailed, and usable information about each strategy.

Chapter 3, 'Anecdotal Records: A Short Narrative Method of Observation," will show students how to write good and useful anecdotal records. They will quickly learn the value of using anecdotal records to observe almost any aspect of a child's development or progress.

Chapter 4, "Running Records: A Longer Narrative Method of Observation," will help students learn to record an event in more detail. They will discover the power of running records in authentic assessment, will learn how to write about a child or an activity without giving their opinions, and will learn how to reflect on the data that they collect.

Chapter 5, "Checklists and Rating Scales: Nonnarrative Methods for Observing Development and Progress," describes two shortcut observation strategies. Students will learn that both checklists and rating scales are useful strategies to use when they need to gather specific types of information quickly. They will also learn how to develop different types of checklists and rating scales.

Chapter 6, "Documenting and Reporting Development and Progress: Children's Products, Observation Reports, and Portfolios," shows students several different ways to document and report children's development and progress: with children's products and work samples, with documentary displays, and with observation reports. This chapter also describes portfolios as a way of documenting and reporting. Students will learn practical strategies for using children's portfolios in their classrooms.

Part III: Using Observation
This section of the text will help students put observation to work for them.

Chapter 7, "Observing Behavior: Cracking the Code," facilitates student learning about observing children's behavior. They will quickly see the value of observation in dealing with challenging behaviors, for example.

Chapter 8, "Using the Eclectic Approach to Observe Motor and Cognitive Development," challenges students to discover and build on children's strengths through systematic observation. It shows students how to use an eclectic approach to observe both cognitive and large motor development.

Chapter 9, "Using the Eclectic Approach to Observe Emotional and Social Development," like chapter 8, focuses on using a combination of wisely chosen observation instruments. Such a combination enables students and teachers to get the most helpful information about children's feelings and relationships. They will see a teacher use the ready-made and easily obtainable Social Attributes Checklist as well as several teacher-made observation tools.

Chapter 10, "Using Observation to Prevent and Solve Problems," urges students to adopt a problem-solving approach, an attitude that says, "This is a problem and I am willing to try to solve it." It demonstrates how ethical and reflective teachers value observation as a valuable skill in preventing or solving problems.

Chapter 11, "Using Observation to Become a Reflective Practitioner," will help students use observation to become reflective practitioners. They will have an opportunity to assess their own ability to reflect on their practices.

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Book Description Prentice Hall, Australia, 2003. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. For Observation in Early Childhood courses. Written by a prolific, well-respected author, this new text teaches students how to observe, document, and assess children s development and progress--emphasizing how powerful ethical, responsible observation can be in a teacher s professional life. The author focuses on observations as an intrinsic part of authentic assessment in ECE. She explains various informal and formal observation strategies, as well as instruction in how to embed observation in the daily routine of the early childhood classroom. Written in a student-friendly voice, the text also explores ways to prevent problems, ways to solve problems, and ways to work cooperatively with parents. Included is coverage of the ethics of observation and the problems of standardized testing of younger children. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780138884963

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Book Description Prentice Hall, Australia, 2003. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. For Observation in Early Childhood courses. Written by a prolific, well-respected author, this new text teaches students how to observe, document, and assess children s development and progress--emphasizing how powerful ethical, responsible observation can be in a teacher s professional life. The author focuses on observations as an intrinsic part of authentic assessment in ECE. She explains various informal and formal observation strategies, as well as instruction in how to embed observation in the daily routine of the early childhood classroom. Written in a student-friendly voice, the text also explores ways to prevent problems, ways to solve problems, and ways to work cooperatively with parents. Included is coverage of the ethics of observation and the problems of standardized testing of younger children. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780138884963

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