Types of childcare observation

There are pros and cons to each type of early learning observation method.

Early childhood observation in an educational setting is key to ensuring proper development in young children. There are several different observational methods, each with its own pros and cons. The type of evaluation used can depend on the setting, the child’s personal history, or the overall goal of the assessment itself.

Time sample observation:

This form of observation is intended to time track a specific behavior of a single individual or group of children. The targeted conduct is observed, noted, and time-stamped for cumulative review later on. This type of assessment is good for statistical records or analysis but is limited in scope. The documentation doesn’t consider other behavioral or historical elements surrounding the observed event.

Narrative or running record observation:

Record keeping through narrative and anecdotal notes is a useful way to monitor development and progress. Narrative notation is most similar to a diary entry, wherein the author makes general notes about the entire observation, including nuanced and deliberate behaviors. Running records are different from anecdotal entries because they are more thorough. Anecdotal observations are typically limited to a specific act or occurrence that happened during the observation period.

Children in a classroom

Rating scales or rubric scoring:

Scores or rating systems can be helpful for making baseline observational assessments. They are especially useful for identifying individuals that are well below or above the developmental average. Scales are an excellent way to conduct an initial evaluation but they don’t take into consideration any other factors, influences, or behavioral issues that the child may have.

Childcare checklist observation

Checklists are a logically sequenced way to observe children that evaluates their progress from one point to another. This observation technique can provide insight into where a child is having difficulties or excelling. By watching their behavior and comparing it to a chronological set of expectations, the observer can see where problems may exist or identify opportunities to challenge the child further.

Check out our free observation checklist template here.

To better understand why observation is so essential to early development, check out our article,“The Importance of Observation in Early Childhood Education.”.

What types of childcare observations do you find most effective in your work? Share your ideas with us on Facebook.

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Savannah Copland

Savannah Copland is a Marketing Manager at HiMama. She has been working for over 3 years in the early childhood education space, and feels incredibly fortunate to have met, interviewed, and worked closely with registered early childhood educators, thought leaders and researchers during that time. She is particularly interested in finding novel ways for child care centers to market themselves and bolster their enrollment. She loves cats, and always needs at least one toy on her desk to fidget with!

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