Focused Observation: Everything You Need to Know

This is an observation that takes place with a specified objective, and the observer is present throughout and is a part of the process. During the early years, a practitioner can use focused observation to study a particular child or group of children in a specific area of learning. Such observations can help practitioners make informed assessments and collect evidence of particular skills to track learning/development and decide a plan for the next steps.

Intentional teaching starts with focused observations and methodical documentation of children’s learning and development. With focused observation, practitioners can get to know every child well, track their progress, and chart an individualized curriculum. They can use different tools and techniques to strengthen their observations, build portfolios with rich documentation, and offer adequate support to every child.

Each setting for which focused observation is carried out will use the 3-step process of ‘observe, evaluate, and plan’ to make sure of every child’s ongoing development. While some practitioners choose specific methods for undertaking observations and assessments, others may simply evaluate if their chosen style of the setting is sufficient in documenting learning and supporting continuous development.

Some commonly used methods of focused observation during a child’s early years are:

·         Long Observations/Narrative: Such observations typically last for twenty to thirty minutes. They will generally be written in a format that lets practitioners link them quickly to the prime and specific learning areas. When making longer observations, practitioners need to focus on what they would like to monitor and if it’s a particular behavior or skill during a certain time of the day. As these observations are lengthy, they are conducted less frequently. This makes it crucial for the practitioners to have a clear goal for what they would like to accomplish from the observation.

·         Shorter Observations: Sometimes, such spontaneous observations are just a few sentences long. Practitioners conduct them frequently and use their knowledge of particular children to identify their actions and skills that are worthy of recognition.

·         Learning Stories: Compared to narrative observations, they are longer. They are conducted for an extended period to create a fuller image of the children, their interests, and their enduring aptitude to develop and thrive.

·         Artworks: From mathematics to mark-making, a solitary piece of artwork made by a child can have links to several EYFS areas within both the specific and prime areas of learning. Such observations help practitioners make evidence-based and informed assessments.

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