Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Guiding children’s behavior… resolving conflicts…creating a caring classroom community…children with challenging behaviors…slow-to-warm-up children…limits…internal v - Very-Good Essays

Guiding children’s behavior… resolving conflicts…creating a caring classroom community…children with challenging behaviors…slow-to-warm-up children…limits…internal v

 Guiding children's behavior… resolving conflicts…creating a caring classroom community…children with challenging behaviors…slow-to-warm-up children…limits…internal vs external motivation…The list could go on and on. Often one of the most challenging parts of being a teacher or teacher's assistant is consistently managing the behavior of your students. After reading Chapter 7 Guiding Children's Behavior in your Beginnings and Beyond text, respond to at least two of the following questions:

  • How are guidance, discipline, and punishment different? How are they similar?
  • How can adults help children learn to manage (take ownership of) their own behavior?
  • What are positive guidance strategies that can be used to create a classroom where students care about each other?
  • How can teachers be consistent in their expectations, yet also take into account managing children with different personalities or challenging behaviors?
  • Think back to your own school experience. How were you disciplined? How did the teachers in your life react when you or someone around you misbehaved? Was this effective? If so, why? If not, what would have been more effective?

Chapter 6: Observation and Assessment of Children

Chapter Introduction

Observation and Assessment of Children

Enlarge Image

© Cengage Learning ®

Learning Objectives

· LO1Define the key elements and purposes of child observation.

· LO2Explain the various contexts of what is observed.

· LO3Identify common types of observation systems.

· LO4Examine the goals and tools of child assessment.

Competency Areas

Competency Areas

Icon Standards for Professional Development

The following NAEYC Standards for early childhood professional development are addressed in this chapter:

· Standard 1 Promoting Child Development and Learning

· Standard 3 Observing, Documenting, and Assessing to Support Young Children and Families

· Standard 4 Using Developmentally Effective Approaches to Connect with Children and Families

· Standard 5 Using Content Knowledge to Build Meaningful Curriculum

· Standard 6 Becoming a Professional

Icon Code of Ethical Conduct

These are the sections of the NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct that apply to the topics of this chapter:

Core Values: Helping children and adults achieve their full potential in the context of relationships that are based on trust, respect, and positive regard.

Section I:

· P-1.5

We shall use appropriate assessment systems, which include multiple sources of information, to provide information on children’s learning and development.

· P-1.6

We shall strive to ensure that decisions such as those related to enrollment, retention, or assignment to special education services will be based on multiple sources of information and will never be based on a single assessment, such as a test score or a single observation.

Section II:

· P-2.7

We shall inform families about the nature and purpose of the program’s child assessments and how data about their child will be used.

· P-2.8

We shall treat child assessment information confidentially and share this information only when there is a legitimate need for it.

6-1Key Elements and Purposes of Observation

Children are fascinating. They are charming, needful, busy, creative, unpredictable, and emotional. At school, at home, in the grocery store, and in the park, children demonstrate a variety of behaviors. There is the happy child who toddles toward the swing. The angry, defiant child grabs a book or toy and runs away. The studious child works seriously on a puzzle.

These pictures of children working, playing, and living together flash through the mind, caught for an instant as if by a camera. Good observational skills can help teachers capture both typical and exceptional moments in a child’s life. Memory leaves just an impression. Documentation with visual samples and the written word are opportunities to check impressions and opinions against the facts. In this chapter, you learn about observing and recording the behavior of young children and how to apply these skills to assess children, to collect their work in a way that reflects each of them, and to evaluate their growth.

6-1aWhat Is Observation?

Teachers learn to make mental notes of the important details in each interaction:

· That’s the first time I’ve seen Karen playing with Bryce. They are laughing together as they build with blocks in the preschool room.

· For five minutes now, Teddy has been standing on the fringes of the sand area, where the toddler group is playing. He has ignored the children’s smiles and refused the teacher’s invitations to join in the play.

· Antonio stops climbing each time he reaches the top of the school-age climbing frame. He looks quickly around, and if he catches a teacher’s eye, he scrambles down and runs away.

Through their behavior, these three children reveal much about their personalities. The teacher’s responsibility is to notice all the clues and put them together in meaningful ways. The teacher sees the obvious clues, as well as the more subtle ones. The way that observations are put together with other pertinent information becomes critical:

· Karen has been looking for a special friend. Now that she has learned some ways to approach other children that don’t frighten and overwhelm them, children want to play with her.

· Teddy’s parents divorced two weeks ago. It appears he is just beginning to feel some of that pain and has become withdrawn at school.

· At home, Antonio is expected to do things right the first time. Because climbing over the top of the frame might be tricky, he does not attempt it at all. At school, he generally attempts only what he knows he can do without making a mistake.

These simple observations, made in the midst of a busy day, give vital information about each child’s abilities, needs, and concerns. It is a more developed picture. Children are complex human beings who respond in many ways. Teachers can observe these responses and use their skills to help each child grow and learn. The ability to observe—to “read” the child, understand a group, “see” a situation—is one of the most important and satisfying skills a teacher can have. As Curtis (2008) states:

Learning to see children takes time and practice, both when I am with them and when I take time to reflect on my work. The extra effort is worthwhile, as it is much better to share in children’s insatiable curiosity, deep feelings, and pure delight than it is to be the toddler police, focusing only on fixing behaviors, teaching to outcomes, or checking boxes on official forms.

Moreover, consistent practice of observation helps teachers develop a special sense that gives a picture of how both individuals and groups of children are feeling and functioning and can assist in measuring how standards for programs and teachers are being met and how early learning goals and benchmarks are being achieved.

Observation plays an especially important role in  assessment , either by replacing (in the case of young children) or by supplementing standardized  evaluation  tools (for elementary-aged children). In fact, authentic assessment can be done only on the basis of good observations. Finally, teachers are engaged as researchers, in both  co-inquiry and through reflection. Teachers observe how children learn, behave, react and feel; at the same time, they also observe themselves and their own values.

Observation of the following is the basis of so much of a teacher’s work:

· The environment —how to set it up and when to change it

· The schedule—what to put in the daily sequence and time periods for activities

· The atmosphere—how to sense and respond to interactions and relationships.

· The curriculum —which activities to set up for learning and development, and what to adjust, delete, or enhance to meet program and child goals

· The children—how to guide them, where intervention is needed

· The families—what feedback to give, the assessments of child progress

· The team and administration—what resources are needed to promote effective teaching approaches and positive teamwork

Watch how children use their bodies. Whether they can use pedals or their feet with the wheeled toys gives you clues about their motor skills.

Watch how children use their bodies. Whether they can use pedals or their feet with the wheeled toys gives you clues about their motor skills.

© Cengage Learning ®

Observation is more than ordinary looking. It takes energy and concentration to become an accurate observer. Teachers must train themselves to record what they see on a regular basis. They need to discipline themselves to distinguish between detail and trivia and learn to spot biases that might invalidate observation. Once acquired, objective observation techniques help give a scientific and professional character to the role of early childhood educator.

Observation in Daily Practice. Play is the work of childhood. It is the way children express themselves and how they show what they are really like. By observing play, teachers can see children as they are and as they see themselves. Behavior reflects inner thought and brain functioning. The stage is set; the action begins as soon as the first child enters the room. Here, teachers can see children in action and watch for important behavior. All that is needed is to be alert to the clues and make note of them:

· Teddy, a toddler, walks up to Brooke. He grabs Brooke’s toy, a shape sorter, away from her. Then he begins to place shapes into the sorter. He has difficulty placing the shapes into the container. He then throws the shapes, his face turns red, and he kicks the container away.

· Karen, at nearly 4, kneels on the chair placed at the puzzle table, selecting a 10-piece puzzle. She turns the puzzle upside down, allowing the pieces to fall on the table. She selects one piece at a time with her left hand and successfully puts every piece in the frame the first time. She raises both hands in the air and yells to Bryce, “I did it!”

· Antonio is a first-grader in the K–3 after-school program. New to the school, he has been quiet in the academic program. Spanish is his home language, and his teacher doesn’t speak it. He is cautious around all the staff as well. However, Antonio seems to relax a bit when the clubs begin, as student teacher Herenia arrives with a hearty “Buenas tardes, todos!” and a new soccer ball for the Los Deportes/Sports Club to use.

What are children telling us about themselves? Which actions are most important to note? Understanding children is difficult because so many factors influence their behavior. A child’s stage of development, culture, health, fatigue, and hunger can all make a difference in how a child behaves. Additionally, environmental factors such as the noise level, congestion, or time of day can add to the complex character of children’s actions. Therefore, the teacher must make it a point to observe children at critical moments.

First,  notice the way a child begins each day. Teddy always clings to his blanket after his dad leaves him at school. Karen bounces in each day, ready to play the moment she walks in the door. Antonio walks over from his classroom and then circles the room, watching each adult before settling into an activity. These children are showing something about their needs via these actions. A good observer continues to watch, taking note of these early morning scenes. One can interpret these behaviors later, seeing how they apply to each child and how behavior changes over time.

Second,  watch how children use their bodies. The basic routines of eating, napping, toileting, and dressing show how they take care of themselves. Whether or not Karen knows how to put her jacket on by herself may indicate her skills in other areas that require initiative and self-sufficiency. It may also indicate how she is developing an awareness of herself as a separate, independent being.

Third,  focus on how children relate to other people. Teachers see Teddy choose Brooke as a playmate even when he fights with her, but he seems to avoid the other toddlers. The observant teacher makes note of the adults in each child’s life. Who does Teddy seek for comfort? For answering questions? Who takes care of the child outside of school? Who picks the child up from school each day?

Finally, check for  what children like to do, how well they use the environment, and  what they avoid. Specific observations about the various areas of skill development—physical–motor, intellectual, affective—can be mirrors of growth. Teachers observe whether a child picks materials that are challenging or exhibits the tendency toward the novel or the familiar. Antonio starts each afternoon cruising the room before landing near the pet table. He is livelier outdoors, and does not participate in Circle Time—yet. Observing children at play and at work can tell us how they learn and what methods they use to gain information.

6-1bWhy Observe?

Classrooms are busy places, especially for teachers who plan many activities and share in hundreds of interactions every day. There is so much that demands attention and response; at the same time, by building in systematic observation, teachers can improve their teaching, construct theory, assess children, assist families, and solve problems.

Improve Your Teaching

It is difficult to monitor our behavior while we are in the midst of working with children and time-consuming to reflect on that behavior afterward. Yet the most effective teachers are those who are thorough in their preparation and systematic in evaluating their own work. Teacher research, sometimes called inquiry, is a fundamental part of the work. Dewey (1933/1985) asserted that education is best practiced as inquiry; Paley (1981) regarded it as a natural part of the everyday work in the classroom.

“Teachers who research their classrooms are systematic and deliberate in their use of observation and reflection to make sense of what they see and experience” (Henderson et al., 2012). It takes a certain level of awareness—of self, of the children, and of the environment—to monitor our own progress. This includes carefully checking what is happening, looking for feedback, and then acting on it. Professionals can do this by asking others to observe them through videotaping, by observing each other at work with the children, and by self-observation.

Bias and Objectivity. Observing children helps teachers become more objective about the children in their care. When making observational notes, teachers look first at what the child is doing. This is different from looking at how a child  ought to be doing something. The teacher becomes like a camera, recording what is seen without immediately judging it. This  objectivity  can balance the intense, personal side of teaching.

Bias  is inherent in all our perceptions. We must acknowledge this truth without falling prey to the notion that because our efforts are flawed, they are worthless. Observing is not a precise or wholly objective act (see  Figure 6-1 ). No two people see something in identical ways. For instance, reread the segments about Teddy and Karen. One teacher sees in Teddy a child demonstrating an age-appropriate response to frustration; another sees someone who is too aggressive; a third focuses on Brooke as a victim, rushing to comfort her and ignoring Teddy altogether.

Figure 6-1

Observers watching the same scene, seeing the same behavior, think of it in very different terms. Seeing through a different pair of cultural eyes, each of us is thus affected in our reactions and assessments.

Check Your Lenses!

What we see is in the eye of the beholder. What do you behold?

A 2-year-old screams “Mine!” and fends off a boy trying to grab the blanket she’s holding.

A 2-year-old screams “Mine!” and fends off a boy trying to grab the blanket she’s holding.

© Cengage Learning

You see: “She’s obviously protecting her security blanket; she is standing up for herself.”

· Believing in private property

Or: “Look at that selfish child; she disturbs the group and is unkind.”

· Believing in group harmony

Kindergartners are sifting and sorting rice at a sensory table.

Kindergartners are sifting and sorting rice at a sensory table.

© Cengage Learning

You see: “They are learning pre-math concepts through their senses.”

· Believing children learn best by doing, by using their hands

Or: “They are playing with food, and rice is sacred.”

· Believing people must take care of food and treat it with respect

A 4-year-old shouts at another, “No; don’t knock it down; we just built it ourselves!”

A 4-year-old shouts at another, “No; don’t knock it down; we just built it ourselves!”

© Cengage Learning

You see: “He’s protecting his space; he takes pride in what he creates.”

· Believing in self-expression and low frustration tolerance

Or: “He is rude; he hurts others’ feelings and is unfriendly.”

· Believing in group affiliation and building community

Infants sleeping in cribs in a child care center.

Infants sleeping in cribs in a child care center.

© Cengage Learning

You see: “It is wonderful how the room is set up for quiet napping.

· Believing in children sleeping independently, on their own

Or: “How sad that the babies are left alone like that.”

· Believing in children being held, cared for always

(Excerpted from Gonzalez-Mena (2000). © 2000. Reprinted with permission of Delmar Learning, a division of Thomson Learning: Fax: 800-730-2215.)

Observing can never be totally objective or independent of the observer. Whatever you see passes through your filters of your past experiences, assumptions, biases, understanding, and knowledge. Your beliefs and ideas dictate what you see, coloring your perception and interpretation to the observation. Teachers, like all adults, are influenced in their work by their own early childhood experiences. They have notions about how children learn, play, grow, or behave because of the way they were raised and trained. The same behaviors might be labeled “assertive and independent” by one teacher and “bossy and uncooperative” by another (see the “ Diversity ” box).

Pulling back, taking some notes, and making observations give the teacher a chance to see the bigger picture. Team teaching can help. One teacher can step in and manage a situation so that another can get out of the thick of the activity and observe from a distance. Teammates can help each other gain perspective by comparing notes on the class, an individual, or a time of the day. Observations can be a means of validating one teacher’s point of view or changing it by checking out an opinion or idea through systematic observation.

Guidelines. Three guidelines come to mind as one begins to observe:

· Practice intensive waiting. Cultivate an ability to wait and see what is really happening instead of rushing to conclusions about what it means, where such behavior comes from, or what should be done. These hurried impressions hinder a teacher’s work toward understanding. Try to suspend expectations and be open to what is really happening, whether this concerns behaviors, feelings, or patterns.

· Become part scientist. A good observer makes a clear distinction between fact and inference, between real behavior and an impression or conclusion drawn from it. Awareness of the difference between what actually happens and one’s opinion and conclusions about those events is critical to good teaching.

· Engage in slowing down. Ask yourself while you are observing:

· What is happening for this child in this play?

· What is her agenda?

· Does she have the skills and materials she needs to accomplish her intent?

No one can be free from bias, nor is that the point. The impressions and influences made can provide valuable insights into children. Self-awareness, coupled with observation and recording skills, prepares teachers to focus on actual behaviors. By separating what happens from what you  think about it or how you  feel about it, you are able to distinguish between fact and inference (see  Figure 6-2 ). This does not mean that teachers have to become aloof; your body language can reflect both warmth and a measure of objectivity at the same time. Professional preparation standards indicate that observing, documenting, and assessing is a major task of teaching;  Chapter 5  describes further assessment of teachers.

Figure 6-2

Two Observations

The first example contains numerous biases, which are numbered and explained beneath it. The second example has clear descriptions and is relatively free of biases.

Can You Spot the Bias?

Poor Observation

Julio walked over to the coat rack and dropped his sweater on the floor. He is shy (1) of teachers, so he didn’t ask anyone to help him pick it up. He walked over to Cynthia because she’s his best friend (2). He wasn’t nice (3) to the other children when he started being pushy and bossy (4). He wanted their attention (5), so he nagged (6) them into leaving the table and going to the blocks like 4-year-old boys do (7).

Analysis and Comments

1. Inference of a general characteristic.

2. Inference of a child’s emotion.

3. Observer’s opinion.

4. Inference with no physical evidence stated.

5. Opinion of child’s motivation.

6. Observer’s inference.

7. Overgeneralization; stereotyping.

Good Observation

Emilio pulled out a puzzle from the rack with his right hand, and then carried it with both hands to the table nearby. Using both hands, he methodically took each piece out of the frame and set it to his left. Sara, who had been seated across from Emilio with some table toys in front of her, reached out and pushed all the puzzle pieces onto the floor. Emilio’s face reddened as he stared directly at Sara with his mouth in a taut line. His hands turned into fists, his brow furrowed, and he yelled at Sara in a forceful tone, “Stop it! I hate you!”

Analysis and Comments

Emilio was clearly angry as demonstrated in his facial expressions, hand gestures, and body movements. The way a child speaks is as revealing as what a child says when one wants to determine what a child is feeling. Muscular tension is another clue to the child’s emotions. But the physical attitude of the child is not enough; one must also consider the context. Just seeing a child sitting in a chair with a red face, one doesn’t know if he is embarrassed, angry, feverish, or overstimulated. We need to know the events that led to this appearance. Then we can correctly assess the entire situation. By being open to what is happening without judging it first, we begin to see children more clearly.

Construct Theory

Observations are a link between theory and practice. All teachers gain from making this connection. New teachers can see the pages of a textbook as they match what they see with what they read. By putting together psychology and medical research with in-class experiences, professionals gain a deeper understanding of the nature of children.

Early childhood education is the one level of education that systematically bases its teaching on child development. Observation of children has a long history in early childhood teaching:

· Friedrich Froebel wanted kindergarten teachers to be observers of children so that they could learn how children think and learn.

· G. Stanley Hall of the Child Study movement asked teachers to observe and interview children to understand their developmental stages.

· John Dewey encouraged educators to see the seeds of democratic social relationships in the classroom play of young children.

· The McMillan sisters used frequent descriptions of children’s activities to reflect teachers’ use of observation (Reifel, 2011).


How Do We Assess Young English-Language Learners?

Observation and assessment of children may be a regular part of teaching, but it is challenging. In the early years, children show us more of who they are and what they know by their actions and expressions, not by a paper-and-pencil exam or even what they say. At the same time, the current focus on accountability in the United States is leading to an increased use of standardized formal assessments, which will include documentation of language development and of the use of pre-academic and elementary-level reading/communication skills.


Observe and Ask

· 1.

Use screening and assessments for appropriate purposes.

Look carefully at your current tools. Are they used to understand children in all developmental domains? Do they depend on English fluency to demonstrate skill level?

· 2.

Check that assessments are culturally and linguistically appropriate.

Align tools and procedures to the specific culture and linguistic characteristics of the children. Do you know their family background and home language? Are instruments translated appropriately or administered by a bilingual teacher?

· 3.

Significant assessment decisions involve two or more professionals.

Include two or more people when evaluating so that assessments are a legitimate source of guidance to inform instruction.

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