Military Quarterly

A quarterly review of Better Kid Care resources that will help caregivers in military-connected programs and communities. For fall, we examine why it is important to learn about observation.

Observation with purpose

Early care and education professionals sometimes wonder why it is important to learn about observation. After all, they spend the entire day being observant—watching the children to make sure they are safe, that they are engaged in activities, and to help groups of children solve conflicts. What more can there be?

Intentional planning and teaching means planning observations that help early care and education professionals gain a better understanding of each child, assess children’s environments, plan curriculum, and develop professional collaborations. The Penn State Better Kid Care program offers online resources to help professionals learn how to intentionally observe children and maximize the use of discovery through observations.

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Observation is important to understand a child and to assess and enhance learning and development. Observations take many forms, both formal and informal. The online module “Observation with Purpose: Observation and Assessment” explains the use of observation within teaching, examines how observation enhances interactions, identifies best practices for observing an individual child or group of children, and introduces a variety of observation tools and methods that are commonly used in early childhood programs.

Numerous attachment theorists identify the importance of children’s early, secure attachment bonds. Children’s relationships with their significant caregivers are the primary means for fostering healthy social and emotional development. The online module “Observation with Purpose: Attachment and Teacher-Child Relationships” introduces research and information focused on the attachment relationship, with special emphasis on observing and documenting teacher-child relationship quality to support positive outcomes for children.

Research finds that children’s well-being and ability to learn is substantially impacted by the quality of their early learning environment. “Observation with Purpose: Environmental Quality” focuses on two significant aspects of environmental quality in the early childhood classroom: relationships and rich interactions, and physical setting and learning materials. Special emphasis is placed on observation and assessment of the learning environment to make improvements and support positive outcomes for children.

Curriculum is much more than a collection of activities to do with children. A good curriculum takes into consideration research, individual needs, child development principles, and early learning standards. “Observation with Purpose: Curriculum and Learning” explores strategies to use observation and assessment to support children’s learning and skill development, to plan developmentally informed activities, and to meet curriculum goals and early learning standards.

Research shares that the quality of children’s early language experiences impacts their language and cognitive development. Early care and education professionals support children’s language and literacy development when they provide intentional and strategic opportunities for children to engage in language-rich interactions and activities. The focus of “Observation with Purpose: Language and Literacy” emphasizes the use of observation and assessment data to guide and support children’s language and literacy development.

Early childhood education professionals benefit from coordinated collaborations with a wide range of early learning professionals, specialists, and programs (e.g. education, social services, health). Through collaborations, ECE professionals gain knowledge and information to support children and families. “Observation with Purpose: Professional Collaborations” focuses on how professional collaborations strengthen and inform the observation and assessment process in the early learning setting.