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Narrative Methods of Observation

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This is a way of observation early years workers use. Narrative methods of observation are written methods that will describe what a child is doing or has done, for example, ‘ Sam is playing with building blocks’. He is using one block at a time to build a tower’. Narrative observations can also be called ‘free description’. They may record what a child is doing over a few seconds or much longer. Photographs or film clips are sometimes used with a narrative observation. There are many advantages of a narrative, for example:

  • It needs no preparation
  • It can be used to observe all areas of developments
  • It can be used to observe more than one are of development at once

However, there are also disadvantages such as:

  • It can be hard to write everything down quickly
  • The observer is likely to have to keep stopping, or to choose what to focus on
  • It can be hard to record accurately and without judgement

Checklist and Tick Chart:

This is another way to observe children. The checklist and tick chart are very similar and are simple ways of assessing children’s skills. A list of statements, such as, ‘Is able to put on coat’, ‘Is able to use spoon to feed’, are prepared. The statement are normally based on milestones for children’s development or outcomes from the early year’s curriculum. When the child is showing the skill, the observer puts a tick or writes a note. The advantages of checklist and tick charts are:

  • They are easy to fill in and can be completed fairly quickly
  • They can be repeated to see if a child has made progress
  • It keeps the observer focused on specific skills

The disadvantages are:

  • The observers may come to different conclusions about whether a child has mastered a skill
  • Does not show how quickly a child managed a task or skill

The accuracy of information is very important. It is essential that observations and assessments are kept up to date and are accurate as decisions about how best to help a child will be based on them. If a child is assessed as progressing well but are actually not, will not gain the support they need, affecting them in their growth and development. As well as this, if a child is assessed as having difficulties, but they are not, then it could also affect their growth and development and cause them as well as families to become anxious. There are also problems when inaccurate assessments are made as there is danger the children will be given activities that are not suitable for them which could affect them in a bad way and could stop them making progress.

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