Monitoring and Assessment in Early Years

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Child Study and Classroom Based Observation
Should We Make Time To Watch and Listen?


The traditional place for assessment within teaching is at the end of a topic or significant time period when the teacher wishes to know how much information students have retained. This form of assessment often takes the form of a written test that is designed to give students a grade or level.

Many researchers, however, believe that teaching and learning is a cyclical process that begins and ends with assessment:

Assessment is a tool that begins and ends successful teaching. At the beginning it establishes what is currently known and at the end it establishes what has been learnt as the result of the planned curriculum. (Fisher, 1998, 20)

The implication of this is that assessment should be a regular feature of teaching so that practitioners can use the results in their planning:

Assessment occurs on a day-to day basis and involves practitioners modifying and adjusting their interactions, provision and support, and providing feedback to children. (Miller et al, 2005, 141)

Unfortunately, assessment is a time-consuming process (Hamilton et al, 2003) and it may be that it is not the best use of a practitioner's time. This report will take the form of a child study and will investigate how essential it is for practitioners to carry out ongoing observations and assessment in an early years setting.

Firstly, the child's biographical details will be set out, in order to give the reader a picture of the child and also the setting in which the observations were made.

There will then be a discussion of the methods used to collect the data in the study. Each method will be critically discussed and an explanation will be given as to why it was chosen by the researcher. The limitations of the study will also be explained, for example, the short time period over which the observations were made.

The data will then be analysed and the researcher will attempt to place the child's achievements in the context of the Foundation Stage Profile. In this section, targets for future learning will be suggested, it is hoped that this will demonstrate how valuable these observations are for practitioners:

Teachers need to employ their observation and questioning skills in order to ascertain what children know, what they can do and where they need to go next. (O'Hara, 2000, 102)

Following this, the place of observation in the classroom and the practical implications of the results of the child study will be considered.

The report will conclude that it is vital to ‘make time to watch and listen' in order to be an effective early years practitioner.

Focus of Child Study

The focus child in this study will be referred to as BA.

BA is male, he was four years old at the time these observations were made but would shortly celebrate his fifth birthday. He lives on a housing estate with his father, mother and older brother.

He attends a large school in an urban area and is part of a reception class of 27 pupils. The class is split into four ability groups; red, blue, green and yellow. Red group are of the highest ability, then blue, green and yellow. BA is in blue group.

The school day is organised into four sessions of an hour and a quarter, each session begins with carpet time for the whole class. The pupils are expected to do one adult-led, core task in their groups in each session, these tasks last approximately ten minutes. The pupils are then allowed to choose freely from a variety of other resources that are laid out for them.

BA is a quiet child and does not often volunteer answers in whole class situations, however, he interacts with other male pupils during free choice with confidence. He demonstrates a clear preference for physically demanding activities such as bikes, and finds it difficult to concentrate on more sedentary activities for long periods of time (appendix 4)....
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