24th April 2024 All Posts

Are Observations Still Important in Early Years Education

Recent changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework have sparked discussions about the role of observations in early years education. The changes outlined in Section 2 of the EYFS framework emphasise the importance of assessment in understanding children’s progress and needs, while also addressing concerns about excessive paperwork and the role of practitioners drawing on their own professional judgement. 

Practitioners are no longer required to prove this by collecting any physical evidence. This begs the question, are observations still important for early years professionals? In this blog, we will dive into this topic to uncover the significance of observations in today’s early years education landscape.

What is an observation in early years?

Observation is a cornerstone practice for early years professionals, integral to understanding and supporting children’s development. It’s important to note that observation isn’t confined to formal note-taking sessions; rather, it’s an ongoing process that in the context of the EYFS involves keenly observing children’s behaviours, actions, and interactions to gain insight into various aspects of their development. Here’s why observations may be beneficial in early years education:

First of all, observations allow educators to gauge children’s level of involvement and interest in activities. By keenly observing how children interact with materials and engage with their environment, educators can tailor learning experiences to match their interests and needs.

Secondly, through observation, educators can track children’s progress across different areas of development, such as cognitive, social, emotional, and physical domains. By noting developmental milestones and potential areas for growth, educators can tailor their support to scaffold children’s learning effectively and identify any areas for additional support.

Observations also provide valuable insights into children’s interests, preferences, and strengths. By observing which activities and materials children are drawn to, educators can design a curriculum that resonates with their interests, creating a more engaging and enriching learning experience.

Observing children’s interactions with their peers and adults offers valuable insights into their social skills, communication abilities, and emotional regulation. By observing social dynamics within the classroom, educators can identify opportunities to promote positive peer relationships and support children in developing essential social and emotional competencies.

Why are observations important for parent partnership?

As discussed above, observations in early years education play a pivotal role in informing educators’ practice but are also paramount in building strong partnerships between educators and parents. Observations offer valuable insights into a child’s development and learning experiences, providing parents with concrete examples of their child’s progress, strengths, and areas for growth. By sharing observations with parents, early years educators can contribute to a deeper understanding of the child’s development journey.

Observations allow for meaningful communication between educators and parents. By discussing observations together, educators and parents can exchange valuable insights, perspectives, and concerns, creating a collaborative approach to supporting the child’s development. This open dialogue helps bridge the gap between home and nursery environments, strengthening the child’s learning journey by allowing parents to reinforce learning experiences at home.

Observations also can empower parents to actively engage in their child’s learning and development. By involving parents in the observation process and providing them with tangible examples of their child’s progress and achievements, educators can build confidence and motivation in parents. This, in turn, encourages parents to take an active role in supporting their child’s learning journey, creating a supportive and collaborative partnership between home and school.

Top tips for mastering purposeful observation in your early years setting

Here are some top tips for conducting purposeful observations in your early years setting:

  1. Be prepared – before beginning an observation, ensure you have a clear understanding of the child’s interests, developmental stage, and any specific areas you intend to focus on. Having a plan in place will help you stay focused and maximise the effectiveness of your observation.
  2. Be objective – maintain objectivity during observations by focusing on what you see and hear rather than making assumptions or judgments. Avoid interpreting children’s behaviour through a biased lens and strive to remain open-minded and impartial throughout the observation process.
  3. Capture context – pay attention to the context in which observations take place, considering factors such as the environment, interactions with peers, and available resources. Contextual information provides valuable insights into the influences shaping children’s behaviour and learning experiences.
  4. Documentation – As mentioned previously, this is no longer a requirement of the EYFS but recording observations promptly after they occur to ensure accuracy and detail. Be sure to use clear and concise language, focusing on key observations and relevant details. 
  5. Reflect and act – it is often helpful to take time to reflect on your observations, considering practice and how you can use this in your planning. Identify any emerging patterns or areas for further exploration and use this insight to inform your curriculum planning and individualised support for children.

Using iConnect to simplify your observations

The use of nursery management software like iConnect can revolutionise the way observations are conducted. While physical evidence isn’t mandatory, iConnect serves as a valuable asset for educators, seamlessly recording observations and assessments without disrupting interactions with children. Moreover, it strengthens partnerships between parents and settings through daily updates, direct messaging, and involvement in children’s learning journeys.

iConnect ensures that professional judgment remains at the forefront, even in the absence of physical evidence. By comprehensively documenting observations, assessments, and updates, it provides practitioners with a reliable reference tool for inspections, curriculum planning, and reviewing past interactions.

Documenting observations in iConnect offers a holistic view of group progress and individual development within cohorts. The Big Picture report allows educators to track progress and development at both cohort and individual levels, providing insights into learning areas where progress is evident. This feature enables educators to identify recurring patterns and inform the development of pedagogy within their settings.

Don’t just take our word for it—here’s what Julia Maynard, Childcare Director at Happy Orkids, has to say about iConnect: “From the perspective of staff development, Connect allows us to look at each practitioner’s work in detail, from observations to moments, and spotlights. This helps managers to supervise and support our team.”

Find out why practitioners love iConnect

See it for yourself. We’re sure you’ll love it! Request a demo and our team will show you why so many nurseries choose our software to help save time in their settings.
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About the Author

Content Marketing Executive at Connect Childcare