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Critically discuss the importance of observations as assessment and planning tools in the Foundation Stage classroom.

Critically discuss the importance of observations as assessment and planning tools in the Foundation Stage classroom.

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Catherine McArdle. Originally submitted for Bachelor of Education at None, with lecturer Geraldine Magennis in the category of Teacher Education
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Catherine McArdle. Originally submitted for Bachelor of Education at None, with lecturer Geraldine Magennis in the category of Teacher Education

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 30, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/27/2013

 
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Abstract
This assignment was completed while undertaking a university module about teaching in theFoundation Stage classroom. The assignment focussed upon the importance of observationsof pupils at the Foundation level. It examined how observations can be used to assess pupils,teaching and quality of provision and resources, which then informs future planning andprovision.In order to complete this assignment, I gathered a range of information from different authorsand resources. I made use of online journals, internet sites, a range of curriculum documentsand books on child development, observations and assessments. This information enabledme to gain a picture of the Foundation Curriculum, observations, assessments and planning atthe Foundation Stage. I was then able to synthesise and compare and contrast informationfrom different authors. I also used experience of my own classroom practice to inform myresponse.The assignment examined what observations and assessments are and the difference betweenthe two. It looked at how observations can be used as assessment in order to obtain richinformation on the holistic development of the child. It became clear that observations areespecially important at the Foundation level, as children in this age group produce smalleramounts of written work. The assignment moved on to examine how these observations can
feed into the practitioner‟s planning
, and into the provision of resources, activities andlearning experiences.Through my research, it became evident that the needs of the child and theories of childdevelopment are necessary starting points for undertaking observations, assessment andplanning. When carrying out observations and assessments, practitioners must place a strongfocus on these needs. It was discovered that the curriculum is also an important resource todraw on when carrying out observations, assessments and planning.
 
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The assignment moved on to look at the importance of ongoing assessment in order todevelop a picture of a child over time. This is important not only to develop evidence on a
child‟s academic development
, but also how he or she has developed personally, physically,emotionally and socially. Examples were provided on possible scenarios of observations andassessments. Different types of observations were discussed and why these may be used dueto factors such as time and what the practitioner wishes to observe and assess. Advantagesand disadvantages of some of these observations were also discussed. Finally, theimportance of sharing observations, assessments and planning with other professionals werehighlighted.In this assignment, I discovered the importance of observations at the Foundation Stage, theimportance of knowing how children learn, and the role of the practitioner. The manydifferent skills and attributes that can be observed were discussed, as well as the vital need tochoose carefully the type of observation to be used. The assignment also emphasised theneed for a continuous cycle of observations, assessment and planning, and how important it isto share findings with parents and professionals where appropriate in order to inform andimprove practice.
Five Key Words
 – 
 
observations, assessment, planning, curriculum, holistic
 
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Critically discuss the importance of observations as assessment and planning tools inthe Foundation Stage classroom.
Observations are a spontaneous and natural element of the teaching, learning, assessment andplanning cycle, especially in the Foundation Stage. CCEA (2006) advocates the use of regular observations and written records in order to develop a holistic picture of the child.This will gather important and rich information to be used for assessment and futureplanning. According to Kellmer Pringle (2000, p. 15
), children‟s physical, emotional, social
and in
tellectual needs must all be met “if they are to enjoy life, develop their full potentialand grow into participating, contributing adults”. Therefore
, it is necessary for teachers totake the needs of children into account when observing and assessing, and also in theplanning and provision of activities and resources. Bruce (2005) shows that having anawareness of the whole child; developmental milestones, needs and characteristics of children, will help assess where children should be in their learning and where to go next, andwill give an insight into what to observe, how teachers work with children and what activitiesto provide. CCEA (2006) point out that the significance of any situation observed will bedetermined by the adult
s previous knowledge of the child. It is also important to take intoconsideration the different observational methods available and practical issues dependingupon what teachers wish to observe. Information produced from these observations shouldthen be used ef 
fectively to promote children‟s
learning and to provide an enriching classroomexperience.According to Harding and Meldon-
Smith (1996, p. vi) observations are “close examinations
of children, perhaps focussing on their play, language, behaviour or other aspects of 
development” while assessments “allow you to evaluate what you have seen or heard; these
evaluations in turn help you make decisions or recommendations about what is best for the
children”. Observations are what we see and hear while assessment is what we do with these
close examinations. Observation can inform assessment but is not an assessment in itself.Likewise, Bruce states that assessment and evaluation come about through carefulobservation that informs curriculum planning. Observation allows the adult to identify whatthe child can do and evaluate what they are learning before providing for the next stages.According to CCEA (2006, p. 14), obse
rvations are “key to ef 
fective planning and

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