Rosemary Curtis

HDFS 421
Fall 2014
Lab 2
Purpose: The purpose of this observation was to follow up a concern about the focal
child’s social skills. I was concerned about his social development relative to that of his
classmates. In order to determine if his social development is actually different from his
peers, my classmate and I used tally event sampling to keep track of the number of times
a specific behavior occurred from both the focal child and two of his classmates. In
general, the behaviors observed included when contact is initiated by the child, how the
child responded to initiations from others, and aggressive behaviors. Because these
behaviors happen so frequently, they are difficult to assess with any other tool than tally
event sampling (Mindes, 2014). Ultimately, this information will help to understand what
(if any) challenges the child is experiencing and how to help him develop new skills.
Children Observed: The focal child’s pseudo-name is Jackson, he is a 4 year old boy.
The second child observed is going to be called Elsa for the purposes of this paper, she is
a 4 year old girl. Lastly, the third child Nadine is also a 4 year old girl.
Classroom Setting: Ms. Colon’s classroom of four year old children. Observation
occurred on Wednesday, September 17th from 2pm until 3pm. During this time the
students engaged in free choice play and then transitioned at the end into large group.
There were 5 adults in the classroom and 18 children.

Physical Environment: The classroom is organized into specific domain areas. There is a
block area that contains large shelves that are used to store the wooden blocks. The
pretend play area is set up as a kitchen, including cupboards, table and chairs, a
refrigerator, sink, and stove. There is a cognitive area that has a large shelf containing
manipulatives and two tables with puzzles. In one corner there is a writing area that has a
desk with a variety of writing utensils for the students to use. Near the door into the
classroom there is a large table next to a shelf with creation station supplies. The
backsides of the cognitive area, pretend play area, and writing table outline a large group
area for all of the students to gather. Here are lead teacher materials such as a stereo for
music as well as large group supplies such as attendance board and job chart.
Children’s Behaviors and Developmental Interpretation
Focal Child (Jackson): The behavior that Jackson exhibited most frequently during the
time that I observed him was to initiate contact with teacher. During the total of twenty
minutes (two separate sessions of 10 minutes each), I observed him initiating contact with
a teacher nine times. Based on Patricia’s observations, Jackson accepted initiation from a
teacher eight separate times. Jackson only displayed aggressive behavior toward a peer or
teacher once during the observation period, making this the least displayed behavior for
Jackson. He accepted or initiated contact from a peer a total of ten times. Jackson rejected
or ignored initiation from a peer or teacher six times during the observation period.
Child B (Elsa): The behavior that Elsa exhibited most frequently during the time that I
observed her was to initiate contact with a teacher and to accept initiation from a teacher,
both of these behaviors occurred seven times. Elsa did not exhibit any aggressive
behavior during the total of twenty minutes (two separate sessions of 10 minutes each) of

observation. She only ignored initiation from a peer or teacher once, and she did not
reject any initiations from peers or teachers during this time. Elsa initiated contact with
peers a total of six times during the observation period and accepted initiation from a peer
a total of two times.
Child C (Nadine): The behavior that Nadine exhibited most frequently during the time
that I observed her was initiating contact with a peer. During the total of twenty minutes
(two separate sessions of 10 minutes each) of observation, Nadine initiated contact with a
peer six times. During the entire observation period, Nadine neither ignored initiations
from peers or teachers nor presented aggressive behavior toward peers or teachers. She
initiated contact with a teacher twice. Nadine accepted initiation from peers and teachers
a total of four times during the observation period.
Based on the above observations, Jackson initiates contact with peers and teachers
at approximately the same frequency as his peers. Jackson initiated contact a total of
fourteen times throughout the observation. Nadine and Elsa initiated contact a total of 8
and 13 times respectively. Jackson also accepts initiation from peers and teachers at
approximately the same frequency as his peers. Jackson accepted initiations 8 times
during the observation period. Nadine and Elsa accepted initiations 4 and 9 times
respectively. However, Jackson rejected and ignored initiations and displayed aggressive
behavior significantly more frequently than his peers. Jackson displayed these behaviors
9 times during the observation period, while combined Elsa and Nadine only displayed
these behaviors twice. In the last observation period for Jackson, the class transitioned
from free play into large group time. It was during this observation period that most of

Jackson’s more negative behavior (rejecting initiations or responding aggressively to
peers or teachers). This transition period can be very challenging for children, particularly
at the beginning of the year when children are still adjusting to the class schedule. I also
have had a lot of experience working with Jackson in his classroom last year, and my
experience has been that he struggles a lot more with transitions than his peers.
Inter-Observer Agreement
I did this participation assignment with my classmate Patricia Cudahy. While
doing the observation, we often discussed particular behaviors if we were uncertain about
how to mark them. As a result of this, we decided that in order for our tallies to be in
agreement, the number of tally marks had to be exactly the same. As discussed in class,
often times discrepancies show up when people disagree whether a string of actions are
all a part of the same behavior or are individual events. Through discussions with Patricia
we were able to determine an agreement based on individual moments in the observation
about whether or not these actions were all one event or multiple. As a result, most of our
discrepancies were a result of not being able to hear what the child or teacher was saying,
or when the child or peer/teacher had their back to the observation booth. In these
instances, we sometimes disagreed on who started the contact, the child or the
peer/teacher. There are a total of 60 boxes in the chart used to record tallies during this
observation. Out of these 60 boxes, there were only 5 that Patricia and I disagreed upon,
this means that our percent of agreement is 92%. However, there were many behaviors
that did not occur during the observation period. So Patricia and I also agreed to calculate
our percent agreement of the number of times particular behaviors occurred, excluding
the behaviors that neither of us saw. In order to calculate this, we counted the number of

boxes with behaviors that we observed. There were a total 28 boxes in which we saw
behavior events. Taking that number and referring again to the 5 boxes we disagreed on,
our percent agreement is only 82%. This means that when a behavior occurred, 82% of
the time we agreed on the number of times the behavior occurred. Overall, I feel that our
agreement is relatively high. However, it’s important to take into account our
disagreement when determining how to proceed with the information. It’s nearly
impossible to know which observer is “right” and thus we need to be cautious not to
make specific assumptions based on this ultimately general information. In this particular
case, Patricia and I have both supplemented the data from this observation with our
previous knowledge of the child when planning a learning activity.
Learning Activity
The learning goal that I have selected from the MSU Children’s Curriculum is
listed on page 44 of the Child Development Laboratories Family Handbook, it states that
children will, “develop peer friendship relationship skills which initiate, maintain, and
terminate interactions and develop relationships constructively.” Particularly, Jackson
struggles to initiate, maintain, and terminate interactions constructively during transition
periods. I think that one important way to help him develop these skills is to increase his
comfort level with transitions. If Jackson is more comfortable with transitions, then that
opens him to work on his social skills during these transition periods. In order to help
Jackson with these transitions I would suggest providing him with more structure. This
could be done through giving him his own schedule for the day that includes a spot for
transitions. It could also be done by giving him specific jobs to do during the clean

up/transition, these jobs would need to be told to him on his schedule so that he his more
aware of what is expected of his behavior.
In completing this observation assignment, I learned that tally event sampling can
be an extremely useful tool when observing a child’s behavior. It is useful when teachers
need to compare the behavior, specifically the frequency of the behavior, with that of
other students in the class. At first glance, this type of anecdotal note taking appears to be
very objective, however in completing this assignment I learned that it can actually be
very subjective. The number of tallies recorded can be very different based on the biases
and understanding of the behavior that the observer comes into the observation booth
with. Overall, this is a very useful and organized tool in determining whether or not a
child’s behavior needs continued follow up.