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CCLD 303

Outcome: 303.1
Factsheet - Observations – Advantages / Disadvantages

Before undertaking an observation you must receive permission from parent/ supervisor.
Remember to sign and date observation and store in a safe place (confidentiality). Whilst
observing children you must remain objective at all times. Do not record details that are
irrelevant to the observation. You must also be aware of the child-rearing patterns of
different cultures and religions and the wide range of parenting styles. You must remain
unobtrusive at all times. Try to avoid eye contact with the child. A child may become
distressed or change behaviour if they are aware they are being observed, therefore, any
observation will be invalid and unreliable.

Definition of Objectivity

The ability to think and /or act based on facts, rather than feelings, opinions or beliefs.

Longitudinal study/diary

A Longitudinal study / diary takes place over a period of time. It can last for as long as
required. This type of observation allows you to get to know the child and enables you to
look at the development of the child across one or more areas, or to record all round
development. This will also help you to have a holistic approach to development as you
can chart their skills as you go along.

A Longitudinal study / diary may consist of a number of different observations e.g. focus
child, checklist, sample or event observation.


• You get to know the child well.

• It enables you to gain an insight into the uniqueness of the child.
• It allows you to obtain a better understanding of the 'norms ' of development.
• It enables you to chart development changes over a period of time.
• As the study is over a period of time you may uncover an area of concern, this may
enable you to ensure help/guidance is offered earlier than otherwise have been.


• The child may be absent from the setting for a long period of time or leave the
setting. (It is therefore recommended that you start the study with two children.)
• Relationships with parents may become strained due to the continuous observation
of the child.
• Objective observations may upset parent/carer.
• If a child’s behaviour or development proves to be atypical (not typical) this may
give a distorted view of normal behaviour and developmental norms.
• Issues around confidentiality may be raised, as it may be easy for others to identify
the child.

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Checklist Observation

A guide used for assessing a child on a particular day against a list of specific 'milestones'
that should be reached at a certain time. Checklists can be used on all children on a
regular basis to enable you to plan for each child’s needs.


• It is quick and simple to use.

• It is a fast way of presenting a great deal of information.
• It can be used as part of a Longitudinal study.
• It can be regularly repeated to assess developmental progress.
• Parents/carers can use it.
• The guide can also be used on a group of children to find out more detail about the
group. e.g. Gender differences-or show that there are none.


• It may allow you narrow and limited information.

• The checklist may not give a true picture on the day if the child is upset or unwell.
• It may be tempting to put a tick against a skill you think a child has achieved
therefore you are not being objective and may disadvantage the child.

Focus /Target Child

Focus/target child is the observation of a particular child for a specific amount of time. Pre-
coded categories are used to record what is being observed this technique is a good way
of collecting data.


• Focus/target one child, providing a collection of precise data over a period of time.
• Information and data are easily accessible.
• Demonstrates areas mostly used by the child in the setting.
• Shows which area promotes conversation.


• Information and data are limited.

• More interesting information may be obtained but left out.
• Codes have to be learnt by the observer,
• The observer needs to focus on one particular child.
• The observer needs to develop the skill to summarise precisely.

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Written narrative: Naturalistic or structured recording

Naturalistic recording is something that is taking place naturally and leads to a factual
description of what is seen and heard.

Structured recording results in a factual account that describes what a child is doing in a
pre-set activity.


• Only a notebook and pen are required.

• No formal planning is needed, can be carried out when convenient.
• It provides data that can be interpreted later.
• You are using a skill which you practice everyday.
• It allows for spontaneous observations to take place.


• Events happen quickly you may not be able to convey all the information that you
• A form of shorthand may be required so that you can write as much information as
• Notes need to be written up quickly as you may forget details later
• In experienced observers might find themselves recording something that is not
relevant to the observation.

Time /Event Sample

Time sample

A sample of time you observe a child over a period of time. Time samples may be used to
see how children are using a particular piece of equipment in the setting

Event Sampling

Event sampling is the noting of particular types of behaviour or events, over a period of


• A collection of precise data/when completed data is readily accessible.

• It is quick and easy to use.
• It is more closely focused.
• It can reveal unsuspected patterns of behaviour.


• Allocating time to complete the task (may need to take place over a long period of
• It needs to be carefully prepared.
• Being aware of the passage of time when doing time samples.

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• Keeping one child insight at all times remembering to be unobtrusive as possible
• After the first sample child may be absent for sometime
• The expected behaviour may not appear during the time the child is being

Graphs and Charts

Can be used to collate information that you might find intresting about a group of children
or an activity


• Quick and easy to collate.

• Visible and easy to read.


• Charts only provide information about a specific thing e.g. group of children or
• Do not give information about individuals.

MACTAC © 2007