Observation and Its Relationship to Observation-Based, Ongoing Child Assessment

A caregiver sits on the ground near a child and takes notesOne of the primary reasons for observing children is to measure and track children's progress in acquiring skills and concepts in all areas of development. Ongoing assessment is also an HSPPS requirement (45 CFR §§1302.33(b) and 1304.11(b)(2)(ii)). To do this, EHS and MSHS programs may select valid and reliable observation-based assessment tools that best match the children served in the program; are developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate; and are appropriate for children with disabilities, as needed (45 CFR §1302.33(c)(1)). These tools help education staff identify each child's current level of development in relation to the typical sequences of development. Assessment tools should align with the program's school readiness goals and be sensitive to the rapid development of infants and toddlers. They should also enable staff to:

  • Observe and document each child's learning and development over time
  • Individualize care and the curriculum, including interactions, teaching practices, learning experiences, environment, routines, and schedules
  • Identify children who are not progressing and who may need further evaluation
  • Communicate with families about their child's growth in all areas of development

Within the ongoing child assessment cycle, observation is an essential element of the "collect" activity. For more information about the activities of the ongoing assessment cycle, see Ongoing Child Assessment: A Guide for Program Leaders.