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The Advantages of Narrative Observations

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There are many different ways to observe children in an early years setting. Each type of observation has a different purpose and will give the practitioner a different outcome. To begin with, I will talk about narrative observations. Just as the name implies, narrative observations are a detailed account of events presented in chronological order and told in a story form. The task of the practitioner is to record everything they see and hear while being objective and not allowing for personal bias to get in the way (Wroblewski, 2014). When carrying out narrative observations, teachers can assess educational, emotional, and social development. Those detailed written records allow the observer to monitor the different learning styles of children, the way they interact in their environment, and the different factors that enhance their confidence and well-being (Burns). Because narrative observations are rich in detail, the observer can track behavior across all learning areas. Not only can the teacher monitor what kind of behavior takes place but also the context in which the behavior occurs. Given that such observations are open ended and flexible, they provide a wealth of information about an individual child.

This information can later go towards assessment and planning. However, narrative observations are time consuming and are not limited to a particular incident (Methods of Observing Children). In the case where a teacher wants to observe a specific incident of their interest, anecdotal observations can be used. Such observations are briefer and focus on one specific behavior. Anecdotal observations are also narrative in the sense where the teacher records events in chronological order. Narrative observations do not require a great deal of experience and do not need prior planning. When trying to observe a group of children, narrative observations can be hard to carry out and other observation techniques maybe more useful. Unlike narrative observations, careful planning is required for check list observations. ‘They can also be used to record the progress of an activity for evaluation purposes. They are a useful tool for the Early Years Professional, offering specific information and providing a starting point for planning activities for individuals or for a group of children’ (Palaiolgu, 2008: 62).

When a teacher wants to find out how and when a certain behavior takes place, sampling can be used. The practitioner can use time sampling to ‘record whether or not certain behaviors occur over a period of time’ (Palaiolgu, 2008: 69). On the other hand, event sampling can be ‘used to study the conditions under which particular behaviors occur’ (Palaiolgu, 2008: 70), in order to learn what triggers a certain kind of behavior. The early years classroom can also benefit from media techniques to improve observations This technique provides photographic evidence or video recordings to add to observations. Although pictures and videos provide accurate and objective information about a certain even that might have taken place in a specific setting, they cannot replace the traditional observation techniques, but can be used as additional tools. No matter what observation technique is used the interest of the child should be the base of all observations.


eHow, (2014). The Advantages of Narrative Observations | eHow. [online] Available at: http://www.ehow.com/info_8442686_advantages-narrative-observations.html Msu.edu, (2014). Obs. Methods. [online] Available at: https://www.msu.edu/~mandrews/mary/obs__methods.htm [Accessed 25 Oct. 2014]. Palaiologou, I. (2008). Childhood Observation. 1st ed. [ebook] Exeter: Learning Matters Ltd., pp.37-90. Available at: https://www.dawsonera.com/abstract/9781844455942 [Accessed 10 Sep. 2014]. Wroblewski, M. (2014). What Is a Narrative Observation? | eHow. [online] eHow. Available at: http://www.ehow.com/info_8738612_narrative-observation.html [Accessed 25 Oct. 2014].

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