How are your powers of observation? If someone asks you what happened five minutes ago could you tell them accurately? How about one minute ago? In fact, tell me what’s happening right now.
We sometimes have to observe pupils and complete formal records outlining what we have noticed about them. Sounds easy doesn’t it? But it can be trickier than it seems.
For instance, think of a disagreement during playtime. Now try to describe what happened from the point of view of someone taking part in the disagreement. The accounts will vary from person to person, depending upon their involvement. Witnesses may only see a part of the whole picture, or they may make assumptions about what actually happened based upon the little bit they did see. There is a temptation to elaborate and give our own reasons why people act in the way that they do.
Some of us will be be asked to formally observe children as part of our TA role and it’s important to be completely objective when we do so. TAs who work with very young children carry out observations all the time. They understand the importance of making clear comments that clearly state the facts. For instance, “J stands on one leg for five seconds. P catches ball with two hands.”
For some of us though, it’s a difficult area. We may see our role primarily as giving support for day to day learning and it can be difficult to take a step back sometimes and just watch.
Why not try a bit of people watching now? Sit quietly and observe. In school, see how the one child takes in new information or how another child interacts with their peers. Put your objective head on and think about what is actually happening, what the children are actually doing.
To be able to make an objective observation is a valuable skill. It helps us to assess children’s knowledge, their motor skills, vocabulary and a host of other things, just by watching, listening and recording exactly what they do and what they say – in their exact words.