Differences between Observation, Documentation, and Assessment

Section 1: Observation


Observation can be described as looking and picking up information. It gives educators the information they need to establish relationships with children at an individual level and help them to excel in their studies (Kawulich, 2012). 

Type of Observation

Anecdotal Records

In this technique, the observation is recorded once the event is finished. It is drafted in the past tense. It concentrates on what is important and recorded in a series to draw its attention to the crucial details (Lorina, 2016).

Running Records

It describes the kid’s actions by specifying everything the kid says in a set of time. It is drafted in the present tense. Because it is recorded live – when the action is taking place (Lorina, 2016).

Learning Stories

This is a story that tells an account to the reader. It focuses on kids, the decisions they make, and the outcomes of their actions (Lorina, 2016).

Purpose of Observing Young Children

We observe kids to assess and make comprehensive reports on the results of their academic activities to their schools, families, and policy-makers in the education sector. Upon reflection of documentation, children, teachers, and family members can see the schooling progress made.

How to Do Observation in Daily Practices

One must be present and keen while keeping an eye on how babies and other infants survey their environment and communicate with others. Observing them as they play enables one to notice their growth and development. A person can ask himself or herself what the baby is doing and how they interact with teaching materials or their colleagues. A teacher can carry a small notepad and pen, take photos and pictures (with parent’s consent), and at the same time write short notes to explain the photos or keep sticky notes in their office. Child observation apps assist a person to takes pictures and short video clips (Child Care Technical Assistance, 2020).

Section 2: Documentation


Documentation can be defined as a visual, recorded and audible record of conditions in early childhood centers. A more inclusive insight of this incorporates notes from viewing and dialogue, filled out observation sheets, or other regulated modes of developmental diagnostics (Knauf, 2019).

Type of Documentation

Observation notes involve a person recording on paper the kid’s activities. A teacher can also transcribe as the kid explains a photo, experience, or event. The teacher can also take videos or photos to document the child’s growth. Educators can make minutes, memos, lists, schedules, and diaries of the daily life of the kids (Paananen & Lipponen, 2018).  

Purpose of Documentation

The sole purpose of documentation is to measure the schooling progress of children. Documentation is conducted to pursue the children’s concerns and preparing in advance for learning. It can be a tool for boosting the child’s involvement and growth of democracy. Documentation is also viewed as an important contribution to the educator’s professional development (Knauf, 2019). Documentation is important for accountability. Educators are answerable to guardians, families, administrators, the government, among others. In this way, it provides evidence that learning is taking place (Seitz, 2008).  

How to Do Documentation in Daily Practices

Diversified Usage of Diversification and Later Compiling It into The Portfolio

All the teachers who were interviewed said that they initially documented their reports using different methods before compiling them into a single document. They used two techniques. One of these is the use of learning stories. This takes place when a few kids participate in an activity as a group. By exchanging names, using various photographs, and changing a few things, the story can be distinguished and arranged for the various kids. Secondly, schooling stories are applied to various techniques and places. Initially, they are briefly paraded as wall documentation, in A4 format. Later, this document is filled as a schooling story in the kid’s portfolio file (Knauf, 2019).

Distributing the Children

In this technique, the documentation tasks are allotted to guarantee an equal sharing of assigned chores among them. The educators write a key worker system, where each one of them is in charge of all the concerns of a few children, together with the documentation (Knauf, 2019).

Section 3: Assessment


       Drummond describes assessment as methods used daily to observe how children study, seek to comprehend it, and then apply our understanding (2009, as cited in Barnes, 2012).  Assessment is a method of observation, making sense of what you have seen and analysing, that is incorporated in our daily interaction with children (Krieg, 2017).

Type of Assessment

According to Barnes, there are three types of assessment:

Assessment of Learning

Assessment of learning can be described as evaluation that takes place after kids have participated in a specific exercise, finished a task that had been assigned to them, or participated in play with their colleagues (Barnes, 2012).  For instance, when a kid completes participating in a matching game, their educator can come up with conclusions regarding the kids’ capacity to match related objects or match objects depending on a given gauge such as size, shape, color, etc. (Higgins & Cherrington, 2017).

Assessment for Learning

Assessment for learning represents a continuous method of gathering and evaluating information related to children learning to boost their learning. It takes place regularly when children are playing. For instance, an educator taking care of a kid who has begun stretching out their hands to reach out for objects may notice that the kid does not reach out to objects that are hidden from their sight (Barnes, 2012).

Assessment as Learning

Assessment as learning are the techniques used by educators to help kids to know themselves better, on issues such as how and what they learn, and what topics they would like to learn in future. For instance, a teacher who takes photos of kids doing certain tasks for some time and then talk with them concerning the changes that can be noticed in the pictures is helping the kid to see themselves as learners and comprehend what they have learnt (Barnes, 2012).

Purpose of Assessment

Assessment helps teachers to note what to tell the parents on the progress of their kid. It also helps teachers to prepare a child to transition or progress from one semester, class, academic year or school to another. In specialist types of assessment, specialists apply their assessments to produce normative judgements on the child’s progress. Assessment for learning is mainly conducted to enhance a child’s learning and progress since it enhances teaching. It is one of the methods or means used to achieve learning (Barnes, 2012).

How to Do Assessment in Daily Practice

Step 1: Observing Children’s Learning      

Teachers can use various methods to make observations and record children’s learning for example checklists, children’s self-reflections, learning stories, running records, language transcripts, jottings, anecdotes and time samples. The choice of method a teacher makes is determined by what they would like to observe (Barnes, 2012).

Step 2: Understanding Children’s Learning

In this step, the teacher evaluates, understands, and decides on their observations to make more plans. In this step, teachers make a judgement on the child’s schooling and growth, in relation to various learning outcomes rather than development. For a teacher to make a judgment that can be considered reliable and valid, he or she should consider if other people can make similar observations as they did during assessment (Barnes, 2012).

Step 3: Applying Our Understanding

In this stage, teachers use their knowledge to develop new plans that helps a child to increase their learning. The teacher’s role is to broaden a child’s collection so that they can be able to identify and respect their capabilities and increase them. This is how assessment identifies the child as one who is capable and able to perform. As the teacher applies their knowledge on each child and groups of kids to create new plans, assessment keeps recurring (Barnes, 2012).


This report suggests that there is a difference between observation, documentation and assessment. Observation is viewing to learn. It makes us keen to differences in children’s conduct. Documentation is collecting data about children and representing the analysis of learning. It involves collecting artifacts and gathering evidence of classroom activities. It makes learning visible to all the stakeholders. On the other hand, assessment is critical reflection about the child’s learning. Observations are analysed and recorded. Records are reviewed to comprehend and document a child’s development.






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