by Hanna Vock
In order to determine the extraordinary playing and learning needs of gifted children targeted observation is necessary. We differentiate between three modes of observation. Each is of its own merit and it also depends on the working conditions, to which extent it is at all possible to perform such individual observations. Oftentimes individual observations are precluded over extended periods of time, yet on behalf of all children and of gifted children in particular any opportunity for close observation should be taken.
Especially the targeted observation of gifted children and of those who show signs of higher ability will render valuable impulses for practical work. Participants of our courses have repeatedly pointed to this from their personal experience.
1. Naturalistic Observation
A situation or the actions of one single child are being observed without the observer taking any active part in the events. He remains entirely neutral and attracts as little attention as possible.
The general advantage of this method: The observed children are barely influenced in their activities and interactions by the kindergarten teacher. This, however, is only true to some extent in the case of gifted children. They hardly ever fail to notice that they’re being observed and will sometimes react by being irritated, falling silent and withdrawing or by direct query as to the situation, which, of course, neutralizes the observer’s neutrality to the scene.
The disadvantage of the method: The kindergarten teacher who seems to be inactive will soon be approached and distracted by other children. An indispensable requirement for this method is therefore that for the duration of the observation there be another colleague taking care of the group.
2. Participant Observation
The observer takes part in the activities without intentionally directing the scene.
Advantage: This method appears (even to the children themselves) to be involved more naturally in the group process. Also, the kindergarten teacher is closer to the scene and will capture all verbal utterances more accurately.
3. Evocative Observation
The observer initiates and controls situations in order to observe certain reactions of the child. This can for example be done by asking direct questions.
Advantage: This method allows to enter into a deep and meaningful dialogue with the child being observed.
It’s the method of choice to investigate into the potential of a gifted child, which will almost always be underestimated at first.
By way of evocative observation the kindergarten teacher can selectively address the individual developmental state and the interests of the child and set adequate challenges. Specific activities can be proposed and reactions be observed.
Since adequate challenges for a gifted child hardly ever arise in the course of everyday events in kindergarten, this method is of great value for the observation of gifted children.
How to Document an Observation
Documentation may be performed
- – during the observation
- – from memory after the observation
- – by taking notes freely but in accordance with the aim of the observation
- – systematically by the use of questionnaires or guidelines
Evaluation of an Observation
An observation and its documentation are the groundwork for developmental reports, team and parent consultations, for consultations with school teachers and they can trigger impulses for one’s own practical work.
In the end there should be greater awareness of the potential of the child, its current learning processes and the feelings connected to them, its questions, thoughts and need for support and interaction.
The prime value of observations is that they allow for individualized encouragement and more adequate communication with the child.
Date of publication in German: 2009, September
Translated by Arno Zucknick
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see Imprint