Observation and Documentation in Early Childhood Settings

ECED 438 (3.0) Online – Course Outline


  • There is no exam
  • 5 Assignments
  • 5 (short) Lesson Activities
  • Online participation
  • Discussion board sessions


The course presents basic techniques of observation and documentation. This includes recording and interpreting the different skills and behaviours of young children (birth to age 8 years old) and using this information to then integrate children’s individual profiles. The information collected will be used for educational guidance following developmentally appropriate practices in a diversity of early childhood settings.


This online course has been designed for preschool, kindergarten and elementary teachers, as well as for other professionals; for example, infant and supported child development consultants, social workers, family workers and nurses working in the child development area. As a participant of this course you will:

  1. Acquire, develop and practice effective observation, recording and interpretation skills within the early child development/ early childhood educational contexts.
  2. Understand the role of observation and narratives within pedagogical documentation and authentic assessment practices.
  3. Gain knowledge and develop criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of observational strategies frequently used by teachers in classrooms and early childhood settings, including daycares, out-of-school cares and other settings and programs.
  4. Become knowledgeable about child development milestones between infancy and the Primary school years, and understand the continuum of development – typical and atypical.
  5. Develop an understanding of the uniqueness of each child.
  6. Gain improved understanding of the types of child behaviours that develop out of certain encounters with materials and peers in a variety of different play environment and grouping situations, including the child’s home and family environments.
  7. Recognize family of origin and ethno-cultural factors, and how they impact on the attitudes, beliefs, values, behaviour and interactions of young children.
  8. Recognize parents as partners in education as they provide unique, on-going observations of their children.
  9. Use information provided by on-going observations when handling behavioural problems; when settling conflicts between children; and when dealing with potentially harmful, unsafe or dangerous situations.


Lesson 1: Reflections on observation and documentation

Lesson 2: Learning about the different ways to observe: methods of observation and documentation

Lesson 3: Paying attention to developmental milestones: what, how, when in the early years

Lesson 4: Paying attention to developmental milestones: what, how, when during the school years

Lesson 5: Children with additional needs

Lesson 6: Observing social and emotional development in young children

Lesson 7: Observing and documenting how children communicate

Lesson 8: Understanding playfulness; documenting children while at play

Lesson 9: Observing and understanding creativity through expressions of visual arts and music

Lesson 10: Observing in partnership and collaboration with parents/caregivers and other service providers

Lesson 11: Challenges in observation and documentation: safety, abuse and/or neglect

Lesson 12: Through the child’s eyes: ethno-cultural identities, family and community values shape our observation and documentation practices.

Articles and readings for each week are provided in the course modules; they are all accessible through the online Library Course Reserve in the course.


Call the UBC Bookstore to order: (604) 604-822-2665 Toll free: 1 800-661-3889 or
Order online: http://shop.bookstore.ubc.ca/courselistbuilder.aspx

  • Nilsen, Barbara. Week by Week: Plans for Documenting Children’s Development. Wadsworth Publishing, 2013 Edition. ISBN: 978-1133605577

*Please note: the electronic version of this textbook is also available.


This is an online course. Students are required to have a computer, access to the Internet, and a Campus Wide Login ID and password to access the course website.


Readings for each week are provided in the course modules. Your EZproxy connection will allow you to access library resources from your computer on or off campus. For more info, go to http://services.library.ubc.ca/off-campus-access/connect-from-home/


Telephone: 604-822-2013, or toll-free in North America: 1-888-492-1122
Email: pro-d.educ@ubc.ca

Lastest Revision on: January 7, 2016