When I was completing my Montessori training years ago, observation and analysis was one of the main topics of study. Its importance was drilled into our heads from the very beginning, and yet formal observations were one of the things I struggled most with in my days as a Montessori teacher. That didn’t change when I decided to stay home with my own children, and so it’s something that I still struggle to make time for in our Montessori homeschool preschool room. I finally created a printable observation and analysis template for completing formal observations as part of my Montessori Homeschool Preschool E-Course, and I decided to also add it to my free printables library for email subscribers, so you can download it now!
In scientific terms, observation is what occurs when the observer removes herself from the environment and watches objectively what is occurring so that it can be analyzed and responded to accordingly. But that doesn’t mean it can only happen in a scientific environment! You can observe in your classroom, in your homeschool setting, or even just in your daily life at home. Find a quiet space that is out of the way and decide upon a focus for observation. Record exactly what is occurring without passing judgement or making inferences. At a later time, when you are removed from the situation, analyze what you have seen and decide what you think it means about the focus of the observation. Finally, compose a plan of action, a response to the needs that you have discovered through your observation. Keep records of your observations so you can see what progress has been made or what changes still need to happen.
My printable observation and analysis template is pretty simple, so here are some things to keep in mind.
First, decide upon the focus of your observation. This could be a specific child, the general flow of the room, interactions between children, or even a particular area of concern. Set a time limit for your observation, then settle in and start taking notes. Write down exactly what is happening — not what you think it means. For example, write, “Lila smiles,” instead of “Lila seems happy.”
When your observation time is finished, put it away. Don’t try to analyze it in the moment. Give it a few hours before you take out that second sheet of paper to begin your analysis.
To analyze, first read through your observations from that day. Then begin to make notes on what concerns are raised from those observations — what needs are being expressed through the actions you observed?
Once you have pulled out the needs, consider your plan of action going forward. How can you meet the needs you observed through your prepared environment or your future interactions with that child?
Was there something that occurred during your observation that would benefit from a follow-up observation at a later time? Enact some of the changes you planned for, then observe that situation again to see if your actions succeeded in meeting the needs expressed, or if there are further actions required.
Finally, take a few minutes for self-reflection. What did you notice about yourself while you were observing? Was it easy for you? At what point did you have a difficult time observing without interfering?
I go into much greater detail on how to observe and then analyze your observations in my Montessori Homeschool Preschool E-Course — including sharing a 10 minute video observation of our own Montessori homeschool preschool work cycle along with my detailed analysis of what I observed.
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