Chapter 3: Understanding young children’s learning through observation and assessment

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Chapter authors

  • Sue Allingham
  • Nicola Brinning

Chapter overview

This chapter is built around the policy contexts of Wales and England. This immediately requires a definition of terms, which we seek to do through prac- tice examples throughout the chapter. With an emphasis on observation in the moment and practitioner reflection, we consider how observation-informed assessment should be prioritised over prescribed assessments which can obscure the fascinations of individual children as they learn holistically. Case study material highlights the effectiveness of assessing though naturalistic observation, and the important role of parents in their children’s assessments.

Chapter objectives

  • To offer a language for early assessment and observation of learning, with ways of defining current terms
  • To encourage reflection on practice and provision across the sector
  • To discuss and develop thinking about observation and assessment through case study examples.

Further reading

Cree, J. and Robb, M. (2021) The Essential Guide to Forest School and Nature Pedagogy. London: Routledge.

White, J. (2015) Every Child a Mover: A Practical Guide to Providing Young Children with the Physical Opportunities They Need. London: Early Education.

Supplementary material

The Children and Nature website

Early Childhood Outdoors 

Outdoor ELC for practitioners
This film shares practitioner experiences in outdoor ELC.



Photos of a child’s writing during outdoor play.   Supplied by Nicola Brinning

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