Early Childhood: Observation & Assessment



Instructor Name:          Dr. Marrea Winnega

Facilitator Name:          Darcie Donegan, MA/Ed.

Phone:                         509-891-7219

Office Hours:               8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST Monday - Friday

Email:                          darcie_donegan@virtualeduc.com

Address:                      Virtual Education Software

                                    16201 E Indiana Ave, Suite 1450

                                    Spokane, WA 99216

Technical Support:       support@virtualeduc.com



Welcome to Early Childhood: Observation & Assessment, an interactive distance learning course which explores observation and assessment instruments, as well as recommended practices and available resources for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.  Content includes an emphasis on observing young children and assessing their early childhood learning environments. 


This computer-based instruction course is a self-supporting program that provides instruction, structured practice, and evaluation all on your home or school computer.  Technical support information can be found  in the Help section of your course.


Course Materials (Online)

Title:                            Early Childhood: Observation & Assessment

Instructor Name:          Dr. Marrea Winnega

Facilitator Name:          Darcie Donegan, MA/Ed.

Publisher:                     Virtual Education Software, inc. 2008, Revised 2012, Revised 2015


Academic Integrity Statement

The structure and format of most distance-learning courses presume a high level of personal and academic integrity in completion and submission of coursework. Individuals enrolled in a distance-learning course are expected to adhere to the following standards of academic conduct.


Academic Work

Academic work submitted by the individual (such as papers, assignments, reports, tests) shall be the student’s own work or appropriately attributed, in part or in whole, to its correct source. Submission of commercially prepared (or group prepared) materials as if they are one’s own work is unacceptable.


Aiding Honesty in Others

The individual will encourage honesty in others by refraining from providing materials or information to another person with knowledge that these materials or information will be used improperly.


Violations of these academic standards will result in the assignment of a failing grade and subsequent loss of credit for the course.


Level of Application 

This course is designed as one of a five-part series on early childhood education.  Upon completion of the five-course series you will have covered most competencies found in a Child Development Associates (CDA) program, however, completion of all five courses does not earn participants a CDA unless they are formally enrolled in a program that recognizes these courses within that program.  This course specifically covers competencies 1-9, 12, and 13 (it is recommended you check on individual state competencies), which all relate to the establishment of well-run, purposeful programs for young children that are responsive to individual needs and advance the development of the whole child.  This course also incorporates the applicable Division for Early Childhood (DEC) recommended practices in early intervention/early childhood special education that were recently released.  It is designed for anyone planning programs for young children: child-care providers, early childhood educators, and health care or social services providers, to name a few. 


Expected Learning Outcomes:

As a result of this course, participants will demonstrate their ability to:

·         Become aware of your own biases to become skilled in objective observation.

·         Describe the cycle and functions of observation and assessment in early childhood settings.  

·         Learn best practices for observing and assessing the development of young children.

·         Identify a variety of observation recording tools for developmental screening and program assessment.

·         Learn advantages and disadvantages of each tool and guidelines for choosing the most appropriate choice for different goals.

·         Understand how to summarize and interpret observation data to assess children and programs.

·         Apply observation data to planning for individual children and programs.

·         Develop formats for documenting, sharing and explaining observation and assessment practices and information to parents and colleagues.

·         Design a personal strategy for gathering information and keeping records in a specific early childhood setting.  


Course Description

This course is designed to help educators, para-professionals and child caregivers observe and assess various aspects of children’s development and programs.  Participants will learn the components necessary for strong observation skills, such as self-awareness, objectivity, confidentiality and ethical guidelines. Web links to videos and other observation and assessment resources will be included.


The course will then discuss various types of observation and recording tools, as well as the advantages and disadvantages associated with each.  Students will learn how to set goals, plan, and choose the best instrument for specific situations.  Included will be tools for assessing environments, programming, and child-staff interactions.  The why, when, where, what and how of conducting appropriate observations and authentic assessments will be covered.


Participants will gain techniques for organizing, analyzing and interpreting observation data.  This course will teach how to apply assessment information to improve program quality and to best meet the needs of individual children.


Students will discuss proper methods for displaying observations and sharing assessments.  Included will be portfolio development and other documentation methods that make children’s experiences visible.  The course will then show ways to communicate observation and assessment information to parents and other appropriate adults. Finally, students will apply course concepts by creating an observation and assessment plan for their own classroom environment.


Student Expectations

As a student you will be expected to:

·         Complete all four information sections showing a competent understanding of the material presented in each section.

·         Complete all four section examinations, showing a competent understanding of the material presented.  You must obtain an overall score of 70% or higher, with no individual exam score below 50%, and successfully complete ALL writing assignments to pass this course. *Please note: Minimum exam score requirements may vary by college or university; therefore, you should refer to your course addendum to determine what your minimum exam score requirements are.

·         Complete a review of any section on which your examination score was below 50%.

·         Retake any examination, after completing an information review, to increase that examination score to a minimum of 50%, making sure to also be achieving an overall exam score of a minimum 70% (maximum of three attempts). *Please note: Minimum exam score requirements may vary by college or university; therefore, you should refer to your course addendum to determine what your minimum exam score requirements are.

·         Complete all course journal article and essay writing assignments with the minimum word count shown for each writing assignment.

·         Complete a course evaluation form at the end of the course.



Course Topics

General Overview of Chapters One through Four Topics:

1)      Introduction to Observation & Assessment: What and Why?

2)      Definitions, History & Trends in Early Childhood Assessment

3)      Personal Ethical & Legal Guidelines: Best Practices

4)      Observing & Recording Tools: Using & Choosing

5)      Authentic Assessment of Children & Environments

6)      Interpreting for Meaning: Analyzing & Applying Data

7)      Documentations & Communication: Showing & Sharing

8)      Course Summary and Conclusion



At the end of each course chapter, you will be expected to complete an examination designed to assess your knowledge. You may take these exams a total of three times. Your last score will save, not the highest score. After your third attempt, each examination will lock and not allow further access.  The average from your exam scores will be printed on your certificate.  However, this is not your final grade since your required writing assignments have not been reviewed.  Exceptionally written or poorly written required writing assignments, or violation of the academic integrity policy in the course syllabus, will affect your grade.  As this is a self-paced computerized instruction program, you may review course information as often as necessary.  You will not be able to exit any examinations until you have answered all questions. If you try to exit the exam before you complete all questions, your information will be lost. You are expected to complete the entire exam in one sitting.


Writing Assignments

All assignments are reviewed and may impact your final grade.  Exceptionally or poorly written assignments, or violation of the Academic Integrity Policy (see course syllabus for policy), will affect your grade. Fifty percent of your grade is determined by your writing assignments, and your overall exam score determines the other fifty percent.  Refer to the Essay Grading Guidelines which were sent as an attachment with your original course link. You should also refer to the Course Syllabus Addendum which was sent as an attachment with your original course link, to determine if you have any writing assignments in addition to the Critical Thinking Questions (CTQ) and Journal Article Summations (JAS).  If you do, the Essay Grading Guidelines will also apply.


Your writing assignments must meet the minimum word count and are not to include the question or your final citations as part of your word count.  In other words, the question and citations are not to be used as a means to meet the minimum word count.


Critical Thinking Questions

There are four CTQs that you are required to complete. You  will need to write a minimum of 500 words (maximum 1,000) per essay. You  should explain how the information that you gained from the course will be applied and clearly convey a strong understanding of the course content as it relates to each CTQ.  To view the questions, click on REQUIRED ESSAY and choose the CTQ that you are ready to complete; this will bring up a screen where you may enter your essay.  Prior to course submission, you may go back at any point to edit your essay, but you must be certain to click SAVE once you are done with your edits.


You must click SAVE before you write another essay or move on to another part of the course.

Journal Article Summations

You are required to write, in your own words, a summary on a total of three peer-reviewed or scholarly journal articles (one article per JAS), written by an author with a Ph.D., Ed.D. or similar, on the topic outlined within each JAS section in the “Required Essays” portion of the course  (blogs, abstracts, news articles or similar are not acceptable). Your article choice must relate specifically to the discussion topic listed in each individual JAS. You will choose a total of three relevant articles (one article per JAS) and write a thorough summary of the information presented in each article (you must write a minimum of  200 words with a 400 word maximum per JAS). Be sure to provide the URL or the journal name, volume, date, and any other critical information to allow the facilitator to access and review each article. 


To write your summary, click on REQUIRED ESSAYS and choose the JAS that you would like to complete. A writing program will automatically launch where you can write your summary. When you are ready to stop, click SAVE.  Prior to course submission you may go back at any point to edit your summaries but you must be certain to click SAVE once you are done with your edits. For more information on the features of this assignment, please consult the HELP menu.

You must click SAVE before you write another summary or move on to another part of the course.


Facilitator Description

Early Childhood: Observation & Assessment has been developed by Darcie Donegan, MA/Ed. Darcie received her BA at the University of Washington and her Master’s degree from Pacific Oaks College in Human Development, specializing in Early Childhood Education and Adult Education. She has worked with young children and their caregivers for more than 30 years in various capacities, including preschool teacher, center director, parent educator, trainer, and consultant.  Darcie has been adjunct faculty in ECE and Parent Education at Whatcom Community College for 20 years, and is also a Washington State Department of Early Learning trainer in executive functioning, an author of the Parenting Preschoolers modules for Washington State’s Organization of Parent Education Programs  (OPEP) and the revised STARS Child Care Basics 30 hour course.  She has also worked as an international consultant with the Soros Foundation, teaching in many countries.  Areas of special interest include infants and toddlers, preventing child abuse, child development, observation and assessment, social-emotional development, brain development, child care, and parenting. Darcie is the mother of three children (teenage twins and a recent college grad), owner of two dogs, and has been married to a lawyer for over 20 years. In addition to writing this course, Darcie is the author of another course in this Early Childhood series called Early Childhood: Observation & Assessment. Please contact Professor Donegan if you have course content or examination questions.


Instructor Description

Dr. Marrea Winnega, is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with 20 years of experience in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology in the University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Psychiatry.  She consults for schools and agencies serving individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, including Asperger’s Disorder. She has also conducted numerous workshops, in-services, and trainings throughout the United States.  Please contact Professor Donegan if you have course content or examination questions.


Contacting the Facilitator

You may contact the facilitator by emailing Professor Donegan at darcie_donegan@virtualeduc.com or calling her at 509-891-7219, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. PST. Phone messages will be answered within 24 hours. Phone conferences will be limited to ten minutes per student, per day, given that this is a self-paced instructional program. Please do not contact the instructor about technical problems, course glitches or other issues that involve the operation of the course.


Technical Questions

If you have questions or problems related to the operation of this course, please try everything twice. If the problem persists please check our support pages for FAQs and known issues at www.virtualeduc.com and also the Help section of your course.


If you need personal assistance then email support@virtualeduc.com or call (509) 891-7219.  When contacting technical support, please know your course version number (it is located at the bottom left side of the Welcome Screen) and your operating system, and be seated in front of the computer at the time of your call. 


Minimum Computer Requirements

Please refer to VESi’s website: www.virtualeduc.com or contact VESi if you have further questions about the compatibility of your operating system.


Refer to the addendum regarding Grading Criteria, Course Completion Information, Items to be Submitted and how to submit your completed information. The addendum will also note any additional course assignments that you may be required to complete that are not listed in this syllabus.


Bibliography (Suggested Readings)


Beatty, J. (2013). Observing development in young children (8th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.


Bentzen, W. R. (2009). Seeing young children: A guide to assessing and recording behavior (6th ed.). New York, NY: Thomson-Delmar Learning.


Billman, J., & Sherman, J. (2003). Observation and participation in early childhood settings: A practicum guide (2nd ed., 2003). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.


Bredekamp, S., & Copple, C. (Eds.). (2010). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.


Bredekamp, S., & Rosegrant, T. (Eds.). (1992). Reaching potentials: Appropriate curriculum and assessment for young children (Vol. 1). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Child.


Curtis, D., & Carter, M. (2012). The art of awareness: How observation can transform your teaching (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Education/Redleaf Press. http://www.ecetrainers.com/ 


Harms, T., Clifford, R. M., & Cryer, D. (2004). Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale Revised (ECERS-R); Infant-Toddler Rating Scale Revised (ITERS_R) 2006; and School Age Environmental Rating Scale, 2013 (updated ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.


Jablon, J., Dombro, A. D., & Dichtelmiller, M. (2007)The power of observation for birth through age 8 (2nd ed., 2007). Washington, DC: Teaching Strategies and NAEYC.


Jalongo, M. R., & Isenberg, J. P. (2007).  Exploring your role: An introduction to early childhood education (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.


Jones, J. (2003). Early literacy assessment systems: Essential elements, Educational Testing Service.


Koralek, D. (Ed.). (2004). Spotlight on young children and assessment. Washington DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.


Marotz, L.R.  &Allen, K.E., (2015) Developmental profiles: Pre-birth through twelve (8th ed.).  New York: Thomson-Delmar Learning.


McAfee, O., & Leong, D. J. (2015. Assessing and guiding young children’s development and learning (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.


McDonald, S. (2006). The portfolio and its use: A road map for assessment (2nd ed.). Little Rock, AR: Southern Early Childhood Association.


Meisels, S. J., & Provence, S. (1989). Screening and assessment: Guidelines for identifying young disabled and developmentally vulnerable children and their families. Washington, DC: National Center for Clinical Infant Programs.


Meisels, Samuel J., & Atkins-Burnett, Sally. (2005). Developmental screening in early childhood: A guide (5th ed.). Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children.


National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). (2004). Early childhood curriculum, assessment, and program evaluation—Building an effective, accountable system in programs for children birth through age 8. Washington, DC: Author.


Popham, W.J. (2013, 7th ed.) Classroom Assessment: What Teachers Need to Know Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.


Shepard, L., Kagan, S. L., & Wurtz, E. (Eds.). (1998). Principles and recommendations for early childhood assessments. Washington, DC: National Education Goals Panel.


Shillady, Amy. (2004). Choosing an appropriate assessment system. Beyond the Journal. Washington, D.C: National Association for the Education of Young Children. https://www.naeyc.org/positionstatements/cape.


Shores, E. F., & Grace, C. (1998).  The portfolio book: A step-by-step guide for teachers (Rev. ed., 2005). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.


Stiggins, R. J. (2000). Specifications for a performance-based assessment system for teacher preparation. Portland, OR: National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.


Wortham, S. (2011). Assessment in early childhood education (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.


The following are websites, videos, and links to articles or reports related to early childhood observation and assessment and related issues (in alphabetical order):



















































































Course content is updated every three years. Due to this update timeline, some URL links may no longer be active or may have changed. Please type the title of the organization into the command line of any Internet browser search window and you will be able to find whether the URL link is still active or any new link to the corresponding organization's web home page.

11/11/16  JN