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


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 part of a five-part series on early childhood education.  Upon completion of all five courses, you will have covered all of the CDA Competencies to prepare you to take the CDA exam (applicable in certain states).  This course specifically covers CDA Competencies 1-9, 12, and 13 (Check your individual state requirements), 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 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.


Course Objectives

·         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 information chapters covering Observation & Assessment, showing a competent understanding of the material presented.

·         Complete all chapter exams covering Observation & Assessment, showing a competent understanding of the material presented.

·         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. Your final grade for this course will be determined by calculating an average score of all chapter exams. This score will be printed on your final certificate. 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.


Facilitator Description

Early Childhood: Observation & Assessment has been developed by Darcie Donegan, MA/Ed., the instructor of record. 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 as a preschool teacher, center director, parent educator, trainer, and consultant.  Darcie has also been an international consultant through the Soros Foundation and taught in many different countries. She is currently adjunct faculty in ECE at Whatcom Community College, a Washington State Department of Early Learning approved trainer, and is the author of the ten Parenting Preschoolers modules for Washington State’s Organization of Parent Education Programs  (OPEP).  Areas of special interest include infants and toddlers, child development, observation and assessment, social-emotional development, brain development, child care, and parenting.  Darcie is the mother of three teenagers and has been married to a (nice)  lawyer for 20 years.  In addition to this course, Darcie is the author of another course in this Early Childhood series called Early Childhood: Typical & Atypical Development.   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.


Bibliography (Suggested Readings)

Allen, K.E., & Marotz, L.R. (2012). Developmental profiles: Pre-birth through twelve (7th ed.).  New York, NY: Thomson-Delmar Learning.


Beatty, J. (1986). Observing development in young children (6th ed., 2006).  New Jersey: Pearson Education.


Bentzen, W.R. (2000). Seeing young children: A guide to assessing and recording behavior (4th ed., 2005).  New York, NY: Thomson-Delmar  Learning.


Billman, J., & Sherman, J. (1996). Observation and participation in early childhood settings: A practicum guide (2nd ed., 2003). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.


Bredekamp, S., & Copple, C. (Eds.). (2009). 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.). New Jersey: Merrill Education/Redleaf Press.


Harms, T., Clifford, R.M., & Cryer, D. (2004). Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale Revised (ECERS-R); Infant-Toddler Rating Scale Revised (ITERS_R) 1996; and, School Age Environmental Rating Scale, 1995. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.


Jablon, J., Dombro, A.D., & Dichtelmiller, M. (1999).  The power of observation for birth through age 8 (2nd ed., 2007).  Washington, DC: Teaching Strategies Inc. and NAEYC.


Jalongo, M.R., & Isenberg, J.P. (2000).  Exploring your role: An introduction to early childhood education (4th ed.).  Boston, MA: Pearson.


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


McAfee, O., & Leong, D.J. (1994). Assessing and guiding young children’s development and learning (5th ed., 2010).  Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.


McDonal, S. (1997). The portfolio and its use: A road map for assessment. 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.


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.



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


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. (1990). Assessment in early childhood education (6th ed., 2011). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.


The following are web sites, 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.


Updated 9/2/14 JN