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Observation of EYFS teachers

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Last updated on 6 January 2016
School types: All · School phases: Nursery, Primary
In-depth article
What should I look for in an EYFS lesson observation? This article includes advice from one of our associate education experts, Tracey Rees, together with a lesson observation form she has created, based on the 2014 EYFS framework. We also include advice on observing provision for two-year-olds.

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Contents

  1. 1 KeyDoc: lesson observation form for the EYFS
  2. 2 Observing and identifying pupil learning: advice
  3. 3 Suggested prompts for observing EYFS teaching
  4. 4 What constitutes effective EYFS teaching?
  5. 5 Observing provision for two-year-olds
  6. 6 Lesson observation checklists and proformas

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  • 9 external links

Key points

The Key
  • Observations should focus on the three characteristics of effective learning from the EYFS framework
  • Children should be engaged in a range of activities and opportunities
  • Observers should expect to see teacher-pupil interactions that help to identify learning

KeyDoc: lesson observation form for the EYFS

One of The Key's associate education experts, Tracey Rees, has created a lesson observation form based on the statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

This KeyDoc form can be used when observing practitioners in the EYFS. Later in this article, we explain that it can also be adapted for use when observing provision specifically for two-year-olds.

You can download the KeyDoc from the 'Downloads' section on the right-hand side of this page, or at the bottom of the page for users of mobile devices.

Tracey said the EYFS framework places an emphasis on three characteristics of effective learning:

  • Playing and exploring: this includes ways in which children engage with their learning through finding out and exploring, playing with what they know and being willing to experiment
  • Active learning: this is what motivates children to be involved and concentrated on their learning
  • Creating and thinking critically: this is where children need opportunities to think, have their own ideas and make links in their learning

She added that the Development Matters in the EYFS document can be used when observing teachers in the EYFS. On pages 6 and 7 of the document, there is a chart that gives ideas of 'what adults could do' and 'what adults could provide' to support the characteristics of effective learning.

Another article from The Key has a summary of the EYFS framework, which came into force in September 2014:

You can view the 2014 statutory framework here:

More from our blog

The Key

David Driscoll, one of our associate education experts, has written a blog post for us on the importance of lesson observations.

He discusses topics such as the importance of outstanding teaching and preparing for lesson observations.

Observing and identifying pupil learning: advice

Tracey emphasised that anyone observing teaching in the EYFS should expect to see teacher-pupil interactions that help to identify learning.

An EYFS session involves a lot of activities going on at once, with children choosing and being guided towards activities that help them learn across the different areas of development.

This means that there are no general learning points to consolidate in a plenary session. Observers should therefore not expect to see classic lesson structures suitable for older age groups.

She explained that observers should instead look for children sharing their learning in an ongoing manner with the adults in the room. Effective EYFS practice includes:

  • Observing children during activities
  • Questioning children during activities
  • Looking at individual outcomes (for example, a painting or piece of mark-making)

These activities tell EYFS practitioners whether children have achieved their success criteria or not. Each child will have his/her own 'next steps' which should be identified and noted during the session.

Suggested prompts for observing EYFS teaching

Observers should not expect to see learning taking place within specific subject areas

Tracey explained that observers should not expect to see learning taking place within specific subject areas. Rather, children should be engaged in a range of activities and opportunities covering all the areas for learning and development.

She suggested some questions that may be useful when observing EYFS practitioners. The questions below are based on the four overarching principles of the EYFS set out on pages 5-6 of the statutory framework document.

Unique child

  • Are all children being respected and acknowledged as individuals?

Positive relationships

  • Are children being helped to build on prior learning by provision of activities, such as a play or a story, at a level that is demanding but still within the children's reach?
  • Is the learning that is happening that day/week communicated to parents and carers?

Enabling environments

    • Is the environment appropriate for the age group being taught?
    • Is the environment stimulating and does it reflect the learning that is taking place?
    • Are there resources available to children to self-select the learning through play?

Are all children being respected and acknowledged as individuals?

  • Is there a rich environment of continuous provision that the children can self-select and use to move learning forward? Is there differentiation to use at own level?
  • Has the teacher ascertained what the children already know? Has the teacher built on this?
  • Does the planning reflect the children’s interests in order to keep them interested and motivated?

Learning and development

  • Are all areas, including the outdoor area, being used? For example, does the outdoor environment have activities/resources to stimulate numeracy?
  • Does the practitioner use different learning styles so that the children can interact with the staff and each other? (For example, visual aids, touch, sounds and movements)
  • Are staff modelling key vocabulary to the children? Is it displayed so that adults, children and parents can see it in the room?

What constitutes effective EYFS teaching?

Characteristics of effective teaching in the EYFS are set out in the document Effective Practice: Supporting Learning, produced to accompany the government’s EYFS materials. This guidance has now been archived.

The characteristics, on page 4 of the document, include:

  • Using knowledge of the EYFS to provide multi-sensory experiences, stimulating curiosity and investigation
  • Ensuring children feel confident and secure in dealing with challenges in their learning, starting from what they already know
  • Helping children to understand their learning experiences "by providing a commentary on what they do and are achieving"
  • Being clear about the purposes of play and other activities, and planning to support these
  • Valuing children’s spontaneous play and making use of opportunities for learning
  • Providing activities that "engage the children’s interests to motivate them and sustain their learning"
  • Evaluating provision to ensure all children are stimulated in their learning and making good progress

Ofsted inspection of teaching in the EYFS

Ofsted's school inspection handbook sets out on pages 59-62 how inspectors will evaluate the effectiveness of early years provision.

Observing provision for two-year-olds

The KeyDoc in this article can be adapted for monitoring the teaching of two-year-olds

Tracey Rees explained that the KeyDoc in this article can be adapted for monitoring the teaching provided for two-year-olds. She suggested modifying the KeyDoc to include the 16-26-month statements from the Development Matters guidance (linked to in section 1 above). These could form the focus of an observation.

She noted that teachers should be differentiating their practice when teaching two-year-olds, looking specifically at “what adults could do” in Development Matters.

She also said that teachers should plan activities that enable two-year-olds to demonstrate the seven areas of learning and development in the EYFS framework.

She explained that the content of lessons would not need to be radically different from other EYFS provision, but it should be made more accessible for two-year-olds.

Lesson observation checklists and proformas

Cheshire East Council observation record

Cheshire East Council has a form to record the observation of an EYFS class headed 'What is it like for a child here?'

The document includes a checklist separated into four sections to help guide the observation. The section headings are:

  • Development matters
  • Look, listen and note
  • Effective practice
  • Planning and resourcing

The observer marks whether each item is fully (F), partially (P), not at all (N) met, or not applicable (N/A). There is also space in each section to record evidence.

Lesson observation proformas

The National Strategies published guidance for the leaders and managers of EYFS settings.

On pages 25-32, it includes blank forms for recording observations of both adult-led and child-initiated "learning, play and interacting", as well as completed examples. There are also forms for recording discussion points and further feedback.

ABC Does is a teaching and education consultancy blog. It has published a two-page lesson observation form for the EYFS. It asks 'key questions' and includes 'quick check' tick boxes, and space for notes and evidence.

Another article from The Key links to templates that can be used to help carry out observations of children's progress through the EYFS.

Sources and further reading

Tracey Rees is a local authority EYFS specialist. Her expertise includes children’s centres, day care, special educational needs (SEN) and extended services for the primary phase.

A report from the DfE summarises findings from visits to eight schools to look at provision for two-year-olds. The report considers different approaches to setting up two-year-old provision and the delivery of high-quality provision in schools.

This article was updated in response to a question from the headteacher of a medium-size primary school in London.

The Key has taken great care in publishing this article. However, some of the article's content and information may come from or link to third party sources whose quality, relevance, accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability we do not guarantee. Accordingly, we will not be held liable for any use of or reliance placed on this article's content or the links or downloads it provides.