Hills (1992) describes methods of observing and recording. This information incorporates Gordon and Brown's (1985) classification of ways to observe and record, with additional points from Beaty (1990).
"Methods for Observing and Recording
I. Narratives--attempts to record as much as possible of what happens within the focus of the observation.
A. Diary description--a chronological record of individual children's behavior, made after the behavior occurs; used to provide information about children whose behaviors the teacher needs to understand more fully. Examples: aggressive, avoiding, compliant, disruptive, passive, withdrawn behavior in certain kinds of interpersonal situations; ways of engaging materials and/or interacting with others in specified learning activities.
B. Anecdotal record--a descriptive narrative, recorded after the behavior occurs; used to detail specific behavior for children's records and for teachers' planning, conferencing, etc.
C. Running record--a sequential record over a given time, recorded while the behavior is occurring; used to document what children are doing in the particular situation (with a focus on social or pre-academic/academic activity); used for teachers' planning for individuals or groups.
D. Specimen description--detailed notes on an identified situation, recorded while the behavior is occurring; often with the aid of video or audio recordings; used to discover cause-and-effect relationships in individual children's behaviors, to analyze classroom management, etc.
E. Log or journal--a recording of brief details about each child in the group, usually made after the behavior occurs; used to describe the status and progress of every child in the group over time.
Narrative records based on observations have the advantages of being open-ended and flexible, and they can provide a wealth of information about children and the program. They are time consuming to both record and interpret.
II. Time Sampling--an observation of what happens within a given period of time, coded with tallies or symbols while the behavior is occurring; used to document the frequency of specific behaviors.
Time sampling can be more objective than narrative records. It is less time consuming, and it offers a way to observe and record two or more children simultaneously. Unlike narratives, however, it is closed-ended, limited to what happens in the specified time interval, and lacking in behavioral and contextual detail.
III. Event Sampling--an observation of an event that has been defined in advance and what happens before and after, recorded briefly while it is taking place; used to observe and record children's social-personal interactions with the teacher and other children as a basis to plan desirable interventions.
Like time sampling, it is objective and potentially helpful to teachers trying to gain insight into individual behavior and classroom management issues. Like time sampling, event sampling is closed-ended and limited, thus lacking the richness of the narrative methods.
IV. Modified Child Study Techniques--a variety of techniques originally used in child study research, adapted for use by teachers, including the following:
A. Checklist--a list on which the teacher (or parent or other adult) checks the behaviors or traits observed before, during, or after the behavior occurs.
B. Rating scale--a list of behaviors made into a scale, using frequency of behavior, level of mastery, etc., which the observer checks before, during, or after the behavior.
Checklists and rating scales have the advantage of being relatively easy to design, undemanding of time, and applicable to more than one child at a time, but they are limited to the specified traits or behaviors, lacking information on the context or quality of the behavior, and they are subject to the observer's interpretation.
C. Shadow study--a detailed, in-depth observation of one child at a time, done by multiple staff members, using mostly narrative methods; used to gain a more comprehensive understanding of individual children and, in so doing, enhance understanding of all children. A shadow study is time consuming, but the views of multiple observers can provide a rich, relatively objective picture of the child's behavior. Those who engage in shadow studies value their enhanced understanding of children and the professional growth that results." (p. 51)