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Para eLink: Where Minnesota's Paraprofessionals Learn Online
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3.2 (3S1C, 3S2C): Ability to collect and record performance data on students under the direction of a licensed teacher, while respecting student confidentiality and the laws regarding ethical practices of assessment.

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Why is observation important?

Observation is more than just looking at children. Instead, it's looking for something in a particular way. We can learn a great deal about how children learn and grow by observing and interpreting their behavior as they use materials in the classroom, play with other children, interact with their parents or teachers, and engage in daily activities. Through observation, we can learn what the child can do, what the child likes or dislikes, how the child behaves under various circumstances and how the child interacts with people.

Collecting data and measuring student behavior in a formal manner is an especially important aspect of effective teaching for the following reasons:

Identifying Current Level of Performance

Observing behavior helps to pinpoint where the child currently is on instructional objectives. Teachers often measure children's behavior before they provide instruction. This is called baseline data. Baseline data helps the teacher decide how far the child is from where he or she should be. It also helps the teacher to develop objectives and instructional plans.

Determining Effectiveness of Instruction

Another critical aspect of monitoring behavior is to assess the effectiveness of the program. Keeping track of the student's behavior helps the teacher make decisions about when instructional changes are needed to help the child make progress on his or her individualized objectives.

Communicating About a Child's Progress

Monitoring student's progress on objectives facilitates communication in the classroom, with parents, and with students. When data is summarized - and displayed in an understandable fashion - professionals may communicate more easily with families and with other service providers. Children may also receive praise and encouragement when their progress is shared with them.

Demonstrating Accountability

According to the laws regulating special education, educators must show the degree to which children are making progress toward achieving the goals and whether modifications or revisions of the goals or services are necessary. Teachers use the data they have collected to document their efforts and to show that a number of strategies have been tried to meet the child's needs. Documentation provides a record of which strategies were and were not successful with the child.


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