Clare Devlin on Observation, Assessment and Planning

Clare Devlin shares the 'What, So What, Now What' approach to observation, assessment & planning in early childhood education. Clare unpacks writing objective observations, assessing development, and planning responsive teaching strategies.
· October 9, 2020

Clare Devlin has been working within the field of Early Years care and education since 1988. She began her career as a Foundation Stage teacher, moved in 1995 to become an Early Years adviser with the education and library board and, in 2007, took on the role as Director of Programmes with Early Years – the Organisation for Young Children. Clare has had a lead role in the development of the Sure Start Developmental Programme for Two & Three Year Olds in Northern Ireland.

In 2009 Clare became an independent trainer, consultant and mentor and has been focusing on the design and delivery of bespoke quality training programmes across Ireland and the UK. She works with a range of schools, organisations and providers across the statutory, voluntary and private sector delivering a wide range of programmes that draw on lessons learned from research and local and international best practice.

Clare worked as an Associate Assessor with the Education and Training Inspectorate in Northern Ireland (ETI) and is also an Associate trainer with Early Education in London.

Clare’s particular interest is in the observation and documentation of children’s thinking and learning.

In this session, Early Years expert Clare Devlin shares invaluable insights on effective observation, assessment and planning in early childhood education.

Clare unpacks the simple yet powerful ‘What, So What, Now What’ approach to observation and assessment. This three-stage process entails:

  • ‘What’ – Writing down the factual, objective observation without interpretation
  • ‘So What’ – Coming together as a team to assess what the observations reveal about each child’s development and learning
  • ‘Now What’ – Using the assessment to inform targeted planning to support the child’s next stage of development

Key learning points:

  • The importance of recording high-quality observations as evidence to inform assessments
  • Assessing children holistically across all developmental domains
  • Ensuring assessments directly feed into planning responsive teaching strategies
  • Being curious about children and tuning into their natural interests and learning trajectories
  • Using involvement levels as a quantifiable measure of children’s engagement and potential learning
  • Streamlining the process onto a one-page format for each child
  • Supporting all practitioners through practical training and mentoring

Clare provides a wealth of practical examples to illustrate how educators can apply this reflective cycle to improve their observational skills, gain deeper insight into children’s learning, and plan enriching experiences tailored to their needs.

Her forthcoming book ‘What, So What, Now What?’ will be an invaluable hands-on guide for early years practitioners looking to enhance their observation, assessment and planning practices.

This episode was originally broadcast on the 9th of October 2020

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Episode Includes

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