Action Step and Orientation

A3. Use observation and assessment information to guide instruction.

During this lesson, you and your team will learn about supporting your instructional staff in understanding how to use the information gathered from your assessment system to deliver instruction that meet the needs of all the children in their classes.

Part 1 explains how to support staff in using data to plan effective care and instruction.

Part 2 shows the steps you can take to establish systems that support instructional staff in using data to plan effective instruction.

Part 3 presents a scenario showing how site leaders supported instructional staff in learning to use the information they had gathered from formal and informal observations and assessments to guide their instruction.

To get started, download the Implementation Guide for this component and refer to the Action Step for this lesson. Examine the Implementation Indicators for each level of implementation and note the Sample Evidence listed at the bottom of the chart.

Part 1—Planning Staff Support for Using Data to Guide Instruction

The first two lessons of this module present the important steps for implementing a valid and reliable assessment system at your site. Having a solid system in place allows you to use collected data to plan meaningful, quality instruction for the children in your care.

Action Step A3 is about using observation and assessment information to guide instruction. This lesson will discuss the steps you and your team can take to ensure that your assessment system is maximized to guide learning and development at your site.

The excellent teacher uses observations and other information gathered to inform planning and teaching. He or she gives careful consideration to the learning experiences needed by the group as a whole and by each individual child. By observing what children explore, what draws their interest, and what they say and do, the teacher determines how to adapt the environment, materials, or daily routines. The teacher can make an activity simpler or more complex according to what individual children are ready for (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009, p. 44).

Because this Action Step is about the link between assessment and instruction, you will see some clear connections between the content of this lesson and the Effective Instructional Framework component of the TSLP. Assessment is at the foundation of an effective instructional framework for infants, toddlers, and young children. Through assessment, you can recognize children's unique learning needs and respond to those needs by delivering evidence-based instructional practices. By using information from observations, screenings, and other assessments, you and your team can make the best educational plans for the children in your care. In addition, using assessment data allows you to identify students who need additional support so you can intervene as early as possible. In Lesson 4 of this module, you will focus specifically on using data to help identify potential developmental delays or disabilities.

The previous two lessons explained how important it is that instructional staff know the domains of learning and development, understand different types of assessment, and are able to use and administer assessment tools reliably.

This lesson asks you to consider how well your staff can use assessment data to guide instruction. Lesson 2 provides an example survey you can use to assess instructional staff's current knowledge in this area. In addition to the information from such surveys, you and your team may need to discuss the following questions:

  • How skilled is each instructional staff member at using data to plan instruction?
  • What additional knowledge or support will instructional staff need to be successful using the data in everyday situations with both children and families?
  • What steps will your leadership team have in place to help struggling staff?
  • What else does your leadership team need to do to support instructional staff as they build their skills in using data?
  • What specific professional development is needed to support your systematic approach to data use?

As you already know, supporting instructional staff in understanding and using data to guide children's learning is an ongoing process. You will want to schedule professional development on necessary topics. These might include how to use data to guide everyday classroom learning or how to communicate data to families and other appropriate stakeholders.

In addition to this type of professional development, you will also need systems in place for ongoing support, such as classroom observations and feedback, classroom coaching, and regular staff meetings to review data and plan instruction. In Part 2, you will learn more about taking steps to create these systems.

Part 2—Providing Clear Expectations and Support to Instructional Staff in Using Data to Guide Instruction

As the first Indicator of Action Step A3 states, you and your team will need to support and develop instructional staff's knowledge of how to use data "to set goals, document progress, and match instruction to children's interests and needs." Since you need to use a variety of assessments as part of your system (such as observations, family questionnaires, developmental checklists, and pre-literacy screeners), you will want to set expectations for how the different types of information collected by these tools are used to inform care and instruction. Putting some systems in place can support instructional staff in effectively using data to guide instruction on an ongoing basis.

Setting aside time for data review meetings

Staff meetings where data is reviewed and discussed will be an important part of your assessment system. It is best to set aside time for these meetings shortly after assessments so instructional staff can review the information collected as soon as possible. At the meetings, instructional staff can discuss what the data is telling them about the children in their classes, specifically the instructional needs of the children and the learning goals that are appropriate to target for each child.

In addition to identifying children's needs, instructional staff can share expertise with one another during data-review meetings and possibly identify topics on which they may need more professional development. For example, after reviewing data collected from pre-literacy screeners, an instructional staff member learned that some children had scored "needs more assistance" in the area of print knowledge and concepts. This teacher had little training in activities that promote this skill. After talking with other instructional staff to ask about possible strategies, the teacher discovered that they all could benefit from additional training in print knowledge and concepts. In this case, leaders decided to include more professional development on the topic.

Supporting instructional staff by making data accessible and instructional resources available

When children's instructional needs are accurately identified, instructional staff can plan meaningful, differentiated instruction that meets those needs. (Differentiated instruction is tailored to the strengths and needs of each child.) In order to accomplish this, you and your leadership team will want to have systems in place so that instructional staff can easily access and understand assessment data. In fact, making scores and key information available and understandable to staff is the first step in using data to guide instruction.

Your system for making data accessible may be different for the different types of assessment tools used. For assessments that are administered at key points during the year—e.g., beginning of the year (BOY), middle of the year (MOY), end of the year (EOY)—you may print or create a summary template that instructional staff members fill out. Completed templates will show the range of development in a skill for all the children in each class based on the information collected as part of your assessment system. For data that is formally collected at key points in time, it can be helpful to review student needs across classrooms. This way, as leaders, you can identify major areas of growth and need and plan site-wide support for instructional staff as needed.

You will want to collaborate with instructional staff on the most efficient ways to organize and retrieve informal data that is collected on an ongoing basis. Teachers will need a system in place so that they can plan instruction and communicate with parents and families. You and your team should support instructional staff in reviewing and using data continuously. Explain that both formal and informal assessment data are important in planning instruction and measuring students' progress over time. For more information about pre-literacy assessment, you may review Scanlon, Anderson, and Sweeney's Early Intervention for Reading Difficulties, listed in the References section, for guidance and suggested forms of documenting student learning.

As instructional staff members plan instruction, they may need help identifying and using curriculum resources for setting objectives and promoting the skills that are important for each age group. The Texas Infant, Toddler, and Three-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines and the Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines (Updated 2015) can guide providers in implementing and adapting strategies to support learning and development. "Texas' Early Learning Pathways," aligned to both of these documents, provides recommendations for caregiver behaviors and instructional activities that support learning and development from age 0–5. You and your team can also review the lessons in the Effective Instructional Framework module. There, you will find more information and resources on differentiating instruction to meet children's needs based on the data collected through your observation and assessment system.

The following scenario shows how one teacher used assessment information and the guidelines to modify her care of two-year-olds.

Scenario: The instructional staff at ABC Childcare attended a meeting in which they reviewed Beginning of the Year (BOY) data from the site's developmental checklist tool. During the meeting, site leaders guided instructional staff in reviewing the data and identifying trends in students' development. They also supported the staff as they began to plan instruction.

Ms. Lara, a teacher in the two-year-old classroom at ABC Childcare, saw that about half of the children in her classroom were not using three- to four-word sentences at BOY. She organized the data on this skill and began planning support to address this instructional need. Here is her class data and initial support plan. Then Ms. Lara consulted the Texas Infant, Toddler, and Three-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines. She reviewed the caregiver strategies that help promote children using more words in a sentence. She began planning for small-group instruction for all children, selecting the following strategies as her focus until the next assessment period:

  • Introduce new words, sounds, signs, and body language during everyday activities by explaining what older infants are seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting.
  • Speak in complete sentences with toddlers: "Yes, that is a banana. Let’s peel the skin off the banana together."
  • Notice and support toddlers when they begin to put two or more words together to form sentences by repeating the words and adding more: "Yes, Mommy went bye-bye. She will come back very soon."

Ms. Lara also decided to make sure that she routinely asks the children in her classroom to repeat new words, not just hear those words. Ms. Lara shared these strategies with the other instructional staff and aides who work in the two-year-old classroom, making sure that they were focused on increasing the number of words children use in sentences. Ms. Lara used the informal data (e.g., class observations, documentation of class activities and learning) to determine how the children were responding to the support she was providing.

Ms. Lara continued to use the formal assessment data to inform instruction throughout the year. You can see an example of her class data from the end of the year, showing how she listed types of support based on what the data showed about the children's progress.

A summary sheet like the one used by Ms. Lara can be helpful in organizing data for different purposes and planning instruction. You can use or adapt this summary sheet template.

Establishing a system of ongoing staff support

You and your team will want to help staff frequently review information about the children in their care and plan instruction. You may identify instructional staff or coaches at your site who can regularly discuss data with individual staff members and encourage them to use information about individual children to help create lesson plans and set goals. Staff members may need help in using identified goals and assessment information to plan lessons, including how to personalize learning for different needs or stages of growth.

Observation of classroom practice is also important to staff development. Observation should always include reflective follow-up meetings. Although it is important for leadership to observe formal lessons (particularly with toddlers and preschoolers), observations may also include other daily activities in which instructional staff teach and reinforce skills (such as transition times, outdoor activities, lunch activities). In any case, follow-up meetings should allow instructional staff members to share how an activity went, identify their own strengths and areas of growth, and discuss ways to improve based on feedback from the observer.

By visiting classrooms to assess and observe how your instructional staff are using data to inform instruction, you will be able to gauge what level of assistance each instructional staff member needs. A first step might be to observe instructional staff as they conduct various assessment activities (informal observations, evaluating developmental milestones, reviewing family questionnaires) and as they work with children in large and small groups. In your follow-up meetings, you can ask instructional staff to describe ways they used assessment to plan instruction, and you can collaboratively discuss successes and challenges they encountered.

You and your team might also review lesson plans with instructional staff and focus on how data is used to guide instruction. Then during classroom observations, you and your team might look for activities that target the individual skills and growth needed, such as writing activities or small-group lessons focused on a specific pre-literacy objective. During classroom observations, you and your team can evaluate how the instructional staff used the data to plan daily activities, implement the curriculum, set objectives, conduct lessons, and document children's growth. These visits will provide topics of discussion for your reflective follow-up meetings. They will also help you and the instructional staff set collaborative goals related to improved learning opportunities and lessons. Ensure that instructional staff can explain how the activity they have chosen is connected to their goals and why they chose it for that specific skill.

Finally, throughout this process, you will want to consider ways to build the skills and knowledge of your instructional staff. During classroom observations and follow-up meetings, you may learn that some members of your instructional staff are very effective in assessing children and planning targeted instruction. Others may need specific step-by-step support, more frequent visits, additional professional development, or time to ask questions and have more extended conversations with coaches or other experts. It might be helpful to have a reflection tool to document how well your instructional staff implement your observation and assessment system. Tracking this information will help you identify effective teachers who might take on greater leadership roles at your site by providing support to other instructional staff, as well as helping you set site-wide goals for your professional development plan.

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TO LEARN MORE: For more information about assessment and guiding instruction for young children, you will find examples and ideas about various tools in the following resources:

Eliker and McMullen's "Appropriate and Meaningful Assessment in Family-Centered Programs," found on the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) website, includes information about different assessment tools educators can use for meaningful assessment. The article also describes the importance of reflecting on assessment information in collaboration with colleagues and families and the use of this information for setting goals and planning for individual children and groups.

The article "Assessment in Early Childhood" by Gillis, West, and Coleman is available on the Get Ready to Read! website. The article provides educators with basic background information and a general overview of national standards for assessment, universal screening, progress monitoring, observation in naturalistic settings, and the use of teacher ratings to identify children at risk.

The Intentional Teacher: Choosing the Best Strategies for Young Children's Learning by Ann S. Epstein describes ways to use data to plan strategies for young children. You may consider this resource for an in-depth book study. Each chapter has an area titled "For Further Consideration" at the end. During such a book study, instructional staff and leaders can reflect on how to improve instruction that will meet individual children's needs.

The Learning from Assessment Toolkit, available on the Head Start website, provides a collection of presentations, handouts, and guided practice exercises to help instructional staff in administering and analyzing child assessment. In the presentation for teachers, there is a video where they can observe and document children's behaviors. You can download various parts of the Toolkit by clicking on the different tabs at the top of the page.

NAEYC’s "Position Statements on Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation" is available at the National Association for the Education of Young Children website. You can download PDF versions of various position statements on assessment, including assessment of young English learners.

"The Power of Documentation in the Early Childhood Classroom," by Hilary Seitz, describes how to use documentation of children's learning and development effectively. This article is available for download on the NAEYC site on the Past Issues page. See under June/July 2009, Vol. 2 No. 5.

The webinar Engaging Families in the Assessment Process and Use of Data: An Early Childhood Example examines strategies for promoting the effective use of early childhood assessment data at multiple levels, with a focus on families.

Part 3—A Plan in Action

This lesson has shown you how to set expectations and support instructional staff in using data effectively to plan care and instruction. In addition to using the strategies in this lesson, you and your team can custom design support for instructional staff depending on their needs, experience, and expertise. To recap, you and your team can provide instructional leadership by doing the following:

  • Demonstrating how to review observation and assessment data
  • Assisting instructional staff as they analyze data and use the information in their planning
  • Giving suggestions, ideas, and resources for large and small-group lessons focused on skills identified through the review of data
  • Ensuring instructional staff has all the needed curriculum guides and materials

The following scenario shows how an instructional leader supported instructional staff as they learned to use the information they collected over time to set goals and plan instruction:

Scenario: Ms. Casey, the instructional coach at ABC Childcare, reviewed the BOY formal assessment results for each class. She noticed that many children in the prekindergarten class had scored "needs more assistance" in the area of phonological awareness. During initial classroom visits, she did not observe any phonological awareness activities. After analyzing the assessment results, reflecting on her classroom visits, and examining available resources, she ordered each classroom a phonological awareness activity book and planned a professional development session.

Ms. Casey decided that the objective of the professional development session would be to use the information gathered from both formal and informal observations to determine the needs of children. She requested that instructional staff bring to the session their class’s formal and informal observation and assessment results, a weekly lesson plan, and class roster.

To begin the session, Ms. Casey reviewed the purpose of observation and assessment and had instructional staff discuss in teams what information they had collected and how. She emphasized that they would be focusing on planning instruction with the information they had collected.

Ms. Casey displayed sample formal and informal observation and assessment results and demonstrated how she reviewed the collected data to discover trends for an entire class, for small groups, and for individual children. She asked the instructional staff to review their class's assessment results to discover trends and asked questions of the staff as they worked in teams to examine their results. In doing so, the instructional staff noticed the need in the area of phonological awareness, just as Ms. Casey had determined.

Ms. Casey displayed the district curriculum and the recently purchased phonological awareness activity books. She distributed the activity books and gave instructional staff time to examine them. Next she modeled how she used the assessment results to create a small group focusing on a specific phonological skill. She showed how she found time in her weekly lesson plan for the activity. She selected an activity from the new phonological awareness activity book and modeled writing a lesson. She distributed the small-group lesson plan and had instructional staff refer to it as she modeled the lesson. After she modeled the lesson, she gave time for questions and reflection and offered the staff a blank lesson plan template.

Ms. Casey then had the staff create small groups using a current class roster and current assessment results. As the staff formed each group, she had them explain the basis for their decisions. The staff included small-group lessons on their weekly lesson plan form and determined what time to teach the lesson. The staff then used the available resources and the blank lesson plan template to choose and write a lesson for the upcoming week.

Ms. Casey stated that in her upcoming classroom visits, she would focus on how instructional staff used current data to inform their instruction. She explained that she would do this through ongoing observation and reflective discussion. Instructional staff could sign up for a time on a calendar she placed at the back of the room. She distributed a form listing some of the ways she could assist her staff: providing help in creating small groups, choosing materials and lessons, modeling lessons, providing side-by-side lesson coaching, and determining next steps after teaching the lesson. She requested that all instructional staff sign up on the calendar so that she could begin planning her visits.

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NEXT STEPS: Depending on your progress in establishing a support plan to guide instructional staff as they use data to plan care and instruction, you might want to consider the following next steps:

  • Assess instructional staff's strengths and needs in interpreting and using data.
  • Establish times for data-review meetings and incorporate them into your site/campus assessment schedule.
  • Plan initial professional development on appropriate topics related to using data to guide instruction.
  • Conduct coaching sessions, classroom observations, and follow-up reflective meetings with instructional staff.


A3. Use observation and assessment information to guide instruction.

With your site/campus-based leadership team, review your team’s self-assessed rating for Action Step A3 in the TSLP Implementation Status Ratings document and then respond to the four questions in the assignment.

TSLP Implementation Status Ratings 0-SE

In completing your assignment with your team, the following resources and information from this lesson's content may be useful to you:

  • Part 1 has suggestions for planning instructional staff support in using data to plan effective care and instruction.
  • Part 2 provides suggestions and resources to help you establish systems that support instructional staff in using data to plan effective care and instruction.
  • Part 3 presents a scenario of how a site leader supported instructional staff in using the formal and informal data they collected to plan small-group instruction.

Next Steps also contains suggestions that your site or campus may want to consider when you focus your efforts on this Action Step.

To record your responses, go to the Assignment template for these Action Steps and follow the instructions.


Coleman, M. R., Roth, F. P., & West, T. (2009). Roadmap to pre-k RTI: Applying response to intervention in preschool settings. National Center for Learning Disabilities. Retrieved from

Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (Eds.). (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8 (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Dichtelmiller, M. L. (2011). The power of assessment: Transforming teaching and learning. Bethesda, MD: Teaching Strategies.

Epstein, A. S. (2014). The intentional teacher: Choosing the best strategies for young children's learning. Washington DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Gronlund, G., & James, M. (2013). Focused observations: How to observe young children for assessment and curriculum planning (2nd ed.). St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

Scanlon, D. M., Anderson, K. L., & Sweeney, J. M. (2010). Early intervention for reading difficulties: The interactive strategies approach. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.