Program observation is a way of gathering information about a program’s practices. It includes observation of point in time practices such as the flow of children’s experiences in the classroom or a program’s documented leadership and management practices. Program observation supports early childhood and school-age professionals and program leadership by looking at the current quality of different early learning and school-age program components: classroom practices, teacher-child interactions, instructional support, and program management and leadership. It helps to identify the program’s strengths and areas to consider for practice growth. Information from a program observation can be used to inform continuous quality improvement plans (CQI).
Program Observation Instruments
Program Observation Instruments (POI) are evidence-based, reliable tools used to measure the quality of early learning and school-age care programs. They provide a specific structure that guides the observer’s review of a specific set of implemented practices. They can help early childhood and school-age professionals review their program’s practices to see what they are doing well and identify areas for growth. POIs designed for use in these settings often involve time spent in the classroom/care space observing, listening to interactions between children and teachers, interviews to gather information, and review of documents and materials. The feedback from these activities can be used to inform Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) decision-making on all or part of a program’s services and support program evaluation efforts.
Who Uses Program Observation Instruments?
Early childhood and school-age professionals can use POIs to complete internal assessment of the quality of their classroom practices to determine areas where practices are strong and those where more focused attention is needed. Technical assistance consultants can use POI to inform action plans for working with programs. Program Quality Assessors use the POIs for Keystone STARS CQI support, and to inform individualized supports for programs experiencing challenges. Researchers can use the POIs to examine the quality of programs over time.
Program Observation Instruments for Keystone STARS
At STAR 2, programs select an approved POI to use for internal assessment and use the results to inform goals for improvement. At STAR 3 and 4 programs develop an Internal Assessment (IA)Team to design their ongoing Internal Assessment Process (IAP) for completing yearly internal assessments in partnership with their Quality Coach and a Pennsylvania Key Assessor.
Programs may also elect to work on optional Keystone STARS Standard indicators that support adding additional POIs to their IAP. These additional indicators also offer the opportunity to have a Pennsylvania Key Assessor conduct an external assessment for CQI feedback to add to the internally gathered assessment information. The external feedback, from an experienced observer, enhances the information the program’s IA Team will use to determine a focus for change, and goals to add to the CQI Plan.
There are multiple Keystone STARS approved POIs that programs can choose from to investigate their current classroom and/or leadership and management practices. Some POIs are designed to review a broad range of practice; others have a narrow focus on a few specific practices. Allowing programs to choose a POI that provides feedback on areas of practice that match their goals, investigate areas where challenges exist or focus on new areas for growth supports creating individual CQI journeys from STAR 1 to STAR 4. For basic information on approved POIs, see the Program Observation Instruments Overview (PDF).
Use the following table to explore the POIs further. Click the POI title to access more information and resources associated with each instrument.
|Program Observation Instrument||Care Setting||Age||Target Area|
|Business Administration Scale (BAS)||Family/Group Child Care Homes located in a residential structure||n/a||Business Practices|
|Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)||Center-Based||Infants – School-Age||Teacher-Child Interactions|
|Climate of Healthy Interactions for Learning and Development (CHILD)||Center-Based||Preschool Classrooms||Social-Emotional Interactions|
|Developmental Environment Rating Scale (DERS)||All Care Settings||2.5 – 6 Years||Environment and Child and Adult Behaviors|
|Environment Rating Scale (ERS)||All Care Settings||Infants – School-Age||Overview of Practices|
|Inclusive Classroom Profile (ICP)||Center-Based where at least one classroom enrolls a child with a diagnosed disability||Preschool classrooms with at least one enrolled child with a diagnosed disability||Inclusive Practices|
|Parenting Interactions with Children: Checklist of Observations Linked to Outcomes (PICCOLO)||All Care Settings||10 – 47 months||Teacher-child or parent-child interactions|
|Program Administration Scale (PAS)||Center-Based and Group Child Care located in a commercial structure||n/a||Program Administration, Leadership, Management|
|Rating Observation Scale for Inspiring Environments (ROSIE)||Center-Based||Preschool classrooms||Classroom aesthetics|
|School-Age Program Quality Assessment (SPQA)||Center-Based and/or SACC only programs||Kindergarten – Grade 6||Quality of youth experiences/Overview of practices|
|Social Emotional Learning Program Quality Assessment (SEL PQA)||Center based and/or SACC only programs||Kindergarten through Grade 12||Social emotional learning|
|Teaching Pyramid Infant-Toddler Observation Scale (TPITOS)||Center-Based||Birth to 36 months||Social-emotional – Pyramid Model|
|Teaching Pyramid Observation Tool (TPOT)||Center-Based||2 – 5 years (preschool classrooms)||Social-emotional – Pyramid Model|
Information contained in this chart is based upon the most recent information provided by individual POI authors/publishers and is informed by Pennsylvania’s current use of each instrument in Keystone STARS. Updates are made as needed to reflect new information on POI use in various settings/age ranges and target areas.
POI Recorded Webinar
This recorded webinar provides additional information about the various Program Observation Instruments (POIs) for early learning programs in Pennsylvania.
- Watch This Recorded Webinar (Youtube)
- Slide Deck (PDF)
[June 7, 2021]
Facilitated Program Observation Instrument (POI) Overview
Facilitated Program Observation Instrument (POI) Orientation is an intentional discussion between a Program Quality Assessor and a program to support a program’s decision to choose and use a POI that does not have professional development opportunities from the Pennsylvania Key. This is a one-on-one (or small group when appropriate) hour-long session. Upon completion, a program may receive a scale book, supporting print materials and/or classroom materials to support the use of the POI at no cost.
- Request a Facilitated POI Orientation (PDF)[Last Updated: Jan. 2022]
Learn more about other Program Quality Assessment Professional Development opportunities.