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 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 a self-assessment of the quality of their classroom practices to determine areas of high quality and areas where more focused attention is needed. Technical assistance consultants can use the tools to determine action plans for working with programs. Program Quality Assessors use the POIs for Keystone STARS monitoring and movement assessment, CQI support, and for other quality initiatives implemented by the Commonwealth. 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 team to design their ongoing process for completing yearly internal assessments in partnership with their Quality Coach and a PA Key Assessor. Programs may also elect to work on an optional Keystone STARS Standard that supports adding a second POI to their internal process. It also offers consultation with an Assessor to align the results of internal assessments with each POI scoring rubric and PA specific guidance for more authentic results to use in CQI planning.

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, please see the Program Observation Instruments Overview (PDF).

Use the following table to explore the POIs further. Click on the POI title to access more information and resources associated with each instrument.

Program Observation Instrument

Care Setting

Age

Target Area

Family/Group Child Care Homes located in a residential structure

n/a

Business Practices

Center-Based

Infants – School-Age

Teacher-Child Interactions

Center-Based

Preschool Classrooms

Social-Emotional Interactions

All Care Settings

2.5 – 6 Years

Environment and Child and Adult Behaviors

All Care Settings

2.5 – 6 Years

Environment and Child and Adult Behaviors

All Care Settings

Infants – School-Age

Overview of Practices

Center-Based

where at least one classroom enrolls a child with a diagnosed disability

Center-Based and Group Child Care located in a commercial structure

Inclusive Practices

Center-Based and Group Child Care located in a commercial structure

where at least one classroom enrolls a child with a diagnosed disability

n/a

Program Administration, Leadership, Management