By Bobbi Philson
It was exciting and thought-provoking to talk ECERS-3 with almost 75 ECE professionals at the 2017 ECE Summit. We heard from some of the group that they would like more information about the 3-hour observation-only approach of the ECERS-3, so we’ll tackle it in a series of blog posts.
The ECERS Third Edition (ECERS-3) sets aside a block of 3 hours for observation, with additional time as needed to closely examine materials and gross motor areas. The three hours is spent exclusively observing the classroom, since there is no teacher interview or parents/staff questions in the ECERS-3. Additionally, assessors will not rummage through drawers, closets, or cabinets as in the ECERS-R.
All items and indicators will be scored based on the three-hour observation. The observation occurs when most children are in their regular classroom, most children are in attendance, and most activities occur. The three-hour time period, chosen by the program director or teacher, should reflect a typical sample of the day’s events.
Through more than 30 years of using the ECERS and ECERS-R, the authors observed that children had the most free play and access to materials and activities of their own choosing during early morning and late afternoon hours, rather than when most of the children were present. This arrangement fulfilled the ECERS-R expectation for “substantial portion of the day,” but fewer children attended during those hours. Therefore, children who attended during the “traditional” preschool hours were most often engaged in teacher directed activities with fewer choices, and often had less opportunity to engage in gross motor play. Research has shown the value of chunks of free play time, as well as opportunities to exercise and practice gross motor skills.
The ECERS-3 contains the expectation at the “good” level that out of the three hours observed, at least one hour will be devoted to free play, when ample and varied materials are accessible throughout the classroom. Additionally, at the “good” level at least 30 minutes of access to gross motor space and equipment is provided. These expectations ensure that the largest number of children have access to the most valuable activities offered in a typical preschool day.
Stay tuned for the next ECERS-3 installment, when we discuss the expectations for individual interest centers. While you’re waiting, you might want to read the Explanation of Terms Used Throughout the Scale, p. 10-12 of the ECERS-3 scale book.