Through A Child’s Lens : A Froebelian Approach to Observation

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Project summary:

A study on how well our observations reflected the Froebelian Principled Practice approach inside/outside and in our wider community. An insight into practitioners’ understanding and feelings towards observations and of Froebelian principles.


My purpose in undertaking this project was to learn how our observations can showcase the whole child reflecting the high-quality experiences they have indoors and outdoors in our setting. This inquiry matters because we felt as a staff team that our observations didn’t reflect our Froebelian principled approach and we as a staff recognise our setting has Froebelian values, which we wanted to incorporate into our recorded observations.  We recognised as a staff team what we want for our children however, our observations don’t fully reflect our Froebelian values and principles which are at the heart of our ethos.


We are a newly established setting with a whole new team. The setting is the first of its kind within our local authority as its main focus is on outdoor learning. When I first started this project there was delays with our setting. The idea for this research subject came from new members of staff from various settings who had different experiences of what observation and planning look like. Staff also had come from a wide range of experiences and background relating to a Froebelian approach. Due to being a new setting we are striving to develop clear Froebelian principles to allow us to have a strong pedagogy and shared vision. As staff come from various settings when they observed children it was clear there was almost a confused pedagogy because everyone had different understandings of observation. I was able to find this out from the questionnaire’s, which were completed by settings practitioners, seeking what we mean by observation, where a response shared “We observe children to find out about their interests, relationships and how they play and learn.“ In contrast another member of staff put “observing the children’s work and then making significant change’s”. Findings showed the setting documented  observations didn’t truly reflect the experiences children had and weren’t meaningful to the child. When analysing the observation of a child there was a lack of depth, and children’s capabilities.


When carrying out these methods I reassured practitioners of their rights. Using interviews as a method of research was new to some practitioners who had concerns, they would “say the wrong thing”. I reassured practitioners that this inquiry was to find out their true thoughts so that in turn I can support them.

Whilst being reflexive to gain an understanding of practitioners  thoughts and feelings in regard to observations and Froebelian Principles through a practitioner questionnaire to gauge their understanding.

The data I collected from the questionnaire enabled me to focus on what would be involved in the inquiry. Gaining consent from staff who were involved in my focus group so I could carry out interviews with them and find out more about their thoughts whilst explaining ethical anonymity.

Following on from the interviews I provided literature packs for staff that included the Froebel Trust Dr Stella Louis Observing Young Children pamphlet and Froebelian Principles poster. Following discussions with my focus group of three children to observe reflecting on using the Froebelian principles and poster descriptors. Consent was given from children and families and information explaining the practitioner inquiry. We used video as method of recording children so that practitioners could use this way to gain depth to their analysis of observation.

“Observation is more than watching, it means listening carefully, being open and wanting to know more.” Tovey 2017: 112

Tovey, H. (2017) Bringing the Froebel Approach to your Early Years Practice. 2nd ed. London: David Fulton.


Carrying out this project we learned of the positive effects of using video recording reflections worked well. This enabled me to capture the whole real life experience child and gain a deeper understanding of the child experiences. Using video as a method of observing children enabled practitioners to begin to have a true reflection of the child’s skills which in turn enabled practitioners to develop the analysis of the observation. From the discussions practitioners had when analysing the videos, the language they used linked with some of Froebel’s principles such as “connections”, “creativity” and “symbolism”.

At the beginning of this inquiry, I asked staff to fill out a questionnaire about their observations and principles in particularly their thoughts. Reflecting on practitioner’s feedback through these questionnaire’s there was clear similarities for instance practitioners highlighted those observations should be or have the “individual child”, “capture’s children’s interests” and “the voice of the child”. This showed a clear understanding amongst practitioners on what they value what an observation should entail.

Setting out to embed Froebelian principles in our observations,  however the questionnaires and interviews revealed for staff it was a big jump to giving the packs with the Froebel Principles poster and Dr Stella Louis presentation on Observing Young Children to support embedding  these principles in our observation. Upon reflection, it provoked thinking to wonder if there was further support or guidance, I could provide for staff to support this approach. This could give clarity to staff when they are observing and make clear visual connections to the Froebelian Principles.

When analysing the data collected from the interviews there was also more similarities amongst practitioners’ view’s such as “autonomous learner’s”, “connected with nature” and “relationships” linking with Froebel’s principles, so this revealed that the practitioners had clearer understanding of some of Froebel’s principles more than others. This did make me question why is it that practitioners relate to those particular principles , were these principles clearly more visible in practice? Going forward to build this in-depth understanding and knowledge of the Froebelian principles, it  involved the breakdown of each principle, focusing on one at time, aiming to build staffs confidence and underpinning understanding.

Practitioner’s interview “A Froebelian principled approach is about the child being attuned with them…having that open and honest relationship with them in order to know where they are…looking at them as a whole looking at them what they are able to do not what they are not able to do.”


As a new staff team findings revealed our observations were not fully showing the whole child or the holistic experience’s children were having both indoors and outside, therefore we had to  make time to review and discuss. Moving forward this has identified further work will continue to develop through this inquiry with staff supporting one another and embedding Froebel’s principles throughout the setting informed through observations.

In conclusion it revealed elements of Froebel’s principles being developed and findings discovering further work around principles was required to guide and support a more in-depth exploration how these will support observations in practice. In addition, it highlighted a desire for further observation guidance, which we will continue to work on as a team to sustain a shared understanding.

Research implications

This research project was undertaken to study how well our observations reflected our Froebelian Principles. It gave practitioners time to focus on what observations mean to us as a team. It allowed us to discover where we were in our observation and Froebelian journey. As a team we found we had to go back to basics and develop a clear vision of what our observations should like and feel like. Staffing was an issue and the senior leadership team had to cover and try to give staff time to spend as group to discuss observations together. I found that although as a team we value our Froebelian principles and try to live by them, they  are still not fully embedded in our daily practice including our observation approach.

As a team we still had a confused pedagogy when it comes to our observations. We worked on creating a clear vision where staff would use the Froebelian Principles within their observation’s. Having a clear vision and expectations allowed staff to be confident in what and how they were observing the children. I resourced tripods so that staff could use video analysis to support observing children on and offsite. I resourced memory books for observations to be displayed in. We started a resource/research library displaying the Froebel pamphlets and including Observing Young Children with Dr Stella Louis .

This research project reminded us that observation of our children is at the heart of what we do and it should be completed at a high standard. This is how we evidence how children are progressing. High quality observations are promoted throughout the council. However as a Froebelian setting we are trying to use our Froebelian principles within our observations approach which is different to local guidance on observations.

We feel we are just at the start of this journey. Thus moving forward we want to continue to focus on our observations and Froebelian principle practice.

Practitioner enquiry

I believe strongly that knowledge is power. As a staff team we see ourselves as researchers and everyone in the team has leadership role, I encourage everyone to lead projects where they can develop their skills and gain a sense of achievement .I feel staff only know what they know and that’s why continuing to research and learn has to be a key priority when trying to give our children the best start in life. To enable us to continue this practice we need more staff and time to allow staff to implement and embed these findings.

Leadership learning


I have learned the importance of practitioners being researchers and the importance of high quality training. I feel as a leader we are always moving on to the next task before really getting into depth of the expectations and quality we want to achieve. I have also learned that slowing down time focusing on our journey, going into depth getting to the roots to build a strong foundation, with everyone involved creates the best impact for all especially for our children who we want to provide the best possible start to and provide the skills for a better future.

Author and role

Kathyrn Ralston, Head of Centre

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

  1. Alison McCulloch
    Alison McCulloch
    22 May 2022 at 6:20 pm

    I really enjoyed reading about your project as it is an area I am interested in researching in the near future. It is such a key area of our practice, but one which can actually take us away from the children if we let it, so I especially appreciated your use of video to capture the experiences children were having in your setting. Hopefully this allowed you to reflect on and note down the observation afterwards, rather than lose focus on the experience/interaction with the child at the time, which can often happen if you are trying to write, look and listen at the same time. I would be interested to see what your teams observations looked like before and after the research process – are there photos available from your memory books of how the observations look now and how they link to Froebelian principles? What was the clear vision that you developed and can it be seen in more recent observations? I know how difficult it is to find time for the team to reflect together in a nursery which is open longer hours, so I admire the work you have put in and hope you are able to continue this in some way. Thanks for sharing your research and I look forward to reading your dissemination when it is added.

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  2. Judith Thomas
    Judith Thomas
    26 May 2022 at 12:16 pm

    Your research into this area of practice resonates as an ongoing ‘work in progress’ improvement within my own setting. It was interesting how you recognised the connection between your underpinning values as a service with Froebelian beliefs and the documentation within observations that practitioners are recording. Using video footage as a tool for professional dialogue amongst your team is a fabulous idea to inform a depth of discussion focused on children’s learning. It appears that this opportunity has created a more targeted approach to what practitioners observe making it more significant. I am interested to see how you use the observations recorded within children’s future learning opportunities. It would also be interesting to know if, over time, they make a difference to continuity of learning for individual children compared to practice before your project commenced. You have definitely started an interesting journey of research!

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