On the scale
Monitoring levels of well-being and involvement in the Early Years
Jess Gosling shows how using the Leuven Scales in a Reception classroom has assisted the monitoring of student wellbeing and involvement. She reflects upon this both for the child and in relation to class environment and provision.
At the beginning of any school year teachers, especially Early Years teachers will all be monitoring just how well their students are settling in. There will be a new routine, new friends, and for many of the youngest children, spending the day apart from mum and dad for the first time. You learn how to recognise the signs of course, but over the years I have found it really useful to track responses using the two Leuven Scales, developed by Dr. Ferre Leavers and his team at Leuven University in Belgium. [i]
Monitoring in a busy classroom
In a busy classroom, this form of monitoring can help any observer make an assessment of a child’s ‘Well-being’ and ‘involvement’ in a methodical way. The ‘involvement’ scale runs from ‘extremely low’ at Level 1 (‘activity is simple, passive and repetitive. . . ’) to ‘extremely high’ at Level 5 (‘The child shows continuous and intense activity revealing the greatest involvement. . . . ’)
The ‘wellbeing’ scale also runs from Level 1 (‘The child clearly shows signs of discomfort such as crying or screaming . . . .’ ) to Level 5 (‘The child looks happy and cheerful, smiles, cries out with pleasure . . . ‘)
To assess the children, practitioners observe them for approximately two minutes at regular intervals and then give a 1 to 5 score for both wellbeing and involvement. Where children are operating at a score of less than 4, learning is likely to be limited. However, we can then tune in to and respond to low-level engagement, and as the guidance issued by Northumberland County Council suggests[ii], we can support further learning in new ways.
The ‘father of Experiential Education’, Professor Ferre Laevers, gives an insight into his thinking on young children’s wellbeing and involvement ahead of his keynote speech to Early Years Scotland’s Annual Conference in Glasgow on 1 October 2016.
It is reassuring at any time of the year to be able to demonstrate that children have a good level of well-being and are involved in their tasks, using the Leuven Scale. As we introduce new activities, interactions and resourcing using the scale, we are able to continue monitoring. If things don’t go quite well with a child at any point, we can home in on what seems to be the problem by cross-referencing observations with the activities or other events in order to see if there is a pattern.
Impact on learning
As we all know, if the level of well-being and involvement are consistently low, it is likely a child’s development will be threatened. Conversely, the higher the level of well-being and involvement the child achieves, the higher the level of their development. As the Northumberland guidance suggests, at high levels of well-being and involvement, deep level learning can take place.
Early Years Foundation Stage: Children at play in a builders yard are active, content and fully motivated. This dedication would suggest a high level on the scale for involvement and wellbeing. (Source DfE).
The impact of different resources
We have been able to show how the consistent use of varied, open-ended resources and exciting ‘provocations’, which are at times adult-led, have both enabled the children to progress toward high levels of involvement according to the Leuven Scale (Laevers). We have also seen that when the children are provided with a great deal of agency, for example in being allowed to choose their playdough equipment, take out their own paints, develop an obstacle course or create an intricate construction from a wide range of materials, they are indeed consistently happy and involved. Good learning will be taking place.
The observations also show how interaction between children and adults develops and their positive impact. As the children engage with the resources, they are extremely motivated and often call teachers over to show their learning and to explain their ideas. In this way staff easily engage in back-and-forth conversation with them, discussing their choices, supporting their understanding of how they are learning and what they can be extended to do. The children show obvious signs of satisfaction in their happy, cheerful and excited demeanour. In sharing their work, they are lively and full of energy, exhibiting self-confidence and self-assurance (level 4/5 of the Leuven scale for wellbeing). In addition, using the Leuven scale for engagement we can see the children concentrating, are motivated and their imagination engaged.
Monitoring a range of activities
Activities are easy to monitor both inside and outside the classroom using the scales. In the ‘Construction corner’, we placed bottles, a range of materials and water. The children engaged with the materials enthusiastically and were delighted at how different materials created different colours in the water. During these activities children were beaming, smiling and crying out of fun when they saw their results – an ‘extremely high’ well-being response on the Leuven Scale.
Assessing language development
As a majority EAL school, we have a special concern to stimulate language comprehension and acquisition, for example by using repetition, in a variety of contexts. All staff work and play alongside children, provoking discussion. In these situations, we model previously taught language, such as, ‘would you like one more/who has the most/is this taller or shorter than you?’ Since assessment of language in the early years relies on observation of their use of language, when talking, listening and reading, using the Leuven scales to measure their involvement can also provide useful evidence.
The Leuven Scales are simple, flexible and practical. They are playing a vital role in my assessment of both individual children and the adequacy of our environment and provision. I could not recommend using them more highly.
Jess Gosling is a British trained Early Years Teacher, based internationally, currently in Taiwan. See http://jessgoslingearlyyearsteacher.com for her latest blog and tweets @ JessGosling2. If you are interested in international teaching, join her Facebook group, both set up to help international teachers with advice as they contemplate their next move: New International Teachers. Jess is currently working on a new book to support new teachers working overseas.
[i] Ferre Laevers, “Well-being and Involvement in Care Settings. A Process-oriented Self-evaluation Instrument” trans by Hannah Laevers (Kind & Gezin and Research Centre for Experimental Education: 2005) https://www.kindengezin.be/img/sics-ziko-manual.pdf
[ii] Northumberland Early Years Well-being and involvement, Inquisitive Learners” (Northumberland, Northumberland County Council: 2017)
These are available from Twinkl to download. At the time of publishing ITM – they were offering every teacher in England access to all Twinkl resources with a One Month Ultimate Membership, totally free of charge.
The Leuven Scales Group Observation Sheet
The Leuven Scales Class Tracking Form
The Leuven Scales Individual Observation Sheet