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Assessment Strategies and Tools: Anecdotal Notes

Anecdotal notes are used to record specific observations of individual student behaviours, skills and attitudes as they relate to the outcomes in the program of studies. Such notes provide cumulative information on student learning and direction for further instruction. Anecdotal notes are often written as the result of ongoing observations during the lessons but may also be written in response to a product or performance the student has completed. They are brief, objective and focused on specific outcomes. Notes taken during or immediately following an activity are generally the most accurate. Anecdotal notes for a particular student can be periodically shared with that student or be shared at the student’s request. They can also be shared with students and parents at parent–teacher–student conferences.

The purpose of anecdotal notes is to:

  • provide information regarding a student's development over a period of time
  • provide ongoing records about individual instructional needs
  • capture observations of significant behaviours that might otherwise be lost
  • provide ongoing documentation of learning that may be shared with students, parents and teachers.

Tips for Establishing and Maintaining Anecdotal Notes

  1. Keep a binder with a separate page for each student. Record observations using a clipboard and sticky notes. Write the date and the student’s name on each sticky note. Following the note taking, place individual sticky notes on the page reserved for that student in the binder.
  2. Keep a binder with dividers for each student and blank pages to jot down notes. The pages may be divided into three columns: Date, Observation and Action Plan.
  3. Keep a class list in the front of the binder and check off each student's name as anecdotal notes are added to their section of the binder. This provides a quick reference of the students you have observed and how frequently you have observed them.
  4. Keep notes brief and focused (usually no more than a few sentences or phrases).
  5. Note the context and any comments or questions for follow-up.
  6. Keep comments objective. Make specific comments about student strengths, especially after several observations have been recorded and a pattern has been observed.
  7. Record as the observations are being made, or as soon after as possible, so recollections will be accurate.
  8. Record comments regularly, if possible.
  9. Record at different times and during different activities to develop a balanced profile of student mathematice learning.
  10. Review records frequently to ensure that notes are being made on each student regularly and summarize information related to trends in students' learning.
  11. Share anecdotal notes with students and parents at conferences.