Observations and Interviews
As you have experienced in your coursework, reading about young children and their development can build knowledge and understanding. However, opportunities to observe children firsthand at different stages of language development will help deepen your learning experience. With regard to such topics as bilingualism and atypical language development, interviewing adults who can share their experiences or expert knowledge can broaden your understanding and sensitivity to the complexity of language learning.
Your Application Assignment for the course is divided into four parts. In preparation, read the following overview of the observations and interviews you will be conducting over the next 5 weeks. Use this week to set up specific dates and times for these experiences to take place.
Part 1 (Week 2): Observing an Infant or Toddler Interacting with an Important Adult
You will observe a young child in one of the three stages of language development: prelinguistic (using sounds and gestures), phonological (transitioning from sounds to speech), or semantic (learning the meanings of words). Then, you will interview the parent or caregiver about the child’s language development. The goal of this assignment is to observe the child’s means of communication and apply what you have learned about how important adults can foster language development in very young children.
Part 2 (Week 3): Observing a Preschooler’s Communicative Competence
You will observe a young child 3–5years old using language. The goal of this assignment is to look for evidence of the child’s communicative competence using specific measures, and consider how important adults can foster one or more aspects of the child’s communicative competence.
Part 3 (Week 4): Interview on Second Language Learning
You will interview an older student or adult who is bilingual about the experience of learning English as a second language; or you will interview a teacher of young English language learners (ELL) or a foreign language teacher about children’s experiences in learning a second language. The goal is to increase your understanding of the experience of learning and using English and another language.
Part 4 (Week 5): Interview on Developmental Leaps and Lags in Language Learning
You will interview an early childhood teacher or a speech pathologist on the topic of language development to find out more about children whose language is delayed or who have atypical language development; or you will interview the parent of a child with a language delay or atypical language development. The goal is to expand your understanding of developmental differences in language development, or atypical language development caused by a specific condition or communication disorder, and the impact on children and families.
Note: Assignments must be completed in order.
Begin preparing for these assignments in the following ways. Focus first on your Week 2 assignment.
Identify children to observe (Weeks 2 and 3). Consider the goal of each observation assignment when you choose the child and adult. In each case, be sure the adult is comfortable with the observation and understands the purpose, which is for your educational development. Obtain permission for the observation and agree on a specific date and time. (Keep in mind, you will need at least 20 minutes to observe.) For Week 2, plan time to interview the adult about the child’s language. For Weeks 2 and 3, allow pre-observation time to greet the child and adult, and post-observation time to express your thanks for their cooperation.
Identify individuals to interview (Weeks 4 and 5). Each of these interview assignments has multiple options for a person to interview. Choose the person whom you are most interested in speaking with or can interview most easily in the time allotted. Explain that the purpose of the interview is for your own educational development. Get permission for the interview and agree on a specific date and time. Plan for 30 minutes for the interview, though you may conclude early if you have asked all of your questions. (If you need help locating a speech pathologist, check the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association “Find a Professional: Online Directory of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Programs” at and enter your zip code.)
Arrange for a tape recorder, which you will need for each assignment. Be sure to inform each person in advance that you will be recording the conversation and obtain their permission.
Download the Observation or Interview Guide for each assignment. Click on the links below for specific guidance on what to watch for or specific questions to ask. Be sure to complete the course readings for each week before you undertake the assignment, to ensure you enter each observation or interview with a foundation of appropriate and related knowledge.