Leuven Engagement Scale in the Daycare Center – Observe & Evaluate

This paper is about observing as well as the professional evaluation of this observation using the Leuven Engagement Scale. The structure follows the classic scenario. First, observations take place during free play. In these observations, it is now important to pay attention to signals that are applied in the Leuven Engagement Scale. Here, for example, one could mention the signal self-confidence or assertiveness. In combination with the levels 1,3,5 (previously 1,2,3,4,5), a classification can now be made.

After several observations have been made in different situations, conclusions can be drawn about the child’s interests and subject matter. These in turn can now be used for further pedagogical planning.

Below you will find a practical example with three observations, evaluations and a short pedagogical plan for further action, after all, we want to achieve something with the results of the observation.

1st observation – Klara in the play kitchen

Observation protocol

K. is with E. and C. in the middle area of the play kitchen. K. turns to her left side and says to E.: “Let’s do magic using both hands!” At the same moment, K. raises both hands up at the same time so that they are stretched out at shoulder height. K. now says: “Let’s make C. a monkey!”. Immediately after the statement, K. turns her head further to the left and looks at C. with fixed eyes and facial expression. There is no reaction from E.

K. waits 5 seconds and then goes to the right area of the play kitchen. K. calls to C. twice in a row in a louder tone: “Do you want to bake a cake?”. C. looks at K. and says softly, “No”. K. then quickly turns to the right and puts both arms stretched out on a higher cabinet next to the play kitchen. K. looks around the room with his eyes, wiggling both feet forward and backward. After 30 seconds, K. goes back to C. in the play kitchen area and says, “These are paper towels, we’re not supposed to tear them.”

C. does not react to the statement and K. goes to a teacher at the other end of the room. K. waits until the educator has finished talking and says: “C. uses handkerchiefs and tears them. We are not allowed to do that.” The teacher says to K.: “Please tell C. not to tear any more handkerchiefs”. K. then goes back to C. in the play kitchen area and says: “We are not allowed to tear paper towels and I will now say stop and you are not allowed to move anymore!

Only after the stop you may dance”. C. does not respond to the statement. E. stands to the left of C. and turns to K. after the statement and says, “Okay, but I’ll start!”. K. rolls his eyes and then goes to a shutter on the left front of the play kitchen. K. grips the pulley with both hands and begins to swing the rope to the right. K. holds the rope while swinging back and repeats the swing 9 times. K. sees me sitting and comes to me. K. asks, “Can we do magic together?”.

Wellbeing & Commitment

Well-being level 4 | Commitment level 1-2

Wellbeing rationale

K. is open and receptive to her environment, making contact with other children (E. & C.) and seeking play situations. Likewise, K. observes the behavior of other children in her environment (K. observes the tearing of paper by another child). The facial expression is open during the observation period. When casting spells, the facial expression and especially the eyes are directed directly at the nearby child C.. K. receives looks during communication and returns them during conversation. K. can also express negative feelings (rolls her eyes because she doesn’t want something). Due to the intensity of the openness area, the number 4 is assigned.

During the observation it was not possible to determine whether K. can quickly adapt well to a new environment or whether she can act in an adapted way to new situations. K. also showed no willingness to compromise or accept alternatives from the children (E. wants to start at the suggested game but K. just rolls his eyes and walks away). Therefore, the area of flexibility is assigned a level 2 .

K. shows self-confidence through clear and understandable statements (e.g. “Let’s make a monkey out of C.”). Likewise, K. tries to draw attention to her wishes by asking her several times (K. calls to C. twice in a row: “Do you want to bake a cake?”. K. reacts only briefly to the subsequent rejections by the other children, but does not allow himself to be permanently burdened by the failure. For these reasons, a level 5 is assigned for the area of self-confidence.

K. claims attention from her environment, on the one hand by contacting and asking to play with the other children and on the other hand by contacting the educator for tearing the paper towels. K. adequately communicates own needs and concerns (play requests, suggestions, desire that everyone follow rules). K. does not let herself be influenced by other children, rather she sticks to her idea of the game (E. wants to start with the suggested game, but K. just rolls her eyes and walks away, because it is not according to her idea). This also proves that K. does not readily respond to other children’s ideas. Therefore, a rating of 5 is assigned for the Assertiveness domain.

In the area of vitality, only bright eyes and an upright posture can be determined, which could be determined during the entire observation and was especially visible when casting spells with the two hands. Therefore, the level 2 is awarded for the area of vitality.

K.’s movements were always calm and fluid in their movements. The body was only tense for certain actions (e.g. casting spells), but otherwise relaxed. K.’s conversations and utterances were at a normal rate of speech and without increased volume. Level 4 is awarded for the area of relaxation and inner peace.

Signals for the Enjoyment area could not be observed, so level 1 is assigned here. Nevertheless, during the observation period K. was always in harmony with herself and her wishes and thoughts, which was shown by clear expressions and ideas. This also confirms that K. seems to know for herself what she needs. Therefore, I award a level 4 for the area of being in harmony with oneself.

In summary, I award a level 4 according to the Leuven Commitment Scale for the area of well-being.

Rationale for Commitment

K. limits her attention to the area of the play kitchen and the pulley of the window blind. It has no visible signs of the signal energy. Even with the signal of complexity, multi-layeredness and creativity , there are no visible complex actions or activities that go beyond routine activities. In facial expressions , increased facial expressions and intense “looking” could be observed, especially during “magic in the play kitchen area.” No signals were detected in the endurance signal area during the observation. K. did not stay with one thing for long and as a result there was no concentration on one activity. Likewise, K. started several different games during the observation period.

K. did not carry out detailed accuracy or deliberate careful and accurate action. However, she was alertly active in the play kitchen area and reacted immediately when C. tore paper tissues that is not allowed. However, the other two signals of readiness to react could not be observed. Verbally , K. expressed himself by spontaneous expressions such as “Let’s make a monkey out of C. or do you want to bake a cake?”. K. did not express in-depth talking to himself, enthusiastic narration or spontaneous sounds. In the signal area of satisfaction, K. had positive facial expressions during the activity of spellcasting over the observation period. During the rest of the observation time, other signals such as joy, enjoy or similar were not perceptible.

In summary, according to the Leuven Commitment Scale, I assign a level 1-2 for the area of commitment.

Perspectives & interests of the child

From K.’s point of view, she feels comfortable in the group and knows how to deal with herself and the children as well as the educators. However, she didn’t really get into the game, as she was only supposed to play along with the other children according to the other ideas and guidelines. Furthermore, the other children were already playing and K. could not integrate himself into the game. Possible interests of K. could be magic, witches, fantasy or baking. All these interests became visible during the observation.

2nd observation – Klara in the studio

Observation protocol

K. is sitting at the painting table in the studio and is working on white sheets together with E., who is sitting to her right. K. throws a white sheet to E. with her right hand and says: “Great, isn’t it? E. takes the leaf with both hands and throws it into the air as well. E. then says to K.: “An airplane!” and K. responds by saying: “No, that’s a submarine that can fly! Both look at each other and laugh loudly. K. now reaches for the wax crayons with her right hand and tries to sharpen them with a sharpener she is holding in her left hand.

K. tries this for 15 seconds. K. now tries to press the wax crayon in more firmly with his right hand. She raises both hands to look inside the transparent sharpener. K. now puts the pencil and sharpener in front of her on the table and reaches with her right hand for the yellow scissors, which are also in front of her. K. now takes the scissors with both hands, raises them in front of her face and turns the scissors 7 times in a circle. Here she opens and closes the scissors 10 times in succession. Her eyes are firmly focused on the scissors and her facial expressions are tense.

Now K. performs the movements 1x slowly. K. takes a white sheet from the table with his left hand and clamps it between the scissors. K. turns his head to the right to E. and says: “Look E., this is a magic wand that will now be split. Do you want one too?” . E. replies to K., “Yes, I’d love to. But then we’ll do magic together!”. K. says to E.: “Then let’s do magic together. That doesn’t exist at all, but then it does.” E. then said back to K., “Of course there is magic!”. K. replied: “Hex Hex Hex!

Wellbeing & Commitment

Well-being level 3 | Commitment level 4

Wellbeing rationale

K. is open and receptive to her surroundings in the studio area as she interacts with E.. K. possesses a direct facial expression during the observation, which is particularly evident when “looking at E. during the airplane/submarine discussion.” K. also returned the glances of E. The signals of the area of flexibility such as quick orientation or adaptation to new and unfamiliar situations could not be recognized during the observation. Likewise, there were no problems or frustrations during the observation period.

In the area of self-confidence and self-esteem, K. tried to sharpen a pencil that was too thick during the observation period, trying several times to get this pencil into the sharpener that was too small. K. tried to solve something in this situation, even with the risk of not succeeding. The ultimate failure did not grieve K.. During the joint crafting, K. demanded attention from E. (expressed by throwing a leaf or asking for the magic wand). K. also expressed her own ideas about the white sheet by saying to E.: “No, this is a submarine that can fly! In the signal range of vitality, an upright posture as well as an energetic impression when exploring the scissors could be observed during the entire observation period.

K.’s muscles were not cramped and K.’s movements were performed at a normal speed and smoothly. K. spoke to E. at a normal speaking pace and volume. In the area of being able to enjoy the signal, K. shows enthusiasm for the white sheet as well as for the scissors. K. seems to know for herself what she needs.

In summary, I award a level 3 according to the Leuven Engagement Scale for the area of well-being.

Rationale for Commitment

K. has focused attention on a confined area, which is represented by close observation of the scissors. Likewise, K. focuses the scissors for an extended period of time, keeping the eyes focused on the activity almost continuously. Even external stimuli such as high volume due to the large group size did not distract or disturb K. She was eager and enthusiastic about the scissors as well as throwing the white leaf with E., as evidenced by the conversation between K. and E. and the laughter they shared. More complex actions or activities, which go beyond routine activities and individual contributions, I could not detect during the observation period.

K.’s posture , especially when observing the scissors, showed tense facial expressions as well as an intense “looking at and contemplating” of the object. K. kept at it while observing the scissors and explored them over a longer period of time (7x turning in a circle | 10x opening and closing). The endurance signal is accordingly strongly represented. During the rotation and movement of the scissors also took place accurate movements. K. paid very close attention to the opening and closing process of the scissors. She always opened and closed the scissors deliberately and carefully. K. was always alert during the observation in the studio.

Spontaneous expressions such as laughter could be observed while tinkering with the white leaves. However, she did not accompany herself with words and spontaneous sounds. Enthusiastic storytelling could not be observed. During the observation period, joy could be observed in K.’s activity. She enjoyed crafting and laughing together with E. K. always had friendly and open facial expressions towards E.

In summary, I award a level 4 according to the Leuven Engagement Scale for the area of engagement.

Perspectives & interests of the child

K. enjoys crafting with E. because they can share their individual ideas. K. cut a flying submarine out of a white sheet with scissors, but E. recognized it as an airplane. Both found their versions funny and laughed together. The interests of K. and E. are similar, as both recognized a magic wand directly in the cut strip of paper and wanted to use it together right away. Possible interests of K. could be airplanes, witches, magic or more generally the area of fantasy/philosophy, since at the end of the observation they both talked about the existence of magic.

3. observation – Klara in the garden

Observation protocol

K. gallops fast like a horse in the outdoor area from the swing to the three climbing bars. She has tied a red rope around her belly. M. lifts the end of the rope tightly. Arriving at the climbing poles, K. unties the rope from her belly and gives it to M.’s hand. K. has red cheeks and her face is sweaty. K. says to M, “Now I was the unicorn and now it’s your turn.” M. replies back to K., “Let’s build a stable first.” K. takes back the rope with his right hand and starts tying it to the small climbing pole with both hands.

K. whispers softly: “Horse, horse, horse, stable, stable, stable”. After both ropes are tied tightly to form a swing, K. says to M.: “This is the stable, this is where you have to go in, you are the horse now.” M. nods his head and stands with both legs on the hanging rope. K. turns directly to the right and picks up leaves from the ground with her right and left hands simultaneously. She throws the leaves at M. and says, “Here horse is your lunch,” laughing loudly. M. looks at K. and also starts laughing. K. says to M.: “come give me the rope, I’ll tie it to you and then we’ll run to O., maybe he’s Unicorn too”. M. says: “oh yes” and gets off the rope.

K. then detaches the rope from the climbing pole and ties it to M.. M. runs off before K. has tightened the rope. K. shouts loudly, “Stop M. the rope is loose.” M. then stops and K. can pull the rope tighter. Both then run like a galloping horse to the other end of the garden to an educator.

Wellbeing & Commitment

Well-being level 4-5 | Commitment level 5

Wellbeing rationale

K. receives and returns glances with M. Her gaze is always open and direct. During the game, K. exudes a fair amount of self-confidence, which is especially visible during strong and powerful galloping. By tying the rope to the climbing pole, K. seeks challenges that match her skill and level. From M., K. claims attention and wants to be involved in decisions in the game. K. also represents his own wishes and concerns (Calls out loud: “stop M. the rope is loose” or says to M: “now I was the unicorn and now it’s your turn”). Their behavior during observation is full of life and energy. Also can be seen zest for life and strength. The red cheeks and sweaty face testify to this.

The pace of speech with M. is always calm and slow. Short pauses in speech occurred after galloping due to physical activity. After this, however, K. is quickly completely relaxed again. K. shows authentic joy and enthusiasm during the game. She lives through the experience of this game intensely and feels connected to M. as a play partner and to nature (leaves). K. continues to make the impression that she is in tune with her own needs and desires.

In summary, according to the Leuven Engagement Scale, I award a level 4-5 for the area of well-being.

Rationale for Commitment

K. limits her attention throughout free play to what is happening between her and M. She is consistently focused with her eyes on the activity and even loud ambient noise from the other children does not distract her from her activity. Enthusiasm and physical energy can be seen in their movements (including galloping). Likewise, K. sweats from the movement and has red cheeks.

The gameplay becomes more complex as the roles are swapped and additional actions, such as the use of a new character, are added to the game. Fetch food and add the rope to the climbing pole as a stall. Here, individual ideas and thought processes of K. become visible. The facial expression shows physical tension. Intensive looking and watching, however, cannot be detected separately. K. has strong stamina in the game. She gallops across the outdoor play area and is always on task during observation time.

The signal accuracy can be observed especially when carefully attaching the rope to the climbing pole. K. is always lively and steady at work. K. quickly picks up on M.’s idea (Let’s run to O.!) and implements it. While K. fastens the rope to the pole, she accompanies her actions with the words: “Horse, horse, horse, stable, stable, stable”. The activity gives K. pleasure and K.’s experience and actions suggest an “experience as a mental experience.”

In summary, according to the Leuven Engagement Scale, I award a level 5 for the area of engagement.

Perspectives & interests of the child

K. likes to play with E. and M., especially in the free play area of the outdoor playground. For play, K. likes to use ropes and other natural materials such as leaves. K.’s interests were again very clear here and can be narrowed down to the areas of animals, nature, and fantasy/philosophy.

Summary of interests and theme

Based on the three observations conducted using the Leuven Engagement Scale, three interests can be clearly identified:

  1. Magic
  2. Witches
  3. Fantasy/Philosophy

In combination with everyday observations, these three interests can be further narrowed down to the areas of imagination and philosophizing. K. questions processes of natural mechanisms and, in the case of specific inquiries by an educator, already establishes hypotheses, which she confirms or rejects through her own reflections. Especially during free play with other children, I have often observed that K. gets involved in discussions with other children when things do not go her way. K then often shows low frustration tolerance and simply leaves the area of discussion. This could also be determined during the first observation.

The current topic could be, for example, the “function of the world”. Also on the basis of the observations, the topic “My place in the community” is in the room.

Conclusions for the ped. Work

I could imagine a deepening of the engagement through a targeted offer with a Kamishibai. In this one, the theme could be “philosophizing together in a group”. This could pick up on the interest that was consistently shown in the three observations and increase K’s engagement. The story “Emma – without you the world would only be half as beautiful” is particularly suitable for this. Dialogic recitation could additionally increase the level of engagement.


Suggested Citation

Götz, S. (2021). Leuven Engagement Scale – Observing and Evaluating in the Daycare Center. An EU project to increase the quality of education. Accessed 04.11.2021. Available at: https://krippenzeit.de/leuvener-engagiertheitsskala/

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