Anecdotal Notes: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Record-Keeping
  • 0:25 Informed Instruction
  • 1:18 Placement Decisions
  • 2:19 Reflective Practices
  • 3:09 Parent Conferences
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we'll learn how to take anecdotal notes and how to use them to make instructional and placement decisions. We'll also learn how to use anecdotal notes for professional development purposes and parent conferences.


How do teachers keep track of all of the things that happen during a school day? Anecdotal notes are written records of a teacher's observations. They might be used to assess student achievement, evaluate work products, or measure progress towards professional development goals. Notes are most useful when they're specific, objective, and focused on set criteria.

Informed Instruction

Why do teachers take anecdotal notes? Informal, formative assessments, such as anecdotal notes, are used to assess classroom performance and drive instruction. Anecdotal notes might be used as a stand-alone assessment, or accompany rubrics, scales, or checklists when used to score writing assignments, portfolios, performances, or projects.

For example, a teacher might determine which students need additional remediation through small group instruction by taking anecdotal records while observing students in a learning activity.

When students don't meet or exceed proficiency, anecdotal notes describe the reason for the score in a way that not only helps the teacher make instructional decisions, but provides feedback to the learner. The cumulative information collected in anecdotal records might contain comments about a student's academic achievement or behavior.

Placement Decisions

Although placement decisions in special education or gifted and talented education are typically made with the assistance of cognitive ability tests, generally the decision on whether or not to give a cognitive ability test to a student is determined through multiple measures. Anecdotal notes, in combination with other measures of achievement, are valuable pieces of documentation to provide a school psychologist who's trying to determine whether or not further testing is appropriate.

Perhaps you notice that Gerald, upon being asked a question, uses a high level of critical thinking or he seems particularly bored with basic teaching and often needs additional challenges in his assignments to stay motivated and engaged. You might note this and include it in the information for assessing Gerald's placement.

Although it can be overwhelming for a teacher to attempt to observe and record every action of every student, anecdotal notes can be useful when used in relation to learning or behavior goals to target remediation within the classroom.

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