Leuven Scale: A teacher's guide to making deeper, actionable assessments on children to improve learning and child development outcomes.
What is the Leuven Scale?
The Leuven Scale is a form of assessment created by Ferre Laevers and his team at Leuven University. The Leuven Scale is a five-point scale that allows teachers, child care experts, and nursery practitioners to measure children's emotional well-being and involvement sweetspot – two critical components of learning, progress and development in children.
The main advantage of the Leuven Scale is that it is based on meaningful observations, and puts the children at the centre of learning. Research suggests that observation based instructions serve as the most effective early years teaching resources.
Ferre Leavers believed that when children are at high levels of well-being, they act like fish in water. Wellbeing refers to being spontaneous, feeling at ease, and free of emotional uncertainties and is crucial to boosting mental health. Well-being is correlated to self-confidence, a higher level of resilience and self-esteem. Comfortable children are eager and confident to explore and experiment. On the other hand, those with lower levels of well-being mostly appear anxious, dependent and frightened, making it difficult for them to unleash their potential and show deep level learning in a sustainable way.
Also, high levels of involvement show 'deep-level' meaningful learning, which is characterised by fascination, curiosity, deep satisfaction and profound interest in whatever children are doing. Involvement generally refers to being intensely engrossed in activities and is considered to be crucial for a deeper level of learning and development. These indications of a child's 'involvement’ are also directly connected to the elements of effective learning and teaching as laid out by the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
The Leuven Scale's foundation in meaningful observations prioritizes the child at the center of learning, re-animating Piaget's concept of child development. Research indicates that observation-based instructions serve as the most effective early years teaching resources.
Measuring Well-being: Key Components of the Leuven Scale
As educators, it's crucial to promote emotional well-being and involvement in care settings to foster effective learning and development among young children. The Leuven Scale offers a valuable tool to evaluate these aspects, which are essential in re-animating Piaget's concept of child development.
The Leuven Scale comprises two main components: emotional well-being and the scale of involvement. Emotional well-being encompasses children's feelings of comfort, spontaneity, and ease in their learning environment. High levels of well-being lead to increased self-confidence, resilience, and self-esteem, promoting exploration and experimentation through classroom activities and bodily activity.
The scale of involvement evaluates the quality and potential of involvement in children's learning experiences. High levels of involvement indicate deep-level learning, marked by fascination, curiosity, and profound interest in activities. This concept formation is directly connected to the elements of effective learning and teaching outlined by the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
Teachers can use the Leuven Scale to assess children's well-being and involvement by observing their actions through material encounters and evaluating their responses to various classroom situations. By identifying areas in need of improvement, educators can create more supportive learning environments that cater to each child's unique needs. This will not only foster deeper learning but also unlock the full potential of involvement in young learners, setting them on a path to long-term success.
A lack of involvement and wellbeing may indicate that a child’s development could be delayed. Therefore, Ferre Laevers created a 5 point scale to measure both involvement and wellbeing of the children. The higher the degrees of involvement and wellbeing we can achieve for the children, the more we can increase the child’s development. Higher levels of involvement and wellbeing indicate that the child is experiencing a deeper level learning.
The individual child assessments begin with evaluating the wellbeing and involvement level using the tables.
The method is easy and can be compared to ‘scanning.’ The instructor would carry out a 2-minute observation to demonstrate the general levels of involvement and wellbeing using the Leuven scale. The observation can be performed on individual children or groups of children. Learning is thought to be limited if a child is operating at moderate, low or extremely low levels of Leuven Scales. But, children may not be able to remain at high or extremely high levels all the time. Their levels of involvement and wellbeing may fluctuate all through the day.
Below is an example of the useful observation sheet, used for individual child assessments against the Leuven Scales for Wellbeing and Involvement in a 2-minute observation. These sheets provide the individual recording methods to document the child's scales in wellbeing and involvement and make notes about the hour of observation time.
Emotional Well-being and the Leuven Scale: Measuring Children's Involvement
By using the Leuven Scale, educators can assess and monitor children's well-being and involvement, enabling them to create more responsive and supportive learning environments that cater to each child's unique needs.
The Leuven scale divides a child's emotional wellbeing into 5 levels:
- Extremely low: The child displays strong signs of discomfort such as screaming or crying. Children belonging to this group may seem frightened, aloof or withdrawn, show aggression, hurting others or themselves.
- Low: The child may display a slumped posture and appear uneasy. But, the sense of discomfort is not noticeable all the time and is not as strong as in Level 1.
- Moderate: The child holds a neutral demeanour and facial expression. Their expression and posture neither show obvious signs of discomfort, pleasure, comfort or sadness.
- High: The child shows signs of satisfaction, cheerfulness, and happiness. However, these signs do not always have the same intensity
- Extremely high: The child is confident, cheerful and lively, and exhibits no signs of tension or stress. These children may sing, hum, talk to themselves, and appear at ease with themselves. Their acts are expressive and spontaneous.
Emotional Well-being and the Leuven Scale:
The Leuven Scale, is a vital tool in child development, and comprises five levels of engagement to evaluate a child's emotional well-being and involvement. These assessments on children help teachers identify areas where support is needed and address any lack of involvement.
Using an observation sheet, educators can systematically track each child's progress through the levels of well-being, ranging from low to high. These levels provide insights into the child's emotional state, with higher levels indicating increased comfort, spontaneity, and ease.
By understanding and implementing the Leuven Scale's five levels of engagement, teachers can effectively promote holistic child development. This approach ensures that children experience a nurturing environment that caters to their emotional and learning needs, setting the foundation for lifelong success.
The Leuven scale divides a child's level of involvement into 5 categories:
- Extremely low: The child may exhibit absent-mindedness and shows a lack of strength. These children may look around to see what others are doing or they may go around staring aimlessly. Their behaviour may seem passive and redundant.
- Low: The child gets easily distracted. These children might pay attention to a task while being observed, then they fall into absent-mindedness phases – looking blankly in their surroundings.
- Moderate: The child may look involved in doing something but in a casual way. They might look like progressing but barely show much concentration or energy.
- High: The child is not easily distracted and appear entirely engaged in what he/ she is doing.
- Extremely high: The child performs intense activity constantly and shows complete involvement. Nearly, all through the time, these children are being observed they seem creative, persistent, focused and lively.
Children's wellness and involvement action plan
After making observations, it is critical to use the assessments to prepare a practical action plan. Children's Wellness and Involvement Improvement Action Plans provide an easy and practical way to help children improve their wellness and involvement levels. Below are the ten action points formulated at Ferre Laevers-Directed Research Centre.
- Educational setting activity centres must be rearranged to more appealing corners or parts.
- Making books/ toys/ content in the activity centres more challenging for the children.
- Introducing children with the most advanced and non-traditional activities and materials that stimulate their curiosity.
- Identify the children’s interests and engage them with their preferred activities.
- Providing encouraging and stimulating inputs to the children.
- Supporting children to build positive relations amongst children and with the instructors.
- Encouraging children to take the initiative.
- Allowing children to explore the world of emotions, values and feelings by bringing in new activities.
- Identifying children with signs of stress and those with involvement and emotional problems and establishing a plan with sustaining interventions.
- Identifying children with problematic child development features and creating interventions that encourage high involvement levels.
The process-oriented strategy can be readily used by the practitioners as highly useful observation tools to maximise the quality of learning for each child. Wellness and Involvement Scales are ideal to ensure to provide the right physical, emotional and learning environment to each child. This class record form enables teachers, child care experts, and nursery practitioners to record meaningful observations, for children's wellbeing and involvement. This scale of involvement and wellness provide the most important approaches to recording one-off observation for each child, making it easy to refer back to and make action plans to improve children's wellbeing and involvement.
The Role of the Leuven Scale in Identifying and Supporting Disengaged Students
The Leuven Scale also serves as a guiding compass to identify disengaged students and navigate them toward focused learning and emotional well-being. By developing a deep understanding of each student's unique needs, teachers can tailor their pedagogical content knowledge to foster an inclusive learning environment.
The 5-point Leuven scale, much like the distinct colors on an artist's palette, allows teachers to paint a vivid picture of a child's engagement level, ranging from strong signs of disengagement to intense concentration and deep learning.
To effectively utilize the Leuven Scale in identifying and supporting disengaged students, educators should first familiarize themselves with the scale's core principles, as outlined by Laevers (1994) and Laevers and Vandenbussche (2002).
Once a strong foundation has been established, teachers can incorporate game-based learning and the principles of multiple intelligences, as proposed by Howard Gardner, to create an engaging and interactive classroom experience that caters to each student's individual strengths and interests.
In addition, educators should remain vigilant for any signs of childhood trauma that may impact a student's ability to engage with the learning process. By creating a safe and supportive learning environment, teachers can empower disengaged students to overcome barriers and embark on a journey of deep learning, self-discovery, and personal growth.
The Leuven Scale and its Impact on Personalized Learning Approaches
The Leuven Scale, when employed as a catalyst for personalized learning, acts as a master key that unlocks the doors to individualized education pathways for students with diverse needs.
By leveraging the insights provided by the Leuven Scale, educators can create tailored learning experiences that promote emotional development, enhance cognitive skills, and foster a sense of belonging. Here are five ways to personalize learning using the Leuven Scale as a foundation:
- Implement game-based learning applications that cater to various learning styles and intelligences, fostering engagement and motivation.
- Utilize Learning Journals to track students' progress, strengths, and areas for improvement, enabling targeted interventions and support.
- Establish continuous activity and zones of regulation, helping students identify and manage their emotions while promoting self-regulation.
- Incorporate precision teaching methods, adapting instruction to meet the unique learning needs of each student, particularly for those with Autism in Schools.
- Encourage student-driven goal-setting and self-assessment, empowering learners to take ownership of their educational journey.
The Leuven Scale serves as a compass, guiding educators toward a more personalized approach to teaching, much like the unique recipes crafted by a skilled chef to suit individual tastes.
Research by Laevers (2000) emphasizes the impact of the Leuven Scale on the development of personalized learning approaches, ultimately nurturing the growth of confident, self-motivated, and resilient learners.