What Is an Anecdotal Record?

An anecdotal record is an observational method used frequently in classroom or learning settings in which the observer summarizes a single developmental incident after the event has occurred. Written from memory, the anecdotal record documents a student’s growth and trends. Such records are intended to be brief, factual accountings.

Anecdotal records are written in journalistic form. They identify the who, what, where, when and how of a particular incident, focusing on the subject’s specific conduct in the situation. In early childhood education, teachers use anecdotal records in common practice for assessment of skill development in young children. The recorded observations are intended to identify the child’s current skill level, interests and skills to develop next.

Anecdotal records should always be objective recordings of the student’s actions and behaviors. The records should be written in a nonjudgmental manner. With a collection of anecdotal records about a student, the child’s developmental progress can be documented and teaching can be tailored to meet the student’s individual needs.

Anecdotal records also are kept by health care providers. The medical professional documents observations made of one or more episodes during the course of the patient’s care. Anecdotal records are factual, but they are not the result of any scientific or systemic approach.