Observation

Rachel  Elmslie
Slide Set by Rachel Elmslie, updated more than 1 year ago
Rachel  Elmslie
Created by Rachel Elmslie over 5 years ago
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A brief introduction to using observation to gather data for your SIS Project.

Resource summary

Slide 1

    Observation
    An introduction to using observation in your Supported Independent Study Project. Read these notes and be able to discuss with another student the advantages and disadvantages of using observation both generally, and to gather data for your specific SIS project.
    Caption: : "se poser des questions en regardant plus haut" by Bernard Lamailloux licensed under CC BY 2.0

Slide 2

    What are observations useful for?
    Observations are a way of collecting data about a situation as it takes place: how people behave and interact; who is involved or how space is used; or the way things happen. You can watch and record, for example, who is present, what they are doing, when something happens, or certain criteria such as how much students say, or how much attention they are paying. It is more direct than an interview or questionnaire because it shows what people actually do, not what they say they do.   There are different types of observation, depending on how structured they are.

Slide 3

    Structured observations
    The observer decides what is recorded before the observation. Rather than recording everything the observer sees, structured observation uses a code to record events. For example, the observer might use different numbers to record each time a teacher asks a question, answers a question, or makes a correction. This produces numerical data so findings are easy to analyse and the observation can be repeated to test the same things. However, the observation form needs careful preparation, testing and practice. The observers also cannot include categories that they do not expect, so some important events may not be recorded.

Slide 4

    Semi-structured observation
    This is less systematic than structured observation. The observer is looking for certain things but these are not strictly decided before the observation, so they may record events or behaviour that they did not expect, and find new things as a result. The data may be more difficult to record and it is slower to analyse, although less preparation is needed.

Slide 5

    Careful preparation of possible categories is needed What you are observing for must help you to answer your research questions Testing (piloting) is essential
    When you prepare for observations

Slide 6

    Observation can be difficult to prepare for and  / or analyse, so this method may be best suited to students who have done it before or who will use observation in their future academic programme (eg Education, Psychology, other Arts and Social Sciences). You need to think carefully to predict the categories you are going to record. You can’t identify the causes of the behaviour you observe There may be issues of reliability – do different observers see the same things? Do they record them the same way? A major problem can be that you understand what you see subjectively, and you may be influenced by your own culture, experience and beliefs. Different observers may understand the same situation in different ways.
    Limitations

Slide 7

    Cohen, L., Manion, L., and Morrison, K. (2000). Research Methods in Education. (5th Edition). Routledge. Open University. Skills for OU Study: Using a questionnaire. Available from: http://www2.open.ac.uk/students/skillsforstudy/using-a-questionnaire.php    Accessed 10.4.16  UCL. Public Engagement Evaluation Toolkit: Questionnaires. Available from: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/public-engagement/documents/evaluationtoolkits/evaluationmethods/Questionnaire Accessed 10.4.16
    Bibliography
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