What is observation? Although the term 'observation' suggests watching what happens, it also includes listening; observation data are often in the form of examples of what people have said. Why use observation? Observation is probably the most effective way to see what people do and to hear what they say. Teachers may gain more accurate information by watching students than by asking them. Taken from: Robson, C. (2002) Real World Research .
How is it done? Robson (2002) identifies possibly the two main types of observation but there are many examples in-between. In participant observation , the observer has a role in the observed group – a tutor, for example, may observe a group of students. Participation can be at different levels and, while this may not seem to be an objective approach, it is a good case for observation with a ‘scientific attitude’, that is, it will be carried out systematically, skeptically and ethically. Structured observation will be carried out by a detached observer. It is difficult to think how this might be possible without perhaps two-way mirrors or secret recording systems.
Validity and reliability in observation It is important that observation is as objective as possible and observers need to be aware of their own interests and biases so that the information gained is as valid and reliable as possible and not selected to prove a point. Observers usually keep on-the-spot notes to complement an observation schedule so that any additional or unusual events can be noted. For example ‘X entered the room and spoke to tutor, this interrupted class for 4 minutes’; ‘Firebell rang at 3.34pm so the class was shorter today than usual’. ‘ Field notes’ are usually written after an observation and the advice is to do this at the earliest possible moment so that memories of what happened are as fresh as possible. Robson suggests that you should ‘never embark on a second observation session until you are sure you have sorted out your notes for the first one.’
Reliability of observation will come from observer consistency. Observers must ensure that they make similar decisions about similar events on different occasions. They must also make the same decisions about the same events if they see or hear them again, say on video or audio tape. Ideally, more than one observer should be involved in looking at the same events, at least in initial practice sessions, so that there can be agreement on what is going on and how it is to be coded.
WHAT DO TEACHER-RESEARCHERS USUALLY FOCUS ON? STUDENT ATTITUDES TTT VS STT TEACHER-STUDENT INTERACTION / RAPPORT ERROR CORRECTION TEACHER’S POSITION USAGE OF TEACHING AIDS SEATING ARRANGEMENT AND GROUPING TECHNIQES DEALING WITH DISRUPTIVE SITUATIONS And many other topics… you name it!
CYBERGRAPHY http://www.prodait.org/research/observation/index.php www.algana.co.uk/Brainteasers/opticalpage.htm http://www.commnet.edu/emprel/trng/tm_3_2_clasobs.html Robson, C. (2002) Real World Research . London: Routledge. 2nd Edition