Observations yield data that has a visual source. The data is usually qualitative but could also be quantitative. This research tool occurs in the field and is therefore very appropriate for professional practice and work based learning
Covert participant acts as naturally as possible in order to become accepted by the group. If they are not “ACCEPTED” by the group then their presence may impact on the behaviour of the group, hence hampering finding out what is really going on. There are ethical implications to this. “ it is essential that as a participant who is also a data gatherer, the researcher recognise the obligation to inform those in the setting about the research. Research from a covert or manipulative perspective is not generally acceptable”. Kirby & McKenna 1989 Kirby, S. & McKenna, K., (1989) “Experience, Research, Social Change: Methods from the margins”. Toronto: Garamond Covert Participant
Acceptance as a participant observer will depend on the nature of the group. It’s important to get the trust of the group and issues such as age, gender etc could come into play here. Having your role as researcher accepted allows you to probe further by asking relevant questions should the need arise. Participant Observer
The observer seeks to become some king of member of the group being observed. Observer needs to enter the world of the observed and have some role therein.
The observer needs to find a role within the group and earn the trust of the group.
Objectivity needs to be strived for as the observer guards against idenifying with needs of the group.
Using Participant Observation Should be able to immerse oneself in the event and take copious field notes Observations can be supplemented by interviews When the prime motivation is to find out what is going on For frequent events such as rehearsals instead of dress rehearsals With small groups you have a chance to get to know people 1 2 3 4 5
2. Defining what is to be documented 3. Observer training to standardise focus 4. Descriptive obs provide general overview of field 5. Focussed obs directly on research question 6. Selective obs to grasp central aspects 7. End of obs. Further obs do not provide new knowledge Phases of Observation
Observation as a research method could be employed independently of a theory or hypothesis. It could be used as a basic research tool to purely observe phenomena in situ and subsequently develop a theory to examine in depth. Pure research is very rare at undergraduate level and is more likely to test some existing theory or to establish the existence of identified phenomena. Therefore, it’s highly likely that some form of observation grid will be devised as a research tool. It’s highly advisable to conduct a pilot in the first instance in order to help with the research design and ultimately data analysis.
Sample Observation Grid WARM UP Time Nos of Instances Group Size Participation Teacher Knowledge Aerobics Muscle Group A Muscle Group B Muscle Group C Head Legs Cardio Vascular Grid Qualities
Work Based Learning Professional Practice Project Planning & Development Observations Rosemary McGuinness March 2010