This topic is included in the paper of physical sciences in the curriculum of B.Ed.
Basic understanding of what observational techniques, their types and description of it is covered in this presentation.
The Approaches to Conduct Observation
Mentioned here are three ways of conducting
observations and given as follows:
1. The first is descriptive observation, in which one
observes anything and everything, assuming that
he/she knows nothing; the disadvantage of this type
is that it can lead to the collection of minutiae that
may or may not be relevant to the study.
2. The second type, focused observation, emphasizes
observation supported by interviews, in which the
participants' insights guide the researcher's decisions
about what to observe.
3. The third type of observation is considered the
most systematic and selective type of observation, in
which focuses on different types of activities to help
delineate the differences in those activities
The need to use Observation
Observation as a means of collecting data has
received much recognition by many researchers in
the field of academia especially in the scientific
methods of inquiry. Researchers notes that the way
people move, dress, interact and use space is very
much a part of how particular social settings are
constructed. Observation is a key method for
collecting data about such matters. Realizing the
importance of observation, observation can be
conducted on nearly any subject matter, and the
kinds of observations to be conducted by a
researcher depend on the research questions.
According to many, observations enable the researcher to
describe existing situations using the five senses,
providing a written photograph of the situation under
study. Again, observation methods provide researchers
with ways to check for nonverbal expression of feelings,
determine who interacts with whom, grasp how
participants communicate with each other, and check for
how much time is spent on various activities. As already
mentioned in the background of the study, Aristotle,
Charles Darwin and Auguste Comte all used observation
to collect data and based on the data obtained, proposed
their theories. Comte specifically mentioned observation
as one of his method of inquiries and that every theory
must be based upon observed facts.
Observation Techniques In Education
In order to obtain data that will serve as feedback for
assessment to improve students’ academic
performance, educators have developed several
instruments that can be employed to obtain the
needed data. These instruments may include written
tests, questionnaires, observation and the uses of
checklists and rating scales.
1. Student Assessment
Tests, examinations and continuous assessment can
provide valuable data for action research. For your
teaching course, you have to set up a method of student
assessment and your students have to be assessed.
You should, however, be clear about the nature of the
information you can obtain from examination results or
assessment grades. Comparison of one set of results with
another often has limited validity as assignments,
examinations, markers. In addition most assessment is
norm referenced rather than criterion referenced.
2. Closed Ended Questionnaires
Closed questionnaires are ones which constrain the
responses to a limited number chosen by the researcher;
essentially it is a multiple choice format. Usually
respondents are asked the extent to which they agree or
disagree with a given statement. Responses are recorded
on a Likert scale in which the answer ranges from
'definitely agree' to 'definitely disagree'.
Questions should be carefully constructed so the
meaning is clear and unambiguous. It is a good idea to
trial the questionnaire on a limited number of students
before giving it to a whole group.
3. Diary / Journal
Everyone involved in an action learning project should
keep a diary or journal in which they record:
their initial reflections on the topic of concern
the plans that were made
a record of actions which were taken
observation of the effects of the actions
impressions and personal opinions about the action
taken and reactions to them
results obtained from other observation techniques
references for, and notes on, any relevant literature or
supporting documents which are discovered.
Research reports are often very impersonal documents
but this should not be the case for an action learning
journal - quite the contrary! It should contain a record of
both what you did and what you thought. In it you should
regularly and systematically reflect critically on the
effects of your project and how it is progressing.
Journals act as the starting points for critical reflection at
the regular meetings of the project team. By sharing
observations and reflections it is possible to fine-tune the
innovation. Sympathetic but critical discussion can also
heighten awareness and contribute to changing
4. Interaction Schedules
Interaction schedules are methods for analyzing and
recording what takes place during a class. A common
approach is to note down at regular intervals (say every
minute) who is talking, and to categorise what they were
saying or doing. An alternative to time sampling is event
sampling in which behaviour is noted every time a
particular event occurs. Examples of categories could be;
tutor asking question, tutor giving explanation, tutor
giving instruction, student answering question or student
asking question. The analysis can be made by an observer
at the class or can be made subsequently from a tape or
Interviews can provide even more opportunity for
respondents to raise their own issues and concerns, but are
correspondingly more time-consuming and can raise
difficulties in the collation and interpretation of information.
The format can be on a spectrum from completely open
discussion to tightly structured questions. Semi-structured
interviews have a small schedule of questions to point the
interviewee towards an area of interest to the researcher, but
then allow interviewees to raise any items they like within the
general topic area. Since interviews give an opportunity for
students to raise their own agenda they are useful when issues
are open, or at an exploratory stage. A small number of
interviews can be useful to define issues for subsequent more
tightly structured questionnaires.
6. Tape Recording
Making tape recordings is a way of collecting a complete,
accurate and detailed record of discussions in class,
conversations in interviews or arguments and decisions
at meetings. It is easy to obtain the recording; you simply
take along cassettes and a portable recorder, and switch
it on. However, the presence of a tape recorder can
inhibit discussion or influence people's behaviour.
There are a number of ethical issues which need to be
addressed over the use of tape recordings. The group
being taped should establish the purpose of making the
recording and the way in which the tapes will be used. If
any quotations are made in subsequent reports it is
customary to maintain the anonymity of the source.
Observational assessment is often deemed
the most appropriate method of assessment
for practical skills; by watching someone
complete a set task, they can demonstrate
their competence by performance.