Using observation to investigate education: a summary

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  • Using observation to investigate education
    • Structured observation
      • Practical issues
        • The Flanders system of interaction analysis categories is used to measure pupil and pupil-teacher interaction quantitatively
          • Quicker, cheaper and requires less training
      • Reliability
        • Likely to be easily replicated
      • Validity
        • Interpretivists criticise
          • Sarah Delamont: simply counting classroom behaviour and classifying it into a limited number of pre-defined categories ignores the meaning that pupils and teachers attach to it
    • Unstructured observation
      • Practical issues
        • Took Lacey 2 months to familiarise himself w/ the school
          • Eggleston needed over 3 months just to set up his cover role for his observations
        • Head of the school Fuller observed decided parents' permission was not required for her to observe, but it would have been for her to carry out interviews
        • Wright found her African Caribbean ethnicity produced antagonistic reactions from some white teachers
      • Ethical issues
        • Delamont: every observer in a school sees and hears things that could get pupils into trouble
        • Delamont: additional care should be taken to protect pupils', teachers' and schools' identities
      • Validity
        • Power differences between young people and adults is a major barrier to uncovering the real attitudes and behaviour of pupils
        • Teachers may be quite skilled at disguising their feelings and altering their behaviour when being observed
        • The language of the pupil may be very different to that of the researcher
      • The Hawthorne effect
        • Ronald King tried to blend into the background in an infant school by initially spending short periods of time in the classroom to allow the children to become familiar w/ his presence. Even used the wendy house as a 'hide'
          • Ball: what did the children actually make of the tall man hiding in the wendy house?
      • Representativeness
        • Willis studied a core group of only 12 boys
          • This is because of how time-consuming PO is
        • Hammersley tended to associate largely w/ 1 group of teachers w/ whom he had more in common because the others were suspicious of him
      • Reliability
        • Data recording is often unsystematic and hard to replicate
          • Hammersley found that on 1 occasion he had to write his notes on the back of a newspaper because he was observing staffroom conversations covertly
        • Personal characteristics of different observers may evoke differing responses
          • Wright found that as a black female she was met w/ hostility by some white teachers but readily accepted by black pupils


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