Week 7 Blog 636

Essential Question: What are the most important things to remember when observing your students? (Infographic)


What is participant observation? Participant observation is the process enabling researchers to learn about the activities of the people under study in the natural setting through observing and participating in those activities (Kawulich, 2005).

I think the most important things to remember when observing students are

the 6 steps described by Merriam & Tisdell (2009):

1. The physical setting: What is the environment like?

2. The participants: How many are there and what are their characteristics?

3. Activities and interactions: What is going on? How do the people interact with the activity?

4. Conversation: Who speaks? Who listens? Content of conversation.

5. Subtle factors: Informal and unplanned activities, nonverbal communication, and physical space. What does not happen?

6. Your own behavior: Are you an observer or participant?

Brown (2015) suggests that, before you start a research project, you should make sure you know how you are going to interpret your observations. Here are steps he suggests.

1.Descriptive: You see something and write it down.

2. Inferential: Inferential observational variables require the researcher to make inferences about what is observed and the underlying emotion. (You see a student banging on a keyboard so assume she is frustrated with the computer).

3. Evaluative: Evaluative observational variables require the researcher to make an inference and a judgment from the behavior. (You see the girl banging and conclude that humans and computers do not have a positive relationship).

Observing students is hard work when you are teaching at the same time. I think I will have someone observe for me, because I observed a few times and found it hard to teach and take notes at the same time. I am not getting all of the information I want, and I think someone else would be able to make more descriptive notes.


Brown, L. (2015). Observational Field Research. Retrieved October 13, 2015, from http://faculty.washington.edu/wpratt/MEBI598/Methods/Collecting Data Through Observation.htm

Kawulich, Barbara B. (2005). Participant Observation as a Data Collection Method [81 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(2), Art. 43, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0502430.

Merriam, S., & Tisdell, E. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


3 thoughts on “Week 7 Blog 636

  1. I like how specific the six steps are from Merriam and Tisdell. It makes it very easy to tell exactly what we are supposed to observe with very little room for guessing. That is a nice tool to have, especially for someone like me, who has never done formal observation before. I mean I always observe my students obviously, but never for such a specific reason or overall end goal, it’s more do they understand this concept, yes/no, ok move on or go over it more. I like your little road you made on your infographic too with the little traveling guy 🙂


  2. I agree with you that observing and teaching at the same time is hard to do. I tried making observations in class yesterday while we were using the clickers, and it was so hard to observe all of the students, maintain classroom behavior, and write my observations down at the same time. I would like to have someone come in and observe for me, but so far I haven’t been able to get anyone to come in.

    I liked your infographic this week. The road made it easy to follow the six steps and there wasn’t too much information given so it is also visually appealing. I like yours a lot more than I like mine this week. Good job!

    Liked by 1 person

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