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What is involved with structured observation

Structured observation is an instrument used by experts to collect quantitative data to be able to assess and statistically test the validity of assumption or hypothesis made in regards to a social phenomenon. The method is 'set up' by virtue to the fact that the observer only documents frequencies or durations of specific predefined occurrences. It really is an 'observation' as questions do not need to be asked to the subject during the program, the observer, generally, just observes. For the first part of the paper I'll discuss three components Personally i think get excited about method of organized observation; the target, the machine and the process.

In order to identify a thorough system and process, clear and concise goals should be establish for the analysis. The type of occurrences or behaviours to be documented need to be established, these will form the foundation for the categories in the observation plan. The aim, and any expected benefits should be noted along with a specific hypothesis which will be tested by examination of the info. All parties mixed up in setting, facilitating, observing and recording have to be considered combined with the related time, cost and geographical constraints.

The system should fine detail the method in which the data will be recorded and analysed. An observation program by means of a chart or journal doc should be produced for the physical saving of occurrences. This usually entails developing a clear and objective set of categories against which the observer will track record some tally of frequencies. The categories should be different enough to avoid ambiguity, yet broad enough to protect all possible target behaviours. The definition of any 'event' must be investigated; maybe it's represented by the basic frequency of aim for behaviours, a snap shot of behaviours at a predefined time intervals or a timeline of behaviours throughout the time. The technique of data evaluation also needs to be defined. The system of compiling results from multiple observers should be developed plus a contingency for unpredicted or inaccurate recordings. The precise method of statistical analysis should be chose with some appreciation of the conclusions it could potentially be assisting.

The process, relates mainly to the connections involved with carrying-out an observation. The involvement of the observer must be agreed. A participant observer may sit with and even interact with the subject or group for a richer vantage point, whereas a non-participant observer would not interact or perhaps not be recognized to the themes. Depending on the number of topics or the variety of target behaviours several observer may be used. This raises issues of standardisation for which training sessions and possibly pilot sessions might be beneficial. The physical environment is important for the reason that the observer requires good music and visible range but should also remain as unobtrusive as it can be. Finally a debriefing session may be useful, in particular when several observer is employed. This gives those included an chance to reflect on the period and their approach and at the same time highlight any issues that may influence the evaluation of the data.

Part 2 - A brief overview of the first methodological school of thought you have selected.

I have chosen positivism as my first methodological viewpoint to investigate. For the purposes of the part of the assignment also to offer some foresight for the next part, within the next conclusion of positivism I'll discuss its history, conflict and bearing on quantitative research.

Positivism is a set of philosophical ideas that state that the only genuine knowledge is clinical knowledge. The name stretches from the principal that positive facts by themselves should form the basis of knowledge, with a refusal to go beyond that which may be backed by empirical proof. Although there is ongoing dispute in the forerunners of positivism, the French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798 - 1857) is extensively recognised as "the daddy of positivism" (Lenzer, 2004, p xi). Prior to Comte's dialogues, modern culture, just simply, was. There was an understanding that the form of society had not been continuous with a presumption that it was led either by an increased, divine electricity or changed arbitrarily through the grains of their time (Babbie, 2008). Theological ideology predominated until enlightened thinkers began to believe in, and attempt to understand the essential nature of all reality. During this time period major technological discoveries were taking place. Medical professionals and chemists weren't only developing theories but also clinically proving ideas such of gravity, magnetism, force and mass. Evaluating these discoveries to phenomena of sociable research, Hergenhahn makes an interesting point that like social science "none of the entities can be viewed immediately" (Hergenhahn, 2009, p424). The task for advocates of positivism also to some extent medical doctors was for knowledge to make use of theory yet somehow steer clear of the inherent metaphysical speculation. By implementing scientific methods followers of positivism assume that the fundamental components of social interaction can be reduced to a couple of physiological guidelines.

One of the favorite criticisms of positivism is the debate that society will not abide by rational principles by any means. It is thought a positivist approach "finds a position by looking at knowledge and then unjustifiably applies it to other things" (Wang, 1974, p7). In contrast to gravity, magnetism, power and mass, living beings interpret the world where they live with least to some extent build their own realities. Nesfeild-Cookson describes the positivist antagonist and poet William Blake as saying:

"All they can do is to identify life in conditions of biochemistry, biophysics, vibrations, wavelengths and so forth; they reduce 'life' to conceivable measurement, but such a conception of life does not accept the most evident element of all: that life can only be known by a full time income being, by 'internal' experience"

(Nesfield-Cookson, 1987, p21)

For the purposes of the following elements of this paper it's important to provide quantitative research a talk about in this summary. Although there is no direct connection between positivism and quantitative methods it is understood that quantitative methods are positivist in conception and orientation. Quantitative research can entail such operations as calculating causal relationships, showing or disproving a hypothesis in a amount of statistical value and developing models of modern culture which lead to a predictable actuality. This use of statistical examination, evidence of causal or statistical human relationships and using explicit transparent techniques are but a few of the quantitative tenets which can be in parallel to the viewpoint of positivism. (Bryman, 1988).

Part 3 - An assessment of the talents and weaknesses of organised observation out of this perspective.

Positivist technique has been used extensively in educational research techniques. For the last quarter of a century positivist techniques have been popular as a tool for studying school room behaviour. With its roots firmly place within evidence founded practice and its key perceived gain in its pursuit and logical development of 'what works', it offers provoked no scarcity of debate between researches of this and other ideologies. By looking into access to data, replicability and usage of subjects I'll explore a few of the talents and weakness of the methodology.

In the study of classroom behavior arguably the greatest strength of an positivist way is its direct access to the data. The observer can track record details about college student and instructor behaviours first-hand and never have to count on retrospective accounts of others. This technique avoids both potential bias on the part of a researcher and also constructed, perhaps anticipatory accounts from subjects involved with a less organised observation or interview techniques. As previously mentioned in part two of the newspaper, the observations in a positivist analysis lead to a (positive or negative) verification of your predefined hypothesis and therefore do require any subjective interpretation to be able to bring conclusions, hypotheses or ideas. This technique therefore, offers the data self-reliance from the researcher and notably his or her personal beliefs, through the collection and examination stages. The rational and scientific characteristics of set up observation causes strong procedural objectivity.

Another advantage related to the info collection is one of replicability. As the data collection method of a research study approaches 'genuine observation' the actual that the results can be replicated boosts. The quantitative mother nature and the clinical techniques behind the observation program allow for the data to be highly replicatable in future studies. This escalates the validity of the conclusions attracted from the study and for that reason its usefulness back the school room in conditions of class room decisions or possible improvements. The final advantage of organised observation in the class room is usage of students who might not otherwise have the ability to partake in a data collection activity. Early-years students and the psychologically or socially unpredictable potentially would not be able to give replies or take part in dialogues with a researcher in a less organised interview or observation circumstance. The organized observation in a classroom allows the observer to record data from the subject's normal setting up.

In today's culture there are numerous critics of organized observation and much more generally, positivist methodology in educational research. I'll explore three of the perceived weaknesses; inferences on the population, opportunity of measurability and accuracy and reliability.

Following a set up observation the data is analysed and statistically compared to a null hypothesis to look for the validity and confidence of any interactions between the factors. The statistical calculation compares the resultant data to a null hypothesis (being the principles variables you might expect should there be no marriage) and, depending on the type of syndication, brings about a chi-squared statistic (†) which mathematically represents the deviation (or propagate) of the info. The †statistic is then examined against the degree of independence of the data. The result is a statistic that presents the level of confidence that the data collected exhibits some real causal romance between the variables. Once it has been set up, positivist experts might conclude whether or not the sample is representative of a concentrate on population. Critics of this positivist strategy might argue that the info collected is not robust enough to be able to cast inferences on a larger population. Maybe it's disputed that in a school room there is a multitude of influences on students and educators which may lead to different data being gathered on different events. A few examples of possible influences are; proximity to important tests, the developing romance with a tutor and the varying levels of learner alertness within a school day. Which means inference made in regards to a target population raises the epistemological problem of the validity of any 'universal express of truth' based on observations of a certain number of positive instances. By the nature of quantitative methods only measurable occurrences can be saved. The scope of a set up observation of class behaviour is which means second part of weakness. A few examples of occurrences which can not be measurable in a school room are; the emotions of students, the determination behind behaviours or the partnership between students. Aswell as these there maybe behaviours that are concealed or disguised such as verbal or physical bullying or cheating. These unobservable thus unquantifiable phenomena slim the scope of a quantitative research project and raise some inadequacies in the positivist assumption that knowledge is derived from objective observation. The final weakness is of 1 of accuracy or more specifically; accuracy in the interpretation and saving of occurrences by an observer. Even after commenting on the objectivity of organised observation as a strength, it is important to understand that subjectivity does indeed remain. Each observer included a structured observation perceives the occurrences in the classroom from the view-point of his or her uniquely constructed fact. There may be therefore prospect of behavioural occurrences to be interpreted in another way by different observers and indeed differently from how the original relationship was intended by the student. As an example, a teacher might reason the class from homework at which point one student might comment to some other, "That's wicked! Sir is so very bad" to that your college student might reply "Term, innit?" (slang for 'isn't it'). Predicated on the routine of categories as produced by Bales (see Analysis Guide, p. 143), the stand below shows; the interpretation an observer (OBS1) not conversant in modern childhood colloquialism, the 'translation' into Standard English (using my own actuality!) and the interpretation of a well-versed observer (OBS2).



by OBS1



by OBS2

That's wicked

Shows tension

That's great

Gives opinion

Sir is so bad

Shows antagonism

Sir is a superb guy

Shows solidarity

Word, innit?

Asks for judgment*

Yes, I agree


* The original phrase would not be understood plainly. This might be coded as such by virtue of the identified question mark.

Subjectivity is also a account in the interpretation of the observation agenda itself. Observers could interpret the limitations of every category diversely from how these were planned by the researcher which may lead to conflicting accounts of the observation.

Part 4 - A short summary of the second methodological viewpoint you have preferred.

I have chosen interpretivism as my second technique to go over. Interpretivism is often known as anti-naturalist or anti-positivist, one can therefore deduce that it was developed towards positivism, with its roots usually beyond your realm of quantitative methods. A lot of the tradition and origins of interpretivism are available in writings by Max Weber (1864-1930). My brief summary will give attention to the nature and goal, target of interest, the elements involved, the subject-researcher romantic relationship and the desired information of interpretivism.

Interpretivists try to gain understanding human behavior from the items of view of the folks involved, somewhat than explaining human behavior by causal relationships (Henn et al, 2006). The primary emphasis is on getting a wealthy understanding the individual experience in specific cultural and ethnical contexts. The methodologies applied through interpretivism attempt to understand communal phenomena essentially through qualitative techniques. It's important to make clear that the choice of techniques are not mutually exclusive or at all predetermined by the decision of methodology. However it is the situation that qualitative techniques are usually better suited to interpretative studies and the converse holds true for quantitative techniques and positivist studies. The ultimate choice of methodologies is generally a function of the research problem. Unlike the world of natural knowledge the interpersonal world is not fixed, realities are constantly changing. It really is noticed that the positivist methods comparable to those employed by natural scientists are not applicable to public realities. The communal world is thought by interpretivists to be too complicated to be able to infer causal human relationships predicated on data and statistical analysis of data from an example. The elements involved in this technique are clearly particular from the elements of positivist methods. The process of the interpretivist researcher is a alternative approach you start with an observation. Normally, this is a highly interactive process where the researcher is immersed and in direct contact with the topic. By means of field records the researcher can develop patterns and meanings of the cultural realities being researched. Finally the interpretivist researcher can develop relevant hypotheses and ideas. Importantly we can see that implementing interpretive methodology, the process leads to the formation of a hypothesis whereas a positivist study starts with a hypothesis to be analyzed. This is referred to as an inductive process set alongside the deductive procedure for positivism. Research using these procedures is usually small-scale, focusing on achieving extensive data from some key individuals. The researcher may form a rapport with the subject, empathising and stimulating in order to passively elicit rich dialogue and information. The desired information of interpretivism is not of a positivist solitary or authoritative 'fact' but rather insight in to the ongoing story of the subjects. More concisely, the desired information is comprehensive records of the topics' point of view of simple fact (Butin, 2010).

Part 5 - An assessment of the advantages and weaknesses of organised observation from this second perspective.

To the solidified interpretivist researcher, trading in-depth social insights for a stand of frequencies would appear against the center concepts of interpretivism. However by using quantitative methods such as organised observation one will not actually have to sacrifice the qualitative areas of research. It is important to remember at this time that it is the research task determines the techniques used, not the technique. I will explore the talents of organised observation within the qualitative research study by looking at the advantages of; greater perspective, representation and increased validity.

Qualitative research can be positivist, it is obvious to see that within qualitative research, tips of view and sociable realities are documented, so it could be reasoned that dialogues which lead consistently to one outcome would be interpreted as a 'truth' (Lin, 1998). Within a study project to review classroom behavior, carrying-out a structured observation at the outset of the job may help the researcher develop a deeper understanding and point of view of the students and an information to their genuine (not designed through dialogue) realities. Inside the quest for a rich understanding it might be hard to deny that this more time spent in the field would be of negative value to the job. Although the nature of interpretivist research is relatively unstructured, this additional technique allows the researcher to understand the scope and perhaps best choose the best suited qualitative techniques. Through the study, organised observation may be used to reflect on, confirm or enhance a few of the hypothesis and ideas that could be starting to develop through the span of the qualitative techniques. Even though the researcher might not complete a complete analysis of the data to the point of inferring truths about a society, the added information that the quantitative data offers would give you a valuable contrast to the dialogues already extracted from the students. Wider validity and generalisability are not at the forefront of a pure interpretivist research study. It may however be of some gain to a study project to get more valid inferences on a wider population. Kelliher represents this limitation, "While interpretive research is recognized because of its value in providing contextual depth, email address details are often criticised in conditions of validity, trustworthiness and generalisability" (Kelliher, 2005, p 123). The addition of a set up observation would offer the project range for inference on the population. Oddly enough a set up observation can also be employed objectively to check the validity of your hypothesis made because of this of the qualitative review itself.

The methodology of structured observations will not fall based on the traditional paradigms of interpretivism. From an interpretivist point of view I consider there to be three main weaknesses in by using a structured observation to study classroom behaviours; student and instructor reactivity, shallowness of data and the inaccuracies of the procedure.

It is evident that subjects respond differently from normal when in an overt structured observation. An example of this reactivity can be observed in the video footage of start of 'Frank's lessons' (DVD 2, Section 3d). At the start of the category there's a hum of thrills followed by several humiliated glimpses at the camera throughout all of those other lessons. Students therefore, clearly show a pastime in the camera, and even though they were presumably briefed to disregard the camera they may have felt uneasy as well as perhaps more introverted for the course of the lessons. As Mertler points out in his dialogue on action research, "The simple presence of any professor as a 'data collector' with a notebook and pencil, or simply a video recording recorder in palm- can change student behaviour" (Mertler, 2006, p 93). And a natural reactivity to the observation, students and teachers may carry out themselves differently due to the presumption they are being judged in some way by the observer or researcher. The observer may see increased effort on the part of students or professors and any typical negative behaviour may be covered. I have already mentioned that any normal physical or verbal bullying or intimidation may be suspended during the observation. Covert observation is actually a solution to learner or tutor reactivity however there are ethical uncertainties regarding the right of recognition and consent which limit its utilization in the classroom. The sort of data achieved through the organised observation can be regarded as by the interpretivist researcher as but a tiny snap-shot of the overall activity, void of 'significant' information. Stokking et al discount positivist data collection by talking about the techniques as "Meaningful behavioural entities are broken down into meaningless bits" (Stokking et al, 1999, P 104). The observation of your classroom would understandably catch measurements of what students and teachers are doing but wouldn't normally explain why they do it, the root motivations and meanings of the behaviour is still inaccessible. The highly structured character of the observation plan used to record frequencies of behaviours could cause some unexpected or spontaneous behaviours kept unrecorded. These cases of unrecorded behaviour may therefore be silenced by the info collection process and thus ignored through the analysis stage of the task. With these inadequacies in mind interpretivist researchers feel that using data from a structured observation to create some replication of reality would be tenuous. Interpretivists assume that there are inherent inaccuracies within the process of recording data from set up observations. The correctness of physically documenting data is determined by the understanding of the observation agenda and the skill of the observer. It may be that the supposed boundaries of the categories, or the categories themselves, might have been misunderstood. Aswell as misunderstanding the routine, the behaviour and connections may be misinterpreted by the observer. These inaccuracies would mean behaviours might be coded under inappropriate categories causing the results of the job to be misaligned with certainty. There are also limitations from what the observer can actually witness. Some interactions might be beyond your observer's range of vision plus some dialogue might be too peaceful for them to hear. Aswell as these restrictions of the setting up the observers may have been temporarily sidetracked or have fallen behind in coding and for that reason fail to notice other important connections.

Part 6 - A conclusion checking out the implications of the comparative analysis you have completed.

Guided by a couple of seemingly mutually exclusive tenets I've summarised the annals and program of both methodologies when applied to the data collection technique of organized observation in the classroom. Beneath the quantitative framework, analysts agree on the value of defining and adhering to a methodological protocol. The data is molded and built by dimension, either of time or rate of recurrence. Objectivity and the dependability of the data are guaranteed by the methodological rigor. The evaluation is carried out statistically and the email address details are often highly generalisable to a focus on population. Under the qualitative framework analysts do not plan or predict all the techniques to be use within a report, instead, they develop their methods predicated on the ongoing needs and requirements of the study. The job and methods are regularly reflected upon and the succeeding methods are chosen by the way of the project. The info achieved through qualitative research are in the form of abundant descriptive insights into the social truth of the subject matter involved. The research is carried out draws conclusions about the realities of the specific subjects involved in the study.

Almost every facet of the methodologies are divided by the differences between the research of the natural world and the study of the sociable world; researcher participation predicated on detachment and objectivity vs. rapport and romance, theories that result from statistics vs. information, explanations achieved through the forming of causal regulations vs. deep explanations, conclusions using their strength in consistency and validity vs. trustworthiness and rigour and knowledge founded from what is straight observable vs. understanding.

Purists from each methodological camp have made powerful assertions promoting their ideologies; "There is no other understanding of the earth, only what is provided by these sciences" (Ajdukiewicz, 1973, p 63) Ajdukiewicz proclaims, conversely von Wright contests that "understanding human behavior and their motives behind it needs a amount of empathy with our themes" (von Wright, 1993, cited in Henn, Weinstein, Foard, 2006, P 15). With such uncompromising extremes it is straightforward to expect that there could not possibly be any common surface, however there is a growing school of thought pertaining to 'bridging the distance between positivism and interpretivism'. There exist various examples of how a mixture of techniques has been used collectively in research (Lin, 1998). Lin analyses the differences between a quantitative research study and a qualitative research project both conducted on the same topic by two applied studies. She concludes that the variations between the assignments stem from the distinctions one asks of the data and the conclusions one hopes to pull.

One interesting theory as developed by Karl Popper (1902-1994) is one of falsification. In Bharadwaj's paper on integrating both approaches he details positivism and interpretivism as two extremes with the Complex Methodological Falsification model anywhere near the midsection (Bharadwaj, 1996). Based on a Lakatosian SMF platform, Bhararadwaj continues on to suggest that "while absolute real truth may well not be attainable by science, medical research programs should in the long run lead to ever more true and fewer false consequences, and therefore have increasing plausibility. " This move in methodology allows a wide variety of methodological approaches to be used in coalition with an objective of working towards a satisfactory 'truth' based on the somewhat abstract clinical and sociological ideas of sociable studies.

Much of the question between the methodologies of positivism and interpretivism derive from a notable difference of view on epistemology. The variety of definitions shown within the web pages of publications on research of the many techniques is of course fair and just however it seems almost unequivocally divided and made the decision by the researcher's epistemological backdrop. Lin points out that the difference between qualitative and quantitative work stretch from the measurements of the project rather than methodological paradigms "The variations in interpretivist and positivist qualitative work thus are distinctions in the questions one asks of the data and the types of conclusions one would like to pull. " (Lin, 1998). I've already mentioned more often than once in this paper that the various tools a researcher selects should be a function of the job itself rather than consequence of a philosophical debate. The two methodologies (positivism and interpretivism) are meticulously aligned with the two kinds of research techniques (quantitative and qualitative). I believe that the description of the relationship indirectly deepens the separate between the two methodologies. Throughout this newspaper and many other publications, techniques are describes as 'using qualitative methods' or 'utilizing quantitative methods'. Perhaps if we can conscientiously change these descriptions to truly have a greater focus on 'qualitative data' and 'quantitative data' research projects might become free from the ideological question of methodologies and techniques and focus more directly on what is had a need to achieve the results required. Even Webber, one of the leading thinkers on interpretivism, placed that analysts should perform research that is value-free in their pursuit of conclusion. It seems to me a project driven purely by the researcher's methodological preconceptions constitutes the ultimate bias.

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