Observational methods pt. 2: 3 different ways to collect observational data


(Stacey McDonald) #1

Observational research is a way that we can observe behaviour and record it. I think it’s a good alternative in certain circumstances (shared in this post). There are 3 main ways to do observational research:

  1. Naturalistic observation: Researcher observes people’s behaviour where it typically occurs.

  2. Participant observation: Researcher becomes an active participant in a group or situation they are studying.

  3. Structured observation: The researcher might introduce a specific activity or task in a more structured or controlled setting, and then observe a specific set of behaviours (instead of recording everything that happens and making sense of it later). The focus here is on collecting more quantitative rather than qualitative data, usually by using a tool like a checklist or rubric.

The first two approaches are quite similar. They both involve observing people and behaviour where it typically occurs (observe classroom behaviour in the classroom setting). If people are aware that you’re observing their behaviour, keep in mind that they may act differently (at least initially - this diminishes over time). For these first two approaches, the data collected can include unstructured interview, notes based on observations and interactions, documents, photographs or videos.

More on this next Monday!