Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Observation and Sampling for educational research.

Random scribblings about two educational reserach methods:

Observation: In the teaching profession a methodology often used for research is observation. As an experienced classroom teacher I have been on both ends of this methodology many times. Advantages include the possibility of immediate feedback to those being observed (if this is the intention), and given an equitable power relationship it can be a very effective method for getting at "the truth" (ref Silverman 1992). However, those conscious of being observed may demonstrate the Hawthorne effect: "a short-term improvement caused by observing worker performance" (Landsberger, 1955). Others have found that sometimes there is an opposite effect. A typical example is a reduction in productivity due to being part of a time and motion study. There are also ethical concerns with observing tutors practice, and even more so when observing students.

Sampling course content, i.e., looking online to see what teaching staff have done: I don't consider this method as particularly useful. Although it may produce highly accurate data (such as how often someone logged on), it would yield far less of value than an interview. It was also fraught with ethical concerns (such as viewing student information when no consent for research had been given).

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