You are on page 1of 10

Running head: OBSERVATION ACTIVITY

Observation Activity
COUN 7132: Contemporary College Student
Dr. Fayth M. Parks
Jeff Patty
Georgia Southern University

OBSERVATION ACTIVITY

2
Abstract

The concept for this observational activity is to observe students in some environment, record
their interactions and activities, and analyze the results based upon the concepts and stages of a
student development theory. The interesting challenge for this activity hinges on the type of
institution involved. Georgia Highlands College is a two-year unit of the University System of
Georgia. Although the college is growing and recently has made the move towards becoming a
State college by offering its first two to four year bridge degree, the college campus and
environment is still quite small. So far the most part, students come to campus and go to classes.
After classes are over, they usually head back out to their homes and jobs. There are not a lot of
group activities. Not many hang out in the student union area. The few that do choose to eat in
the cafeteria, do just that, they eat something quick and head off to their next class. The
challenge is finding a group of students interacting in a learning environment to actually observe.
For this reason, I had to choose the physical education complex to search out these obscure
students, in hopes of finding them in their natural habitat. Surely the gym, the workout room, or
some area of the PE complex had to offer groups of people working and learning together.
Finally, I did get the chance to observe several different groups and aspects of interaction from
different sources. Most of the interactions I observed seemed to best relate best to the
psychosocial models and theories of Erikson, Chickering and Reisser.

OBSERVATION ACTIVITY

3
Observation Activity

Indeed, this assignment to find students learning, interacting in some meaningful


intellectual capacity outside of the classroom, seemed to offer a great challenge as I initially
thought about how and where to witness such exchanges. As already described, the smaller
campus environment of a school such as GHC, can often present a different atmosphere than that
of a larger institution. GHC doesnt have any dorms. The student union areas and cafeteria are
used sparingly. The nature of our types of students and the high turnover rate from semester to
semester just does not seem to create these close knit groups that hang out together. You can
occasionally find students studying by themselves in between classes. Some students will stand
around for a few moments during a planned student activity. There just does not seem to be as
many opportunities where students are working together and usually not in an actual learning
environment. So, I really had to stretch myself to find a group of students purposefully engaged
in such activities. I did not really think the PE complex would necessarily offer any better
choices, but I thought I would give it a try. Upon walking around the complex, through the halls,
past the gym, through the empty locker rooms, back over to the fitness and workout area, and
looking outside to the empty tennis courts and old unused baseball fields, I saw some students
here and there. This is a start I thought, but how do I apply a model to these students? After
reading back through some of the theories, I finally made myself start seeing them for more than
just some students walking around and working out. I had to really concentrate on some of the
interactions to start thinking a little deeper than one would usually apply by an occasional glance
at someone.
The psychosocial theories propose that individuals advance through various stages of life.
Each of these stages exposes one to various environmental and social influences, which a person

OBSERVATION ACTIVITY

must solve or deal with. How each person chooses to deal with each of these crises or stages,
determines the types of personalities that will be carried forward throughout life. Different
people can pass through these stages at different points in their life or even choose to avoid
dealing with a particular stage, likely to later be confronted with the unresolved issues. A couple
of the key components that both Erikson and later Chickering and Reisser rely on, revolve
around a set of crises in the form of biological and sociocultural demands that must be dealt with,
and identity development, which involves the crises of identity versus identity that many college
aged students have to deal with.
The first group witnessed was comprised of a class of students. This class is a basic
entry-level type of physical fitness class still required at GHC. Several different instructors teach
the class, but many take Dr. Ken Weatherman, who has been teaching at GHC for at least 40
years now. I had not really thought about it before, but he always has this class out on the move
each semester. He seems to still take this class and fitness very seriously. They have several
different activities they do throughout the semester, which I really have never paid that much
attention to before. During this particular phase, they all get together and do some basic
stretching, before beginning their increasingly brisk walk around various parts of the campus
together. I observed people from all walks of life. There are younger and older students. There
are those that you can tell are more comfortable in workout clothes than others. Some look to
even have new clothes just for this class, while others have worn their typical short and tees that
they are used to wearing for such activities. There are the younger jocks in the group. There are
some that already appear winded and out of their element completely. As Chickering points out,
development occurs differently as students encounter increasing complexity in ideas, values,
and other people and struggle to reconcile these new positions with their own ideas, values, and

OBSERVATION ACTIVITY
beliefs (Pascarell & Terenzini, 2005).
As they begin their walk, which will take them around the complex, outside around the
building for just a bit due to the cold, and then back in through another door to complete one
revolution of the apparent course, one can see that some pair up for the walk. They either know
each other or have made friends to get through the course. There seems to be some defined
groupings that have occurred. Several of the thinner and obvious fit guys are at the start of the
pack and perform the exercise with little effort. They clown around with one another as they
complete the course. There are other students that keep to themselves, walking single file in the
middle of the group. They do not seem to want to be first, but not last either. Then, there are
females that are paired up and talking with one another constantly as they walk. These women
are usually in groups of two or three. They are decked out in warm clothing and probably not
quite as fit as some of the others. They do not appear to enjoy the activity and have decided to
engage in conversation to overcome what appears to be an unpleasant, but necessary component
to the class. The instructor occasionally calls out an instruction or motivation to keep the pace
up and keep the class focused on the purpose of the exercise. Since the college years often
present huge changes in development for many people, I think it is likely that students are often
dealing with several of Chickerings seven vectors simultaneously. For this particular group of
students observed, I would have to pinpoint his first vector, Achieving Competence, for many of
the students in this class, however. In this vector, the college years lead to increased
competence in intellectual areas, physical and manual skills, and interpersonal relations with
both individuals and groups (Pascarell & Terenzini, 2005). Clearly, many of these students are
facing these challenges in an environment some are not as comfortable in as others. How they

OBSERVATION ACTIVITY

deal with this crisis and adapt to this social challenge, will help define their attitudes and
interactions along their paths to intellectual development and cultural sophistication.
The next group that I observed consisted of the womens basketball team, which began
their inaugural season in the fall 2012 (Davis, 2012). GHC has just recently in the last year
added its first athletics program, mens and womens basketball. This is actually the end of their
second season. The womens team has done quite well so far, going 24-6 during their first
season (Davis, 2012). The mens team did not win a game in their first season. The second
season has been going a little better for the men. I have not previously attended a game and
certainly not a practice, but had heard bits and pieces about the teams. My initial observation of
the womens practice was viewed through the windows of the doors to the gym. I was not sure if
practices were open or closed, so I just watched some of the interaction at a safe distance to
begin with. Having played basketball myself when I was younger, I understood some of the
basic drills they were going through. The coach had them running through various offensive and
defensive strategies. He would call out various plays and then correct issues as they arose.
Womens basketball is more competitive and they are actually pretty big. One might think you
could simply go out as a guy and dominate, but these girls as quick and big as they are, would
put most guys quickly in their place. At some point I ventured into the gym and sat near the door
with another employee that works in my division. He has been volunteering some of his time to
the program in the form of technical assistance. We discussed the players and how they were
doing. He gave me some insight into who was who, newer players, skill sets, etc. In between
plays, you could see some of the senior players talking with one another and occasionally
offering strategy to the apparent newer players. Even within a close team there are going to be
groups that form, where certain players are more comfortable with certain other players.

OBSERVATION ACTIVITY

Sometimes this has to do with seniority, how skilled or self-perceived how skilled one is, and
even individual diversity within the team. There are some players that are not from the United
States, and thus have a language and likely cultural barrier. Apparently, the coach does a really
good job navigating all of these issues and keeping a changing group of women both competitive
and growing as a team. Being a two-year school, we only keep these players for a maximum of
two years, and some move on to larger schools before that time if they are really good.
I have no doubt that these women basketball players are likely dealing with the same
stages that the aforementioned fitness class deals with, but what struck me most about this group
during the short practice session I was able to observe, was that this group seemed to be further
along the path. Perhaps this perceived advancement was simply due to the captured nature of the
coach conducting practice. Maybe this group observed under a different setting or circumstance
would more closely model the first group. At any rate, I could more closely align this group of
basketball players with the latter stages of Chickerings vectors, Developing Autonomy,
Developing Interpersonal Relationships, and Establishing Identity. As for establishing
autonomy, these students already seemed to trust in their abilities and feelings. While the coach
directed them occasionally regarding a particular play or correction, for the most part they all
seemed to know what to do and were more confident in following the tasks at hand. They talked
amongst themselves and let each other know what was expected regarding a particular play or
the system they were using. They seemed more self confident and I think certainly understood
the need to reach certain goals, a skill they must master to work together as individuals on a very
good team. It is necessary for them to have a common goal of achieving not only the physical
success on the courts, but also for them to gain the ability to achieve the academic success
expected of college athletes. This speaks to the fourth vector regarding identity. These players

OBSERVATION ACTIVITY

have to have a good self-image in the face of increased scrutiny, handle the hours of practice and
games, but also make time for the academic expectations. This involves having to grow up and
deal with interactions within a group of strangers, while overcoming adversity. If they cannot
master this integration and realize their ideal potentials, they will not be allowed to continue on
the team. Their continued growth will result in developing purpose and integrity, key
components to Chickerings sixth and seventh stages. Values previously taken on authority, such
as directed by a coach, will eventually emerge as part of their own identity, either retained or
rejected, and internalized for their own usage throughout the rest of their lives. Hopefully, these
new emerging values and identity will cause socially responsible behavior as each one of these
women encounter different aspects in their lives (Pascarell & Terenzini, 2005).
Watching these two different groups interact was interesting. Looking at both groups
from a development angle was very different than simply walking by either group and merely
glancing at what was going on. Once you stop and actually watch the interactions of students,
and start to think about each of their differences and what they are going through, you can start to
see some of the patterns emerge from these theories. Not everyone is at the same point in his or
her development. Not all are at the same comfort level. Some are more confident than others.
Some are very outgoing and enthusiastically achieving the desired results, but others are just
muddling through the process until the activity comes to an end. Even with the womens
basketball team, where everyone wants to be a part of the team and they have a coach engaged in
the process, clear differences emerge throughout the squad. As Chickering suggests, individual
differences must be taken into consideration when we structure programs, activities, and offices.
We must become more attuned to the needs of students, rather than subscribing to just one model
(Chickering & Reisser, 1993). Hopefully, this exercise leads us all to look past the basics and

OBSERVATION ACTIVITY
pay more attention to each student or person we come in contact with, forming a deeper
understanding of where they are in life, what motivates them, and how we can best help them
along their desired paths.

OBSERVATION ACTIVITY

10
References

Chickering, A. W., & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and identity. (2nd ed., p. 6). San Francisco,
CA: Jossey-Bass.
Davis, D. (2013, June 26). Aujana dawkins signs on for basketball at ghc. Retrieved from
http://www.highlands.edu/site/dawkins-signing
Davis, D. (2012, August 21). Ghc introduces inaugural womens basketball team. Retrieved from
http://www.highlands.edu/site/ghc-introduces-womens-team
Pascarell, E.T. & Terenzini, P.T. (2005) How college affects students. (Vol. 2).
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.