You are on page 1of 16

Observation

Methods of generating data which involve the researcher

immersing [him or herself] in a research setting, and systematically observing dimensions of that setting, interactions, relationships, actions, events, and so on, within it" (Mason, p. 60,1996). In second language acquisition research, observations are most often used to collect data on how learners use language in a variety of settings, to study language learning and teaching processes in the classroom, & to study teachers & ss behaviors.

Observation
Aim: provide careful descriptions of learners' activities

without unduly influencing the events in which the learners are engaged. It is important to collect observational data (in addition to attitudinal data) because what people say is not always what they do!

Variations of observations
Made by

+ insiders (part of the group observed) + participant observers (spending extensive time "inside") + outsider (observing from the "outside") Focus: + on a single subject + on a number of subjects + on a whole group (e.g. a whole class) Duration: + one session + a number of sessions + at intervals (e.g. every 3 seconds)

Advantages
Allows one to directly see what people do without having to

rely on what they say they do.


Provides firsthand experience, especially if the observer

participates in activities.
Observer may see things that escape the awareness of

people in the setting.


Excellent way to discover what is occurring in a setting.
Can be used with participants with weak verbal skills. Good for description.

Disadvantages
Do not allow the researcher access to the participants

motivation for their behaviors & actions.


Reactive effects may occur when respondents know

they are being observed


(preventing the students from learning to the best of theirs: e.g. , younger learners in
particular can become very easily distracted by observers; learners perform better due

to positive feelings at being included in a study)

Forms of observation
2 forms: Structured observation and unstructured observation.
1)

Structured observation:

+ The researcher has determined in advance what to look for


in the observed context.

+ the researcher utilizes tools which specify in ex act terms


what the observe should focus on, & the specific data that should be gathered. Standardized instruments (e.g., checklists, numerical scales, rating scales) are often used

Examples
A. Checklists:

Observed behavior: Ss activities in the language classroom. Task: Check whether or not the student performed the following:
Yes 1 Ask for translation of unknown words 2 Used L1 in conversation with teacher 3 Used L2 in conversation with teacher 4 Used L2 in conversation with peers 5 Referred to textbook/dictionary for unknown words 6 Asked for grammatical explanations No

B. Numerical scale Observed behavior: Ss use of L2 in asking questions Task: How often does each student ask a question in L2?
Always _______; Usually _______ ; Sometimes _______; Never _______

C. Rating scale: Observed behavior: Ss involvement in a specific classroom task. Task: Please mark how involved students are:
Very involved 1 2 3 4 5 Not very involved

2) Unstructured observation
is exploratory and open- ended, and the data being

recorded are broad & more general.

Data gathered may vary during the course of the

observation as a reflection of the observers developing understanding of what is being observed.

Examples:
A. Open observation (1):
Observed behavior: Ss involvement in the language class. Task: Describe the level of involvement of 3 ss in the language class activities B. Open observation (2): Observed behavior: Teachers & ss use of L1 in an L2 class. Task: Describe the type & amount of language used by the teacher & by the ss during a group work activity

C. Open observation (3): Follow 2 ss during class time & during the intermission (while they play in the

school yard) & describe the type of language they use.

Checklist in setting up observations


Contact the classroom instructor (in person if possible). Determine the schedule for observation. Negotiate the observer's role in the classroom, including regular pre-visits, arrival time, introductions, and seating arrangements.

Debrief the instructor (either during or after the observational


period) on the findings of the study. Clearly express appreciation to the instructor, students, and administration.

Observation
Examine the following topics. Which do you think would be most appropriately
studied by means of observation?
1.

Are teachers beliefs about Communicative Language Teaching reflected in their

actual classroom practice?


2. 3.

Who is in control of turn-taking and topics in classroom discourse? What are students and teachers attitudes towards internet-based reading materials?

4. 5. 6.

Does teaching students about listening strategies help them to listen better? Do game-like speaking activities increase students motivation? How does the teacher deal with students oral errors at the production stage? What is the effect of teacher correction?

7.

Do game-like speaking activities increase students motivation?

Example
A researcher (Bejarano 1987) compared the effect of 3 teaching methods on

achievement in EFL. In order to examine whether the teachers of each of the methods actually implemented them correctly, observations were conducted

by 3 observers. They were first trained in methods of observations with


videotapes and in classrooms, until close agreement was obtained among the different observers. The real observations were conducted by three observers visiting every class twice during the experimental period using a 20-item observation schedule. Ratings were recorded every 15 seconds for a 7-minute period at the beginning, middle, and end of a classroom session. In addition, the observers were asked to write an impressionistic report of whatever they could detect in the classes concerning ss behaviors while they were carrying out the various activities.

Questions:
What was the purpose of the observations? 2. How many observers were there? 3. What kind of observations was used?
1.

Read the studies & identify data collection tools used


University classroom in Vietnam: contesting the stereotypes Phan Le Ha (article 1) 2. In Their own words: Vietnamese EFL Teachers conceptions of Action Research - Le Van Canh (article 4) 3. Training in brainstorming and developing writing skills - Zhenhui Rao (article 10)
1.