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Methods in Context Using observation to investigate education.

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Presentation on theme: "Methods in Context Using observation to investigate education."— Presentation transcript:

1 Methods in Context Using observation to investigate education

2 Sociologists are interested in a range of possible classroom interaction issues. These include: Gender and classroom behaviour Teacher expectations and labelling Language codes in the classroom Pupil subcultures Racism The hidden curriculum

3 What is different about observing education? Legal issues Ethics Problems of access Power relationships Availability of secondary data

4 Types of observation Pre-categorised observational schedules preferred by positivists and usually non-participant Less structured more open ended and flexible methods favoured by Interpretivists

5 Structured observational methods Flanders system of interaction analysis categories (FIAC). The observer uses a standard chart to record interactions at three second intervals. Observations are converted into quantitative data by counting the number of times each type of behaviour occurs

6 Flanders interaction analysis categories (FIAC) Teacher Talk 1.Teacher accepts pupils’ feelings 2.Teacher praises or encourages pupils 3.Teacher accepts or uses ideas of pupils 4.Teacher asks questions 5.Teacher lectures 6.Teacher gives directions 7.Teacher criticises pupils or justifies authority Pupil Talk 1.Pupils talk in response to teacher 2.Pupils initiate talk Silence 1.Silence or confusion

7 Strengths and Limitations Structured observational techniques are likely to be easily replicated and generates quantitative data Interpretivist sociologists criticise structured observation for its lack of validity, simply counting classroom behaviour ignores the meanings that pupils and teachers attach to it

8 Less structured observational methods Practical issues- schools are complex places and more time consuming to observe than many other settings It may be easier to gain permission to observe lessons than to interview pupils or teachers Personal characteristics such as age, gender and ethnicity affect the process of observation

9 Observations of interactions in school settings is limited by the restrictions of the school timetable, holidays, controls over access and so on Schools are busy places and so the observer may find it difficult to note down observations in privacy For interpretivists the main strength of observation is its validity However the power difference between young people and adults is a major barrier to uncovering the real attitudes and behaviour of pupils Teachers are also skilled at hiding their feelings and altering their behaviour when being observed

10 Most observation has to be overt in classrooms because covert observation is difficult Difficult to avoid the Hawthorne Effect where the presence of the researcher influences the behaviour of those being observed

11 The limited resources of the typical researcher, together with the sheer size of the education system, mean that observing school interaction is unlikely to produce representative data

12 Exam questions Examine the reasons why some sociologists choose not to use overt observation when conducting research (20 marks) Assess the strengths and limitations of participant observation for the study of labelling in schools (20 marks)

13 Tasks- Methods in context P.O- Education P-g Give an example of ‘structured observational methods’- are they reliable?valid? 2.What are the issues surrounding ‘less structured observational methods’ (i.e practical issues, ethical issues, validity, hawthorne effect, representativeness and reliability)


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