Using scales – At times some observers may prefer to develop a scale in order to rate various aspects of the interaction or phenomenon. The recording is done on a scale developed by the observer/researcher. A scale may be one-, two- or three-directional, depending upon the purpose of the observation. For example, in the scale in Figure 9.2 – designed to record the nature of the interaction within a group – there are three directions: positive, negative and neutral. The main advantage of using scales in recording observation is that you do not need to spend time on taking detailed notes and can thus concentrate on observation. On the other hand, the problems with using a scale are that it does not provide specific and in-depth information about the interaction. In addition, it may suffer from any of the following errors: Unless the observer is extremely confident of his/her ability to assess an interaction, s/he may tend to avoid the extreme positions on the scale, using mostly the central part. The error that this tendency creates is called the error of central tendency . Some observers may prefer certain sections of the scale in the same way that some teachers are strict markers and others are not. When observers have a tendency to use a particular part of the scale in recording an interaction, this phenomenon is known as the elevation effect . Another type of error that may be introduced is when the way an observer rates an individual on one aspect of the interaction influences the way s/he rates that individual on another aspect of the interaction. Again something similar to this can happen in teaching when a teacher’s assessment of the performance of a student in one subject may influence his/her rating of that student’s performance in another. This type of effect is known as the
halo effect . Categorical recording – Sometimes an observer may decide to record his/her observation using categories. The type and number of categories depend upon the type of interaction and the observer’s choice about how to classify the observation. For example, passive/active (two categories); introvert/extrovert (two categories); always/sometimes/never (three categories); strongly agree/agree/uncertain/disagree/strongly disagree (five categories). The use of categories to record an observation may suffer from the same problems as those associated with scales. Recording on electronic devices – Observation can also be recorded on videotape or other electronic devices and then analysed. The advantage of recording an interaction in this way is that the observer can see it a number of times before interpreting an interaction or drawing any conclusions from it and can also invite other professionals to view the interaction in order to arrive at more objective conclusions. However, one of the disadvantages is that some people may feel uncomfortable or may behave differently before a camera. Therefore the interaction may not be a true reflection of the situation.
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