Classroom observation: a case study in obtrusiveness

by Thomas H. Bikson

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A case study demonstrating an observation method based on an anthropological approach to student behavior data collection is described. It demonstrates the effectiveness of a highly interactive role for the classroom observer. Part I traces the development of a noninteractive method (as exemplified in Risley and Cataldo's PLA-Check) to a highly interactive method (as exemplified in the RANDSIGHT Observation System) that developed from the author's experience as a classroom observer and a trainer of observers. The author argues that the only way not to be disruptive is to interact with the classroom's "ecosystem" so as to become a familiar and nonthreatening part of that environment. The disruption effect varies inversely with the extent of the observer's assimilation into the classroom ecosystem. Part II presents the RANDSIGHT Observation System and shows the results of using an interactive classroom observation method.

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