Observation as a Method of Data Collection

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Factors affecting observation

Factors that affect observations include sensitivity and awareness; fatigue, illness, and discomfort; one’s personality; and controlling our biases.

Sensitivity and Awareness

The first factor that affects an observation is the observer’s sensitivity and awareness. Sensitivity is the ability to see or hear changes or differences, while awareness is the amount of attention children gives to something. These two traits help the observer to describe more accurately the children’s behaviors than if they lacked sensitivity and awareness.

Lack of sensitivity and Awareness can negatively affect observation in that if you are not aware of what is going on around you then you cannot tell the differences in behaviors this can be the children’s movements or just sounds that they are making. If you are not sensitive then you can miss the changes or differences that kids may be making this can make it hard to accurately describe what they do.

Example of Sensitivity and awareness:

One of the best ways to increase sensitivity and awareness is to attend many activities and events. This can help you become aware of different behaviors that you may have otherwise missed not being aware or even sensitive to them. It can also help you become more sensitive and pick up on smaller things like small facial expressions or changes in body language.

Fatigue, illness, and discomfort

These are other factors that affect observation. These factors can make it harder for an observer to pay attention or describe behavior correctly because of the discomfort or other symptoms. To avoid this problem, observers should try not to get too fatigued from doing many observations in a row or have had too little sleep before an observation so that their observations are accurate. Fatigue, Illness and Discomfort this type of learning can lead to negative outcomes and behaviors in that the observer will become stressed out and unable to focus or concentrate on the things they have observed (Fabiano et al 2018).

example; a person could see that his child is getting bullied at school. His child may be in pain and feel embarrassed because of the other kids being mean to her. The person may try to get his child out of school by taking her out of class or sending her home early.

One’s personality

One’s personality can affect observation in that observers with a certain personality may not always notice certain behaviors or may only see certain behaviors depending on the type of observation. However, there has also been evidence that those with more negative emotions and a high emotional intelligence often have less sensitivities than those with more positive emotions and emotional stability thus leading them to make wrong conclusions about the things they have observed ((Fabiano et al 2018).

For example, an observer that is introverted may only notice or pay attention to the quiet and shy children, while an extroverted observer may pay more attention to the louder children. An introverted observer will probably miss out on noting important factors like if a child is working hard or not because they won’t be making any noise. This could cause misinterpretations in the data and make it harder to summarize behaviors later on.

Controlling our biases

The final factor that affects observation is controlling our biases. Bias is defined as “a tendency to believe that some things are better than others.

Our biases can be generally understood as the way in which we perceive and interpret things. Thus, it is important for an observer to control for their own biases when looking out for things that matter to the observer. Although, not controlling our bias can negatively affect observation outcomes causing the observation outcomes to be very biased and inaccurate (Fabiano et al 2018)

Example; a father may tend to look at his daughter and expect more out of her than all her friends because she is his child, which might cause him not to see her begin to skip school or get into trouble around her neighborhood another example if you are in a noisy place, it will probably be harder for you to not notice the louder children than if it were a quiet place. Being aware of these biases will help when observing to keep your attention on only what needs to be observed and not anything else going on around you.

2. Three categories of Errors in Recording Observations.

The three categories of Errors in Recording Observations include errors of Omission, errors of Commission and errors of transmissions.

Errors of Omission;

These types of errors simply are omissions of a type of observation. In case of error of complete omission, contractor or an observer should not fail to record any type of observation.

Example: Omission to record all observations of children behaviors in class while teaching.

Errors of Commission;

Errors of commission is when a participant in an experiment makes a mistake in recording data. In this category, contractor records an observation which is completely opposite to what he should have recorded (Pandey, & Pandey, 2021). These types of errors are mostly because of the carelessness on the part of contractor and improper training and supervision.

For example, a participant records incorrect responses for a questionnaire.

Errors in transmission;

This type is when the data has been incorrectly recorded due to broken or malfunctioning equipment that is used from one person to another, for example, let’s say you are an education clinic for children. The school system has provided the education clinic with a laptop that monitors your students’ grades in the classroom. The data is transferred from the computer to a backup computer each week on Friday, so it can be saved and analyzed later.

In this example, let’s say that due to a malfunctioning battery laptop, the grade data transferred incorrectly from one set of computers to another. This would be considered as an error of transmission while observing children during data collection.

Understanding and knowing about these three categories are helpful in future observations in that they can help observers and participants to identify the various causes of errors and work towards minimizing the effects of these errors on quality of data collected.

3. Accuracy and Reliability and share: Objective description, Interpretation, and Evaluation

The proximity of a measured value to a standard or known value is referred to as accuracy whereas reliability refers to the degree to which a test measures without mistake. A classroom can be set up to function as a reliable assessment of student learning by assigning tasks that are highly likely to demonstrate what the student knows, is able to do, or both. Observing children will provide an objective description of what is being observed, interpretation of this observation when it comes to teaching and assessing the child in class, followed by an evaluation of how well they have learnt.

1. Objective description: The exposition of the objectives and design processes involved in making a product or conducting research that enables one to determine whether the goals have been met. An objective account of the object measured, its properties, the quantities to be measured, and the measuring instrument or method used in conjunction with other factors such as equipment design and environmental conditions (Finkelstein et al 2021).

2. Interpretation: The evaluation of the success or failure rate associated with an initiative, usually expressed as a percentage, i.e., “the children performance was 75% successful”. The meaning that is attributed to the evidence by the person who is interpreting it.

3. Evaluation: The process of choosing whether a measure has performed well or not, why it has performed badly, and how to improve it in future. It is the evaluation of a children performance for criteria such as effectiveness, efficiency, timeliness, safety, etc. It is used to determine whether an objective has been met.

4. Benefits of a group observation over individual observation

There are some instances when a group observation is much more valuable than an individual observation. A group observation allows for the natural occurrence of children to be observed in a setting that is most similar to their natural environment. It also allows for the teacher to observe many different students at once, including some who might not be engaged in an individual observation. Additionally, with group observations, it is easier for the teacher to role model social skills and behaviors which are critical for social-emotional development. Group observations are most valuable when observing children in their natural environment or when you need multiple eyes on something (Finkelstein et al 2021).

For example, in a song-singing class, the teacher may want to observe children who are singing well enough to be placed into a group where they can sing songs. The teacher may also want to observe children who aren’t singing well enough to be placed into a group. It’s much easier for one teacher to do this with a group observation than with individual observation.

Another example that I can think of involves observing multiple students at their workstation when they are designing a project. The teacher would have an easier time doing this with groups of students while they are working on the project than if she had to observe each student individually.

How would you do the observation?

One of the most important parts of any observation is to make accurate observations. If teachers are going to make correct observations, they must be familiar with the setting and the students. For example, when observing a student in a classroom, teachers need to be able to identify appropriate social cues for each child. For example, if a child is obviously distressed or inattentive then it would be beneficial for the teacher to take more time to observe them and try and find out what’s wrong; perhaps finding out that they’re upset by their favorite teacher leaving or not liking the new teacher.

It would be helpful to create a specific list of things that you want to observe. These could include questions related to the students’ social-emotional development, their academic growth, and/or their physical development (Finkelstein et al 2021). Another way to observe is by forming groups. Teachers can use groups of children who are generally the same age, who have similar interests, or who have similar needs. By observing a group of children rather than individuals’ teachers can see how well the group is working together; this will help them know if they are developing relationships as well as making academic and social gains.


Fabiano, G. A., Reddy, L. A., & Dudek, C. M. (2018). Teacher coaching supported by formative assessment for improving classroom practices. School Psychology Quarterly, 33(2), 293.

Finkelstein, S., Sharma, U., & Furlonger, B. (2021). The inclusive practices of classroom teachers: a scoping review and thematic analysis. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 25(6), 735-762.

Pandey, P., & Pandey, M. M. (2021). Research methodology tools and techniques. Bridge Center.