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What is observation?
The purpose of observational data is to describe the setting that was observed, the activities that took place in that setting, the people who participated in those activities, and the meanings of what was observed from the perspective of those observed.
(Patton, Michael Quinn. 1990. Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods. Sage Publications)

Observational data should be:
• Factual
• Accurate
• Thorough
• Based on direct experience
• Not have bias or interpretation

Why is observation helpful?

• Helps to better understand the context within which a program operates.
• Helps to highlight things that may routinely escape staff and volunteers.
• Helps to discover things that no one has paid attention to before, things people may forget, or things people may not be willing to mention in a survey or interview.
• Helps to move program evaluation beyond the selective perceptions of those involved.

Who should observe?

In a perfect world, you should enlist a trained evaluator!  Otherwise, a colleague or volunteer that doesn’t have a vested interest in your program would be ideal.  Perhaps you can do this for each other – observe each others’ programs.

Types of Observation:
As a courtesy to participants, let them know that their program is being observed, because you want to learn all you can about improving your effectiveness as an educator.

Examples of observation (pdf) | Types of questions (pdf) What you should observe (pdf)

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