Classroom behavior is often difficult to follow as researchers simply don’t have enough eyes and ears to catch everything that happens. But if this data can be accurately collected, it can reveal a wealth of information such as the effectiveness of special education programs or engagement of students with behavioral problems.
Why classroom observation matters
Recommendations based on educational research provide policy makers, teachers, parents, and students with valuable information. For this reason it is extremely important that we study social interaction in educational contexts and record behavior within classrooms. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
How to collect and code observational data in educational research
The authors of the Associate Editor's Column in the Journal of Special Education Technology, Dave Edyburn and James Basham, recognize the ongoing interest in observational data collection systems. As a result, they have highlighted four software products as forerunners in this field. Edyburn and Basham explain that it has always been a challenge to collect data in a classroom, and claim that simple recording systems are necessary so that researchers do not miss any new developments.
Why combine systematic quantitative analysis and micro-ethnographic analysis?
In a recently published paper, Julia Snell demonstrates how systematic observation software, such as The Observer XT, can be used to organize and manage large amounts of video.
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Julia Snell also describes how the software can assist in case selection as well as facilitate comparability and cross referencing of different observations. While this software and other behavioral coding software packages are conventionally used to produce quantitative results that can be subjected to statistical analyses, Julia Snell argues that The Observer XT also can assist in qualitative analyses. She draws upon data from a recent study of classroom discourse and shows how a combination of quantitative analysis and micro-ethnographic analysis can lead to qualitative insight and findings of a more generalizable kind. Visit the International Journal of Social Research Methodology website to download and read the publication.