The device of data collection is used by the researcher when he observes some specified behaviour of the subjects, e.g., the ‘aggression’ of children. This tool has certain advantages and disadvantages, as discussed below:
(i) Personality is better assessed by observation of over behaviour than by self-reporting which may hide facts.
(ii) The behaviour can be observed in natural setting and hence the interferences can have applicability to ordinary life situations as well. This is called ‘external validity’ i.e. applicability beyond the observed situation.
(iii) The tool doesn’t need any communication medium. Thus it can be used for collecting data regarding infants and illiterates or people who don’t understand the observer’s languages.
i. Covert behaviour and traits cannot be observed.
ii. Even though the interferences have applicability to ordinary life situation, still the internal validity of the inferences may be low in uncontrolled situations (natural setting without any experimental controls) as the data collected may not be really reliable and valid. The observations may get prejudiced and coloured by the subjectivity or feelings of the observer and suffer in reliability.
Their validity may be low as they may be due to some uncontrolled Interfering variable not relevant to the study.
iii. It is time-consuming and needs highly trained observers.
iv. The behaviour of grown up and adult people turns artificial when they become conscious of the observer.
Type of Observation:
The mode of observation can be classified in the following ways.
1. Uncontrolled observation:
The observation is made in an ordinary natural setting. It characterizes all the advantages and disadvantages discussed above.
2. Controlled Observation:
The behaviour is specified and well defined. If it is a behaviour traits like ‘aggression’, its symptoms are identified and observed in standardized and well defined units in order to increase the internal validity.
The ‘external validity’ may suffer as the standardized situation is not there in life outside.
As a matter of fact, standardization of the techniques of observation would not affect it, and is desirable even for uncontrolled observation in order to impart some internal validity to it.
A classic example of standardized technique of recording observation of teaching is Flander”s interaction analysis of verbal behaviour.
3. Camouflaged Observation:
In this case the situation and the units of measurement are both standardized but what is being observed is kept a secret from subjects. On the other hand, they are made to believe that they are being observed for something else and that way do not become conscious regarding the observed behaviour e.g., for selections of officers in the army, the candidates may be made to act, to show their powers in a standardized situation while really they may be observed and assessed for some other traits like. “Cooperation”, with well standardized instruments.
Observation can be classified along one another dimension too. Apart from the degree of control, namely, regarding the role of the observer in the activity, it can be categorized as:
1. Non-participant Observation:
The observer keeps aloof and observes the subjects as they act. This facilitates proper and immediate recording of the incidents but at the same time it makes the subjects conscious and distorts their behaviour. Of course, these days’ observers may use tape- records and video tapes for recording facts even in their absence. They may replay these gadgets later on and record the observation for analysis. It is to be pointed out that non-participant observation does not affect small children for long time. They become a little conscious at the beginning but then they forget the adult and go on in their natural way. This way, observation technique is used mostly in researches pertaining to infant and nursery children.
2. Participant observation:
Here the observer himself participates with the subjects in the activity. This establishes proper report and there is no distortion in behaviour. But the regarding of the observation becomes a problem. It cannot be done simultaneously and later on forgetting ensures.
All the more it is not possible to participate in the activities if there is a wage gap between the observer and the participants, as is likely to be in case of educational researches pertaining to adolescent students.