The task of observing a child in a natural setting seemed relatively simple. As an unmarried uncle with plenty of free time, I am frequently asked to observe and look after my twin ten year old niece and nephew. Most of the time I watch the children at my house or at my brother’s house, which for the most part is as natural a setting as can be found. The task of observing the children is reduced to just another enjoyable evening watching television, snacking on junk food and sitting around with the kids.
When the task involves observing a child who for the most part is unknown to us, in a natural setting which is unfamiliar to us, the activity becomes significantly more difficult. In order to observe and remain objective in our findings and conclusions we must observe on a scientific level which involves planning, set guidelines, and discipline. A basic understanding of accepted methods for observing and recording the observations is required in order to make the best use of time. In addition, a certain amount of common sense must be exercised so as not to give the wrong impression to the children and most importantly any adults present in the area while observing. Some consideration must even be given to one’s appearance in this situation. As most would agree, an observer in a park observing some unknown young children, wearing a long trench coat and sunglasses is probably destined for trouble. The final and probably most important consideration is finding an acceptable setting for observing the child.
After considering my options, I decided that observing a young student attending day-care at a local school would be an ideal setting for accomplishing this assignment. As a substitute teacher as well as softball coach on occasion at Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac School in Temecula, I am familiar with the day-care staff and school procedures. I notified the day-care staff and arranged to observe in day-care on Wednesday afternoon. The day-care hours begin at 3:00 and end at 5:30. Due to the day-care environment and time constraints, I decided to observe and record my observations in a running record. Using this method of narrative recording allowed me to keep a sequential record of behavior as it occurred while documenting individual situations that had influenced the behavior. I chose a student who attends day-care on a daily basis and is picked up at 5:00 consistently, thus assuring me that the child is familiar with day-care and would be observed in as natural a setting as possible. I selected a boy of around 10 years old for my observational study. For purposes of identification throughout this exercise, I will refer to the observed student as the Boy.
A Running Record of Observed Behavior
3:05 The Boy arrives at day-care escorted by home room teacher and is checked in along with 12
additional students of varying ages.
3:10 After several minutes of standard check-in confusion, all students are asked to take seats