ERIC Number: ED229306
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1983-Feb-21
Reference Count: 0
The Evaluative Role of Participant Observation.
Lundsteen, Sara W.
Participant observation, one of the fieldwork techniques of ethnography, requires a definition of and delicate balance between the roles of participant and observer and a clear understanding of the involvement of the researcher in these two roles. Ethnography is the study of the geographical distribution of people and their relation to their environment. For example, an ethnographer might study children and teachers in the classroom, school, community, and home. Research characteristics of ethnography are: (1) that the ethnographer is the research instrument; (2) that a large block of time is assigned in a setting that permits observation of a full cycle of events; and (3) that as much time for analysis and interpretation as for participant observation is allotted. In schools particularly, a researcher may occupy different levels of participation/observation, e.g., active participant, privileged observer, or limited observer. Disadvantages of the technique are inherent in using the individual as the research instrument. No matter how highly trained and objective, the researcher may become too involved, too detached, or be taken ill. The strengths are that the evaluative role of participant observer can lend depth to understanding, produce hypotheses, and uncover patterns. Researchers should expand their readings to include ethnographies, become familiar with anthropological techniques, and develop a concern for research context. (KC)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Professional Training Institute, National Association for Gifted Children (4th, Tempe, AZ, February 21, 1983).