Observation Assignment handout

The purpose of this activity is to give you first-hand experience collecting data through
observation. By practicing your skills in the comfort of our group, you will learn what to expect
when you begin to conduct observations in your classroom.
Any public setting: a restaurant, a well populated street corner, the public library, a grocery store,
the mall, etc. There should be natural public access to the setting and multiple viewing
opportunities for you.
Go to this social setting. See how much you can hear, see, and learn by observing. Take detailed
notes of your observations and include pertinent quotes overheard. We suggest you go to a setting
with a partner, but do not collaborate in any way until you have completed the activity.
* The Setting: Look around and describe the physical space. Sketch a rough floor plan including
the arrangement of people.
* The People: Look around you and describe the people in this setting. Focus on one or two of the
people. What are they doing in that social space?
* The Action: What are the relationships between people or groups? Try to discover something
about the people in the setting.
* Describe the groups and any common characteristics, for example, age, race, gender, social class,
dress codes, speech, activity, and so on.
* If you had all the time in the world to do a study here, what three things would you look for upon
returning to this setting?
Devote 15-20 minutes of your time to this activity.
Adapted from: Drennon, C.E. (1998) Practitioner Inquiry for Staff Development and Program
Improvement: A Facilitation Guide for Local Adult Literacy Programs, Department of Adult
Education, University of Georgia. Further credit goes to Janesick, Valerie J. (1998) Stretching
Exercises for Qualitative Researchers, Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.