Observation/Interpretation Assignment Assignment Description NOTE: Students will

Observation/Interpretation Assignment
Assignment Description
NOTE: Students will have opportunities to practice observation skills using video. You should thoroughly review the observation handbook before the observation process and use it as a guide as you write your observation narrative.
You can observe one child from any of these four different age ranges:
Infant: birth to 12 months
Toddler: 13 to 36 months
Early childhood: 3 to 6 years
Middle childhood: 6-9 years
All observations must take place in a naturalistic setting with an active child (Please do not submit observations where the child is watching television or playing with electronic devices or talking on their cell phone). The ideal is that the observations would take place in an educational or childcare setting. However, other settings are acceptable IF they allow the child to behave in a way that caters to his or her natural actions and interactions and if they allow for at least an hour of uninterrupted access to the child.
Your cannot observe your own child, and you cannot interact with the subject of your observation or with any other people who may be present. During the observation, your ONLY role is to observe and write down what you observe.
Each observation should last approximately one hour. You will take detailed notes during the observation (please keep these, as they may be useful to you during the revision process). You will then type the observation, and include an interpretation of ONE behavior from any ONE of the three domains, and submit the typed observation to Turn It In.
For all observation/interpretation assignments, thorough and accurate interpretations must include the three following components:
A specific behavior from the observation (or the film when you have observed characters in a movie).
A theory and/or milestone from the text that can be used to interpret the behavior.
An explanation of how the text info and the behavior relate to each other. The explanation will include:
A definition and explanation of whatever terms you cited from the text AND
A comparison/contrast between the text info and the observed behavior
Relevant SLOs
Critically describe the developing person at different stages in the life span.
Assess the biopsychosocial changes that take place during each life stage.
Compare the different scientific approaches to studying developmental psychology through the
analysis of interview responses and observations.
Articulate the multidirectional, multi-contextual, multicultural and multidisciplinary life-span
Implement and explain the importance of understanding lifespan development and its significance toward establishing a quality life.
Participate in field experiences requiring naturalistic observation or other research design
Assignment Supporting Documents
Observation Handbook
Observation Example
Interpretation Example
Assignment Rubric
Needs Improvement
Writing does not include interpretations, judgments, or speculation about observed behaviors and interactions.
Writing includes some interpretations, judgments, or speculation about observed behaviors and interactions.
Writing includes mostly interpretations, judgments, or speculation about observed behaviors and interactions.
Specific Detail
Observation describes actions and interactions in vivid detail, child’s language is quoted verbatim, and actions are recorded sequentially. There is no summarization
Observation sometimes describes actions and interactions in vivid detail, most of child’s language is quoted verbatim, and actions are recorded sequentially some of the time. There is some summarization.
Observation does not describe actions and interactions in vivid detail, child’s language is not quoted verbatim, and actions are not recorded sequentially. Summary is used often.
Specific Behaviors
Interpretation includes objectively stated descriptions of specific behaviors taken from the observation for analysis.
Interpretation includes some subjectivity in the descriptions of specific behaviors taken from the observation for analysis.
Interpretation includes mostly subjective language (judgments, assumptions, opinions) in the descriptions of specific behaviors taken from the observation for analysis.
Accurate Application
Interpretation includes a clear and accurate relationship between the theory cited from the text and the behavior(s) or interaction(s) being discussed, with explanations provided in writing
In the interpretation, the relationship between theory cited from the text and the behavior(s) or interaction(s) being discussed is not always clear and/or accurate and explanations are not consistently provided.
Interpretation does not include a clear and/or accurate relationship between theory cited from the text and behavior(s) or interaction(s) being discussed, or the reader has to guess at the relationship because no explanation is provided.
Accurate Citation
Correct APA citation format used. References are accurately quoted and used in the correct context.
Correct APA citation format used in some cases. Some references are accurately quoted and used in the correct context.
Correct APA citation format is not used. References are not accurately quoted and used in the correct context.
Writing is smooth, skillful, and coherent. Sentences are strong and expressive with varied structure. Diction is consistent and words are well-chosen. The tone is highly consistent
with writer’s position/claim and appropriate throughout essay. Punctuation, spelling, and capitalization are accurate with few or no errors to affect the clarity or quality of the work.
Writing is clear, but
sentences may lack
variety. Diction is sometimes inconsistent
and/or inappropriate at
various points in essay. Tone may be inconsistent with writer’s position/ claim. Several
errors in punctuation,
spelling, and capitalization often affect the clarity or quality of the work.
Writing is confusing and hard to follow. Contains fragments and/or run-on sentences. Diction is inappropriate and
inconsistent throughout
essay. Tone of piece is highly inconsistent with writer’s position/claim. Many errors in punctuation, spelling, and
capitalization distract the reader and greatly affect the clarity or quality of the work.
Frequently Asked Questions
Observation Questions
Q. How do I find children to observe?
A. You can observe children in a day care, home child care, classroom, at home or any place where they can be active and you can have access to them for the full hour needed. So, you can reach out to friends and family, inquire at child care centers and schools in your neighborhood, and/or check in with your classmates to see if they have children of the correct ages. It is strongly recommended that you work on finding, selecting, and scheduling observations early in the semester. It is very difficult if you wait until later, and you could be stuck if you have a cancellation at the last minute (due to illness or travel, for example).
Q. Do I have to do the observations in order of age?
A. No. You can a child from any of the four ages. The only caveat is that you can’t submit an observation/interpretation of a child whose age/stage has not yet been covered in class.
Q. Can I observe anywhere, as long as I have access to the child for a full hour?
A. Probably not. Remember, you need the child to be “active”. So you can’t really observe children in settings where they can’t act, interact, and speak freely. Some students have tried to observe children in restaurants, during church services, at the barber shop or laundromat. All have struggled because each of those settings usually require the child to be much more still and/or quiet than usual.
Q. I know that I can’t observe my own child, but what about a friend’s or relative’s child, or the children that I work with?
A. Any of those options could work. The challenge will sometimes be that a child who knows you will want to interact with you while you are observing. This can be distracting and difficult, since your job is to observe without interacting.
Q. Suppose the child does come over and talk to me or ask me for help while I am observing–what do I do?
A. That can sometimes happen with curious children, whether they know you or not. If so, signal for the adult on hand to intervene and interact with the child as little as possible. For example, if they ask a question, answer briefly then go back to observing–don’t extend the interaction. You can note what happened in your writing by stating, “Marie approached the observer and asked…” (don’t use the first person “me” or “I” in your work).
Q. In the guidelines it says we have to capture the child’s “exact language”. How do we do this with a pre-verbal child?
A. This can be tricky! You have to capture the child’s “language” by using phonetic spelling. For example, if you are observing a baby you might hear sounds that you would classify as “cooing”. The problem is that you can’t write that in the observation without being judgmental. So, you write “The child looked toward his father and said, “Aaaahh, oooh.” Just do your best to capture the sounds you hear as exactly as you can.
Q. The guidelines state that the child must remain “anonymous”. What does this mean?
A. We are bound by ethical considerations to keep all personal information “private” for our subjects. That means that ALL participants in an observation (including other children and adults present) must be kept anonymous. You cannot include any real names, so give your subject’s pseudonyms, and you cannot include the names of businesses, so make up a name for any place you go to observe unless it is a public place (like a park or a museum).
Q. How do I know if I am being judgmental (subjective) in my observation?
A. Well, aside from the cautions mentioned in the Observation Handbook (which you should review if you have not done so already), here are a few more hints that you are being subjective:
You assume what the child is “trying” to do instead of writing what actually happened. Don’t ever use any version of “try”, it implies intent.
You assume that the child is “playing”. Avoid that word and focus on the details of the actions instead. You avoid judgments and you also have more info to potentially interpret.
You assume that the child is looking “at” something, or “focusing on” something. You can say the child looked “towards” an object or person, not “at”.
You use adjectives and adverbs in your descriptions. You can’t say, for example, that the child laughed “loudly” or ate “messily” or ran “quickly”. The only exceptions here are words like “repeatedly” which simply means a behavior was done more than once (which is an objective fact and not an opinion).
You use any jargon from the text. For example, you are judging if you say the child was using the “pincer grasp” as opposed to saying, “The child picked up each goldfish cracker using his thumb and pointer finger.” You use the technical terms in the interpretation, not in the observation.
You include your assumptions anywhere in the observation.
You include subjective language, like “I” statements anywhere in the observation.
Q. What does the “summary” mark on my paper mean?
A. This means that you have summarized actions instead of including them in detail and in the order that they occurred. You must avoid summarizing, and include full details. For example, saying something like “all through the meal, the mother asked the baby questions and the baby would reply by staring or saying, ‘Dah ma ma, dah dah.’” Instead, you should include ALL the details of the meal time, and include the mother’s questions and the baby’s responses in detail and in order.
Interpretation Questions
Q. How many behaviors do I have to interpret?
A. Its best to think in terms of theories/milestones instead of behaviors. You only need to address ONE theory/milestone from ONE domain for each of the first three observation/interpretation papers. You might have a set of related behaviors that you intend to tie to that ONE theory/milestone.
Q. Since this is the “interpretation” can I put my opinion in this part of the paper?
A. No, you are still focused on being objective here. The only place where your opinion comes in is when you are deciding what domain, theory, and/or milestone will be your focus (which is in the planning stage and not the writing stage). For example, two people might both observe a child picking up cereal with their thumb and forefinger, placing each piece in her mouth, and looking over the edge of her high chair for a piece of cereal that falls to the floor. One person might have the opinion that Piaget, sensorimotor development, and object permanence are the best theory/milestones to focus on. The other might be more drawn to discussing milestones related to the biosocial development of fine motor skills. Both are meaningful and supported by the text, but each individual will make a personal choice as to which they want to discuss.
Writing/Formatting Questions
Q. How long does the observation/interpretation paper have to be?
A. There is no page length requirement. You have to make sure you observe each child for at least an hour, and capture what you observe during that time. Then you choose behaviors to interpret. Its more about the quality of the content than the number of pages.
Q. Do we use APA or MLA formatting?
A. We use APA formatting in our courses. The Purdue Online Writing Lab, OWL, has a clear and concise reference for APA formatting, citations, and reference pages.
Q. What other formatting guidelines should I follow?
A. In general, all your papers must have a heading, be double-spaced, and typed in 12-point font (Times New Roman and Arial are widely used and preferred font types). For this paper, make sure that you have two separate sections, one for the observation and the other for the interpretation. Label the sections appropriately.
Q. Why are there so many comments on my writing?
A. Writing is a major focus across disciplines, and is considered a necessary supportive skill in all Child Development courses. The number and type of errors in your writing can greatly affect the clarity and quality of your work. If comments have been made about your writing, or your rubric scores in the area demonstrate the need for support, please work with a tutor to show improvement in this area.

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