Different Types of Observations in Tests

Observations Provide Academic and Behavior Data

There are different types of observations used as part of the special education diagnostic assessment process..

Observation Is an Important Part of Assessment - Observations Provide Facts:

Observation is the planned viewing and analysis of students' behaviors and skills, their work environment, and their interactions with other students, and their teachers. Observations are an opportunity to see how students solve problems and to learn what factors may affect their ability to learn, complete work, and interact in a positive way with others.

Observations Provide General Information, Specific Skill Observations:

Observations are an important part of the special education diagnostic assessment process. They can be used for general information gathering or designed to identify specific behaviors. They can assess the student's ability to perform specific tasks and pinpoint exactly where students make mistakes in their work. They can be unstructured narratives, semi-structured forms, or highly structured, as in standardized behavior checklists.

Types of Observation - The Narrative Observation:

Narrative Observations are written notes describing what the observer sees in the classroom. It is a qualitative, as opposed to a quantitative observation, where there is no behavior count or resulting number as an indicator. For example, "When Billy throws a temper tantrum, he bangs his head against the table, screams, and gets out of his seat running around the classroom."  

Types of Observation - Semi-structured Observations:

Semi-structured Observations may be created by the observer to identify specific behaviors or factors that may affect the student's academic performance. Semi-structured forms usually rate the frequency of a behavior. For example, a form may be designed to determine how many times in a class period a student gets out of his seat to wander the room and how long it takes an adult to redirect him.

They may also help observers identify triggers for behaviors. However, this bit of information does not indicate to the person reading the observation as to the specific time interval between getting up out of the seat - whether it was 1 minute or 10 minutes. 

Types of Observation - Highly structured Observations:

Highly structured observations are usually checklists that ask the observer to note whether a behavior or factor is present and to what degree. Such checklists are usually designed to assist in the diagnosis of a disorder such as Attention Deficit Disorder or in Learning Disabilities such as Dyslexia. They frequently include statistical comparisons that allow the examiner to determine how the student's behaviors compare to other students of his age and gender. 

Edited by Douglas Haddad, Ph.D.

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