Methods of Child Study: Selecting a Tool and Observation: Advantages and Disadvantages (For CBSE, ICSE, IAS, NET, NRA 2022)

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Selecting a Tool

Once the basic design is decided, the next step is to identify the method for data collection. This method would be decided keeping in mind the age, educational background and the nature of the research problem. For example, infant studies would rely more on observation, and large-scale investigations of educational practices can be conducted through a questionnaire. Attitudes and choices of illiterate populations can be gathered through interviews.

  • Reliability: Implies that on repeated use, tools should give consistent or stable results. For example, the results obtained from the tool should remain the same regardless of the time of administration of the tool and the researcher.
  • Validity: This refers to the fact that the tool should assess or measure what it is supposed to measure, and not something else. For example, a test of intelligence should be meaningful for intelligence and not some other quality.
  • Standardization: It is a process of establishing the reliability and validity of the tool by administering it on a large population. This means that the test has to be administered and scored in a consistent manner for the entire population.


Observation is a method for understanding changes during early childhood and gaining insightful learning regarding behavior patterns of children. It is a useful technique of studying young children, and also as a supplement to other techniques. It is the systematic observation of activities of the person who is under observation. To observe means to examine an object, or an individual, or group of people, or an event with all of the senses.

  • Time-Sampling: requires taking short and uniform time periods to observe to note down children՚s behavior. For example, taking observation notes of the behavior under study after a gap of every 15 minutes.
  • Event Sampling: Can be used for noting only specific behaviours like language or aggression.
  • Checklist: a list of parameters on which the teacher (or parent or other adult) checks the behaviours or traits observed during the period of observation. An observer may observe an activity or an event and then complete a checklist on whether or not key behaviours occurred.
Observation Method
  • Specimen Description: when using specimen description, the observer records children՚s behavior and all events that are before and subsequent to the behavior. The observer may write notes on everything that happens in his or her presence. Audio-visual devices may also be used for recording the observations.

There are two types of observations which are:

Participant and Non-Participant Observations

Participant observation takes place when an observer participates with children and in the events being observed. Non-participant observation occurs when an observer observes events without interacting with the children being observed.

Structured and Unstructured Observations

  • Structured observation is a technique in which an observer observes events using a guide that has been planned in advance. The observer is not involved in the activities being observed but records them as unnoticeably as possible.
  • Unstructured observation is a technique in which an observer observes and record behavior in a holistic way without the use of pre-determined categories or guide. Everything that happens on the setting is recorded.

Advantages of the Observation Method

  • It provides direct information about behavior of individuals and groups.
  • It helps to gather data when the situation is real and not artificially set up.
  • It is possible to obtain information where laboratory experiments cannot be conducted.
  • It helps to develop a holistic perspective.

Disadvantages of the Observation Method

  • It is expensive and time-consuming
  • Selective perception of observer may distort data.
  • Investigator has little control over situation.
  • Behavior or set of behaviors observed may be a typical/not normal.
  • Results can change if the subject becomes aware, they are being observed.
  • The observer may not be able to note all the behaviors that occur.

Factors to be Kept in Mind While Observing

  • Note down the duration, date and place of observation and information about the subject.
  • Note as many details as possible by keeping notes about the children՚s behavior as well as context
  • Record behaviors as they occur
  • Do not write interpretations
  • Respect the children who are being observed
  • Do not disturb the activities of children who are being observed

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