You are here: Home / Types of research evidence / How is learning to be observed and recorded?

How is learning to be observed and recorded?

Prepared by John Church, PhD, School of Educational Studies and Human Development

University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

In order to study the conditions necessary for learning, or the effects of teaching on learning, the very first problem to be solved is the problem of how to observe learning and how to measure the rate at which learning is occurring. Solving this problem requires the student of learning to make important decisions about what is to be observed, how it is to be observed, and the level of accuracy which will be aimed for.

The sections which follow address a number of interrelated questions.

In Section 1 we observe that different people have different views regarding the nature of learning and what can be accomplished by observation and that this affects what they select for observation.

In Section 2 we address the question of whether the constructs of behaviour analysts, cognitive scientists and ethnographers can actually be observed in practice.

Section 3 identifies five important issues which have complicated attempts to develop accurate measures of rate of learning and suggest how each of these issues might most appropriately be resolved.

Section 4 compares and contrasts the types of observation and recording procedures used by behaviour analysts, cognitive researchers and ethnographers.

Section 5 identifies and defines three important characteristics of sound measures of learning: accuracy, reliability and validity and describes ways in which each may be assessed.

In Section 6 we evaluate the believability of the data commonly collected by behaviour analysts, cognitive scientists and ethnographers.