Analysing Observation in Social Work

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Contents Page

1. Family Details 3
2. Observation Analysis4
3. Life Span Development 7
4. Sociology10
5. Social Policy13
6. References16
7. Appendices21
i) Recording Observation21
ii) Community Profile28
iii) Consent form45

Family Details

This observation is based on a family consisting of a young professional married couple and their three year old daughter. I observed them for one hour over three weeks, in the evening to fit into their schedules. They have lived in the borough of Croydon in their three bedroom house for six years. For the purpose of this assignment all the names have been changed and the family have given their consent to the observations.

(Sonia Morris) Mum – teacher for a local primary school, original from Leeds

(Paige Morris) Toddler – 3 years old girl, she goes to the local nursery attached to the school Sonia works in.

(Lewis Morris) Father – ICT consultant


Observation Analysis

Using observational methods are helpful in describing individual’s behaviour as they interact in real time; and allow the reader to create a verbal picture of the behaviours as they unfold. This is important when social workers are working with children and families in their home (Pellegrini, 1996:1), and there is a growing recognition in social work literature around observation in practice (Riche & Tanner, 1998:17). On my first observation I was not nervous but did feel intrusive about entering the Morris’s home, I had meet them a few days before and they were very welcoming which eased some of the anxieties I had. I know that as a qualified social worker on some occasions (e.g. child protection) I will be meeting the family for the first time when conducting a home visit and they might not be welcoming. Taking the role of observer is what I was most apprehensive about, I was unsure of what to expect on the observation. Tanner (1999:24) and McMahon & Farnfield (1994:83-84) state that the feeling of being in the role of observer may feel stranger, having ownership of your role is vital and the pressure to modify or act outside the role are various and powerful. Reflecting back on my observation I was unsure of my role and did not know what to expect, but after the first observation I felt more comfortable. For example in the first observation (Appendix 1) I felt awkward sometimes recording what I was observing especially when Paige did something naughty and was being told off. I feel that the parents were aware that I was recording everything, I wonder now that if I had not recorded while observing them but waited until I had got home would they have acted differently.

Publications on observation examine how ethical issues like observation bias, preconceived ideas, cultural bias etc. can affect observations. Pellegrini (1996:34) defines observation bias as ‘the expectations and knowledge observers have about participants that may influence the objectivity of their observations per se or the ways in which they treat participants and data derived from observations.’ Reflecting back on my experience I did not have any knowledge of the family so I did not feel I had observation bias, although I was impressed by what I observed of the family and how they interact with each other by the end of all three observations. This could mean that if I was conducted a similar observation again, I would have observation bias based on my experiences of the Morris family. Hobart & Frankel (1999:5) argued preconceived ideas can influence what you record; I feel that I had preconceived ideas of the family. They were that they may not act natural around me and put on a ‘show’ when I was doing the observation, and this did stay in my mind in the first two observations, Ferguson (2009) highlight this in his study. However, whether they did I will never know but I do feel by...
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