Research Methods in Context Sociology as

Topics: Research, Scientific method, Ethics Pages: 3 (957 words) Published: November 2, 2011
Model Answer- Participant Observation

One strength of using participant observation to investigate the idea that ethnic minorities are treated differently within the education system is that it allows the researcher to join in. They will be placed in the same situation that teachers find themselves in routinely, which will allow them to see things through the teachers eyes. This means that the researcher will be able to see things from the same perspective as teachers. This would allow the researcher to create a close bond with the teacher/s and this would mean that they would be more likely to confide. This is particularly important as this is a sensitive subject area. Teachers may only show their true feelings, opinions and behaviours if they feel they can trust the researcher. However this can also be a weakness. As the researcher becomes drawn into seeing things from a teachers perspective they may become blind to insights that would otherwise become available. This would result in the research being biased.

Another strength of using participant observation is that it allows the researcher to obtain more ‘truthful data’. When using questionnaires or interviews it easy for participants to lie. However, if the researcher is part of the situation i.e. another teacher or a classroom assistant it would make lying much more difficult. This means the study is much more valid. However, the mere presence of the observer may affect the behaviour of both the teachers and pupils. Teachers may associate any outside observers with Ofsted inspections. This may result in teachers putting on a show and not acting as they usually would. They may usually treat pupils from ethnic backgrounds differently on a normal everyday basis but the presence of the observer may put an end to this. This is called the Hawthorne effect. Ofcourse, this would depend on whether the researcher was covert or overt.

There are practical issues to consider when conducting participant...
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