Observing child behavior: Theories and techniques (2020/2021)

Course code
4S00815
Name of lecturer
Manuela Lavelli
Coordinator
Manuela Lavelli
Number of ECTS credits allocated
9
Academic sector
M-PSI/04 - DEVELOPMENTAL AND EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY
Language of instruction
Italian
Location
VERONA
Period
Sem. 1A, Sem. 1B

Lesson timetable

Go to lesson schedule

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding
1. Having a basic knowledge and understanding of the theoretical foundations of the different behavioral observation techniques.
2. Have a basic knowledge and understanding of characteristics, use conditions, advantages and limits of the different qualitative and quantitative techniques based on the observation of child behavior in her/his contexts.
3. Having a basic knowledge and understanding of the opportunities to use specific tools for observing and evaluating the child's abilities in different developmental domains.

Applying knowledge and understanding
1. Being able to use the different observational techniques learned during the course, and apply the most appropriate in educational practice.
2. Being able to design a simple data collection based on the observation of child behavior in an educational context.
3. Being able to assess the reliability and validity of data collected through observation, and to carry out a descriptive analysis of collected data.

Syllabus

The course is organized in two parts. The first part includes an introduction to observation and functions and contexts to use observation of infant/child behavior, and a review of the main theoretical approaches that use behavioral observation. Specific contents: - observation: distinctive features - observation as a research method and as a technique to collect data - observation as a tool for training and work in educational practice - psychological processes related to observation - main epistemological issues related to observation - theoretical approaches that use observation of infant/child behavior as a main research method and professional training method: > detached observation: ethological, ecological, and interactionist approaches > critical observation: Piagetian approach > participant observation: psychoanalytic and ethnographic approaches. The second, larger part includes the presentation of the observational method and the presentation and exemplifying application of the main observational techniques. Specific contents: - using observational methods in educational settings and research - qualitative observational techniques: > narrative account - quantitative observational techniques: > check-list > coding system > rating scale > Q-sort - “indirect observation” techniques: > questionnaires and rating scales for parents and teachers - sources of distortion in collecting observational data: control possibilities - reliability and validity of observational data - descriptive statistics for analysing collected observational data. Didactic methods Lessons will be structured in theoretical presentations, discussions, exercises, and video observation and analysis aimed to apply the different observational techniques. Some lessons will include lab activities. Exam texts The preparation for the exam includes the study of : (1) an handbook of observational methods, (2) a book on techniques and tools to be used in educational contexts, (3) a short book on descriptive data analysis, and (4) a research article based on observational method: 1) Aureli, T., Perucchini, P. (2014). Osservare e valutare il comportamento del bambino. Bologna: Il Mulino. 2) Elia, L., Cassibba, R. (2009). Valutare le competenze sociali. Strumenti e tecniche per l’età prescolare. Roma: Carocci. As an alternative to this text – which is recommended for students interested in educational settings for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers ̶ another book can be agreed with the teacher, according to the field of interest. 3) Rossi, G. (2010). Statistica descrittiva per psicologi. Roma: Carocci (Le Bussole). 4) A recent research article based on an observational method, selected according to personal interest among articles published in the last 10-15 years either in ‘Developmental Psychology’ or ‘Child Development’ (both available online or in Frinzi library). Attending students will be provided with a copy of the slides used during the lessons. Not attending students are recommended to practice by using the following book of exercises: Cassibba, R., Salerni, N. (2004). Osservare i bambini: Tecniche ed esercizi. Roma: Carocci (Le Bussole). FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT TAKEN THE EXAM OF DEVELOPMENT PSYCHOLOGY (preparatory to this class) the program will consist of (1) an handbook of Developmental Psychology, (2) an handbook of observational methods, and (3) a research article that includes observation: (1) Belsky, J. (2020). Psicologia dello Sviluppo. Second italian edition. Bologna: Zanichelli. (2) Aureli, T., Perucchini, P. (2014). Osservare e valutare il comportamento del bambino. Bologna: Il Mulino. (3) A research article that includes observation (to be chosen according to the indications above).

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
1) Aureli, T., Perucchini, P. Osservare e valutare il comportamento del bambino Bologna: Il Mulino 2014
3) Rossi, G. Statistica descrittiva per psicologi Roma: Carocci 2010
2) Elia, L., Cassibba, R. Valutare le competenze sociali. Strumenti e tecniche per l’età prescolare Roma: Carocci 2009

Assessment methods and criteria

Oral exam, possibly integrated with a written exercise.

Evaluation criteria
The students will have to demonstrate that they:
- have knowledge and understanding of both the principles that guide the observational method and the different observational techniques (how they work, when to use them, advantages, limits) and the theoretical perspectives that use behavioral observation;
- are able to relate and process the acquired knowledge;
- are able to apply the acquired knowledge to specific contexts of educational practice and research;
- are able to communicate in a clear and effective way, by using adequate terminology.