Actually trying to “observe” children- the third free extract


A Wednesday morning definitely calls for the third FREE extract of our new book ‘Observing Children and Families’. In this marvellous text, Gill Butler explorers and evaluates the different approaches and methods of observation, of which there are numerous.

Enjoy our extract on ‘Time sampling’, here Gill is effectively portraying how a time sampling is used amongst social work practitioners.

Time sampling

Time sampling can be used to determine the frequency of a child’s behaviour within a given timeframe or to observe the child within a given timeframe; it requires a prepared proforma with agreement on the focus and purpose of the observation.

The following example of time sampling was introduced to help staff gain a more accurate picture of this child, Dara James aged 3 years

observing time sample

observing time sample2

The time sampling charts allow data to be collected and evaluated which may help with planning for the child. In the example above (fig 1) the child has spent only a brief amount of time playing in the sand and seems reluctant to return to the sand when a group of three boys are playing there. Dara may have a schema of play which does not include other children or she may prefer solitary play. Further observations may elicit more detail and suggest other patterns of behaviour.

The advantages of this method are that it is accessible to the child, parents and any member of staff, easy to use once the proforma is developed and it can be used to observe several children at the same time. The observations can be repeated at different intervals to build up a picture of Dara’s behaviour over time

The disadvantages are that it may limit the observer’s view of the child’s behaviour to the agreed focus and that it offers no explanation from the child or others about why the behaviours change.

The use of diagrams, tables and charts are used throughout to make it as easy as possible to translate a clear and concise overview of each method, making it accessible, approachable and interesting!

Please see our website for more details on the book and keep checking the blog for the last two days of extracts!

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