Observational methods are commonly used to understand child development.

Naturalistic Observation Assignment


Observational methods are commonly used to understand child development. To give you experience with this method, you will conduct 1 observation of a child between 0 and 13 years of age and write a 3-5 paper (it is ok if you go over 5 pages, but the paper must be at least 3 pages. Also note the observation notes do not count towards the 3-5 page requirement.). IMPORTANT NOTE: Because of COVID-19 it is perfectly fine to use a video clip from YouTube, other websites, or movie clips if you cannot safely observe a child in person. Find a setting in which you can unobtrusively observe this child. Your observation should last approximately 15 minutes. Possible settings for this observation include playgrounds, grocery stores, at home, or in a park. Please make sure social distancing guidelines are followed!

Observe the child for 15 minutes and take into account (by writing detailed field notes) their motor skills and activities, social interactions, language use and development, disciplinary episodes, play behaviors, affect/emotions, etc. Be sure to provide a description of the setting in which this observation took place as well as a description of who the child was with during the observation (e.g., caretaker, siblings, peers, etc.).

The first page of your paper should consist of your naturalistic observation notes, where you describe what you observed during the 15-minute observation.

Next, discuss the setting in which you observed, noting the approximate age of the child, the child’s gender, and the types of behaviors that you observed.

Following this, choose three (3) behaviors that you find most interesting and use concepts and theories from the class to explain what you observed (e.g., Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development, attachment theory, concepts in language development such as telegraphic speech, and more). For each behavior, describe the behavior you will be discussing, then describe the concept you will be used to explain the behavior. Be sure to state the importance of this concept or stage of human development. For instance, you may notice that a child is saying “Ba ba ba” and describing how they are in the babbling phase of language development. You may describe how babbling sets the stage for future language milestones such as telegraphic speech. Other examples of concepts you may discuss include parenting style, socioeconomic status, Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory (e.g., How does the child’s microsystem affect them? How about interactions between the microsystem, mesosystem, etc.?) and more.
Finally, include a section on how you think the child’s culture influences one of the three behaviors you discussed. Culture is defined as the belief systems and value orientations that influence customs, norms, practices, and social institutions, including psychological processes (language, caretaking practices, media, educational systems) and organizations (media, educational systems; (Fiske, Kitayama, Markus, & Nisbett, 1998). Please include at least one journal article for this section of the paper. For instance, going back to the language example, if you are observing a bilingual Latinx child who is learning both English and Spanish, you may select an article on the language development of bilingual children. Does research show that certain language milestones occur earlier or later depending on whether a child is monolingual or bilingual?

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Observational methods are commonly used to understand child development.


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