For this methods assignment, I decided to be a participant observer in a classroom setting. I chose my clinical nutrition class. Here are some things I observed:
There is a teacher at the front of the classroom lecturing.
There are notes projected onto a large, white screen behind her. She can control these notes with a remote control she holds in her hands.
There are students sitting in rows of desks, about 42 total. There are 3 boys and the rest are girls.
All the students have some way to take notes. Most have the notes from the large, white screen printed out onto paper and they are following along and writing down additional notes. Some just have plain paper. About 4 students have laptops out and are taking notes on them.
All the students are paying attention, but it looks like those sitting in the front are paying the most attention.
Sometimes students sitting near each other will whisper comments.
The professor is talking about glycogen.
Occasionally a student raise their hand and ask a question. The professor will stop talking and listen to them. Then she will answer the question. The student will either acknowledge that they understand or they will ask another question. Sometimes the answer will confuse someone else and they will ask a question too. The professor will continue to explain the topic until the students understand.
Sometimes what the professor says will cause someone to make a related comment. The comment could be about a belief they had that is now being contradicted by what the professor says. This will lead the professor to explain what she said in an attempt to resolve the confusion. She may even give her opinion on why what she says is true and what the student learned from the other source is not.
Here are some questions someone who has never been in this situation may have:
What is glycogen? Why is it important? Did the students need to know what glycogen is before they took this class?
Why are there so few boys?
How did the students get the printed professor’s notes?
Are the students who whisper to each other friends? Is that why they’re sitting next to each other?
Why are the students giving the professor all their attention? And how did she become appointed to be their professor?
I liked this assignment. It definitely opened my eyes and caused me to ask questions I never had before.