Human Observation Project

Human Observation Project Procedures

Observe three individuals from three points in the life span. Only use subjects you do not know and to whom you are not related. Select one subject from each of the following periods.

  • Early Childhood (3-5 years of age)
  • Middle childhood through adolescence (7-19 years of age)
  • Adulthood (20 and older)

Record at least one example for each of the terms on the Observation Form.

Assign a code name to subjects observed to protect their privacy. Code names usually reflect a characteristic of the subject such as “Miss Eats A Lot” and “Little Blue Shirt.”

Locations: Complete observations in a public place such as McDonald’s, a classroom, a clinic waiting room, athletic practice, church youth group, retirement center, or a work place.

*Deployed students should inform their instructor of their situation. In such cases children may be observed through movies or parent interviews.

Obtain the signature of an adult in the observation environment as a supervisor. This is for your protection. An adult is then a witness that you are intently observing a subject for academic purposes. If it is difficult to transmit a signature obtain contact information to record on the form.

Record specific, objective descriptions of behavior for each term listed.

This is a clinical style report. List the term and provide the example of the behavior.

Do not state an opinion or make a judgment concerning the behavior. Simply describe the behavior observed.

Allow yourself sufficient time to gather data. Young children move more rapidly and produce a great deal of observable data very quickly. Older adults may require a longer observation period in order to collect a sample for each term listed.

Submit only objective observations.

An example would be: Receptive Language – The teacher asked Red Shirt to place his coat in his cubby. Red Shirt said, “Yes, mam.” He placed his coat in the correct cubby.

Be descriptive and provide specifics such as “Hero could hear his coach call him to come on the field from a distance of approximately 50 feet with traffic noise in the background.”

Statements such as “He has a great vocabulary for his age,” “She had an attitude toward her mother,” and “Bright Eyes was the tallest in her class” are not objective.

Human Observation Project Guidance and Examples

  • Physical Characteristics

    Describe characteristics such as:

    • Height: Use actual height if available, frequently need to estimate. Also, state a comparison with age group.
    • Weight: May use actual weight if available, frequently need to estimate. Also, state a comparison with age group.
    • Proportions: State relationship of head to size of body. If you are describing an adolescent, you may also note that there is a surge in the growth of the feet and hands just prior to onset of puberty. Use terms related to body proportion such as bone structure (ectomorph, mesomorph, endomorph), long arms, tall and thin, obese, and muscular.
    • Hearing: State what the subject can hear and from what distance. Example: Little Boy Blue responded to the female teacher’s verbal directions from across the busy classroom, approximately 20 feet. Ambient noise level was moderate.
    • Vision: Provide an example of size and distance at which objects or print could be understood. Example: “Wiggles” was able to read directions written on the chalkboard from his desk at the back of the room, a distance of approximately 25 feet.
    • Tactile Sensitivity: Describe reaction to touching or being touched. Example: “Smiles'” body stiffened when the teacher touched her shoulder, the subject stayed within touching distance of the teacher throughout the class, or although encouraged by the teacher “fussy” would not touch the soft clay or paint with finger paints; he would build with the blocks.

  • Motor Development

    Describe characteristics such as:

    • Fine Motor Skills: This category refers to the capability of the small muscles. Can the subject use a crayon, pencil, or paint brush? In the case of an adult, fine motor activity may relate to using a screw driver, computer, or telephone.
    • Gross Motor Skills: Gross refers to large muscles. Good examples would be riding a tricycle, throwing a ball, walking, running, swimming, and jumping.
    • Strength: Give examples such as moving a chair, pulling a wagon, carrying equipment, pushing a stroller, pushing a lawn mower, lifting in the workplace or gym, and carrying books.
    • Eye Hand Coordination: The subject must “look” at the target for manipulation and manipulate the target with the hand or hands in a smooth, well-coordinated movement. Strong eye hand coordination can be demonstrated by eating with a fork or spoon, bringing a drink to the mouth, throwing a ball at a specific target, or working a puzzle.

  • Cognitive Development

    Describe characteristics such as:

    • Memory:
      • Short Term: Lasts 30 seconds or less if there is not rehearsal. Example: The subject carried out a three part direction. “Pick the blocks, put them on the third shelf, and sit down.”
      • Long Term: May be permanent memory. Does the subject recall events from the past? Example: “Mrs. Gray Hair” described the dress she wore to the prom in 1950. If an infant recognizes “Mom” or returns to a favorite toy he is exhibiting long term memory. A four-year-old recalls where he left his coat earlier in the day is displaying long term memory.
    • Problem Solving: Example – When the paint spilled the subject grabbed the paper towels and quickly wiped up the spill. The subject adjusted the amount of weight on the exercise machine. The subject asked the teacher to repeat the directions.
    • Strength: Give examples such as moving a chair, pulling a wagon, carrying equipment, pushing a stroller, pushing a lawn mower, lifting in the workplace or gym, carrying books.
    • Abstraction (adolescents and adults only): Reflects the use of a representational system. The subject may be observed to solve problems with words rather than having to use trial and error or manipulation of objects. Use of imagination may be displayed. For example: “Brown Eyes” was able to correct the math problem when reminded of the rule. She did not require an example to make the change. When you decide which restaurant you would like to eat at this evening you are employing abstraction.
    • Imagination (young children): The subject pretended to be a rabbit and hopped with hands held in front of his chest as if they were paws.
    • Cognitive Strengths: This could be related to an academic area, language/vocabulary, problem solving, memory, or the speed of learning. Look at the samples of behavior you have gathered under cognitive and language development. Select the strongest area. Example: The subject listened to the coach and carried out the play without error.
    • Cognitive Weaknesses: Go back you the samples of cognitive and language behavior you have gather. Which was the weakest by comparison? You are not looking for a disability, simply a comparison. Example: Subject picked up the blocks but did not recall the correct shelf on which they were stored.

  • Language Development

    Describe characteristics such as:

    • Receptive (understanding, comprehension): Can the subject follow a complex direction? Did he respond to specific terms? Example: The teacher asked “Goldy Locks” to pick up all of the green blocks. The subject picked up some blocks, but was not able to respond to colors. Write down the exact directions that were given to the subject and describe the response.
    • Expressive (verbal, gesture): Record several sentences produced by the subject as examples. Example: Want drink! Make Joey get off of the tricycle, it’s my turn. I would really rather have an extra day off than work overtime.
    • Vocabulary: Record words according to category. Example: Did the subject know the difference between a guitar and violin (nouns), “stand behind or in front of Suzy” (prepositions), brown and beige(adjectives), softly (adverbs). Are the terms understood and used expressively? It is not necessary to write the terms noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. Simply consider this categories and list examples if the subjects use them.
    • Grammar/Syntax: First record the typical number of words used in a verbal expression. After listening to the subject you should have an estimate. Next, provide a specific sentence. For example: I ain’t got no more. He steppeded on my foot. The arch enemy descended upon the frightened princess with unrelenting fury. Get cookie. Note: the structure of syntax of these sentences tells us something about the subject’s use of language. Language in turn reflects the thought process.
    • Articulation (How words are pronounced): Example: My bwofer an my thithter aw wittulu dan me. I have a wittle wed wagon. Che sat down in the shair.
    • Voice (quality) and Inflectional (Rising and falling of the voice for statements, questions. This is not loudness.): A raspy voice may be reflective of physical problems with the vocal folds. A child with a monotone voice may suggest an emotional difficulty. Examples: Each statement ended with an elevation of pitch. As a result the subject sounded as if he was always asking a question. The teacher’s pitch was higher when she spoke to the girl students. The subject spoke in a low pitched, monotone voice which caused the class to become restless after about 20 minutes.
    • Rhythm (Hesitate to speak, stutter, pause): Examples: The subject paused before using a person’s name. The subject spoke so rapidly that he was asked to repeat the directions.
    • Pragmatics (choice of words, body language, physical distance, loudness of the voice.): Example: The subject’s voice was much too loud for the small classroom. The teacher frequently asked the subject to use his “inside voice,” but the intensity was not changed. The subject told his deskmate that she was “fat and ugly.”

  • Response to Interaction

    Describe characteristics such as:

    • Self: Example – In spite of the spill which was rapidly reaching the aisle and the feet of several unsuspecting McDonald’s patrons the “Young Mother” spoke calmly to her child and appeared to be in control of the situation. The “tyrant” played by himself without complaint on the playground and in the classroom. The “Nerd” launched into the new program without asking for assistance.
    • Adults: Example – “Little Red” lowered his eyes to the floor when spoken to by an adult. The “Teacher” imitated her teacher’s voice and stance.
    • Peers: Example – The “Terror” shouted directions to his peers on the playground and insisted on leadership in all activities.
    • Males: “Little Red” avoided males in the classroom and on the playground. “Backwards” spoke readily to males in the office and often asked if they wanted to go to lunch or on break. “Athlete” hit the males standing in the hall on the shoulder with his fist.
    • Females: “Good Grammar” called on more girls than boys when asking questions of her fifth grade class. “Athlete” looked at girls, smiled at girls, but never spoke to girls.