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Observation and interpretation

Some interpretations we make are like observations. These are commonsense interpretations, where we usually present the interpretation as if it were an observation, and there is no need to support the interpretation with evidence or explanation.

Click on the highlighted text to see the comments.

Look at the following statements. Which is an observation, which a commonense interpretation, and which a theory-based interpretation?

Select your response from the options beside each statement.

1 The children answered the questions correctly. Observation

Commonsense interpretation

Theory-based interpretation
2 The children were especially motivated in their maths class. Observation

Commonsense interpretation

Theory-based interpretation
3 The children were motivated by an internal rather than external locus of control. Observation

Commonsense interpretation

Theory-based interpretation

Check your answers


In everyday life we are always interpreting events, and we usually draw on common sense to do this.

Which of the following interpretations do you think draw on commonsense beliefs, and which draw on more sophisticated theoretical models?

Select your response from the options beside each statement.

Observations Interpretations Your answer
1 "Students were excitedly jumping up and down, shaking their arms vigorously, and calling out 'Sir', 'Sir'." "In the task I observed, students were highly motivated." Commonsense based

Theoretically based
2 "Student X worked hard and in an interview said that she understood how to do the tasks set and enjoyed working them out." "Student X had an 'internal locus of control'." Commonsense based

Theoretically based
3 "Student Y worked well when others helped her, but easily gave up when working alone." "Student Y had an external locus of control." Commonsense based

Theoretically based
4 "Students constantly talked to each other and joked, and when I looked at their exercise books they had done very little work." "Student A showed clear evidence of 'deep processing'." Commonsense based

Theoretically based
5 "The students enjoyed the maths games very much. They participated enthusiastically, and all the students made great effort to come up with the answers first." "Involving children in something enjoyable increases their learning." Commonsense based

Theoretically based
6 "The children were motivated by an internal rather than external locus of control." "The children answered the questions correctly." Commonsense based

Theoretically based

Check your answers

Feedback

  1. This is an observation. We can actually see whether the answers are correct or not.
  2. Can you see motivation? Not really. However, in instances like this we don't usually need to state what we did actually observe (such as children jostling to answer the questions, calling the teacher, excited voices, and so on) unless the concept of motivation itself were the subject of our analysis. We simply make commonsense interpretations and state that the children were motivated, as if it could be directly observed.
  3. This is a theory-based interpretation. You would need more than the statement above. You would normally need to explain what is meant by "internal locus of control" and to describe the evidence that led you to infer the motivation was based on an internal locus of control. Unlike in 2, you cannot simply state your interpretation as if it were self-evident.

Feedback

  1. Commonsense based
  2. Theoretically based

    The meaning of "internal locus of control" needs clarifying and the reasons for this interpretation need to be clear.
  3. Theoretically based

    The meaning of "external locus of control" and the evidence for this interpretation needs to be clear.
  4. Theoretically based

    What is "deep processing"? The meaning of the term needs to be clear, and the evidence for deep processing needs to be carefully described.
  5. Commonsense based
  6. Theoretically based

    Be careful! While the interpretation might appear to be common sense, it cannot be legitimately derived from the observation because there is nothing to suggest an increase in learning occurred. An inference is made here that is not based on the evidence!
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