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Two kinds of observation

Interpretations involve you in making sense of the phenomena you have observed. The interpretations you make could be of two kinds:

  • Clarifying the meaning of something (e.g. a piece of text, a word, and so on)
  • Suggesting possible reasons for something (e.g. the behaviour of a child in school)

Click on the highlighted text to see the comments.

Look at the following items and decide which kind of interpretation would be involved in each case. Indicate if further information is required before you can decide.

Select your response from the options beside each statement.

1 Making sense of a poem Understanding meaning

Suggesting reasons

Further info required
2 Making sense of a schoolchild's refusal to work in class Understanding meaning

Suggesting reasons

Further info required
3 Clarifying theoretical terms Understanding meaning

Suggesting reasons

Further info required
4 Understanding changes in students' level of motivation Understanding meaning

Suggesting reasons

Further info required
5 Working out why some students but not others can manage certain tasks Understanding meaning

Suggesting reasons

Further info required
6 Understanding why students did not carry out a task their teacher asked them to do Understanding meaning

Suggesting reasons

Further info required

Check your answers


Interpretation often requires you to suggest possible reasons for phenomena you have observed.

Which of the two following accounts do you think is a better explanation of the phenomenon observed?

Select your response by clicking the box beside your selection below.

1 "In mental maths, I observed a very high level of interest and motivation, where students appeared enthusiastic and willing to participate. It was evident that students were more motivated when they worked in teams than when they worked alone. Working in teams increases a student's motivation, and the children's experience here confirmed this."
2 "In mental maths, I observed a very high level of interest and motivation, where students appeared enthusiastic and willing to participate. It was evident that students were more motivated when they worked in teams than when they worked alone. One possible explanation for this is that teamwork increases a child's confidence in their own ability to complete a task. They develop an 'internal locus of control' and this has been found to increase an individual's motivation when approaching a task (Rotter 1966)."

1 is a better explanation

2 is a better explanation

Check your answers

Feedback

Items 1 and 3 are to do with understanding the meanings of something, and so are of the first type. Items 2, 4, and 5 are to do with finding reasons for such behaviour, and so are of the second type. (When looking for reasons, we may sometimes also think in terms of explanations.) Item 6 is more interesting: If the students' refusal was because the task itself did not make sense to them, then our understanding of their failure rests on us showing what the problem of meaning was. However, if their refusal stemmed from deliberate resistance to doing the task, then we will look for reasons.

Feedback

The first account links increased motivation to increased confidence, but it does nothing to explain that link. The second account draws on a theoretical model to explain that link. Therefore, Account 2 provides a more sound account than the first.

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