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Structured Observations

Saturday, November 18, 2017


  • Systematic investigations that generate numerical data, for example, frequency of an event or behavior, which are entered into an observation schedule or chart
  • Makes use of objective criteria culled from the
  • Research literature
  • Professional literature
  • Experts in the field

Two most commonly used types:

Event Sampling [or Frequency Counting]

  • Tally for each time a behavior occurs within a given time frame

Time Sampling [Chronological Intervals]

  • Tally for each time a behavior occurs within a short duration (e.g. 20 or 30 or 60 second intervals)


  • To record
  • Identified behaviors
  • Steps in a process
  • Work completed
  • Dialogic exchanges
  • To record each identified item by
  • Frequency
  • Degree of quality
  • Additional characteristics
  • Other information as drafted into the guide
  • Includes a code list to more quickly & easily complete the recording of each observation


  • One code sheet
  • One grid that is time-based to be used to input pre-determined codes as they occur during observation
  • One grid to tally or total items

How to

  1. Develop a list of elements re: what is to be observed [actions, tasks, interactions, steps, items] as derived from
    • Research & Professional literature
    • Experience in the field
    • Field Observations
  2. Include specific definitions for each element
  3. Have list reviewed by experts or practitioners in the field for refinement
  4. Develop a code for each listed item for use during observation
  5. Develop an Observation Collection Chart on which coding will be input
  6. Develop data calculation chart on which data are analyzed & summarized

Some Tips

  • Determine the focus of the observation
  • Specifically define the elements
  • Keep the coding scheme simple and easy to remember
  • Decide whether the frequency or the order & frequency are most important
  • Determine the number of participants to track per observation
  • Watch carefully throughout observation time frame


Flanders Classroom Interaction Analysis Code Guide (PDF)

Collaborative Group Work Observation Guide (PDF)