Advanced Observational Techniques (use of a control pupil)

Once you have got the hang of observing using the methods suggested in the previous paper on basic observation techniques, you may wish to strengthen your reports or evidence gathering with a comparison to other members of the class.   This technique involves the observer making a primary observation on the target child using the same methodology advocated in basic observation.  However, after the target child has been observed, the observer will make a secondary and nearly simultaneous observation by quickly looking at the control child (a child selected at random from within the same class) and note what they are doing.  Thus an observation record would look something like this:

Time           Target Child                                    Control Child                        
 10.00  Fiddle with pencil case 30 sec. LA 10 sec. Talk 20 sec.  OT
 10.01  Talk 30 sec. W 30 sec, talk to blonde girl  OT, talk 10 sec.
 10.02  W 40 sec talk to blonde girl T> sit down, to seat  OT >T for help
 10.03  LA 10 sec, talk 30 sec T> stern look. OT 20 sec  With T, OT
 10.04  W 40 sec girl red jumper T> warn, OT 10 sec  OT
 10.05  OT 20 sec, talk40 sec  OT
 10.06  T> final warn, argue 60 sec.  OT, Talk 15 sec, to pencil sharpener

OT =  on task
LA = look around
W = wander around classroom
T> = teacher instigates interaction with target pupil
>T = pupil instigates interaction with teacher

You are now able to report in a more professional way that the target child was, for instance, on task (OT) for 60 seconds (control 5 minutes plus) and engaged in the following restless and off task behaviours: talking 3 minutes 10 seconds (control 10 seconds), wandering 3 minutes 30 seconds (control 0 seconds), teacher needed to approach pupil 4 all disciplinary in nature escalating from non verbal to final warning (control  one approach to Teacher for help).

You will note that the control pupils behaviour is notably different from that of the target child.  The use of a control has made the behaviour of the target child more notable due to the contrast.  By using a control you have also made a point with regard to the behaviour of the rest of the class, it is very good if surmised from the above.  However, you may be asked to report on a child who is in a very noisy class, use of a control may highlight the need for a whole class approach due to the behaviour of the control which may be nearly as poor as the target child. 

You may wish to note in your report onhow the control was selected.  Did you choose them at random? Or did you ask the teacher to point out an average child.  Personally I have usually gone for a child with similar coloured and styled hair or a similar jumper.  There is no science in this and once or twice I have selected a child that also has difficulties, however this soon becomes apparent and you can switch control very easily.  I prefer to be able to report that I selected the control at random using hair colour in my reports rather than report that the control was selected by the teacher because I feel that it adds credibility.