Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: December 16, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963992 | Print ISBN: 9781412906784 | Online ISBN: 9781412963992| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Lucy E. Bailey
Observation is a foundational tool that researchers use to collect descriptive information and to make knowledge claims about the physical and social world. As such, it has been a significant source of existing knowledge on phenomena ranging from the intricacies of cellular action to educational practices to human kinship systems. Observation is a practice grounded in “ocular centricity,” a vision-centered paradigm characteristic of Western culture and modernity that often emphasizes sight over other human senses. Disciplined, rigorous observation of events within their “natural” settings continues to contribute to areas central to social foundations of education such as human agency, diversity, equity, social stratification, social justice, and the relationship between schools and society. This entry provides an overview of observation from the perspectives of theory and practice. Although the classic image of participant observation is the anthropologist who travels to a remote village of “vanishing” people, immerses him- or herself in ...