Facilitation by observing

Observation is one of the most powerful tool to learn and to facilitate. As an observer are you a CCTV camera or a cameraman who instructs you what and how to do.

Most of our learning about facilitation is the result of a simple process called “Observe”. We observed and still continuing on that path and learning everyday. So when someone asks us about facilitation we say following three things are must in order to learn the facilitation right.

  • Observe
  • Observe
  • Observe

When people want to learn from us, we gently, but firmly turn them to learn from children themselves by observing them. You can observe one child (your child), but even more beneficial is when you can observe multiple children (say in Aarohi or in a school or in a park or in a party). When you read books written by educationists like John Holt or Maria Montessori you realize that most of what they have done is keenly observed children and sharing their learning.

How to conduct observation specially around children

# Observe without engagement

Many of us, especially those who like working with children, when we see a child, we want to engage with the child. If the child is doing something, we want to either do with the child or teach the child or start talking to the child, typically appreciating or questioning etc. Our suggestion is DON’T do any of that. Just sit back and observe. Do not involve or engage with the children. Even if they invite, say politely, “I just want to observe”

# Record Observation not the analysis

Write down only observations and NOT your assumptions, or judgement or inferences/conclusions. The idea is to only observe and NOT analyze. Here are some examples to understand this difference clearly.

Observation with Assumption – “Child was making all kinds of sounds to attract attention”. ‘Wanting to attract attention’ is our assumption.

Observation would be – “Child was continuously making different sounds from his mouth in loud volume”

Observation with judgement – “Child made a beautiful clay pot”. Here ‘Beautiful’ is a judgement.

Observation with inference – “Child was enjoying painting”. The word ‘enjoying’ implies either assumption on our part or inference based on what we saw (maybe the child’s facial expressions).

Observation would be – “Child was painting or engaged in painting for 20min”.

You would realize that at the time of making the observation we might end up adding out judgement or inference – hence it is important that we WRITE DOWN observations so that later we can strike out the part which is an assumption or judgement etc. or even re-write the observation.

#General vs specific observation

Instead of doing general observation, engage in specific observations – like looking for observation on a specific category or question or keyword. When we look for observations on a specific aspect – we are likely to find them and then a collection of them would lead to some understanding and hence learning. So it is a good idea to make a list of questions or keywords or points or categories that you want to collect your observations on. This keeps us focused and also helps us make immediate sense of the observations we collect.

As an observer visualize yourself to be a CCTV camera. The camera observes everything, is non-intrusive, non-analytical, non-judgmental, yet the data collected is quite useful.

If you are doing the observe observe and observe as above, its a good idea to share your observations with others – so that others can benefit, as well as they can point out where you have gone into analyzing rather than observing.