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Purposeful Observation

Observation is commonly used in clinical learning and teaching in the health professions. At best it is an active, purposeful task that stimulates deep learning and the development of professional ‘know-how’. At worst it is a passive process that can lead to increased anxiety or even total ‘shut down’ in the learner. ‘Just watching’ something assumes that a person can make sense of what they see. However, help and guidance may be needed for the observer to reach that end point. Read our Hints and Tips Sheet on using purposeful observation as a clinical teaching/learning strategy.

Using purposeful observation

Clare Morris (2007) describes three key considerations for improving the outcome of observation learning:

  • What exactly is the learner being asked to observe?
  • What prior knowledge does the observation activity assume?
  • What are the intended learning outcomes (ie. the purpose) of the observation activity?

Morris, C. (2007). Teaching and learning through active observation. Creating and supporting opportunities to learn through work participation. E-learning modules, London Deanery, http://www.faculty.londondeanery.ac.uk/e-learning/facilitating-learning-in-the-workplace/creating-and-supporting-opportunities-to-learn-through-work-participation External link