Observing Children in Their Natural Worlds: A Methodological Primer, Third Edition

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Psychology Press, Nov 12, 2012 - Psychology - 344 pages
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This book shows readers how to conduct observational methods, research tools used to describe and explain behaviors as they unfold in everyday settings. The book now uses both an evolutionary and a cultural perspective. The methods presented are drawn from psychology, education, family studies, sociology, and anthropology, but the author's primary focus is on children in school, family, and social settings. Readers learn how to make observations in real contexts to help them create a verbal picture of behaviors they see. The importance of considering reliability and validity factors while testing within each environment is emphasized throughout. The author draws from the literature that provides methods for observing animals in their natural habitats, but emphasizes the use of observational methods to solve human problems. The book is organized in the way a researcher conducts observational studies—conceptualizing of the idea, designing and implementing the study, and writing the report. “Things to think about” sections provide an opportunity for students to solidify their understanding of the material and the Glossary defines the key terms introduced in the book.

Highlights of changes in the new edition include:

• The introduction of the cultural perspective in chapter 4 along with the evolutionary (epigenetic theory) perspective and the integration of cultural examples throughout the book.
• More varied examples from developmental psychology, family studies, and education.
• Extensively revised chapter (3) on ethics reflects the current revelations of scientific fraud and the push for researchers to maximize scientific integrity in their community.
• Updated chapter (12) reflects the latest computer technologies used in observational methods including iPhones and Blackberrys for conducting observation, ABC Data Pro and Behavior Tracker for evaluations, and Excel for constructing observational templates.
• Expanded chapter (13) on writing the research report and more on issues of plagiarism (ch. 3). 
• The latest on minimizing observer effects on participants and testing their effectiveness.
• New environmentally friendly design, the Things to Think About sections were retained, but the blank pages for answers were eliminated.

Intended as a supplementary text for advanced undergraduate and/or graduate courses in research methods and/or developmental research or developmental/child psychology taught in psychology, education, human development, and nursing, educators and researchers concerned with assessing children will also appreciate this book’s introduction to observational methods.


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The Research Report
List ofFiguresandTables About theAuthor
Science Psychologyand Research
Science as Experiment
Coming Up With Categories
Measuring Categories
Intra and InterObserver
Indirect Observational Methods
ComputerAssisted Recordingand Observational Software
Author Index
Subject Index


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About the author (2012)

Anthony D. Pellegrini is a Professor of Psychological Foundations of Education in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota – Minneapolis. He received his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. His research focuses on direct observations of aggression, play, dominance, in children and the social bases of cognitive processes. A Fellow of APA’s Educational and Developmental Psychology divisions, he is also a Traveling Fellow of the British Psychological Society. He has published numerous papers in journals and books in psychology, education, anthropology, and animal behavior.

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