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Tavistock Method Of Observation


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Hi - once again I need some help please folks


I have to do an observation using the above technique.

It is usually used in relation to young babies but I have to adapt it to use within the early years setting. :o

I have googled and had the usual nose around but not really sure how to get started on it.

Do I analyse it as I would a narrative observation or does the analysis come within the description of the events.


Appreciate any help ?!

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Ooh, I'm not familiar with this one, unless I know it by another name! What does it entail?


Hi Cait ..

It's directed at health/social work professionals more (I think - forgive me if I am wrong)

Usually used where person studies a particular child asap from birth - within the family environment - with a commitment to observe 1 hr a week for up to 2 years (yes - you read that right!)

The theory behind it is that behaviour and development in infancy offers clues to later life development - therefore we "should pay more attentio to it!"

There is no active participation (ie with the child as such) on the part of the observer - except for discussion with parent - and no notes are taken during the visit.

Then notes are written up asap afterwards - in a flowing descriptive style drawing on the observers own emotions/feelings.


This is where I seem to be having trouble - I can sort of see the benefits in this early infancy situation but apparently "this technique can be used in an early years setting." Hmm :o


I am struggling to express my emotions about the feelings of the child when so far all my study and experience has been telling me not to allow my own judgements to affect my analysis.


Can't seem to see where to start my observation from and where to go with it in a E Y setting - HELP ?

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Well surely you'd need to start the observations as the child arrived - however young they are - and then continue with the snapshots throughout their time with you in order to generate any quantifiable data?

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Cait - that would be far too sensible :o

The written task states that although these are usually carried out over a long period of time - wait for it......

by doing one...... we should be able to get a feel for the technique.


Hmm - what can I say??

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Ok then - the only thing I can think of for this then is the "in a flowing descriptive style drawing on the observers own emotions/feelings." you mention. This must be the only thing you can actually use! Your style of writing it up sounds very different from the normal observational annotation. What do you think?

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How interesting, a new one for me too, although I can see your dilemma. How strange to be asked to carry out a method of observation but in a way that is different to the observation styles normal methodology. :o


My thoughts are What is the aim of the observation? My clue is: The theory behind it is that behaviour and development in infancy offers clues to later life development.


So, I'm guessing if you did an hour a day or an hour a week over, I don't know how long a time you've been given, then from your very subjective notes you very subjectively decide what the information tells you about how you think the child will have developed, socially, emotionally, intellectually, healthily/physically, creatively at age ???? (sometime in the future).


Whilst writing this it's reminded me of the poem 'Children Learn What They Live' by Dorothy Law Nolte.




I wonder if your evaluation will fit in with her prose?



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I've found out a little more about it if anyone is keen to expand their knowledge xD


Elfer, P - Ch 10 in the following book.

Abbott, L. and Langston, A. (2005) Birth to Three Matters: Supporting the Framework of Effective Practice. Maidenhead: Open University Press.


While I can see the usefulness of it in some situations - I have to do a one -off so it seems of little comaprison with the original technique.


The real objective is for me to assess strengths and weaknesses of a wide range of observational techniques ...


While I see the sense behind it - I don't feel I can possibly compare when the technique process is changed so dramatically :o


I will look up your link now Peggy - thanks!

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  • 3 years later...

The Tavistock method has raised it's confusing head once again! I too, have to observe a child for 15 minutes using this method!

How on earth do i write a 500 word report on how 'I' feel about a child?? Any further clues would be greatly received ... dottyp

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