A Practice-Based Approach
This exercise is a powerful mechanism to have students experience the challenges and benefits of direct observation. The exercise includes two types of observations: observing an inanimate object, and observing several people conducting a specific task. Both exercises are best assigned as individual homework assignments, and are subsequently discussed in class. The handout at the end of this exercise provides detailed instructions for the students, and the time plan section provides some discussion questions for the instructor. For the first exercise, the students are asked to reserve an hour of their time and spend this hour observing a known inanimate object, for example a fruit. The students are asked to write down two types of observations during the exercise. One type of observation the students are asked to record is about the observed object itself. The second type of observation the students should note is about themselves in the observation process. The second exercise also requires students to individually observe a known entity, but this time it is a process executed by someone else. A good example setting is an ATM machine. Students will be asked to observe a couple of ATM customers while they arrive at the ATM, operate it, and leave. Once the students have observed several ATM users, they typically notice something that they cannot immediately explain.
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