Participant Observation

A data collection strategy inherited from cultural anthropology and, more specifically, ethnography. The strategy consists of the dual roles of participation and observation, which are best understood as a continuum from mostly observer to mostly participant, and variants between. A common caution about participant observation is the potential for “going native,” in which case the evaluator completely adopts an insider's perspective and thus loses the evaluator persona. Participant observation requires that the evaluator spend time immersed in the context of the evaluand; take part in day-to-day activities; and record dialogue, interactions, and events through field notes, photography, artifacts, and interviews. An underlying assumption is that understanding the evaluand will be enhanced by an insider or empathetic view, one that requires assuming at least marginally a ...

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