Observations are crucial to user research. Observations allow end-user behavior to be captured as it exists naturally in real-world form. Without observations, understanding of end-user behavior would be based entirely on speculation, hearsay, self-reporting, and other biased translations. However, capturing end-user behavior naturally can be tricky.
As researchers we want to capture quality data without being too invasive or perturbing the environment in which we are observing. Ideally, we must be omnipresent flies on the wall. The traditional field notes and pencil approach to observations (researcher observes over end-user’s shoulder and scribbles notes) is burdensome as it inserts the researcher too closely into the equation and, more importantly, limits the amount of data that can be collected to what can be seen, written, and remembered from a single, biased perspective. Which is why I encourage researchers to come up with clever ways to 1. remove themselves from the equation and 2. capture higher quality data from multiple, un-biased perspectives. This is extremely important especially when what is being observed is a complex, multi-end-user environment such as a classroom.
Remember, you can only observe something once. If you capture it correctly, you can review and analyze as many times as you like.
Example: 10th Grade Geometry Classroom | Math Techbook
Example: Educator Searching for Content / Media | Search