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Participant Observation Visit

Parts of this assignment were adapted from:

Luckman, J. (2000). Transcultural communication in health care. Albany, Delmar Thompson Learning.

The observation visit is the student's first encounter with the site they have chosen and discussed with the instructor. This is a two part assignment, first students must gain access to the site, make contact with "key informants," those who allow the student access. The student should set up an interview with one of the key informants, a director of the facility or someone who acts as a liaison to the community. Students will observe a program for at least one hour. The student should be prepared to discuss the observation visit during class. Students should answer the following questions and hand in a one page summary.

As an observer of a program, students are expected to view several different types of interactions including: communication between participants and the agency personal, interactions among the program participants, and interactions among the agency personal. Students should be prepared to report on these observations therefore students are expected to write "field notes" after their visit. Field notes are memos related to student observations. Students should draw upon their inferences or hunches they have about the meaning of their observations. Later on students should discuss their observations with their key informants and also with the class.

Students should pay attention to Repetitive social situations (RSS) or everyday events that occur over and over again during their observations. Repetitive social situations tell us about the cultural rules that are observed, behaviors that are expected. Discomfort or anxiety may result from confused expectations, lack of understanding or missed cues. When situations are unfamiliar, it is important to pay attention to verbal and nonverbal interactions so that we become aware of rules and patterns of communication in that new setting.

Note reoccurring themes, verbal and non-verbal manners of communication that are expected in this setting. Report on observed interactions by answering the following questions:

Who is present? What is happening? Where is it happening? When is it happening? These questions will help you to answer the why, the meaning of the interaction. Understanding the facts of the interaction will help the student understand the cultural rules and patterns of behavior that are expected in that particular setting.

Students should jot down their field notes immediately after leaving their site visit. If they wait too long, many important thoughts and observations will be forgotten. Students should also bring their field notes to lab for discussion.