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Using material from item B and elsewhere assess the strengths and limitations of non-participant observation for investigating anti-school subcultures.

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Introduction

Using material from item B and elsewhere assess the strengths and limitations of non-participant observation for investigating anti-school subcultures. Item B Investigating anti-school subcultures Some pupils share sets of values and behaviour patterns that are in opposition to those expected by schools. Sociologists refer to these as anti-school subcultures. Some sociologists use group interviews to investigate anti-school subcultures. These largely unstructured interviews may give younger pupils, in particular, greater confidence when responding to a researcher's questions because they are being interviewed together with their peers. However, peer group pressure may distort pupils' responses. Furthermore, there are problems of time and access when it comes to gathering a group of pupils together for research purposes. An alternative research method is to use non-participant observation to investigate anti-school subcultures. It allows researchers to see how pupils actually behave, rather than simply hearing how they claim to behave. ...read more.

Middle

unless they pretend to be another teacher. Furthermore there may be difficulty in gaining access to schools where anti-school subcultures are prominent because the school may not allow the researcher to observe the students in a covert manner for safety risks posed to the students. If the researcher is overtly observing, the Hawthorne effect may occur whereby anti-schools students know they are being observed and therefore change their behaviour e.g. acting more anti-school as this is what they believe the researcher is looking for. This might lower the validity of the results because the behaviour could be 'artificial' or exaggerated by the students e.g. truanting even more so that the data is less valid. Overt non-participant observation does help to reduce ethical issues as there is no deception and this is very important "when observing pupils, especially younger ones" (Item B). This is because the researcher doesn't have to lie about who he is or why he is at the school, which would occur with covert observation. ...read more.

Conclusion

This would lower the validity as incidents of female bullying might not get recorded if the teacher is not looking out for this behaviour. In conclusion, while non-participant observation can lack the rapport gained from participant observation it is more ethical and practical when used to observe school pupils. However, an alternative method could be to triangulate unstructured interviews, structured questionnaires and overt non-participant observation. Unstructured interviews would allow for increased validity through a rapport built-up between the researcher and student e.g. the student may feel more happy to open up to a researcher about their true feelings about school such as bullying or teachers if they can answer in their own time. This also allows for verstehen from the researcher to understand the true meanings, feelings and motives of the student. Questionnaires will allow the researcher to gain reliable, quantitative data which could be replicated to obtain similar results and overt non-participant observation can also help to gain data that is high in validity. By triangulating all three, the data would be both high in reliability and validity. ...read more.

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