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School-Based Observation


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Table of Contents

I. Key Concepts of Direct Observation
1. The Role of Direct Observation in School-Based Settings
2. Foundations of Direct Observation
3. Obtaining Trustworthy Results from Observation: The Basic Principles of Psychological Measurement
4. Improving Data Quality: Suggested Guidelines for Training Observers and Conducting Observations
II. Use of Specific Observation Codes
5. Conducting Observations in Classroom Settings
6. Observing the Classroom Environment
7. Extending Observations to Non-Classroom Settings
8. Using Observation to Support Functional Assessment
9. Thinking Outside of the Box: Creating a Novel or Hybrid Coding Scheme
III. Using Assessment Data to Inform Decision Making and Intervention
10. Interpreting and Sharing Observation Results
Appendix A. Measurement Standards Used in Evaluating Systematic Observation Codes
Appendix B. Glossary of Operational Definition
Appendix C. Reproducible Coding Forms

About the Author

Amy M. Briesch, PhD, is Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Psychology at Northeastern University. Her primary research interests include the role of student involvement in intervention design and implementation, and the development of feasible and psychometrically sound measures for the assessment of student behavior in multi-tiered systems of support. She was a recipient of the Lightner Witmer Award for early-career scholarship in school psychology from Division 16 (School Psychology) of the American Psychological Association, and is an Associate Editor of the Journal of School Psychology and an elected member of the Society for the Study of School Psychology. Dr. Briesch has authored over 50 publications, including the books Direct Behavior Rating: Linking Assessment, Communication, and Intervention; Evidence-Based Strategies for Effective Classroom Management; and School-Based Observation: A Practical Guide to Assessing Student Behavior. Robert J. Volpe, PhD, is Professor and Chair of Applied Psychology at Northeastern University and Co-Director of the Center for Research in School-based Prevention. His research focuses on behavioral assessment in school-based problem-solving models, and evaluating classroom interventions for students with behavior problems. He is President of the Society for the Study of School Psychology and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of School Psychology, School Psychology Review, School Mental Health, and the Journal of Attention Disorders. Dr. Volpe has authored or coauthored over 90 journal articles and book chapters. His books include Daily Behavior Report Cards: An Evidence-Based System of Assessment and Intervention, Effective Math Interventions: A Guide to Improving Whole-Number Knowledge, and School-Based Observation: A Practical Guide to Assessing Student Behavior. Randy G. Floyd, PhD, is Professor of Psychology, Training Director for the School Psychology doctoral program, and Associate Chair in the Department of Psychology at The University of Memphis. His research focuses on understanding the measurement properties of psychological assessment techniques and reducing error in measurement. He is a past editor of the Journal of School Psychology and currently serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, the Journal of School Psychology, School Psychology International, and School Psychology Review. Dr. Floyd is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association Division 16 (School Psychology) and an elected member of the Society for the Study of School Psychology. He has authored or coauthored more than 80 publications, including Assessing Intelligence in Children and Adolescents: A Practical Guide and School-Based Observation: A Practical Guide to Assessing Student Behavior.


"Briesch and colleagues do a masterful job of teaching the reader not only what and why, but also how to hone skills to become a good observer. Using multiple examples, the authors cogently describe the advantages of direct observation while acknowledging associated resource demands. Excellent materials are provided to help readers sift through options to make the most of available resources while maintaining high-quality observations. This book is extremely valuable for school personnel who would like fresh insights into use of observation methods. It is a useful text for any course teaching observation knowledge and skills within a problem-solving approach."--Sandra M. Chafouleas, PhD, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut

"An indispensable resource for school psychologists, social workers, educational consultants, and teachers. This practical guide provides observation tools to assess individual student behavior as well as environmental contexts in which students learn. Case examples are used to illustrate the authors' approach to effective classroom observation. The tools shared by the authors not only promote objective recording, but also have excellent utility for designing individualized interventions. Containing a limited amount of jargon, the book is very user friendly. It will support the continued professional learning of school-based practitioners to decrease drift and ensure decision making that promotes improved student learning."--Dorothy J. Landon, PhD, school psychologist, Heartland Area Education Agency, Johnston, Iowa

"In my 35 years of employing direct observations in classrooms, I have never seen a more comprehensive book that encompasses all the critical ingredients for ensuring that direct observations conducted in school-based settings result in meaningful and valid measurement of behavior. School-based observation is a science and an art. In this book, readers learn how to conduct focused observations that help problem-solve students' learning needs and inform practice. For anyone who is designing a direct observation system or using an existing system, this book is essential!"--Maureen A. Conroy, PhD, Anita Zucker Endowed Professor and Professor of Special Education and Early Childhood Studies, University of Florida

"I highly recommend this book for any practicing school psychologist's reference bookshelf. In a time of growing dedication to data-based decision making, incoming and current school psychologists need to have skills to conduct goal-directed assessments that provide educators with useful results and effective recommendations. We are becoming increasingly reliant on direct observation data to furnish this information. Kudos to the authors for their great job on a staple reference!"--Cristina Green, EdS, NCSP, school psychologist, Scott County Schools, Georgetown, Kentucky

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