THE RELATIONSHIP OF COGNITIVE LEVEL AND TRAINING TO OBSERVATION SKILLS IN HEAD START PARAPROFESSIONALS

STEVEN MICHAEL DRANOFF, Fordham University

Abstract

Purpose. The present study investigated the impact of training in the skills of observation and inference development on child care paraprofessionals. In addition, consideration is given to the effect of cognitive level of the observer on the observation process.^ Method. The study was conducted with 60 female paraprofessionals from New Jersey Head Start programs. The group included 30 subjects who had scored at the concrete operations stage of reasoning and 30 subjects who had scored at the formal operations stage of reasoning.^ Subjects were asked to complete a 20-item, true-false observation scale based on a 20-minute videotape each subject had viewed. The observation scale consisted of two types of items, behavioral observations and inference statements, and was used to assess each subject's abilities to observe behavior and make inferences accurately.^ Training in observation was provided to 30 individuals, half of whom had reached concrete operations and half had reached formal operations. The training was provided in seven, one and a half hour sessions. At the end of the training all subjects viewed the videotape again and completed the observation scale.^ Results. Means and standard deviations were computed for the behavioral observation sub-scale and the inference subscale on both pre- and post-measures for both experimental and control groups. Two hypotheses, which involved only pre-test data, were tested using two-sample t tests. The other data were tested using one-way analyses of covariance with treatment and cognitive development serving as independent variables and behavioral observation ability and inference ability serving as the dependent variables. Pre-test measures of the dependent variables served as covariates in the analyses.^ The analysis of data showed that prior to training, there was no significant difference in the ability to observe behavior between paraprofessionals who have reached concrete operations and those who have reached formal operations. However, when it came to making inferences about observed behavior, prior to training, individuals who reached the formal operations stage did significantly better. Individuals who received training, regardless of their level of cognitive development, did significantly better than those who did not receive training on observing behavior and making inferences. When both cognitive development and training were considered, those paraprofessionals at the formal operations stage who received training were not significantly different on observing behavior and making inferences than those paraprofessionals at the concrete operations stage who received training.^ Conclusions. Based on the findings of this study, individuals functioning at the concrete operations and formal operations stages were able to accurately observe behavior. On the other hand, individuals functioning at the formal operations stage were more accurate at making inferences than individuals at the concrete operations stage. However, training in observation enabled subjects to accurately observe behavior and make inferences, regardless of their level of cognitive development. Thus, while most adults may have the potential to reason formally, the appearance of formal operations seems to be influenced by schooling, training, and practice. While the findings of this study should not be regarded as conclusive, they do suggest the value of providing training in observation to paraprofessionals working in the field of child care.^ Further research is recommended to study the impact of short and long-term observation training on observer accuracy, and to develop materials which will more accurately assess an individual's cognitive level and observation abilities. ^

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

DRANOFF, STEVEN MICHAEL, "THE RELATIONSHIP OF COGNITIVE LEVEL AND TRAINING TO OBSERVATION SKILLS IN HEAD START PARAPROFESSIONALS" (1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8109063.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8109063

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