Twenty-eight A-Level Psychology students spent the day at Newquay Zoo practising their observational research skills on a range of animals – penguins, lions, zebra, squirrel monkeys, meercats, peacocks, and tapir.
Initially they did unstructured observations, noting down every behaviour they could see, devising operational definitions (eg what counts as “one” walk? When a tapir stops and then starts again is that “two” walks?). They then coded behaviours and checked for inter-observer reliability before starting their research. Students chose an animal each and practised event sampling and time sampling techniques, followed by pooling their data and creating graphical displays to illustrate their findings.
The final element was each group created a video record about their animal, their research findings, as well as their experiences of observer bias and other methodological issues with observational research.
The sun shone while the students showed impressive research skills and enthusiasm for the task… and the ice-cream!