Systematic observation in educational research (DUH135)

The course presents a broad orientation on central issues on research applying systematic observation in education. The course introduces students to research on classroom interaction and methodological aspects of such research. Further, the course offers an introduction to research design particularly related to systematic observation. Aspects of validity, reliability and research ethics in observational studies are addressed. Also, combining observation and other data sources will be addressed.

Course description for study year 2023-2024. Please note that changes may occur.


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The course consists of three parts:

  1. Participation in a two-day European workshop on systematic observation. At the workshop the students will meet updated knowledge on systematic observation in educational research from international researchers in the field and take part of discussions and seminars.
  2. Two days with lectures going into depth of some themes relevant for the subject. The lectures will be held at campus or digital.
  3. In addition, a reading component is included that provide participants containing key literature in the field that prepare participants for the workshop and the required documentation.

The two-day workshop will contain lectures that introduce participants to the use of systematic observation in research in kindergarten through high school. During the two days, there will also be lectures addressing methodological aspects of systematic observation (e.g. validity, reliability, and combination with different data sources). Additional, seminars will provide opportunities for participants to put questions related to their own work up for discussion in round table sessions.

For participants unable to participate at the workshop, this can be replaced by an individual reading section. A chosen reading list of about 300 pages within the topic of this course. This self-chosen reading list has to be approved by the faculty in charge for the course beforehand.

Required documentation for participants is either a paper based on a manuscript for a presentation in the seminar part of the workshop or an essay on a topic relevant for the workshop. Participants may alternatively choose to present a poster prepared before the workshop and a short oral presentation of the poster at the workshop. Relevant literature for the reading list is to be included in the paper/essay.

Learning outcome

  • By completion of this course, the PhD candidate will:

    • Have a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding systematic classroom observation
    • Have knowledge of research design in observational studies
    • Have knowledge of classroom research and the combination of observational data with other data sources
    • Have knowledge of Classroom assessment scoring system (CLASS) and similar research protocols.
  • By completion of this course, the PhD candidate will have gained the following skills:

    • design systematic observational studies
    • consider aspects of validity and reliability of systematic observation studies
    • consider weaknesses and strengths of systematic observation studies
    • critically evaluate aspects of classroom observation studies and apply observational research design to their own Research
  • By completion of this course, the PhD candidate will have gained the following general competencies:

    • Knowledge on research approaches to classroom interaction processes and their impact on students’ learning outcome
    • Knowledge on systematic classroom observation
    • Knowledge on theoretical and methodological variety in systematic classroom (observation) research

Required prerequisite knowledge


Recommended prerequisites

Participants must meet the requirements for enrollment in PhD programs. Participants will benefit from in-depth knowledge of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) or similar observation protocols.


Form of assessment Weight Duration Marks Aid
Individual paper 1/1 Passed / Not Passed

Evaluation will be based on an individual paper (3000 words +/- 10%) addressing systematic observation or on a manuscript for oral presentation in the seminar part of the workshop (3000 words +/- 10%) or a poster prepared before, and presented at, the workshop and a manuscript for a short oral presentation of the poster (poster and 1500 word +/- 10%). The paper may be written in English or in a Scandinavian language. The paper is evaluated pass/fail.

Coursework requirements

Deadline for registration for the PhD-course is May 15th. Participation at least 80 % in the workshop is mandatory for participants in the PhD-course.

Course teacher(s)

Course teacher:

Maren Stahl Lerang

Course coordinator:

Sigrun Karin Ertesvåg

Method of work

The course will consist of lectures and seminars during the two-day workshop. The seminar part welcomes different types of discussions e.g. round table discussion based on participant’s ongoing work.

Workshop language is English; thus English is the teaching language.

Open for

International and local students enrolled in a doctoral program. Applicants may be turned down due limitations in the number of places (max. 15 participants).

Course assessment

There must be an early dialogue between the course coordinator, the student representative and the students. The purpose is feedback from the students for changes and adjustments in the course for the current semester.In addition, a digital course evaluation must be carried out at least every three years. Its purpose is to gather the students experiences with the course.


The syllabus can be found in Leganto