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For this paper, I observed a 12 month old child for an hour each week over a 6 weeks period using the Tavistock method of child observation. Initial observation took place on Thursday 2nd November 2017 between 11am to 12pm. For confidentiality reasons, l have chosen to a pseudonym as Baby Zee. Baby Zee lives with both biological parents and three older siblings. She is the last of four children and the only female child in the family. Her brothers range between the ages of 5-8years. Baby Zee is of African descent but born in the United Kingdom. The ethnicity of which Baby Zee’s mother identified her as is British Black African. Language spoken at home is English and Twi (Ghanaian language). Both baby Zee’s parents are from Ghana, West Africa. I was introduced to Baby’s Zee’s family through a friend. Before making arrangements to meet face to face, I spoke to her mother on the phone, drafted a consent form and letter from the university. Which I emailed to both parents to explain the aims of the observation, to help them gain an understanding and also informed them of their right to confidentiality. After a few days Baby Zee’s mother contacted me and agreed for observations to take place every Thursday between 11am and 12pm. Baby Zee is a healthy child with no medical issues.
For this paper, I will use Schon’s model of reflection on action to critically analyse knowledge gained and the impact on my future practice and significance of observation in social work practice. Reflection-on-action involves reflecting on how practice can be developed after the event. “We reflect on action, thinking back on what we have done in order to discover how our knowing-in-action may have contributed to an unexpected outcome”. To make sense of what was observed over the 6 weeks period, I will also focus on child development, explore attachment, communication, emotional and cognitive development, play as well as personality. Throughout the essay, I make reference to what was observed to support or question theories and psychoanalytic concepts.
Observation is act of closely watching/monitoring something or someone. In social work practice, observation provides an insight into significant things which could easily be overlooked or hidden during assessments/conversations. Fawcett and Watson (2016) suggests that ‘’we can learn much from our observations, but we must accept what we see is only a tip of the iceberg’’. Observation offered the opportunity to learn about the different ways in which children communicate. Prior to this, my assumptions were that infants only start to communicate from the moment they begin to use words (verbal communication). But this has been proven wrong. Example on the first child observation, through sounds such as cooing, facial expressions, eye-contact and pointing Baby Zee was able to communicate her needs and wants. Also throughout the period of observations, I noticed when Baby Zee would do something wrong, her mother would shake her head. To symbolise ‘’No’’ or ‘’Stop’’. Baby Zee would smile and stop even though she will try and repeat the same actions later. Baby Zee understood the shake of head as ‘’No’’. These early communication skills provide a strong foundation for the development of language and understanding social behaviour. According to Vygotsky, ‘’When a child is at play, he or she is in a constant dialogue either with self or others.
I linked this to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. At 12months Baby Zee is currently at the sensori-motor stage. According to Piaget, the level of a child’s intellectual processing is simply the organised pattern of behaviour in response to a particular object or experience Sudbery. Fawcett and Watson (2016) also suggests that observation provides a rewarding opportunity to discover the subtle and fascinating ways in which people communicate verbally and non-verbally.
On the first observation, I arrived at the house at 11am prompt. Baby Zee and her mother met me downstairs where mother introduced me to Baby Zee. Mother playfully asked Baby Zee to wave and say hi. Baby Zee looked at me very strangely and didn’t respond to her mother. She maintained direct eye contact with me as I followed them into their flat. During the child observation her mother will often leave the room leaving us alone for a few minutes. Baby Zee would stare/glance at me continues for some minutes, but continued to play independently with her toy. When mother would enter the room again. Baby Zee looked very happy and excited to see her again. I related Baby Zee’s actions to Ainsworth’s strange situation /stranger anxiety. Ainsworth explained this as an indication of how smoothly and effectively an infant uses a caregiver as a secure base at home. Howe (2011) suggested attachment systems are used to monitor the environment for danger and threat and is reflected in the Baby Zee’s energy and behaviour. Though Baby Zee’s behaviour changed when she left alone with me due to her level attachment with her mother. She was still able to cope and continue to play independently. Howe (2011) also states children feel more confident and secure knowing that a responsive attachment figure will be there in times of need. But by the end of the 6 weeks of observation, Baby Zee had become familiar with me and would often smile even try to engage with me through play, which I resisted.
Play is pivotal for child development. It plays an essential part in cognitive, social, emotional and physical well-being. On the 3rd and 4th observation, I took particular interest in the way Baby Zee Plays. I noticed she would alternate between playing with a remote control (she would press the buttons as if she wanted to change the channel) and a miniature kitchen set in the living room. She appeared very happy and confused on what she was doing. She would make a lot of sounds and be giggling to herself. Bandura (1977 cited in Davenport 1992 p164) say that children will observe and imitate adults and build what they observe into play. I then began to think if Baby Zee’s method of play is due what she had observe her parents and older siblings do. I noticed Baby Zee’s mother playfully interacting with her. She would take the remote and hide it under a blanket and ask where is it. Baby Zee will try to recover the remote from under the blanket. This relates to Piaget’s Object Permanence. The idea that objects still exist, even when you can’t see them.
I also noticed that anytime her mother will feed her. She would make a hand gesture to pray which I observed Baby Zee also mimicking that gesture. I related these two behaviours to Bandura (1977) observational learning or Social learning theory. Social learning theory focuses learning that occurs within a social context.
Vygotsky’s Sociocultural theory criticised Piaget for only basing his cognitive development of a child mainly on biology. But rather parents and caregivers play a crucial role in cognitive development. Vygotsky suggested that caregivers can support the child to achieve higher cognitive levels by providing support and guidance. Secondly, social learning theory, just because Baby Zee mimicked the actions of her mother praying action doesn’t mean she has a full understand of what she is doing. Her action is only reinforced by what she sees at a particular moment. If taken out of that environment, she doesn’t have the cognitive ability to retain this information to perform it without adult support. Lastly, during observation 6, Baby Zee’s father returned early home work. I watched Baby Zee behaviour changed as she noticed her father. She quickly run into his arms. I noticed for the first time Baby Zee interacting with her father. Observed her father being playful and affectionate towards her. Baby Zee also seemed very happy and initiated play. This then led me to think that Baby see has a great attachment to bother her parents. This according to the Clarkes signifies that babies don’t just need mothers but can attach to several people. Children need responsive caregivers who can respond to their needs.
Learning achieved through observation and presenting. Initially the idea of observing a total stranger seemed daunting to me as I felt I was intruding. During observation, I would often find myself reflecting and comparing my childhood. According to Hingley-Jones et al (2016, p.255) “counter-transference invite students to develop their sensitive to the emotional dynamic they encounter”. Secondly, I felt my experience of being a female of African descend and knowledge of the culture played a significant role in this observation. It was evident I projected elements of my childhood and characteristics on this child. I have learnt through this experience about the importance of going into an observation with a clear and open mind, not bring my own personal believes or biases into my practice. I believe observation and reflection skills are vital in the training and development of students. PCF domain 6 also stress on the importance of students being able to critically reflect. As stated by Fawcett and Watson (2016) students may learn through observation how anti-discriminatory principles can be put into practice, how power structure and hierarchies operate, and especially how relatively powerless children are in the society. Observing also provides the opportunity for social workers to notice if a child is being harm or concerns about his/her developments. Butler (2015) also states in practice, observers respond intuitively to physical harm, rightly intervening if something may cause immediate injury to a child, such as a baby trapping fingers in a toy.
Reflecting on the various days of observation, I found there were days where I felt unstimulated and nervous. Other days I felt very enthusiastic and looked forward to going the following week anticipating how she would have developed by then.
I didn’t perform as well as I hoped to during the presentation. Reason being I had allowed my nerves to get the best of me. Due to nerves I couldn’t remember all the things I had prepared to say. I was very disappointed with my performance and if given another chance I would read and research more about observation and presentation skills. I got positive feedback on my delivery and how I started but half way through I lost my confidence and couldn’t critique or present my information. Moving on from here the learning objective I have set for myself is work on research and presentation skills. I believed if I had researched enough I would have acquired enough knowledge to present my information even when under pressure and asking for help when needed. This also applies to HCPC 3.
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