Observation as a method of learning: a useful learning experience or a waste of time?


Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In medical schools, most clinical teaching takes place in small groups in which the teacher and/or one of the students carry out the interview, examination or procedure, while one or more of the other members of the group looks on. Students, then, are as often watchers as doers. What do students learn from observing someone else doing something, and what can be done to enhance the effectiveness of this learning process? The authors attempted to answer these questions. They conducted an experimental study designed to evaluate student experience as observers. The data garnered from this study indicated that students regarded learning by observation as a useful, even valuable, experience. The data also suggested that the effectiveness of this learning experience was derived from a shared sense of immediate, emotionally charged, highly interactive participation in the proceedings, and that the teacher's catalytic function was essential to this process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-293
Number of pages7
JournalMedical education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1988


  • *education, medical, undergraduate
  • *learning
  • Ontario
  • adolescent psychiatry/educ
  • attitude of health personnel
  • child psychiatry/educ
  • students, medical
  • teaching/*methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Observation as a method of learning: a useful learning experience or a waste of time?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this