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Copy of Additional Resources on Writing Field notes Spring 2014

Page history last edited by Chandra Turpen 6 years, 11 months ago

Return to Maryland Learning Assistant Program  >  Mathematics and Science Education Seminar Fall 2013


Additional guidelines and resources for writing field notes

These field notes are intended to help you reflect on your teaching experiences, especially your interactions with students, and to give me some insight into what you're experiencing in your placements. These field notes should be completed shortly after the teaching experience (ideally within 24 hours).  These field notes should focus primarily on your interactions with students.  Each field note should include the following:

  1. Heading: your name, the course you are writing about, the date and time of the class session you are reflecting on
  2. Brief Background: In what setting are the observations occurring? What activity are students working on?
  3. Description of Interactions with Students: This and the following section are the heart of the field note!! Here, describe in detail interactions that you had with students that stood out to you.  What did the students do or say?  What did this tell you?  What did you do or say?  (Note: This should be a low inference account of what happened during the episode of interest. It may be helpful to focus in-depth on a few notable interactions with students rather than trying to recap the entire class period.)
  4. Interpretations of Classroom Interactions: This and the previous section are the heart of the field note!! Here, analyze and reflect on what happened.  Work to ground your claims and interpretations in the evidence that you provide in the previous section.  This section is where you might start thinking about your observations in terms of the course readings or other experiences that you’ve had. 
  5. Broader scale comments: What interactions have you had with science faculty and graduate TAs over the past couple of weeks? How is your work as an LA perceived by others in the department? Please give specific examples whenever possible.


As relevant, you may also include any specific suggestions you have about how to improve the instructional activity.


Some tips:

  • Focus in depth on a few notable interactions with students rather than trying to recap the entire class period.  It might be helpful (in the moment or immediately following class) to jot down notes about what happened and your impressions.
  • In making sense of what students did or said, it is often helpful to think about what you write as claims and evidence for those claims.  For instance, "Julie did not understand the process of mitosis" is a claim.  Evidence for that claim might be that, for example, "Julie did not replicate the chromosomes before splitting the cells during the modeling activity."  So when you make claims about students in your field notes, I want to have a sense of the evidence you're drawing on in making those claims.
  • Background: Here set the scene for those who will read your notes.  Describe the things you notice when you come in.  Describe the general atmosphere.
  • Description of Student Interactions: In terms of evidence, be careful to report behaviors or directly what you see rather than imputing your interpretation of the students' thought processes or mental states.  In this sense you are capturing information (like a video camera would) with minimal interpretation.  

Bodgan, R. C., & Biklen, S. K. (1998). Chapter 3: Fieldwork. Qualitative research for education: An introduction to theory and methods (3rd ed., pp. 73-105). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.


McLaughlin, M. (2003). Notes on fieldnotes. Borrowed from course materials at Stanford University (instructional materials, not for general distribution).

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