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How to use observaion when volunteering

Your observations of young people during an activity can be a powerful tool and give immediate feedback as to how the activity is going.

Your observations of young people during an activity can be a powerful tool as they give immediate feedback and clues as to how the activity is going.

What should you observe?

Here is a starter list of what you may wish to observe in the behaviour and interactions of young people you volunteer with:

  • Body language
  • Eye contact
  • Facial expression
  • Participation in the activity
Often we observe and don’t realise we are doing it, but it’s a good idea to try and capture some of these observations and use them for reflection. Recording throughout the activity would be too difficult and distract from running the session, but choosing one part of the activity to observe can be useful.
Observing is just part of the process. After you have gathered observation data, you need to try and make sense of it. Your observations may provide clues, but sometimes what people do does not always connect with how they are feeling, so there is a degree of interpretation involved in deciding what the observations might mean.


This is a task you can do next time you are delivering a volunteering activity.
Choose one part of the activity during which you will observe what young people are doing.
Draw a sketch or map of the layout of the room. Add the location of individuals or groups of individuals, as this can help you recall what was happening at a particular point in time.
Give yourself time at the end of an activity to record what you observed. If you have a longer activity you can use the break to record what you have observed.
The purpose of these observations is to improve your volunteering activity and delivery, so you should only make general observations (rather than name individuals). Focus on how what you have observed links to your delivery and choice of activity.
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