During the 1920s, West Electric were interested in how they could improve productivity. So they sent a team of researchers to their Hawthorne Works factory just outside of Chicago. Over a period of 8 years, the research teams experimented with different lighting levels and measured worker output.
As expected, when changes were made to lighting intensity during the experiments, productivity increased. But the increased performance could never be repeated once the experiments had finished. The boost was not, it seemed, down to the light changes, but simply a positive response from the workers to the fact that they were being observed.
Twenty years later, sociologist Henry A Landsberger coined the term ‘the Hawthorne Effect‘ to describe this phenomenon, and researchers in the social sciences have been wrestling with it ever since.
When applied to classroom observation, I believe that the Hawthorne Effect can be devastating. This brings…
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