Scenario 4: Observation Practices

Cards for Democracy
Published on
April 06, 2022
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Observation practices

A 60-card deck to reflect on our interior condition for democratic culture.

Learning to show up in the world of education with democratic values in mind


  • Introduction to Scenario 4
  • Activity Example

    • Aim
    • Expected Outcome
    • Preparation
  • Procedure

How you show up in the world matters. This is why Cards for Democracy are an important tool today. They help us develop our interior condition to support democratic environment in our life and work.

Ready to use the Cards for Democracy? We offer some suggestions for you in the form of loose frameworks in which you can develop your creativity, as an educator, facilitator, or trainer.

These frameworks – we call them “Scenarios” – are intended to help you find inspiration to create your own activities.

L2C will share activities for download regularly in the C4D community of practice: Cards for Democracy Facebook group and on its media pages.

For an Introduction to the Cards for Democracy click here.

Scenario 4: Observation Practices

Observation is an effective tool to “diagnose” our and students’ learning gaps.

Carried out regularly, observation allows for gathering unexpected information (and data if done in the frame of action research).

Peer observation stimulates reflections about one’s own and others’ behaviors and elicits effective communication, the opportunity to be more observant and able to state our observations in interpersonal situations.

The cards below can inspire peers to observe themselves and each other, exchange about how they are practicing the cards in real-life, and/or how they see others practice and model these behaviors.

They then reflect on possible futures and ways to grow.

Here is an example of such an activity.

Activity Example – Mastering Observation


  • To relate observation to democratic behaviors
  • To understand conscious observation as a tool to deconstruct biassed interpretations of reality.
  • In the case of professional development, The Cards for Democracy – Teachers’ edition can be used, to help teachers develop competence for a democratic practice in education, through the development of attitudes, skills, and knowledge & understandings for democracy.

Expected Outcome

Participants will:

  • understand the potential of observation as a tool that promotes critical thinking and openness.
  • understand the merit of accurate descriptions to avoid biassed interpretations.
  • consider how much they, as individuals, can contribute to a more democratic environment*.

*the environment can be of many sorts: classroom, school, university, sports club, training… 


Make sure you have printed all the cards that you want to use (this may vary depending on what you have explored and how long you want this part of the session to last).

The cards are available in the products section of Learn to Change.

You can become a member by clicking here.

• Prepare a PPT presentation with the pictures and the 4 C4D below. Margritte’s picture can be downloaded from here.
The first 2 slides show the same painting. In the first one the caption is cut off and in the second the whole painting is shown, uncut (as shown below).

• Make sure you have enough space for all participants to feel comfortable and discuss in pairs (no special arrangements).

• Paper and pens to take notes during discussion are suggested.

• Flipchart or any kind of board.


Step 1: What you see does not always mean what you get…

Project slide 1:

Ask participants What do you see? Round robin and very quickly

Project slide 2:

Allow time for participants to comprehend the difference of the 2 pictures. Inform participants that the author is René Magritte, and the painting was named The Treachery of Images (Ceci n’est pas une pipe), 1929. The painter highlights the gap between language and meaning.

Tell them: this is not a pipe; it is a painting of a pipe.

Step 2: Reflect and inquiry

Project the C4Ds below. Ask participants to pair and relate this card to their visual experience in step 1.

Each pair writes 2 findings.

Ask participants to share their findings. Write notes from the findings on the flipchart.

Step 3: Labelling

Introduce the concept of labelling and use the definition:

To label someone is to categorize someone into a particular stereotype without nuances. It can negatively affect them.

Project the C4D below. Ask participants to use the card below to explain the differences between describing and judging. Each pair writes 2 findings.

Ask participants to share their findings. Write the findings on the flipchart.

Step 4: Avoiding pitfalls and difficulties with observation

  • Explain: Observation as a tool for teaching and giving feedback is in part based on accurate description.
    Ask participants to pair and discuss how they define “accuracy”.
  • Explain: Accuracy in communication helps to avoid misunderstandings and conflict.
    There are Information, verbal and nonverbal messages, and they are understood by others differently. The way messages are recognized, comprehended, recalled, and interpreted depend on how they are perceived and transformed by the interlocutors. by the receiver.
  • Ask participants to discuss in pairs what are the pitfalls to be aware of when observing others. distribute some of these cards to prompt conversations. Participants write a list of pitfalls.

  • Circulate the lists among participants so that each gets acquainted with others’ results.

Tip: these are the key pitfalls that should be mentioned if not raised by participants:

  1. The introduction of biases in the process of observation, e.g., initial impressions may bias subsequent observations.
  2. All we perceive with our senses is filtered through layers of our personal point of view (bias).
  3. Quality observation uses written recording and does not rely on memory.
  4. Awareness and balancing of own attitudes of harshness and/or leniency facilitates useful observation.

Step 5: Debriefing

Possible questions for debriefing that we have found generative are:

  • Did you enjoy this activity? Why is that?
  • Show the findings written on the flipchart, read aloud some of them, and ask: do you think observation is part of your daily lives? In what ways?
  • What are the benefits of using observation as a tool? Give examples.
  • Observation plays a fundamental role in the improvement of teaching and learning: do you agree? Explain.
  • Can you explain how observation fosters democratic behaviors?

Step 6: Disbanding

Ask pairs to share one observation with one another : something, a behavior she/he/they displayed in the activity that was helpful for cooperation. They write it on a paper

“I observed you (NAME)… do (ACTION) and that was helpful”.

Before leaving the room they hand it to their peer.

Teachers learning with the Cards for Democracy

Download the activity

By downloading Scenario 4 – Observation practices, you will have a PDF resource to keep and consult for your activities.


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