The Baha'i Writings and the Child: A Research Website

Observation in the Research Process

Rating Scales

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The rational of the rating scales.

In reviewing meditations on this research website you will see three rating scales being used (e.g. E=2.5; I= 3.00; A=1.5) :

Emotional Reaction (E); Initial Follow-up Response (I); and Application in Daily Life (A).  The use of these rating scales serves the function of alerting the rater/researcher to look closer at an event that is being observed.

The development of these rating scales is in its initial stages. As these scales (or other forms) are developed in the research, reliability and validity of these scales should be performed. At present we note that these scales have generally worked for us. We have observed that some raters rate higher than others – but in general the ratings stimulates discussion and help us to look deeper into our observations.

Applying quantitative values to spiritual matters is challenging. However, primary questions should be considered.

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What are we trying to observe?

Consider the following:

Human beings must be free to know.  That such freedom is often abused and such abuse grossly encouraged by features of contemporary society does not detract in any degree from the validity of the impulse itself.  ‘It is this distinguishing impulse of human consciousness that provides the moral imperative for the enunciation of many of the rights enshrined in  the Universal Declaration and the relate Covenants.’ (1)

    …the impulse to pray is a natural one, springing from man’s love  to God (2)

A researcher in this area notes:

What we have sought to discover during these thirty years is: What aspect of God corresponds to the vital needs of the child throughout the diverse stages of development? And we insisted on “vital needs” and not simply interests. (3)

What we have been researching is precisely this—that aspect … which appeases and satisfies that religious hunger in children. (4)

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How difficult is it to rate responses in spiritual development?

Consider the following:

For the core of religious faith is that mystic feeling which unites Man with God. This spiritual communion can be brought about and maintained by means of meditation and prayer. And this is the reason why Baha’u’llah has so much stressed the importance of worship. It is not sufficient for a believer merely to accept and observe the teachings. He should, in addition, cultivate the sense of spirituality which he can acquire chiefly by means of prayer. The Baha’i Faith, like all other Divine Religions, is thus fundamentally mystic in character. Its chief goals is the development of the individual and society, through the acquisition of spiritual virtues and powers. … (5)

Dr. Sofia Cavalletti in her many years of research in this area noted the following:

A person cannot teach another the Mystery of God, we can only help the other to seek. … We cannot make any person really meet God; this each must do for one’s self, listening and responding to the interior Teacher. (6)

…For it the greatest realities—those things which we most want to hand on to the children and which they are most capable of grasping—which are the very realities we cannot measure in any way. To what degree do we know or live the reality that God is love? To what degree do we know or live the reality of the death and resurrection of Christ? These are realities which even we are unable to measure to what degree we live them in our own life. Imagine trying to do this for others? … we will never be capable of knowing the intensity with which the child can live his/her religious experience nor how deeply or fully the message has entered into them. It is only the superficial elements we can control; these elements also happen to be those that interest us only to a certain point and are of no great concern whether the child knows them or not. (7)

But when we approach the area of prayer, it is evident just how inadequate the scholastic term “control” is. It is also evident how respectful we must be in front of the mystery of the relationship between God and the child. We must learn to wait, not to pretend anything, and maybe sometimes God will let us know something about this mysterious relationship. (8)

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What should the content of a rating scale contain?

Dr. Cavalletti suggested that observation of children is important.

Nonetheless there are certain things that can give us an indication as to the quality of our work, discovered through observing children: if the child manifests an attitude of concentration, displaying the behavior of one who has found his/her own vital milieu. The children’s prayer may be in some way another indicator for understanding our work. If their prayer is rich and comes forth as an expression of enjoyment in and awareness of what has been received, the message has probably been conveyed in an adequate, living form. (9)

…The reactions we observed in the children were above all: the desire to continue working at length on specific subjects; a sense of profound serene peace which enabled us to see how these themes were grasped by the children to the depths of their beings; and a non-scholastic quality of knowing, a knowledge which showed itself to be deeply rooted within the child. (10)

When we manage to focus on that aspect of God which is actually in harmony with the special need of that age, then we see that the child takes possession of the message with what I would call a special avidity, and that this message calls forth profound enjoyment in the child …. It is a joy that resounds very deeply and places the child in a state of profound peace. (11)

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What are some specific guidelines that can be used when observing children?

The following questions are simply guides to sharpen   observations. They are drawn from the work of Dr. Sofia Cavalleti, Dr. Arthur L. Costa, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and Dr. Kevin Rathunde.

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Does the child have a deep attraction to certain topics, meditations, ideas or general themes and to choose personal work with them on his or her own?

         Signs to look for:

  • Repeatedly uses the same resource to explore the topic.
  • Uses different resources to explore the same topic
  • Shows a deep interest, concentration, and absorption.
  • There is a total involvement (regardless of distractions)
  • Prolonged experience with the activity
  • Independent investigation occurs
  • The activity seems worth doing for its own sake and gives the feeling of a sense of accomplishment

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Does the topic itself bring forth a profound emotional reaction?

         Signs to look for:

  • Inner calmness
  • Serene peace
  • Joy/enjoyment
  • Sense of quiet/meditation
  • Wonderment
  • Awesomeness
  • Passion
  • To be captivated and delighted in utterly
  • Spellbound silence

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Does it seem that the knowledge and attraction the child gains from the topic develops as if there had been no intellectual effort of learning?

         Signs to look for:

  • Knowledge seems to spontaneously emerge
  • Child becomes more intelligent, more expansive
  • Material naturally aids meditation and absorption of theme presented
  • Action and awareness merge

“The activity becomes almost automatic and the involvement seems almost effortless.” (12)

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Does this deep interest eventually inspire a child to action?

Does this action seem well grounded and stable?       

Some areas to look for a change:

  • Prayer life/meditation
  • Daily life activities
  • Social situations (friendships)
  • Participation in society, both now and in the future
  • Verbal conversations
  • Etc.

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References

  1. Baha’i International Community Office of Public Information,  “The Prosperity of Humankind” 4-7, Haifa 1995
  2. ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Fortnightly Review, Jan.-June 1911, 1076, by Miss E. S. Stevens
  3. Sofia Cavalletti , “Characteristics of the Good Shepherd Catechesis” Journals of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd 1984-1997 25
  4. Sofia Cavalletti , “Characteristics of the Good Shepherd Catechesis” Journals of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd 1984-1997 25
  5. Shoghi Effendi Directives from the Guardian 86-87
  6. Sofia Cavalletti , “Characteristics of the Good Shepherd Catechesis” Journals of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd 1984-1997 28
  7. Sofia Cavalletti , “Characteristics of the Good Shepherd Catechesis” Journals of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd 1984-1997 26
  8. Sofia Cavalletti , “Characteristics of the Good Shepherd Catechesis” Journals of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd 1984-1997 26
  9. Sofia Cavalletti , “Characteristics of the Good Shepherd Catechesis” Journals of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd 1984-1997 26
  10. Sofia Cavalletti , “Characteristics of the Good Shepherd Catechesis” Journals of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd 1984-1997 29
  11. Sofia Cavalletti , “Characteristics of the Good Shepherd Catechesis” Journals of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd 1984-1997 25
  12. Ilona Boniwell, “Living in Flow” The Internet

 

Guiding Quotations