Observation can be used to assess the delivery or impact of an intervention. This can involve a member of the evaluation team taking part in the activity and making notes. Alternatively observations can be recorded using video. They can be particularly useful when evaluating the success of a training programme.

Checklists, numerical ratings or narrative comments can be used to record particular elements of an intervention that have been chosen for assessment.

Observation can be carried out overtly, with people's knowledge, or covertly without telling participants about the presence or role of the observer or use of video. Covert observation does have ethical implications.

  • Direct - This involves observations of certain sampled situations. The observation can be carried out with an observer watching what is happening and be visible to those involved in the activity or one way mirrors can be used or video recordings.
  • Participant - This is unlikely to be regularly used in the context of evaluating road safety interventions. It involves the observer participating in the activity that is being observed. This enables them to view the activity from the participants' perspective through making notes of the experience. It is important that the observer is not obtrusive and affects the running of the intervention which can be difficult to achieve.


  • Effective for samples who have difficulty directly communicating their views
  • Can assess the delivery of a programme as it happens
  • Using observers who are also participants, it is possible to gain a participant's perspective
  • Using observers who are also participants, it is possible to gain the informal opinions of the group
  • Using observers who are also participants, it is possible to gain insight into the dynamics and characteristics of the groups receiving the RSE programme
  • Covert observation or video recording avoids the problem of influencing the normal activity of a group


  • Open observation or video recording can influence the normal activity of a group
  • Covert observation may be regarded as unethical in some circumstances (e.g. observing illegal activity).