Moderator guidance on observers
Although we may not intend it, research sessions inherently create a power dynamic where the researchers is in control. We want to take care of our veteran participants' mental health, empower them, and make them feel like an important part in this process. Comfortable, empowered participants tend to be better participants, meaning we can end end up collecting more and more reliable data.
One way to level out this power dynamic is to let participants help us build their session. For example they aren’t compelled to answer a question if it makes them feel uncomfortable. Another way to shift the power dynamic is limiting the number of observers and allowing our participants a say in how many join.
Limit number of observers
Observing research is important for product owners, developers, and other stakeholders and teammates. However, seeing a dozen faceless and nameless boxes on screen can be intimidating or worse, triggering. To balanced the desire to include observers with participants' emotional needs:
Limit total VA attendance to 5-6 per session, including moderator and note taker
Notetaker and moderator should be considered minimum VA attendance for most sessions.
Observers should then be no more than 3-4 per session
Protocol for adding observers to a session
You should keep observers in the Zoom waiting room until asking the participant if they are comfortable with observers. The conversation guide template is updated to reflect this guidance.
Prepare your observers for starting in the waiting room
Ask them to review the observer guidelines
At the start of the session admit the participant and notetaker only
Communicate with observers via Slack, like if a participant is late
If participant is ok with observers, use “admit all” button in Zoom
If a more private session is requested, notify observers via Slack to drop from session
If observers join, have them each give a brief, camera-on introduction, which can include their first or preferred name and position with VA.gov
One observer per Zoom window
Everyone joining a session should join directly to the Perigean account’s Zoom session so that 1 person is 1 Zoom box
There should be no hidden observers. This is dishonest to the participant and doing so by connecting via a second video conference account could also expose participants' data.
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