PSYCHIATRIC observation is the root process of data collection on which both theory and therapy depend. The teaching and learning of psychiatric observation is therefore a high priority task in any psychiatric training program. Although deserving of attention, it has not been studied in any detail nor has it been exploited as a fascinating area for the study of observation itself. In organizing an orientation course in psychiatric observation for beginning residents, we attempted to build in a research approach in an effort to make maximum use of the time and energy invested by the teachers and observers. The multiple purposes of the course were to evaluate the use of videotapes as a method of instruction, to develop a hierarchy of observational learning tasks, to study the process of teaching and learning observation, and to devise better means of testing for learning.