By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. To begin with I would like to wish all the followers and readers of this blog a very HAPPY NEW YEAR! A new year is the time for reflection and resolutions. For me, 2017 will be the year that I continue my quest to make meaning from the theory and practice of pedagogical documentation. Meaning making is an opportunity to think deeply about the content of documentation so that it can become pedagogical. Not all documentation is pedagogical. I have a number of workshops scheduled for the new year that will be focusing on documentation. Now is the time for reflection on how to support educators in the practice of pedagogical documentation. Fleet, Patterson & Robertson (2012) suggest that pedagogical documentation “is not a real-time movie or a record of events, but a subjective set of frozen moments that provoke, inform, record, and provide opportunities for further thinking, wonder, able to be offered back to children for comment and reflection” (p. 7). It is a process whereby early learning teachers seek to make meaning.
When documentation has meaningful content that depicts learning and development, early learning teachers share it with children, families, the community, and with each other as a way to demonstrate children’s competency and capacity. This is a form of assessment of children’s learning as it is visible, transparent and meaningful. During this process, educators seek to make meaning in their continued reflection of the documentation in order to seek ways for it to authentically influence the direction future teaching and learning will take.
The framework proposed by Rolfe, Freshwater & Jasper (2001) could serve as a guide for reflection to support the process of meaning making. This tool developed for helping professions such as nurses, involves three components: what, so what and now what? By using this framework as a way to reflect upon documentation it can lead to curriculum decisions. My colleague Cindy Green and I have shared and studied this framework with numerous educators from Upper Canada Child Care Centres and have found that it enables a deeper level of documentation that surpasses “scrapbooking”. I threw a provocation Cindy’s way when I suggested adapting the framework to include another component “What about the what?” to encourage even deeper thinking.
What? This is an objective question that asks you to describe what you saw or heard.
What about the What? This is a reflective question that asks you to consider why you choose to record and document a particular situation. How did it make you feel? As you examine the documentation what makes you smile or what tugs at your heartstrings?
So What? This is an interpretative question. What are you learning about the child’s learning processes and what are you learning about your own teaching? How does this situation connect to the child’s prior experience or knowledge? How does it connect to your prior experience or knowledge?
Now What? This is a decision question. Where will you go next? How will this inform your practice? How will you use your knowledge/experience to plan for the children’s indoor and outdoor play experiences or to plan for a long-term project investigation?
Cindy worries that the addition of the “what about the what” will confuse those educators that we have worked with and have seen such progress in their documentation and thinking. I see the additional component as essential in the process of pedagogical documentation. For each stage of the reflection process, more questions can be asked to encourage deeper meaning making. Your comments, ideas and suggestions are welcome! You may also have a framework that you can share.
If you are embarking on a long-term investigation, then the documentation created has become pedagogical. It has influenced your pedagogical approach. What will you do next? What are the next steps? Children can begin by representing what they know through drawing and creating three-dimensional art. In the article by Mary Ann Biermeir: Inspired by Reggio Emilia: Emergent Curriculum in Relationship-Driven Learning Environments clay, wire, wood, and recycled materials are used to help children express what they know. Children learn how to glue, cut, fold, tear, balance, and solve problems in the context of project work. Another example is given in the article that focuses on map-making during the course of the investigation. When the next steps involve making decisions about the direction of the project, including the children’s idea and inviting them to create and demonstrate their thinking and learning will help lead the process forward.
Documentation … is not simply a technique that can be transported but a way of guaranteeing that our thinking always involves reflection, exchange, different points of view, and differences in assessment or evaluation. The documentation materials we use attest not only to our path of knowledge regarding children but also to our path of knowledge about the child and humanity, and about ourselves. They also attest to our idea of the teacher as researcher, of school as a place of research and cultural elaboration, a place of participation, in a process of shared construction of values and meanings ~ Carlina Rinaldi