A Beginner's Guide to Pedagogical Documentation (part 3)
This is the third in a four part series on Pedagogical documentation. part one can be seen - here and part two can be found - here In Part one I covered the topic of collecting data, while in the second post it was all about the analysis of the collected data... this post will be the decision making and action planning using the analysis as a basis.
You might make the decision to introduce a project idea to the children... your observations have lead you to understand that the children have an interest/need and that it can be met within a project idea you have...
For example I remember a few years ago I visited a Leonardo da Vinci exhibition in Milan, Italy... and the whole visit made me think of my group of preschoolers back in Sweden (I know, I know, occupational hazard).. I knew that we had not covered so much of the technology and design area of the curriculum as I would have liked (but the social-emotional need of the group took priority) and I could see that by exploring Da Vinci we could bring more of that into our daily planning... Da Vinci was also a philosopher... and we had philosophy sessions every week, it made sense for the children to feel a link with others throughout time that have seen the value of shared sustained thinking; Da Vinci designed robots, and I knew my group were into robots as they played robot chase almost every day for the previous two years (sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for hours); Da Vinci was not afraid of making mistakes, he practised and practised and saw mistake making as a way of learning... I had a few children who were perfectionists... I felt that through stories of Da Vinci we could explore mistake making and feeling more comfortable with the idea of not needing to get it perfect the first time; Da Vinci also built bridges... and this would be the groups final year and we would be building bridges throughout the year with their schools to be... personally I was really rooting to do a whole projects on bridges... but I knew the Leonardo project was wide enough for the children to find their interest within it... So I introduced Leonardo Da Vinci to them through stories, books and art... and it did not take long for them to fasten on robots and technology (film-making - trying out a new skill, for all of us) - there was always the chance that they would reject the whole Leonardo Da Vinci idea all together and that I would have to observe the children again and learn from them what their interest are and their needs... but I had been with the children for three years already, so my understanding of the children was great enough to find those project areas that interested them and caught their imagination. When you are with a class for a shorter time, or just getting to know them, it is much harder to come up with project ideas - mostly because you are not as familiar with the children, their interests and their learning preferences... so having the opportunity to work more than three years with a group is a wonderful thing. So decision one is launching a project. The project starts with activities, art, experiences, stories, explorations etc - which means the observations start again and the data collection starts a again and the analysis too... which will bring you to another possible decision If this project idea was not one that whet the children's appetite for learning and play - you will need to make the decision...
does the project need to be presented in a different way? ie was the learning approach wrong for the children?
do you need to observe the children in their free play more to better understand their learning preferences, their needs and their interests
should a different NEW project be launched? that during the last observations you have already noticed needs and interests
should an old project be re-launched - the children have seen art/photos and text on the walls or in their files and have started to ask questions about their previous play and learning, giving you the opportunity to return and deepen their understanding of this.
OR maybe you feel the project is worth persisting with, that maybe the children need another chance to explore the same thing again... that the first experience was so novel that they were dealing with the novelty, or were nervous of the newness, and that by repeating the activity the children have an opportunity to test it again with more confidence.
So you have got this far.. You have observed the children... analysed the documentation of these observations (written, oral, photographs, films and the children's work) and you have made the decision how to proceed... Then it is to do the activity, or the play, or the excursion, the experience and start the circle again with more observations. More analysis. More decision making. Each time you will learn more about the group, the individual children, the relationships within the group, the learning preferences, the interests and also about how you work as an educator. it means taking risks to try new things with the children... accept a role of learning with them, Get the children involved in making the plans and suggesting ideas for how to take the projects further. You might be wondering at this stage... but where is the stuff on the walls? What about portfolios... Well, they can be a part of the pedagogical documentation if they are being used to explore the children's ideas and experiences further... for example I would hang up works of art the children had made together with photos of the process and short texts of my observations and my understanding of the learning processes... allowing not only the parents to see what their children have done... and to give an opportunity for children and parents (grandparents, aunts uncles friends etc etc) to enter a dialogue with the children about the process. It also makes the children's learning visible to the children... and allows a dialogue with the educators about what they remember about the experience, how they felt and how we could continue... it is not a finished work on the wall... but still open to interpretation by children, parents and educators alike. What ends up on the walls, in portfolios etc is a kind of publication... it is a product of the documentation, observations, analysis and planning... the process is the circle of pedagogical documentation.
In the next and final part of this beginners guide to pedagogical documentation will be about the published part of the process... how we can present the children's work, play and learning - and our interpretation of that. The next post will also include links for further reading about pedagogical documentation.