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  • Skribentens bildSuzanne Axelsson

A Beginner's Guide to Pedagogical Documentation (part 4)

This is the final post - number four... the previous ones in this series you can check here... ONE - about observations TWO - about analysing and THREE - about making plans and taking action This post is about PUBLICATION - about how we share the learning as a more finished product of thoughts... how we make the learning visible on the walls, in portfolios, books and films etc. It is usually the part that most people tend to call pedagogical documentation - yet when you get to this stage there is not as much room for further thought... it is on the walls, your reflections, your analysis, the words and quotes you have chosen to represent the children's learning and ideas.

Of course the children can also be a part of this process of making publications of their work - by making books and films... it does not have to be only the adult interpretation of the project. Films, posters etc on the walls are much harder to change once they are made... even though they can still contribute to the dialogue about a project or learning area. Being aware of the intentions of the publication will also affect how you write it and how you present it. For example there have been times where I have wanted the children (and parents) to think more about what we have been doing, so I will put up images and some headlines onto the wall as a kind of panel to ignite discussion and further ideas. These panels though are areas that often change - the publication there is more like a daily newspaper or a weekly newspaper - they will go into a file as I take them off the wall to be replaced with the latest update about the project, the learning, the play and happenings... sometimes just photos to provoke thought. I have end of project exhibitions where more things will go up on the wall on a temporary basis so that children and parents can explore the project together with us educators... all our thoughts are there to see... and I will put up QR codes next to short texts and the children's work so that there is a chance for the parents to click onto the blogpost and find out more of MY thinking behind the process, as well as youtube links where they can see their children in action... so on the wall will be the final product of an action art project... with a QR code next to it so the parents, and children can find a film of the art in action. This brings backs lots of memories for the children, and enables them to talk more about the process with their parents. And really this is what I want to achieve - a space and publication that allows and encourages further reflection. Of course there is not always time for these further reflections to make it into the final publication. Sometimes the publication has been a programme, that the children and I have put together to go with a production... the programme would show the whole process of how the children decided on doing a performance for their parents, how they made the story up, their thoughts about this, how they designed the set, the costumes etc etc... of course this means reflections on the actual performance is not with this publication... but the publication was about the process leading up to the product - the performance. The children have portfolios... and this can be done in many ways... from including samples of their work, along with their quotes and the educators reflections, to a story of the children's time at the setting, to the children's own collection of notes and images... and there are many online tools to help with this too. In the last 12 months I have made film versions of a portfolio, and have focussed on the group and group learning... the individual part of making the learning visible I have done with the parents at meetings - and with the children on a daily basis. The film is then a story of their time spent at preschool divided into different categories of learning with small texts showing how each area covers many forms of learning too... so it can be viewed as a memory, or as a way to make their learning visible... You can check out this post for some examples of publications... ie the documentation you often see on the walls... this post explores different ways to use portfolios, panels on walls, files etc (so lots of images for you to look at to rflect on the many ways learning can be published/presented)... and also to reflect on the idea that sometimes there can be TOO MUCH published stuff on the walls... I feel there is a need for space, so that the children and teachers have somewhere to rest their eyes and just reflect. Having a child with autism at home our walls are VERY scaled down with extremely few images on the wall to make sure there is not too much visual clutter and that home is a restful space... we need to think about this in our settings too... how can we create spaces of calm amidst all the stimulation? I also created log books with the children which is more the process than a publication... but it did end up being a book the children could take home... The log books became a useful tool for us as educators to look through and learn more about the children... their ideas, how these ideas linked to those of the rest of the group... their interests, their proto-writing turning into writing... their drawing etc. These books were a process and publication all at once, as it was sometimes hard to return to a page and add more thoughts when there was not the space for this... so we learned as we went along to leave space between the children's thoughts and entries... we glued in photos too... and some of the children wrote/drew in random places too. How active the children were with these books was also informative... as not all children wanted to spend lots of time with these books.

This publication was made with powerpoint... the idea was to show educators in Jenin that a trip into nature could be a great way to support writing skills from the sense that hands need to train their strength... I wrote several pages of powerpoint with images and text illustrating how outdoor play helped with reading and writing skills... from climbing trees, to traces letters and images in gravel... My INTENTION before producing this publication was clear.

In the same trip as the one above I also wrote from the point of view of collaboration/social development and also natural sciences... often using the same images to illustrate the complexity of learning. What I wanted to share with the educators there and with you, the reader, is that analysing the documentation together with others is essential to making decisions, not only about what projects and activities to pursue with the children but also how their learning should be presented to the children and the parents... and colleagues, society etc... Learning about the parents and how they understand what happens during the day... what they think is learning, and how it happens, what they have for expectations and what they think is important in their child's development can be influential in understanding how to publish the children's learning and play... so that parents can better understand the deeper learning through play that occurs on a daily, weekly, monthly basis... I have written publications about the children's happiness and security and how this can be seen in the activities and the level of participation - especially at the start of the academic year when some parents are worried about their children settling in... as these worries are allayed then there can be more focus on looking for the learning. There is a short film in the making, but since it is taking a little longer to put together than I thought it would I am going to share this post now... and the film will come out later in the week... as I would like this series of four to be released in the same month at least and May is just about over . Again the aim of these posts is not to give you a step by step method of how to do pedagogical documentation... but a guide, a series of thoughts for you to think about and to discuss with your team... and if you work alone maybe there is a group of likeminded parents, carers, educators that you can explore these concepts with... either in a meeting... or even in an online community. In a private group for the educators training programme in Jenin films and photographs of their observations are shared and we discuss them together - learning from each other as well as sharing knowledge. Below are some links to further reading... so you have the chance to gain different perspective on pedagogical documentation and not just mine... LINKS: Pedagogical Documentation and its links to Children’s Personal Social, and Emotional Well Being by Debi Keyte-Hartland - also by Debi... Pedagogical Documentation as a Tool for Thinking Differently Pedagogical Documentation in Challenging Times really you should spend some time looking at more of Debi's posts, they will serve you well. Pedagogical Documentation: Why? When? Who? What? Where? How? by Diane Kashin. Meaningful Writing - this is a publication made by Garden Gate Child Development Center, Martha's Vineyard, MA, USA... it will give you an idea of how observations, images and thinking can be brought together and published for others to read. This is part of the preschool's facebook page... so take the time to explore more... Sightlines - the British Reggio Emilia Institute has a pdf about pedagogical documentation you can read. Learning to Document in Reggio-inspired Education Carol Anne Wien York University with Victoria Guyevskey & Noula Berdoussis - the abstract reads... "This article discusses how teachers in child care and elementary schools learn to work with Reggio-inspired pedagogical documentation. While teachers grasp the value of such documentation theoretically, it is most challenging but exciting to use in practical settings. Documentation illuminates teacher theories about children’s understanding: watching such theories change through study of documentation and further teacher research profoundly influences professional development. This article outlines five aspects in a progression in learning to document: (1) developing the habits of documenting, (2) “going public” with recountings of activities, (3) exploring the visual literacy of graphic displays, (4) making children’s theories visible, and (5) sharing visible theories with others for the purpose of further interpretation and curriculum decision making. Two stories of teachers learning to document are shared—one showing a teacher’s attempt to make one child’s theory visible and one showing a teacher’s “documentation strips” developed for revisiting theories with children."

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