Does documentation support young children's memory and enable reflection?
One of my assignments from my masters in Early Childhood Education at Sheffield University
According to the pedagogical philosophy of Reggio Emilia, documentation “mirrors (of) our knowledge in which we can see our own ideas and images reflected” and that they” support the memory and interactions for the children, teachers, and parents” (Rinaldi, 1998, p.121). My interest in Reggio Emilia has developed during the course of this master’s programme at Sheffield University – both as a result of my studies and my professional experience. I have been using documentation more and more - to improve my own pedagogical abilities, to see the needs of the children – as individuals and as a group, as well as stimulating the children’s learning processes. There is a great deal of research and literature concerning the teachers’ use of documentation and the benefits of this (Johansson, 2009; Kroeger and Cardy, 2006; Peaslee, Snyder and Casey, 2007; Rinaldi, 1998, 2006; Wallin, 2003) but there is little research on how documentation is used by children and can benefit their learning despite Rinaldi’s statement. Fleck (2010, p 4) writes that there is significant anecdotal evidence suggesting documentation may enhance young children’s learning and memory.
In this assignment I am going to investigate whether documentation aids young children’s ability to learn by their ability to remember and reflect on what they have done. I had noticed during my use of documentation how I was able to stimulate the children’s ability to reflect on projects we had been doing during the term by referring to the documentation I had produced (photographs, dialogues between children, interviews etc) and that the conversations about the subject became richer, and their answers longer and more confident. I wanted to take a closer look at how creating a small booklet, using photographs and text (one of the forms of documentation described by Rinaldi (1998, p121)) describing an event at the preschool I work at, could benefit memory and therefore the ability to reflect on the event four days later.
In order to do this I will review the literature on Reggio Emilia style documentation, reflection and memory. As it has been harder to find research about how children use documentation I will be relying on the research made on teacher’s use of documentation. I will be using both English and Swedish resources and will be making my own translations for the purpose of this assignment.
This will be followed by a presentation of the methods used to collect data for my research and my method of analysis. The results will then be presented as well as a discussion, comparing the results with the peer-reviewed literature, the effectiveness of my methods as well as discussing ideas stimulated by the research.
Finally I will conclude the assignment by raising what further research could be pursued.
When starting this assignment I had assumed that there would be plenty of literature I could refer to, and in the end I found only one paper written by Bethany Fleck (2010) that related directly to the research I wanted to do. There was, though, no lack of literature in the area of documentation, as the interest in the documentation approach to learning found in the preschools in Reggio Emilia is great (Abbott and Nutbrown, 2007; Bondesson et al, 2007; Edwards et al, 1998; Fleck, 2010; Krechevsky and Stork, 2000; Pramling-Samuelsson et al, 2006; Wallin, 2003). As Fleck writes (p.4) pedagogues in Reggio Emilia have noticed that documentation enhances children’s learning by revisiting. Forman and Fyfe (1998, p 247) describe the teacher as an aid to the child’s memory by writing down what the children have said or taking photographs, and then using the photographs and reading aloud the words at a later date. This, state Forman and Fyfe, helps the children “remember what they were doing and thinking during that experience” and to “extend their understanding” (p.247). They go on to distinguish the difference between revisiting and remembering, where revisiting involves emotions and establishing a meaning from the memory. This is corroborated by Nilsson’s (2009) observations of children reflecting on their portfolios in a Swedish preschool, stating “several of the girls’ reflections were about what occurred around them on the actual occasion. It was not just what the children and adults said and did, but also the emotional mood.” (p23) and that “ they commented on…(things)…that there was not the faintest trace of in the photographs”.
Fleck continues (p.6) that there have been no empirical studies into how documentation might enhance memory as there have been few quantitative analyses of the outcomes of Reggio practices. Rinaldi explains this in a dialogue with Dahlberg and Moss (2006, p.200) where Rinaldi feels that being asked to provide scientific proof that they are functioning effectively tries to make them conformist. Fleck’s research supports the claims made by Reggio pedagogues regarding the effects of documentation aiding their ability to reflect – that the documentation “boosted recall (indicating) a strong reminding effect “ (p. 24) and continues that her research indicated that children are “more likely to recall events they have previously discussed with an adult than those they have not” (p. 24). Fivush (1994, p 358) describes four year olds ability to accurately recall events that had occurred more than two years previously but goes on to describe this memory as one the children could have claimed as their own even though it had probably been the parents etc recounting the tale. Roos af Hjelmsäter (2010, p.9) writes that children as young as two or three have the cognitive development, including language skills, to store episodic memories, she continues that at the age of 4-5 children can remember emotion and context and at the age of six children develop the ability to remember in chronological order.
Episodic memories are those of particular events, for example, a prince and princess party to celebrate the marriage of the Swedish Crown Princess. These memories are processed by a different area of the brain than remembering names, numbers and facts, otherwise known as semantic memory. Then there is procedural memory that helps you remember to button up clothes or walk. (Blakemore and Frith, 2009, p.139). Blakemore and Frith continue that little is known about how the brain works when we are learning, and even less about what goes on when we are teaching. “We can learn things within a lifetime that were originally unique inventions and the accumulated work of many generations” (p.149). They also state that to be an effective teacher, the pedagogue needs to estimate what the child already knows in order to be able to advance the child’s understanding. The pedagogue also needs to gauge the interest levels of the child, and their receptiveness to teaching. “Teachers and learners have reciprocal roles and mutually help each other” (p.150). This brings us back to documentation, Edwards, Gandini and Forman write that the pedagogues in Reggio Emilia believed that systematically documenting their work with the children would provide a “concrete and visible “memory” of what (the children) said and did in order to serve as a jumping-off point for the next steps in learning” (1998, p.10).
Granhagen and Hedlund (2008, p.1) describe pedagogical documentation as a form that draws attention to the individual child, the group, the pedagogues and the preschool environment, and that by reflecting on this pedagogical documentation the children’s learning processes can be seen. Wallin (2003, p.82-3) sees two different versions of documentation, one where the pedagogues have documented the day as a form of memory with small texts under and the second as a method to look for any patterns of learning, interactions etc. Wallin believes that the former of these two do not describe what the children felt or thought about the situation, but does say that this method fulfils the function as acting as a memory for the children and provides evidence for the parents of what the children have being doing during the day.
Methods of documentation include tape-recorders/digital dictaphones, taking notes by hand, taking photographs, video recording and collecting work created by the children (Kantor and Whaley, 1998; Leask, 2007; Nutbrown and Abbot, 2007; Rinaldi, 1998, 2008; Wallin, 2003) all of these having advantages and limitations as the students in Kroeger and Cardy’s ( 2006, p.394-5) study of trainee teachers attitudes to documentation show. The students were given the task to analyse the different methods of documentation and to give their opinions on them, using the headings “Forms and Affordances”, “Limitations”, “Considerations” and “Solutions and Further Questions”. For example, digital photographs, the students felt, enabled “Flexible immediate records and for longer-term use for display” (p.394) whilst taking up the cost of printing and the time taken to select and derive meaning from the photographs. Queries were raised how a school defines documenting and the interpretation of the photographs. Limitations were seen in the teacher’s ability to select photographs and display them, as well as privacy concerns – are the children happy to have their daily life exposed? Discussions were raised about the sharing of the photographs at meetings as well as on websites and their value for communicating with all regardless of language and reading ability etc. (p394). It is well worth all pedagogues to be aware of the benefits and limitations when considering what method of documentation should be used in each circumstance. Wallin (2003,p68) points out that not all pedagogues will feel comfortable using all techniques of documentation and that it is worth finding out which method suits the person and the situation so that documentation does not become a technique in itself, and therefore more or less meaningless, but that it should remain a method to collate information that is to be analysed. Krechevsky and Stork (2000, p.68) concur with Wallin that the act of documentation must have a purpose and require evaluation. It is the analysis that is important, but good documentation, through practice, increases the accuracy of the analysis.
The concept of documentation as a collection of documents used for demonstrating the truth of a fact or confirming a thesis is historically correlated to the birth and evolution of scientific thought and to a conceptualisation of knowledge as an objective and demonstrable entity…I find it interesting to underscore how the concept of documentation, which has only recently moved into the scholastic environment, and more specifically into the pedagogical-didactic sphere, has undergone substantial modifications that partially alter its definition. In this context, documentation is interpreted and used for its value as a tool of recalling; that is, as a possibility for reflection. (2008, p. 62)
Reflection is a learning tool, one of many. Children need to participate, to experience – and learn from that - but to also to be given the opportunity to reflect on what they have learned to deepen their understanding, allowing the pedagogue and the child to see how the learning process should continue. Dewey (1997, p.38) explains that it is the pedagogues responsibility to guide the child to reflect, using their “greater maturity of experience” to see which “direction the experience is heading” and to help organise this. Dewy goes on to explain that there is a difference between guiding the child with this greater experience and imposing this experience upon the child. Malaguzzi (1998, p.84) also mentions the importance of the pedagogue “loaning” the child their knowledge and judgement. Bruner (1977, p.33) describes the pedagogue as a translator, and that it is their responsibility to relate their knowledge in a manner that is accessible to the child. Later Dewey writes that “there should be brief intervals of time for quiet reflection provided even for the very young” (p.63) but he believes that these periods can only be effective if preceded by hands on learning. It appears that it is the combination of hands on learning experiences followed by reflection that provide young children with genuine opportunities of learning growth; documentation being a natural link allowing children and adults to reflect upon what they have experienced. “With regard to children, documentation offers an opportunity for revisiting, reflecting, and interpreting” (Rinaldi, 1998, p.122). Rinaldi goes on to explain how children are offered the opportunity to organise their own learning and self-correct when necessary and that, together with others, reflection of the documentation allows for both self and group evaluation.
Learning by rote has been used for centuries and includes reciting poems and songs etc, but many believe it tends to detract the child from the meaning of the song and poems, explain Blakemore and Frith (2009, p.151ff). They write “ Rote learning is clearly useful for learning new technical terms. But what about recalling the right word at the right time? Effective learning is more than just cramming one’s head full of information. We must develop our ability to retrieve the information that is useful for a specific situation…Many educators believe that what learners need are the tools to access the stored information”(p.153). Documentation could be used as this tool for young children to “access stored information” and that by reflecting upon it gives meaning to what they have learned.
Fleck (2010, p. 26) confirms, with her study, that “documentation helps children stay focused and contributes to the range and depth of learning, strengthening their understanding” this she understands by the children involved in the documentation group using significantly more on-topic words about the project than the other two groups (worksheet group and a control group). This implies that the documentation is helping the children retrieve the stored information. Fleck, like Dewey and Malaguzzi, sees the importance of the pedagogue’s role when reflecting on the documentation to “enhance the effect of documentation on memory”(p.28).
Theory of mind or mentalizing, the ability to understand that others can think and feel differently from ourselves, is acquired during the early years and by age five experiments have established that normally developing children have an understanding of complex social situations (Blakemore and Frith, 2009, p.99). Mentalizing is an essential part of reflection, it is the interaction with others that can deepen their understanding and knowledge, or as Forman and Fyfe write “negotiated learning” (1998, p.239). Rankin writes
Emphasis is placed on learning as a group and developing a sense of “we”. Reggio Emilia educators use the phrase, “Io chi siamo” (“I am who we are”) to express the idea that it is within this shared space of “we” that each child can offer his or her best thinking, leading to a rich and fertile group exchange and stimulating something new and unexpected, impossible for any one person to create alone (1998, p.219).
The theory of “Io chi siamo” assumes that reflection is best done together with others to optimize the learning opportunities of the activities and experiences of the children. This is in accordance with the Malaguzzi’s interpretation of Vygotsky’s (1978) zone of proximal development where learning occurs best interacting with others – both adults and other children, and where the gap between not knowing and knowing has the potential to be filled (Malaguzzi, 1998, p.82)
My position as a preschool teacher at a nursery school in Stockholm allowed me the perfect arena to conduct my research. I had a good relationship with both parents and children, the latter being already familiar with reflecting together over activities and subjects both as a whole group (nineteen 3-4 year old children) and in small groups. The research would, therefore not make the children feel uncomfortable; they would be with their usual teacher in their usual environment as “having the interview as part of a routine, everyday activity can also help to make it less unnatural” (Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2010, p.375).
The issue of selection was my dilemma. Originally I had big plans of interviewing six groups of five children from three different age groups – three groups having access to documentation whilst reflecting four days later and three groups having no access to any form of documentation. I applied Clough and Nutbrown’s (2008, p. 37) “Russion doll principle” and scaled down my research where it would not be comparing how different ages used documentation to reflect, but simply did the documentation aid 3-4 year olds ability to reflect. I had also reduced the group sizes to two children. My tutor advised me to scale down my research further and to have one child in each interview.
I was fortunate, when asking both the children and the parents if they were interested in participating in my research I had a 100% interest. I selected two boys, a three year old and a four year old, and two girls, both four years of age, due to their ability and enthusiasm to participate in similar dialogues during the academic year. Two of each gender were chosen so that I could compare the interviews without having to take into consideration possible gender differences/issues. Four children were selected to allow for sickness or a change of mind to participate. To avoid disappointment (as there was a great deal of enthusiasm from all the children) I interviewed all the children in a group session together with the documentation, using the dictaphone; the interview has not been used as part of my study and was duly deleted after the children had listened to themselves.
The two research interviews were recorded and I took notes of their body language. These interviews were then transcribed together with the notes taken. During the interview I had twelve set questions to structure my interview (see appendix), so that both were similar and also to allow for my note taking to make sense when listening to the recorded interview. The interviews were semi structured – allowing the children to take the interview where their memories went.
“ Researchers must make their own decisions about how their subjects’ “confidences” are protected…”(Clough and Nutbrown, 2007, p.96). Ethically the participants have been given new names so that they cannot be identified, as have all the names of children and staff mentioned in the interviews, and the research has been kept in a box in a locked wardrobe and on my computer which requires a code to start up.
All the children were informed, in the presence of three other teachers, of my research the day before the event and what it would involve and that they had a choice to participate. On the day of the interviews the two boys were given the option of whether they wanted to participate in the presence of another teacher, and the interviews were conducted in the childrens’ familiar surroundings with another teacher in the adjacent room, out of sight but able to ensure that the interviews were not coerced. The validity of the interviews is derived from my attempt to minimize bias and by comparing the interviews with research by Fleck (2010) which has been shown to be valid (Cohen, Manion and Morrison, 2010, p.150)
Choosing the event was no problem at all. The Swedish Crown Princess Victoria married her Daniel on Saturday 19th June 2010. To celebrate this we planned two weeks of wedding and prince and princess activities, which culminated in a prince and princess party on Thursday 17thJune. All the children and staff were to come as a prince or princess and there would be activities and a special lunch to celebrate the day ending with a “reception” where the parents were invited. I photographed and took notes of what the children were doing and saying during the day, which I then used to create a booklet about the event over the weekend.
The interviews were then held on the Monday, four days later.
The interviews were then transcribed, and as a courtesy, I sent the transcriptions to the parents of the two children involved, allowing the parents to withdraw if they felt uncomfortable with the interviews. There was only positive feedback from the parents.
The transcribed interviews were colour coded and then compared focussing on length, number and length of pauses, length of responses and on topic answers. Since the interviews were of different lengths I used percentage of the interview to be able to more accurately see the difference and similarities between the two.
The two interviews differed in length of duration by 4.5 minutes, and, as I assumed, the interview with Allan, who had access to the documentation, was longer. I had estimated the interviews would take about fifteen minutes each, respecting what Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2010, p.376) write that the duration of an interview with young children should be fifteen minutes at the most. This difference in interview length meant that my data could not be compared by simply counting the number of responses as these would not reflect accurately how the documentation affected the children’s ability to recall and reflect on the prince and princess party. This can be seen by Allan having 24 one-word responses and Olof having 14, and Allan’s 88 on-topic responses compared to Olof’s 41 on-topic responses. When these figures are given as a percentage of the interview they reveal a very different picture. Despite Allan having 10 more one-word responses than Olof it amounted to 18% of his interview, which is less than the 22.2% of one-word responses given by Olof. This is due to Olof’s interview being filled with more pauses, combined with the shorter length, resulting in fewer responses. The on-topic responses is equally interesting when compared as a percentage, as numerically Allan had more than twice as many on-topic responses but as a percentage there was little difference, Allan 66.7% and Olof 65.1%.
The number of pauses was an obvious difference whilst conducting the interviews, so I decided to take a closer look at them, dividing them into four categories in order to compare the number and quality of the pauses better (see diagram 1).
Allan had almost twice as many pauses under two seconds than Olof, whilst he had less than half the number of pauses over five seconds. Olof’s longest pause was three times longer that Allan’s longest pause indicating that he was finding it harder to retrieve the information stored in his memory. Olof’s half a minute more of silence than Allan meant that he spent 50% more of his interview time trying to work out what or how to respond to a question asked.
Its is also interesting to see that Allan did not answer “I don’t know/ remember” or asked any questions to remind himself, as he was able to use the booklet to help him, whilst Olof responded nine times in this manner. This, together with the significant number of times Olof used the sound “err” prior to a response, also suggests that he found it harder to retrieve his memories of the event.
To try and find out more about the relevance of the interviews I looked at the kind of responses Allan and Olof gave, counting the number of on-topic, on-topic but non-relevant, off-topic and incorrect answers, I omitted some of the one worded responses in my calculations as they were too vague to categorize correctly (see diagram 2). Interestingly, here there was little difference between the two boys when it came to on-topic and off-topic responses when considering them as a percentage, but varied greatly between the two when it came to on-topic non-relevant questions, where Allan had 50% more of these kind of responses. An on-topic non-relevant response I have defined as a response that was relevant to the wedding day and/ the prince and princess party, but does not answer the question that was asked. Allan got only one of his facts about the day wrong, which he self-corrected later in the interview when he saw the relevant photograph to remind him. Olof though, did not fair quite as well and during the course of the interview he remembered seven items incorrectly, again suggesting Olof found it more difficult to recollect the prince and princess day accurately.
Another interesting observation is that both boys had their longest response towards the end of the interview and both were then talking about events that had happened with their parents, although only Allan’s response had any relevance to the wedding day/ princess party.
Finally, the notes taken about the body language revealed that Allan showed much more enthusiasm for the discussion on the prince and princess party, often showing me physically what he had done (spinning on his chair, waving arms etc), whilst Olof sat still and showed more uncertainty, his hands were near his face or in his mouth for almost the duration of the interview.
My research suggests that using documentation, in this case photographs and texts (including quotes from the children), does aid children’s memory and their ability to reflect. Although I was disappointed at how much genuine reflection occurred during the interviews. The following shows an example of reflection
S – Was everyone dressed up?
A – yes,… but Victor came as a knight
S – yes, he came as a knight
A – he wasn’t supposed to be
S – no, - it was supposed to be just for princes and princesses
A – yeah, .. strange (pause)
S – Do you remember…
A - he was a princess-knight
S - maybe
A - Yes, a princess-knight
We had talked with the children and parents during the two weeks prior that the party was only for princes and princesses as ALL the boys were, at first wanting to come as knights, and as we had already had a swashbuckling event to celebrate St George’s Day, our aim was to provide the children with a new experience. Allan was very aware that Viktor had broken the “rule” by coming to preschool dressed as a knight, but reflected on the situation in order to legitimize Viktor’s choice of attire by assuming he was a princess-knight. I assume he chose princess-knight rather than prince-knight as Allan himself had chosen to dress up as a princess, as did two other boys.
But in general I was disappointed with the level of reflection, maybe I was asking the wrong questions, or maybe it had something to do with Rankin’s (1998, p.219) “Io chi siamo”. If the boys had not been interviewed individually, but together with other children, maybe there would have been more reflection. Nilsson (2009, p. 25) describes how children’s individual reflections could enrich each other’s thoughts. In other words two separate accounts of the same event is able to fill out the picture of the day so that all involved in the dialogue gain a greater understanding of what happened. Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2010, p.374) recommend group interviewing when it comes to children as it “encourages interactions between the group rather than simply a response to an adult’s questions”. They go on to say that group interviews can also make children feel more at ease than individual interviews. This was quite clear in the interview with Olof, whose body language showed that he was much more nervous than usual to be individually interviewed. Had I interviewed small groups instead, it may have allowed him to remember more. It would certainly allowed him to discuss the memories of the other child/ren in the group and therefore increase the opportunity for reflection. Krechevsky and Stork (2000, p.62) describe group reflection in the following way
Learning in groups enables individuals to construct new knowledge by creating new relationships using learning strategies and outcomes of others … By working together, adults and children attain not just group understanding, but deep individual understanding.
The photographs were a great attraction and served as an aid to Allan’s memory. They reminded him of what he had done during the day, and even when he was not on the photograph he could often tell exactly where he was at that point in time or where he had conducted the same activity
A – here on this table
S – yes, it was here on this table
A – I also played with them, Bridget too.
S – Bridget, too.
A – I played with them on this table (he turns around and points to the table behind him)
He had remembered correctly that after the girls on the photographs had finished playing with the prince and princess figurines they had been moved to a close by table so the process of preparing for lunch could start.
It was clear that the photographs supported Allan’s memory of the day, as Tarini and White (1998, p.397), Kantor and Whaley (1998, p.330), Parker (2007, p.88) and Rinaldi (1998, p.121) all state. Research also indicates photographs are a useful tool to reinstate memory in young children (Troseth and DeLoache, 1998). The interviews showed that Allan was able to remember his day more chronologically correct, whilst Olof had difficulties separating the afternoon activities from those in the morning. Olof also had trouble remembering what had happened during the day. He had no memory of his mother, and many other parents coming to celebrate for one to two hours in the afternoon
S - …who were invited to the special reception?
O – Everyone
S – Everyone?
O – mmm (7 second pause, dries right hand on clothes and leans on left hand)
S – Was anyone special invited to this reception?
O – errr….errr…I don’t know
S – Did any mummies and daddies come?
O – no.
Whilst Allan was able to use the photographs, where at first glance it was obvious from his body language that he mistook another parent initially as his father. Allan had at first said that cake was eaten at the reception in the afternoon, as did Olof, but changed his mind after looking at the documentation to the correct answer of dipping fruit in chocolate sauce. The documentation offered “the opportunity… to self-correct” (Rinaldi, 1998, p.122)
There is the possibility that if Allan did not have access to the photographs he might not have remembered his father, and other parents had attended the “reception” in the afternoon.
Rinaldi (2006, p. 196) points out that when making documentation the pedagogue must be aware that it is not the child that is being documented but the pedagogue’s knowledge, concept and idea of the child. With this in mind I had deliberately selected photographs where Allan was only seen once close up, and a few times in groups to see if photograph selection would affect his memory. When the documentation was first presented he was eager to find pictures of himself, his body language showing great enthusiasm. When asked what his favourite activity had been in the morning, (as there were three teacher-lead activities to experience, plus four free-play activities) he closely inspected all the photographs of the morning’s activities and chose the one where he was in the picture. This raises queries as to whether it is my selection of photographs of the day’s event or Allan’s genuine preferment of playing royal ten-pin bowling that is being expressed in the interview. It does make clear, though, that the pedagogue must be careful when selecting photographs, and to be clear on the intent of the documentation. Nilsson (2009, p.32) was also concerned with the content of the documentation, “I question, who are the portfolio’s content meant for? Is it for the children, parents or the pedagogues? If it is the case that it is intended for all those mentioned, how is it possible to satisfy the different perspectives? Is this why documentation concerning children’s learning is not always clear for the person it is about?”
An aspect of reflection that came up in both interviews was when the boys brought their out-of-preschool experience into the dialogue. Olof shared his experience of an exhibition visit with his parents when we started to reflect on how Crown Princess Victoria travelled during the day. Olof had quite correctly recalled not only that she had travelled by boat on her wedding day, but also that another child had said that she would arrive by boat. His experience together with his parents helped him make sense of how the paddles moved.
Allan frequently used out-of-preschool experiences that were always an extension of what we were talking about, for example, the royal ten pin bowling game belonged to my own daughters, and he remembered this, as on the day he had wondered where it came from. This lead to a query of where my daughters were (as they sometimes come and read to the children) and when he found out that they were at their grandparents he proceeded to tell me something about his own grandparents, teaching me a new word from the southern Sweden. Nilsson (2009, p.28) also noticed the importance of out-of-preschool experiences in the learning process of children. One can say that children never stop learning, and that giving opportunities to reflect allows children the time to crochet together different threads of experiences to create a new square of learning. Eventually these squares will be sewn together to form the child’s education. Of course, this is a complex thing to do, and guidance by pedagogues is essential.
This was a small study, with its limitations. Had there been more time and opportunity it would have been advantageous to interview the same boys after a similar type of event but where Allan was interviewed without the documentation and Olof with. This would allow me to see if the boys’ personalities had anything to do with their abilities to recall and reflect and whether or not it was the documentation that made the difference.
I also discovered that there were too many structured questions, which did not allow me the freedom to pursue the boys’ reflections appropriately in the short time of the interview. Fifteen minutes is not a long time to extract information and reflection from the interviewers point of view, but was more than enough for the boys, as Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2010, p.375) had written. Had I filmed the interviews instead it would have allowed for less structured questions and to still document the body language accurately. I would also make sure that the interviews occurred in a room with fewer distractions – during Allan’s interview the doorbell rang, a parent dropped off things, and another group of children started talking noisily just outside the open window. No distractions occurred during Olof’s interview. The documentation proved to be an excellent method of recapturing focus in a natural way. This can be seen in the responses, that despite all the distraction, Allan was able to stay slightly more focussed on the topic, and if I was to take into account the number of repeat answers given by Olof it would widen the gap significantly.
The event was significantly different from a normal preschool day to make it memorable. What was very apparent from this research is that events like this should not be placed at the end of the project to act as a reward/celebrate the children’s knowledge gained, but that it should be placed somewhere in the middle of the project and used as a tool for continued learning through reflection afterwards.
My research has raised more questions than it has answered. It has been more an “amuse bouche” than anything substantial. It does though whet the appetite for further research. I would like to compare individual reflective interviews with interviews of small groups of 2-4 children. Would there be more reflection as the children discussed and process each other’s experiences or would there be children who dominate a group and prevent others from participating in the learning process? (Rinaldi, 1998, p.122)
It would be interesting to compare age groups – to see if there is an age where the documentation is more beneficial due to the emotional and cognitive development of the child (Roos af Hjelmsäter, 2010, p.9).
A closer look at how documentation is used with pre-readers would be interesting. A comparison between documentation on the wall, where children reflect without the aid of a pedagogue, with documentation being discussed together with the guidance of a pedagogue, would also provide an interesting insight on reflection and documentation. How important is the pedagogue’s role when children use documentation for self-reflection? And what effect do pedagogues have in their selection of the documentation presented to the children, parents and colleagues? (Nilsson, 2009, p.32).
Is documentation an effective recall tool for all children? There can be those children who are unable to sit still long enough to look and listen in order to absorb the information, let alone reflect upon it. Can documentation reach these children and aid their learning more effectively than in a traditional classroom or does it exclude?
This research has offered a glimpse that documentation can aid young children when reflecting upon an event, by acting as a bridge between the event and the time of reflection, allowing the child to more easily retrieve memories to reflect upon, and improving their opportunities to learn.
Last week we came dressed for a party. What sort of clothes were you wearing?
Do you remember what sort of clothes your friends and teachers were wearing?
Do you remember what you did in the morning?
Which activity was your favourite? Why?
What did you think was not so much fun? Why?
We ate a special lunch – can you tell me about the lunch?
Can you remind me what we did in the afternoon?
We had a special reception in the afternoon – who was invited? What did we eat?
Why did we have a prince and princess party?
Did you watch the royal wedding? Did you see it on TV or did you go to wave?
What did you think?
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