Miracles are Possible

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pedagogical Documentation as a Framework for Research

International Innovations in E.C.E. A Canadian Forum on Early Childhood Frameworks

Victoria, B.C., July 15th, 2012

I had the privilege to present alongside Carol Anne Wien, Ellen Brown, Brenda Jacobs, and Marc Richard at the International Innovations in E.C.E. A Canadian Forum on Early Childhood Frameworks Conference last week.  My apologies for not having any other photo to show you of our team, however at that moment my attention was on ensuring that our powerpoint was ready to go!

The topics that were discussed by each presenter were as follows:

Aesthetic Responsiveness
Dr. Carol Anne Wien

The Revelation of Self-Talk in Pedagogical Documentation
Ellen Brown, MEd 

Pedagogical Documentation and Assessment
Brenda Jacobs, PhD

Making Learning Visible in Creative Dance Education
Marc Richard, PhD

Using the Documentation of our Learning Environment for Further Reflection and Transformation
Joanne Babalis, MEd

I must admit that I am so proud to call them all my colleagues, and would like to extend my gratitude to Carol Anne Wien for bringing us all together for this professional opportunity.  

After I presented about how I use documentation of our learning environment for further reflection and transformation, I promised the participants that I would share some of my thoughts, the conclusion to my presentation, and this quote:

"Children are miracles.  Believing that every child is a miracle can transform the way we design for children's care.  When we invite a miracle into our lives, we prepare ourselves and the environment around us.  We may set out flowers or special offerings.  We may cleanser ourselves, the space, or our thoughts of everything but the love inside us.  We make it our job to create, with reverence and gratitude, a space that is worthy of a miracle!  Action follows thought.  We can choose to change.  We can choose to design spaces for miracles, not minimums."
                                                                         -Anita Rui Olds, 1999

During my presentation, I shared my story of transformation with the support of photo documentation.  Many of these images appear in my September posts.  As my theories and beliefs about children changed, I knew that it was time for my environment to change as well.  My hope was to create a warm, welcoming, home-like, comforting, calming, child-friendly, transparent, and aesthetically beautiful classroom.  I intended to be thoughtful in my choice and placement of materials, to ensure that it would be rich experience and sustain the children's interest.  I truly wanted a space worthy of a miracle!

As my designated early childhood educator colleague and I delved deeper into this journey of transformation, we learned a lot through the analysis of our photo documentation.  Even with all of the above in mind, sometimes the spaces needed re-thinking.  Our math and outdoor learning areas were examples of this.

The following two images show children participating in outdoor play with very traditional materials.
When we intentionally brought out a variety of materials for them to engage with creativity...
...our very own miracle occurred!  The students were able to see the sky and their own reflection on the mirror!

Something that I continue to reflect upon is our outdoor learning environment, and I have been using photo documentation to support the decisions that I make regarding the placement of materials and provocations that I provide.

To many, and even to us, our initial transformation (please see posts from September for these images) was thorough and a huge improvement from what we had done in the past.  What we never had anticipated as we continued to study our documentation was that the environment will always be transforming to support our students and our own needs.  The images provided on this blog are starting points of inspiration for our blog visitors.  We have come to understand that you can't have someone else make design decisions for a space that is filled with children they don't know.  There is no formula, and my personal belief is that it's not possible to replicate it year after year, as the children always change.  I encourage you to therefore consider documenting your environmental changes and studying them as entry points for further decision making.

My personal miracle during the conference was being able to present in front of an audience that was filled with professionals that I admire.  Thank you for coming to listen to us speak!


  1. Wonderful post Joanne
    Especially with a drop in program like mine the environment is constantly changing to meet the needs and desires of the families attending. For the past two years I've ended the year with a family survey with questions that will help set up the room for the following September.
    I especially appreciate when a child or a parent will suggest changes to the room. This is my ultimate goal - that it is 'our' program not just 'mine'.
    I look forward to continuing to watch your journey.

  2. Hi Maureen,

    Thank you for your positive feedback!

    I really love the way that you created a survey for the families to have input in your room setup for the following year. Genius!!

    Finally I agree with you whole heartedly about having students involved with suggestions for changes in the classroom. That is our next step!! Stay tuned!!