Great book to add to your Reggio-inspired collection!

Thursday, September 17, 2015




A key component of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education is their process of making learning visible through pedagogical documentation.  I myself, have been on a journey to improve my documentation skills for over five years and, therefore, found it particularly interesting to observe some of these practices during the Reggio Emilia study tour.  While I visited the Italian schools and participated in lectures, there did not seem to be one dominant way to document.  Rather, I felt encouraged to document in the way that suited my style and the learning experience that was in front of me.  Within the classrooms, documentation was left on a daily basis alongside any traces of learning in its rawest form.  Often times it was handwritten and in the moment,
which motivated me in recognizing that not everything I document has to be perfect or a professional panel.

It comes as no surprise that educators in North America continue to seek inspiration from our colleagues in Reggio Emilia, Italy, for pedagogical documentation.  Many books, articles, and blog posts have been written about how to document in our own context, and I was fortunate to receive the latest resource at my doorstep this summer by Susan Stacey (2015) entitled, “Pedagogical documentation in early childhood: Sharing children’s learning and teachers’ thinking.”  Though I admire the work occurring in Italy, I am particularly curious how some of these ideas are interpreted by Canadians.  Stacey’s recent book is so practical, making an educator like myself who is on this Reggio Emilia inspired journey, feel as though it is possible to document.

Many sections within Stacey’s book resonated with me, however, I would like to highlight a few passages that I am continuing to reflect upon…

“The process of documentation becomes pedagogical — a study of the learning taking place — when we try to understand the underlying meaning of the children’s actions and words, describing events in a way that makes our documentation a tool for collaboration, further learning, teacher research, and curriculum development” (Stacey, 2015, p. 1).

Documentation is a process, not a display (Stacey, 2015, p. 1).  “Pedagogical documentation is not about making a pretty display or using photographs that are cute.  These approaches do not do justice to the child’s thinking, curiosity, and competence” (Stacey, 2015, p. 20).

“A teacher’s question is a perfect place to begin documenting.  A question creates the opportunity to frame the documentation as a response to this query — as a way of researching the answer” (Stacey, 2015, p. 12). 

“If your documentation makes a statement about what you think is happening and why, it takes confidence to put such thoughts out there in the public domain” (Stacey, 2015, p. 19).  “Over time, experienced documenters can make visible their theories about children’s intentions, about why and how these intentions are meaningful, and about the ramifications of these meanings.  In other words, educators can integrate their knowledge of children, observations, reflections, and study of children’s work and use this information to plan next steps.  In this way, documentation becomes a planning tool for a rich an responsive curriculum” (Stacey, 2015, p. 21).

“We must be willing to slow down in order to see what is unfolding before our eyes” (Stacey, 2015, p. 62).  “With electronic documentation, we can — and often do — produce work quickly.  After all, speed is why many people use digital technology in the first place.  However, we must remember that speed is not always conducive to reflection, that key pause during which we find meaning in the child’s work and try to express why it is important.  On-the-spot digital documentation may provide more quantity, but we must take care to maintain the quality of this work” (Stacey, 2015, 80).

“Documentation is not a simple process.  Yet it has the power to sustain and inspire us and to support the growth of everyone who is involved with it —the children who begin the process, their families who share in the work, and the teachers who work so hard and think so deeply in order to make it all happen.  Pedagogical documentation is collaborative, and we all share in its rewards of fulfillment, understanding, and continued growth (Stacey, 2015, p. 95).
Stacey (2015) raised many important points within her book.  To build upon some of the passages that I highlighted, I would like to start off by commending her for her honesty.  I agree that pedagogical documentation is not a simple process, and yet it is so powerful when used as a means for collaboration and planning.  It stretches far beyond what a beautiful or cute display could ever make visible about children and learning.  From my personal experience, engaging with pedagogical documentation has changed the way that I teach and the way that I view the relationship between teaching and learning.  However, this being said, a query that I often wonder about is how we can encourage our colleagues in older grades to see its value.  How might we promote the process of documentation and how worthwhile it is for all involved?  Perhaps social media may be a space for us to continue to showcase all of its potential and will slowly (but surely!) allow it to move up the ladder.

In closing, I have received many resources to read or trial out, but I will only review or blog about the ones that I connect with and or fully endorse.  Pedagogical documentation in early childhood: Sharing children’s learning and teacher’s thinking” is one of those resources that compliments my educational philosophy.  I highly recommend this comprehensive book with its strong examples and images to any Reggio-inspired educator.  Special thank you to Susan Stacey who not only sent my a copy, but also included my blog TransformEd within her suggested websites of this amazing text.  I look forward to seeing Susan again on Saturday, September 26th, 2015 where she will present about her book in the Niagara region.



Susan Stacey and I in Reggio Emilia, Italy, May 2015.






References:


Stacey, C.  2015. Pedagogical documentation in early childhood education: Sharing children’s learning and teachers’ thinking.                            St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.   





Pedagogical documentation supports us in our work.  

It provides a mirror that reflects our practice.

                                                                                         -Susan Stacey




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