Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Documentation (Learning Stories)

      It’s mid-August and one of the items on my summer to-do list is to read about pedagogical documentation (say what?).  

     It’s hardly a “beach read,” and If I’m being honest, a topic I haven’t exactly been dying to sink my teeth into. In fact, I’ve checked out and returned the book Windows on Learning (Helm, Beneke, and Steinheimer) from the library a few times without actually reading it.  So out on a walk (this is where I do my best thinking) it occurs to me that if I think about documentation as “learning stories,” I suddenly become interested. This speaks to my right brain and conjures up images of myself as an author and artist.  “I’m writing a book about each child,” I tell myself and this motivates me.            
     Viewing documentation as an “art form,” leads me to think that there is an artistic process involved.  What I know about this “wild beast” is that it must be respected and cannot be forced or contrived.  So in my beginning attempts to document student learning, in the way I have come to understand it, I know I will be embarking on a journey without a clear path.    
    This is why I greatly appreciate an article written by Carol Anne Wein entitled Learning to Document in Reggio-Inspired Education. In her article, she describes the progressions she has observed in teachers’ attempts to document learning.  She is clear that these are not stages, but rather “a more flexible, a more varied process.”  Her progression includes:

1) Developing habits of documenting
2) Becoming comfortable in going public
3) Developing visual literacy skills
4) Conceptualizing a purpose of documentation  
as making learning visible
5) sharing visible theories with others for interpretation and further design of curriculum

     While this is in no way a “road map” for me, it does help me evaluate my current skill set and identify areas where improvement is needed.  It leads me to ask myself questions about documentation habits such as,”When will I document? What tools will I use and How will I keep them handy? Also, when will I reflect on the documentation I have collected?”  It motivates me to look critically at the photos I am taking in order to better develop my visual literacy skills and create more effective documentation.  
What can I learn about this child from this photo?
Number four on the list serves as a “pothole to avoid”  where I see the word “purpose” in bright orange, neon letters blinking among piles of photos, work samples, and anecdotes.
     While reframing documentation as “learning stories” is definitely helping me to get started (I’m finally reading Windows on Learning!), I’m pretty sure this is one of those times where I will learn the most in applying the Nike Slogan, Just Do It!  

You can find this here:


     As the new school year fast approaches, I’m excited about the prospect of a new group of children that I will come to know in a way that I never have before.  I’m looking forward to finding new ways to make their learning visible and to use documentation to guide my planning and teaching.    
   Where are you in journey with documentation and what have you found to be most helpful?

Thanks for stopping by!
Jackie

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