Friday, January 18, 2013

Look, Wonder, Think: Reflecting on Documentation with Carol Anne Wien

The incredible reflective practice group that I am in met this week and were so fortunate to have Carol Anne Wien join us. This year our focus has been to develop our skills as a documentation study group. We were having some difficulty determining the format and best practice for being reflective with one another and how to best facilitate our meetings.

One of the members in our group has a connection and relationship with Carol Anne Wien, so she invited her to support and share with our group how she has seen this work in other settings. Listening to her speak was so calming and inspiring. I hope that with continued practice, patience, and knowledge seeking to one day speak with the poise and passion that Carol Anne did today.

Her messages were clear, simple and reflective. This format of analysis and thinking could work in a larger reflective practice group and most certainly within teams at school as well.

Key Messages:
  • small group size is key so that documentation/photographs can be analyzed with the most detail (3-4 in a group)
  • photographs are most powerful (or small panels of pictures)
  • person or team who brings the photograph is encouraged to stay quiet and allow the others to discuss without interjecting
  • "our input gets people to see what we want them to" - being objective allows those examining to go deeper without restriction
  • after the process, the person/team sharing is invited to speak and share their thinking
STEP ONE:
Begin with WHAT DO WE SEE, not what do we think
  • left brain works fast to leap to inferences that may or may not be correct
  • the reason that it is important to do LOOK first is because it slows us down, if we slow down our brain works harder and we notice things that we didn't see when first scanning the photo
  • Carol Anne suggests looking at the photo for 20-30 minutes until you have absolutely exhausted yourselves
  • "the longer you look and say what you see the deeper the experience is"
  • when we practiced this phase as a small group, it was very challenging to turn off our wonders and thinking and to focus solely on what we are seeing - hopefully with continued practice we will tune our brains into being able to look more carefully and closely
STEP TWO:
WHAT DO YOU WONDER?
  • begin to discuss wonderings of the picture(s)
  • what questions does it raise?
STEP THREE:
WHAT DO WE THINK?
  • in this phase we begin to hypothesize
  • share what you think, what theories you have
What stood out about Carol Anne Wien's messages?
  • idea that we all have the tendency to look at documentation and think about "what to do next" - she suggested to take it to show the children
  • "it is the children's response to documentation that tells you what to do next"
  • allowing and listening to the children is the key to knowing where to go next - it is very easy as educators to bring our own agenda and next steps to a project (back to importance of slowing down)
  • we discussed the importance of reviewing documentation in small groups (if the piece is about one child - perhaps invite some friends as you review it)
How do we get better at documentation and this process of analyzing it?
  • I loved the way that Carol Ann addresses this notion ... she said "it takes discipline, it is like meditation - as you do to more your concentration deepens and your comments become sharper and more defined"
  • "think of it as practice - all things that require discipline, require practice"
Who is your audience when you document and display learning?
  • this is always a question that I discuss with colleagues and reflect on - when you write documentation who are you writing it for? parents? kids? yourself?
  • Carol Anne made us think when she replied "You do it for your question"
  • when documenting you are not documenting everything, but document for your purpose, when you are wondering something
  • documentation is always for the children first...others second
  • in documentation we should make visible children's thinking and teachers thinking
  • documentation is a very layered process
  • "documentation is not a flat thing of taking a picture and putting it up - what is our intention?"
I wanted to share these key messages and notes with those who follow our blog. I know this process will be incredible in deepening my understanding of the children in our classroom. On my continual journey to slow down, this seems like just another page in my story.

Slow down in your observations, slow down when learning and teaching routines, slow down when working through behaviour, slow down....what a beautiful challenge and lesson for my fast paced mind!

If you have the opportunity - take the time to read through the incredible books and articles that Carol Anne Wien has written:

Emergent Curriculum in the Primary Classroom:
http://books.google.ca/books/about/Emergent_curriculum_in_the_primary_class.html?id=GzkmAQAAIAAJ

Articles and Other Books:
http://thelearningcommunity.ca/carol-anne-wien/

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