Thursday, May 14, 2015

Documentation in Full Day Kindergarten

Documentation certainly has many purposes, audiences, and forms. It wasn't that long ago that the entire concept of documentation was completely foreign to me as a teacher. I owe all of my learning to the world of early childhood educators and the knowledge that they have shared with me.

There is a genuine excitement and passion that goes into composing a piece of documentation that is important and meaningful. I remember the feeling I had after capturing and sharing my first piece of documentation and from that day on I have valued the process of documentation.

I attended a workshop a couple of months ago at Charles Sturt University that involved many experts in the field and left feeling a bit overwhelmed and unsure about where I was on my journey and how it all comes together in a kindergarten setting. There was a debate and discussion around whether or not documentation was assessment which really challenged my thinking on many levels.

Through all of my reflections I have come to the conclusion that...

Documentation is personal.
Documentation is new and foreign to many educations.
Documentation and it's role in the classroom is evolving.

Documentation is not a form of "assessment" traditionally used in the school system in Ontario. When I was in Teacher's College there was never a mention of it. Further to that, many of the new teachers that I have hosted over the past couple of years are completely unaware of documentation and how it can be used to support student learning. How then are we supposed to learn about the art of documentation?

My biggest wondering from all of my reflections is...are we redefining what documentation in Full Day Kindergarten looks like? Even writing that sentence makes me nervous because I do not want it to be misinterpreted, but I do wonder if it can look a bit different in a classroom than in a child care or preschool setting?

When I look at pieces of documentation done in Reggio Emilia or by educators with many years of experience I am often in awe of the beauty that they have captured in young children. I often think about how the small, ordinary moments that are captured carry such significance and beauty.

But...then I head back to my reality which is a Full Day Kindergarten classroom with 28 students and a curriculum to follow. There is a certain pressure, which I am sure is self inflicted, to capture "enough" about each student and to "fairly" represent all students in documentation. There is definitely a pressure to capture the right moments and to figure out when our observations should evolve into a piece of documentation. Finally, there is the challenge to understand how we can invite others into our documentation to make it pedagogical.

In the spirit of staying positive and capturing beautiful moments, I believe we have begun to rethink how we use documentation to capture, support, and make visible the learning of our students.

I am going to start a mini series of posts on the blog focusing on Documentation in Full Day Kindergarten. It will mostly involve my reflections, connections, strategies, and thoughts about how documentation has evolved in my practice. I would like to share about audience, purpose, forms, the how to's, the relationship between documentation and assessment, importance of questioning and some of the tools that we use.

All of that is far too massive for one post and I am still struggling to sort our how and what I can share...but I believe this is an area of growth for so many of us and would love to build communication in the comments with questions, wonderings, and personal successes/reflections so that we can collaboratively construct meaning.

I do not claim to be an expert or anywhere close to deeply understanding documentation, in fact I sometimes feel like I'm not even in the "right book" yet let alone the "right page". However, I always find value in sharing my learning and making visible the real struggles and obstacles that we face each day and that is my hope for this mini series!

I thought I would end with a quote that completely sums up how I feel when thinking about documentation...I certainly always have more questions than answers on my journey to refine and build my skills in documentation, but I guess that means I will always be learning!

“Documentation is not about finding answers, but generating questions.” (Filippini in Turner & Wilson, 2010, p. 9)


  1. Hi Tracy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on documentation. It certainly is a personal journey. I am reposting my comment in response to a recent posting of Diane Kashin's ... I agree, understanding the numerous facets of pedagogical documentation is complex. I too have found Carol Ann Wein’s videos helpful when thinking about the process with early learning professionals. I particularly like when Wein suggests that pedagogical documentation should become a “habit of mind”. When this work becomes an integral aspect of our journey it positions educators to pause to gain a deeper understanding of children’s theories. The interpretation of children’s voices is often missing from the process. Pedagogical documentation is not about children having fun and enjoying their play. This is understood, a given.
    I favour pedagogical documentation that begins with an introduction. (Why are you writing about this experience?) The next component being a description of the experience (what are the children and educators doing and saying?). Next is our interpretation of the meaning underlying the results of observing and listening closely. (What might the children know and what skills are mastered or emerging?) Then my favourite component, where could the curriculum (the programming as Diane might say) emerge next? This complexity may support early learning professionals to provoke deeper thinking, their own as well as the children’s. Investing time thinking about possible curriculum directions will invite children to extend and deepen thinking.
    In terms of the time for documentation let’s invite the children to engage in the process with us. However, we will always need scheduled time for this exciting and important work. I so love this field!

  2. Cindy - thanks for the detailed response, you have really deep insight.

    In one of my follow up blogs I go into that same intro question that you pose. I always begin with, why did I even take this photo? What drew me into this experience?

    I love the structure of your documentation and the natural frame that you have suggested is very similar to some of the pieces that we capture.

    My wondering still lies with how much is enough? how much is too much? I often think of this in terms of the portfolios that we share with our students, I wonder if they put a certain pressure on us to capture and make learning visible at times? However, the way that the students value them leads me to remember how important they are to their learning.

    Thanks for the thoughts - I look forward to hearing more of your voice throughout my reflections on documentation. I am constantly striving to learn and go deeper in this area.

  3. Thanks for this post, Tracy. I believe this is a timely and hugely valuable concept to delve into. A small group of colleagues and I just wrapped up an professional inquiry project here in BC focusing on how pedagogical documentation can support learning in primary classrooms. We looked at how it could be used to foster a more complete image of the whole child, how it can drive a co-constructed curriculum, how it makes thinking visible, and as the reflective piece. We are looking at continuing this through next year and am really interested to read your thoughts. It is a fantastic worthwhile journey, thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks a ton for this article!! This is the most interesting topic I found regarding kindergarten documentation. Actually I am a full time teacher at a local Phoenix kindergarten and always read this kind of stuff online.