Indulge for a minute on your image of the child.
As you are capturing the delight in their smile through a photograph; watching them as they stand back and look at the amazing play dough creation that they have just constructed.
For a moment there are mixed feelings arising because you (the educator) are the person who gets to witness this moment in time…a sympathetic mind for the families whilst they are away. You fill the silence with words, captions that accompany the still images, a sequence that will tell a story of this child’s involvement in their social world. The story portraying an image of competence and identity exploration through carefully constructed phrases that work to shift the traditional image of the child through the eyes of all of their communities that they belong to. Is this the role of pedagogical documentation for families and how can educators use this style of reflection to enhance the image of children in early learning services?
A fresh take on an academic term
As educator’s transition through their studies in the field, they develop observation and reflection skills over time. Enhancing your understanding of children’s developmental domains is essential to being able to make an analysis of children’s learning and growth…but where does pedagogy come in?
“Educators draw on a rich repertoire of pedagogical practices to promote children’s learning”
(DEEWR, 2009, p. 16)
Pedagogy is everything that you see, that you hear, that you learn and that you think. It is everything you discuss and unpack with your team members. It is through your relationships and interactions with your children, their families and community members that you are able to make decisions on where to go and what to do next. It is a way for educators to demonstrate the art of listening – questioning the thoughts and the influences of each child’s participation in the play environment. But, in the same breath pedagogy is individual and unique to each educator because identity is never identical in two people. The proposition that pedagogy is a whole service approach is also valid and here the notion of pedagogical documentation coexists in singular form and in multiplicity.
Showing families that it is not cute – but rather a continuous search for meaning
When you step back from the professional jargon and terminology and ask yourself ‘why am I documenting this’ it becomes easier to make decisions on what message you are looking at emphasizing. Are you looking to highlight the critical experiences that are significant for this child at this time? What voice would you try to showcase for your children at that moment?
Your search for meaning-making within children’s connections to the world is a reflection of your commitment to making learning visible to families. This is the time to highlight the connections made to developmental theories that resonated with you at that moment – that moment when you stopped to think that it was important to take a sequence of photos of this child in play. That moment you noticed the subtle, non-verbal cues that proposed a timid or self-conscious feeling in them as you made time to acknowledge their work and transform your listening into something visible for the important people in their lives. But it needs not end – as we traditionally thought documentation should. Rather by making the learning process visible for families, you have allowed children permission to then take control of their knowledge building and translate this in ways that are significant to them in their home environment. By bringing this sense of incompleteness you welcome opportunities for families to join in – humility is an asset that lives in all partnerships between educators and families.
Invitations into learning – more than product production
Picture the child who worked for a long period of time squishing and squelching blobs of finger paint in their hands. Getting in tune with their senses is a sure bet and educators work hard to capture the communication attempts that children make when they engage in the aesthetic environment. This decision to connect pedagogy and practice, this transparency, is a welcomed invitation for families to then experience and offer the learning process to continue at home.
Epistemology is easily communicated through videography and photography and this is what makes handing a family a piece of artwork different to handing them an artwork that includes a description of the learning, thinking and the search for connection and meaning-making.
In this process of sharing theories of knowledge sits an invitation for families to join in the co-learning process, it stands to challenge traditional views of children, it invites adults to see competence in their littlest people and it provides guidance on how to participate in this journey.
“not only because children are the future but because they constantly reinterpret reality and continuously give it new meaning”
(Department for education and child development, 2011, p.1)
Your passion to share these images of children with those around you, that internal drive to question with them and ponder on their perspectives of their world all works in to form your pedagogy. When this is seen in practice there is a noticeable cycle where families are respected as equal. Families sharing of their own purposefulness and intentionality with their child held in parallel to the overall growth of children’s knowledge at that time. Through the facilitation of the families app, Storypark allows this cycle to occur naturally, giving both educators and families opportunities to learn with and from one another.
Essentially, we strive to document as a method to search for deeper meaning and understanding of our children – what better way to do this than with the influence of children’s first teachers, their family.
The beauty in respectful documentation
The term beauty is often referenced when describing the aesthetics of a Reggio inspired play environment and the same reference can be made when examining the pedagogical documentation processes. The beauty in the display of children’s learning can be experienced through what you see, the physicality’s of how it is presented. However, this should be held as but one element that depicts the narrative of the child in their social world because respectful documentation is just as much about what it makes you feel as an audience. Storypark has this delicate ability to transform these feelings that fill the room when children’s minds are hard at work and invites others to join in the experience emotively. Through a purposeful arrangement of photos held in a body of carefully constructed captions and links to theories of child development – the ability to engage in the narratives of educators has ever been easier. The missed opportunities to showcase and celebrate the many languages and inquisitions of children, and what this means for the educator is no longer a barrier with the increasing accessibility of technology. This on its own enhances the respect for children as they begin to see their participation in the social world as valued – as if to say ‘they see me’.
In this light, the term beauty is further manifested in the way educators put emphasis on the way they connect and interpret children’s well being and involvement – because children’s learning and growth do not occur through isolation. Bringing the learnings and questions of children to a bigger scale, for others to see and engage with, this is but one example of documentation living as visible listening. Reemphasizing that ‘yes I see you and yes I hear you’.
With time will come a change in the way our pedagogy is seen in practice
Having an understanding of what you want to be and how you want to teach is significant to your pedagogy. The dynamics and circumstances for each child and family are unique and therefore with time, your pedagogy will naturally grow to reflect this. This prediction of change allows you to accept the complexities of the educator role, to appreciate the reflective process that occurs as you develop a closer relationship with families and children. Each service’s pedagogy will be different and will grow with its commitment toward quality improvement. When you develop the disposition to always be searching for deeper meaning, avoiding the desire for complacency, you know that your pedagogy is at play.
Sarah is a university trained early childhood educator, who lives in NSW Australia. Sarah is the owner and operator of SREED, an early education consultancy business designed to enhance the access and availability of quality professional development in regional and remote areas. She also works as the educational leader in a long day care service, supporting and mentoring a team of educators to facilitate a curriculum that fosters children’s developing levels of wellbeing and involvement. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys family bike rides and walks with her husband and two girls aged 7 and 2.
Sarah is an advocate for sharing knowledge and understandings with other professionals which is the driving force within her passion for writing.
To catch up with more of Sarah’s work, you can find her here:
www.sreed.net.au and Everything Early Childhood on Facebook.
Department of education, employment and workplace relations. (2009). Belonging, being and becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Retrieved from https://www.acecqa.gov.au/sites/default/files/2018-02/belonging_being_and_becoming_the_early_years_learning_framework_for_australia.pdf
Department for education and child development. (2011). Early Years Learning Framework: Perspectives on pedagogy. Retrieved from https://www.education.sa.gov.au/sites/g/files/net691/f/perspectives_on_pedagogy_early_years_learning_framework.pdf?v=1456704111