07 Jan 2013

Documentation and Reflection

2 Comments Documentation, Early Childhood Education, Infants

I have wanted to read The Diary of Laura for a number of years now, even purchasing a copy at conference last year, however I’ve been so caught up in the busyness of life that I tucked it away and promptly forgot about it. Luckily, my year end cleaning turned it up and now I’m trying to work through it in an intentional way, as is my goal for all things this year. The Diary of Laura is, as it sounds, the documentation diary of a infant named Laura during her time in an infant-toddler program in Reggio Emilia, Italy. What I really like about this book is that it has a number of chapters written by different authors sharing their reflections on the diary, and their experiences working with young children. There is also a section with questions to encourage group reading or the use of the book as a professional development tool, so if anyone wants to start a group read of this book, let me know.

One of the first things that struck me is a question posed in the introduction of the book – “Is the form of documentation called “diary” still of interest after twenty years?” I think that as early childhood educators, the practice of documentation is one that we are constantly refining. Programs and individuals have different goals in their use of documentation and especially as technology continues to evolve and change, our methods of documentation also seem to be changing. So, then if we are trying to determine whether the “diary” is still of interest, we need to examine what do we mean by “diary”. Clearly, a diary is a narrative form of documentation, it can include media, such as photos or videos and work samplings. However, I think what sets a diary apart from other documentation is that it requires reflection. A diary is not an exclusively objective presentation of the facts, it allows for wonder, for speculation. You can go back to a previous entry in a diary and continue to add to it, as insights occur. Contextual information is often included. As important as it is for us to be objective observers, the value of our reflections and speculations about why a child might be doing something (especially when the child can’t tell us themselves) are of equal value. I think that in a time where test scores and checklists are becoming our standards for assessment, it’s important to include in our observations opportunities to reflect, to wonder, and even to speculate.

What do you think?

Oh, and one last thing- the diaries in the infant-toddler programs in Reggio and shared between caregivers and families, and both have the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and observations. What a wonderful way to nurture our partnerships with families!

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A registered Early Childhood Educator and former President of the Halton Branch of the Association for Early Childhood Educators of Ontario.
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2 Responses to “Documentation and Reflection”

  1. Reply MsDanL83 says:

    I very much believe that this formatting is still popular, though now early childhood programs call them portfolios and tend to be mandated as to what should and must be present (including a litany of standards). I strongly encourage our teaching teams to include the notes that parents share in the portfolios of their children. We work with children birth through age 3 and those first three years tend to fly by; a portfolio is a way for us to share the growth and better understand the individual child’s progression.

    I loved reading The Diary of Laura and found it to be quite a powerful reminder that pictures are worth a thousand words.

    • Reply Shannon says:

      Portfolios are very common, and I’ve certainly used them in my practice, but you’re right that they tend to be over-regulated regarding what can and can’t go in them. That’s great that your team includes notes from the parents, a wonderful way to develop that partnership and to document a more complete image of the child.
      Thanks for stopping by.

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