Documentation is often the primary focus for a lot of educators, however there are many things that need to be in place (as discussed in previous blog posts e.g. 5 tips for learning outcomes) before quality documentation can occur. Here’s 5 tips to help with the documentation in your service:
- Consider why you are documenting this: If the sole purpose for documenting an experience (whether for an observation or a day book style share with families) is because documentation needs to happen then it is likely to feel rushed, forced and undervalued. Whereas if the purpose of documentation is to communicate with families, to assess children’s progress, to build on children’s knowledge and understanding, as evidence of the amazing learning opportunities occurring, or to develop skills as an educator then it is likely to feel valued and important. Without knowing the purpose for documentation, other than “because I have too” it can create a mental barrier which makes the documentation difficult to write. If the documentation is to communicate with families then make sure it is something the families don’t already know about their child, i.e. document the extraordinary. (If you feel these is nothing extraordinary happening to document then I would question the opportunities children have to share their extraordinary with you, and how open you are to seeing this – especially if it wasn’t something you planned)
- Discuss the learning: The purpose of documentation (according the the Regulations) is to communicate children’s progress against the learning outcomes and how they are engaging with the educational program. Therefore the learning should be the primary focus of the documentation, however many pieces focus on children having fun and skip over the learning. Documenting large group experiences makes it difficult to focus on the learning as it it often hard to know for sure what each child gained from the experience. By discussing the learning it also makes clear to families how much learning occurs in our play based programs, and advocates for the benefit of this, whereas avoiding the learning or using symbols and codes to share the learning does not. Consider these 2 examples as a demonstration:
- Kate was having fun on the obstacle course today as she followed the arrows to make her way through the different equipment. (3.2)
- Kate was developing her physical ability today as moved through the obstacle course. Arrows were added to challenge her awareness of symbols as she worked out which direction to go next.
- Discuss your role: Another way to advocate to families the importance of early childhood educators is through including them in documentation. Otherwise, if we take the Kate example above, she was achieving this by herself. Where did the arrows come from? Why were they there? It is not covered in the first example, yet it is in the second. Discussing the role of the educator also brings in more of the EYLF (or other approved framework) as it demonstrates the Practices in action. Compliance is about not just using the learning outcomes but about using the whole EYLF.
- Include the child’s voice: Using the child’s voice (whether words, gestures, work samples, etc.) does several things – it allows for the child’s thoughts to be clear, instead of assumed by the educator; it demonstrates a child focused program and other aspects of QA1; and it supports a child’s agency in line with both learning outcome 1 in the EYLF and the ECA Code of Ethics. Without using the child’s voice educators need to be careful they they are not asserting how a child felt, instead they are making educated assumptions e.g. “it appeared that Julie was proud of her finished work”.
- Be creative in your extensions: When planning to extend on children’s work either to further develop their skills or to expand an interest, be creative. If a child is interested in something consider ways to bring this into art, sensory bins, role playing, construction, exploration and investigation, play dough etc in open ended and child focused ways. If a child has a skill you would like to develop consider moving that skill outside of the activity where it was first observed. For example a play dough observation does not need to lead to a play dough follow up. Here is a slide from one of my presentations suggesting educators also consider moving away from one specific skill based follow up (that puts pressure on you and the child to get them to do that for you) to a more global view of ANY experience that could build that skills which removes some of the pressure.
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