Book title: Pedagogical Documentation in Early Years Practice
Editors: Alma Fleet, Catherine Patterson & Janet Robertson
Publication date: 2017
1. What is your overall impression of the book?
Pedagogical Documentation in Early Years Practice: Seeing Through Multiple Perspectives does what it says on the tin. The book offers perspectives from all over the world on how and why experts document their interactions with children using various methods. It is a collection of experiences from practitioners working with children and their families through the process of learning and explores ways to co-create knowledge – be that through dance, poetry or narrative.
This book has contributions from highly experienced experts from all over the globe. These include: Helen Hedges, Head of the School of Curriculum and Pedagogy at the University of Auckland in New Zealand; and Lasse Lipponen, a Professor of Education at the University of Helsinki in Finland. There is a truly global perspective, although the introduction concentrates specifically on the Australian, British and Canadian approaches.
The book is well-written and highly informative. It gives practitioners examples of how theories – such as Reggio Emilia’s student-directed, experiential learning – translate into real-life environments. I hope it would also give practitioners the confidence to realise the importance of the sometimes-invisible interactions that occur in early years settings daily, for example the social interactions around the snack table.
2. Who do you think would benefit most from reading the book? What will they learn?
I think university students and trainee teachers would benefit from reading this book, particularly anyone studying international perspectives on early years education.
Practitioners who are interested in improving the way they interact cooperatively with children – and how to document spontaneous, unplanned learning interactions in an informative way – would also find the book helpful. Pedagogical Documentation in Early Years Practice is all about the everydayness of education – the conversations, the cooperation of sharing bikes – and how to celebrate and investigate these as learning opportunities.
Lastly, I think this book would benefit early years professionals with an interest and enthusiasm for Reggio Emilia and how to use this pedagogy.
3. What did you think about the quality of the writing? Please consider the tone, structure and ideas. Does it suit the audience?
Pedagogical Documentation in Early Years is a challenging but intriguing read. The language is sophisticated and academic, and relies, to some extent, on you knowing and understanding the language of the early years. If you are unfamiliar with the setting, you may struggle to read it without researching certain theories and practices. That said, these are theories any early years practitioner would need to know.
The book is split into 14 chapters, each exploring a different component of pedagogical documentation. The chapters weave a story of early years practice in different settings and explore real-life examples. I particularly like that the chapters aren’t linear so you can dip in and out of sections that interest you. The chapter on ‘Making the Outdoors Visible in Pedagogical Documentation’ was interesting as, in my experience, this is an area in which lots of practitioners want to improve.
4. Please discuss the research used to underpin the ideas. What evidence does the author use? Is it robust and up-to-date?
The evidence in some chapters is based on case studies from different early years environments. That said, all chapters use recent papers and books, for example Ofsted’s Teaching and Play in the Early Years: A Balancing Act? (2015), to support their argument. Other evidence is from peer-reviewed and published papers, such as Hedge, H. (2014) Young children’s ‘working theories, or Building and connecting understandings, Journal of Early Childhood Research, 12 (1): 35-49.
5. What did you learn from reading the book? What ideas/approaches/practice will you change or adopt as a result of reading this book?
I learnt that contextualised, collaborative, community-based interactions are often happening in schools, they just aren’t being made explicit. This book explores how to make the moments (like snack table interactions), which are often hidden in documentation, obvious and tangible by documenting them in the appropriate way, for example using video.
Practitioners are often being told to document learning as evidence, however this book taught me to re-examine the purpose of documentation, moving from evidence for evidence sake to evidence to improve purposeful interactions. As stated in the book: ‘Pedagogical documentation is more than reporting; it is a multi-faceted way of growing alongside children.’ (p.22)
I am going to start asking questions of my trainee teachers to explore how their documentation helps them grow alongside their classes and helps them understand their class better.
6. Could you share a quote from the book that particularly resonated with you?
There is quote in the book from Lefebvre (1987): 'Why wouldn’t the concept of the everydayness reveal the extraordinary in the ordinary?' (p. 62)
This resonated with me as it relates to educational practices, where educators feel they should put bells and whistles on everything to ensure it engages children. It also allows us to celebrate the everyday experiences, like someone being kind and holding the door open for you, above the need to always be accomplishing something brag-worthy. Pedagogical documentation is about simplicity and making childrens’ and adults’ journey through learning visible.