Making Learning Visible – Pedagogical Documentation

As you look at each of these pictures, what do you notice? What do you wonder?  Are these photographs of significant learning?  What might your next steps be in planning for these children?

An integral part of our job as Kindergarten Educators is assessment.  We observe and listen carefully to what children say, do and represent in every day moments, in order to know their strengths and where to go next in supporting their learning.

“Assessment is the process of gathering and interpreting information that accurately reflects the child’s demonstration of learning in relation to the knowledge and skills outlined in the overall expectations of The Kindergarten Program.”
(Growing Success – The Kindergarten Addendum, 2016, p. 6)

Sometimes, the words assessment and documentation are used interchangeably.  However, The Kindergarten Addendum in Growing Success (2016) explains very clearly what assessment for, as and of learning looks like in Kindergarten.

Pedagogical Documentation (Assessment for & as learning)

Dr. Carol Anne Wien makes a helpful distinction in clarifying what this term means.

As educators, we are always observing the wonderful, exciting discoveries of children.  We collect material or evidence of their thinking and learning through photographs, video clips, anecdotal notes or sometimes, a few words scribbled down furiously on a sticky note!  The process of collecting material is documentation.

When we take this a step further and study the material we collected, these reflections lead to interpretations and that’s what makes it pedagogical.

To young children, everything is new and exciting.  Sometimes we forget how thrilling it is to watch a marble roll through a series of ramps, or to drop items into a container of water just to see what happens next!  When educators observe children closely, they listen to their interactions with others, they ask clarifying questions or introduce new vocabulary, and it becomes clear how valuable these experiences are to learning. To outsiders, children are just playing, but to us, they are scientists trying to make meaning of the world around them.

Making Learning Visible

An important aspect of Pedagogical Documentation is that it makes learning visible to everyone

To educators– it forces us to slow down, to observe carefully and connect what we see and hear, with what we know about the overall expectations in the Kindergarten Program.  This information informs our planning about what students need next and drives our future instruction.

To Students– by “noticing and naming” the learning that’s happening, we provide students with a common language that becomes their version of learning goals and success criteria. This helps students consolidate their learning as they connect new experiences with their existing schemas. (E.g., I thought that patterning was red, blue, red, blue. I never realized it could include actions too! Patterning is more than repeating colours.)  When we include children in the documentation process, we empower them to take ownership of their learning.  We can even set goals and plan future learning experiences together (Assessment as learning).

To Parents– When pedagogical documentation is shared with families (e.g., learning stories) it unpacks the thinking and learning happening within these everyday experiences and showcases the competencies of children.  It also invites parents to be part of the reflective process and provides them with common language they can use to talk about their child’s learning at home.

Diane Kashin reminds us that we must move beyond thinking that documentation and displays are synonymous.

“Documentation in this form is more than the display of a project’s topic-related materials— it is pedagogical.”
(Kashin, 2015)

It is the process of studying evidence, looking for patterns over time, conferencing with children and reflecting with other educators that makes it meaningful and more than just a collection of photos and notes.  This approach is complex and overwhelming at times, but the more we  1. observe, 2. document and 3. interpret, the more comfortable we will feel fitting this approach into our daily, teaching lives.

Growing Success – The Kindergarten Addendum, 2016
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Kashin, D. (2015) Pedagogical Documentation: Why? When? Who? What? Where? How?
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The Kindergarten Program, 2016
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Wien, C.A.,(2013) Making Learning Visible Through Pedagogical Documentation
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