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Pedagogical Documentation

Date: February 20, 2019 Author: hpelc Categories: Educators Blogs, Interesting Articles, Reflection Blogs

Pedagogical Documentation as An Alternative Language of Assessment and Evaluation:

An evening with Professor Gunilla Dahlberg, Anthony Semann and Fiona Zinn

By Loretta Davis


On Tuesday evening, Dee, Denise, Shevawn and myself attended an evening of discussion regarding pedagogical documentation organised by Semann & Slattery and Reggio Emilia Australia Information Exchange.

Professor Gunilla Dahlberg delivered a fascinating lecture bringing together philosophy, theoretical frameworks and curriculum that got us thinking and reflecting. Following this, there was a panel discussion and Q&A with all presenters.

The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) defines pedagogy as, “An early childhood educators’ professional practice, especially those aspects that involve building and nurturing relationships, curriculum decision-making, teaching and learning.”

So when we combine pedagogy (our teaching) with documentation, we create powerful pieces of writing that are reflective, process focused and deep in wonder, theoretical perspectives and are based on listening to and with, children.

I was so excited to see one of Professor Dahlber’s slides have one simple, strong word.


Without wonder, we will not achieve pedagogical documentation. We have to wonder, alongside the children, we have to have our own wonders as teachers, and we have to actively listen to children to hear what they wonder. Professor Dahlberg shared an amazing quote, which was very striking in it’s force and clarity.

“It is so easy for an adult to break children’s bodily tunes with the potentialities of the situation.”

The agenda of an adult can break a child’s play, but also, children’s play can challenge an adult.

There were many take home lessons of our evening out talking about pedagogical language, and after good professional development (PD) educators and teachers sometimes find they get a ‘brain explosion’. We think about the PD for days or weeks following, digesting the content, understanding what it means for us in our own contexts and how to apply it to our work. For me it reignited a lot of the passion I have for documenting children’s learning and the way the teacher. It reaffirmed the importance of collaboration and conversation with colleagues.

Professor Dahlberg broke down pedagogical documentation into three constructions.

  • It is a base for formative assessment
    • The process begins with a project, a question or a wonderment. The teachers role is to listen to find the genuine question. It can be like a mainstream narrative. It has a beginning, a middle and an end (similar to how a learning story is structured). In this process you explore, experiment, question and research. Children develop their own theories. You cannot assess unless you know what is known.
  • It is a tool for challenging dominant discourses
    • Challenging contemporary ‘trends’ or the way we view children. It can be a form of resistance or disobedience that teachers enact. It calls for educators to see the child for their competencies, and to change the environments to suit the child, rather than to change the child to suit the environment. It’s a time to be “intelligently disobedient”.
  • It is a transformative force to take care of potentialities
    • Involves taking care of the ‘intensity of the situation’. A teacher should involve children and allow them to be part of the documentation process. Teachers and children choreograph learning environments as they increase comfort and ability, further challenge and raise their competence as learners and teachers. It leads to growth.

The strongest message overall, was that documentation is not a product: it is an act. When we document pedagogically, it’s not just a method but it is an act of courage, critical thinking and collaboration with others in order to articulate a lived experience through narrative. And that is a powerful, political, intelligent act.