The teachers in Reggio Emilia say that research is the key word whenever children and Teachers are together. Teachers should not propose pre-packaged journeys or knowledge to children. Research remains front and centre in the minds of children and children are keen researchers existing largely in an unexplored world. The research is a daily attribute that becomes the source of new pedagogical ideas.
To be able to design and deliver early learning curriculum programs in this way requires educators to understand that documentation is a metacognitive process. It requires an awareness and understanding of our own processes. The question I have about our Australian context is: “What’s our process?” Do we care what kind of documentation we collect or just that we can provide evidence of having collected it?
What we are actually required to do is provide documentation that encourages us to be focused, active and reflective in our documentation and design decisions. Documentation should provide us with opportunities to keep track of our steps, not only to be able to reconstruct and communicate the pathways we took, but also to continue to progress and make new design decisions.
We have not made good use of the valuable documentation opportunities that the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) gave to us. They provided us with the opportunity to generate rich, purposeful documentation that encouraged us to look at children and their development through multiple lenses. The EYLF did not tell us what we had to do but rather where we might go.
In Australia we have become more focused on what children have done and how best to evidence this, rather than what they have learned and how best to share it. What children produce is important but it doesn't tell you how they got there unless you know how to read it! The task facing early childhood educators is to produce pedagogical documentation that is oriented not towards our capacity to meet outcomes but rather as a way of informing our pedagogical design and decisions
In Reggio Emilia one of the most important roles of documentation is that it needs to have transformative qualities. You are testing your theories with the aim of transforming your understandings and practice. Documentation should also represent a memory of what has gone before in order to inform what might follow. Documentation makes explicit what we value.
When did we decide to take children out of our documentation design decisions? Were children included in them historically? I think they were. They had ideas and work that remained after they had left and marks that were visible.