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Shifting frames of mind on observations and documentation

Observations and documentation

 A few years ago, I wrote about the casualisation of Early Childhood professional language; how observations were being referred to as jottings and how irritating this was. Nothing has changed.

I now turn my attention to observations and the purpose of observing children. Observations should be intentional and purposeful.  They should not be used to produce an objective account of children’s behaviour, development, and learning (Dahlberg, Moss, and Pence, 2007).  They should not translate into descriptive accounts of what occurred.  They should not only be used to collect data on the NQF learning and development outcomes. Instead, they might include the context (some of the descriptive content), but only because it creates the context for understanding the interpretation of children's learning.

The process of collecting observations or data, as referred to in the NQF planning cycle should create conditions for thinking and complexity.  Educators must make decisions about what to observe, how to interpret these observations and then what to document and share with families. This process is not straightforward, there is no formula, and it requires ethics.

Observations and documentation require thinking and lead to future learning experiences for children.

I am concerned about the dangers of thoughtlessness and shallowness of documentation.  I am concerned when we care more about our ‘clients’ requests for photos than we are for children and their learning, and I am concerned when our documentation becomes robotic.

Kerrie O’Neill

May 2023