The joy of pedagogical documentation
Pedagogical documentation is linked to both practical activities and more extensive plans in early childhood education. As part of the TinyApp interview series, we had the opportunity to discuss with Kati Rintakorpi, Ph.D. in Education, who studied pedagogical documentation. Rintakorpi highlights what pedagogical documentation is all about and shares ideas on practical methods and practices for the daily work of early childhood educators.
What does pedagogical documentation mean in general?
Rintakorpi defines pedagogical documentation to describe the fact that activities are documented in some way, and these documents are reflected, reviewed, and discussed to develop early childhood education or culture. Documentation has a long tradition in early childhood education, but what is essential is that these documents are taken from folders, cameras, and tablets and discussed what the documents mean for children's learning, well-being, and participation. Documentation can be considered pedagogical when there is a discussion, and documents are reflected with the children as well as the parents.
Rintakorpi says that together with Elsa Vihmari-Henttonen, they have named their book "This is our world" (in Finnish “Tää on meidän maailma!”) to describe what pedagogical documentation provides for early childhood educators, children and parents. The world is being created together, and the essential issues to that particular group can be raised and worked on. Rintakorpi points out that the competences of Finnish early childhood education curriculum make it possible to build the world together, instead of strict learning goals or time limits.
What is the pedagogical documentation? What is it not?
Rintakorpi sees (pedagogical) documentation in general as a method used in early childhood education. It is about meeting, discussing, and doing things together. It is continuously involved in the activity, and it is not something that you do from time to time, but the documentation is part of the educator's work and takes place all the time, in the same way as, for example, discussion.
Pedagogical documentation, on the other hand, like the early childhood education plan, is not about jumping here at random according to the wishes of individual children, even if all the children are listened to. It is through pedagogical documentation that children's interests, needs, and competences are captured. Educators' pedagogical competencies, and these documents can be used to make choices for the planning, implementation, and evaluation of activities.
What practices and methods are involved in pedagogical documentation?
According to Rintakorpi, it is essential to agree on documentation practices at the beginning of the season with the team and the group. Together with the team decide how pedagogical documentation will serve throughout the year in evaluating and developing activities and cooperating as well as building consensus with children and parents. It is essential to consider what the team commits to, what is documented daily, and what is documented monthly. It is a good idea to set boundary conditions for documentation, that is, to go through what tools or methods are used to share things with parents and how often. The process of pedagogical documentation involves, for example, making a child's individual education plans during the year, as well as evaluation work in the Spring and at the end of the year.
According to Rintakorpi, tools for pedagogical documentation are beginning to be found in kindergartens and family daycare. While working as a teacher herself, she has favored photography as a method, as she was able to keep the main emphasis on what she is doing with children. Videotaping to record an exact thing can work exceptionally well too. For example, video clips taken from a specific moment can serve as the beginning and basis of a conversation that can be reviewed with children and other staff. Through these, it is possible to give meanings and possibly also critically consider one's own operating methods and development opportunities.
Why is pedagogical documentation worthwhile?
Rintakorpi also encourages pedagogical documentation purely with the joy and benefits it provides. She has especially enjoyed situations where project planning is started together with the children, for example, by putting together a joint plan and ideas on the wall. At the same time, it makes visible what has been done, where we are going, and what great opportunities there are. At the same time, children, parents, and early childhood educators are all aware of these.
You can see the entire Rintakorpi's interview for pedagogical documentation available in Finnish here.
In the TinyApp team, we are also happy to hear what ideas and practices you have about pedagogical documentation and how the current situation with restrictions have affected your pedagogical documentation practices.