Journey to New Zealand – Part I: Pedagogical Documentation

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that one of my main interests in early childhood education is researching the praxis of pedagogical documentation in ECECs. One of the most common documentation practices in Germany are learning stories. Learning stories were developed in New Zealand, so in the Spring 2017 I went to New Zealand to find out more about the country of origin of this widely used tool, but also about early childhood education in general. In this blog, I am going to share my impressions and thoughts. The first blog post is going to be about documentation.

„Documentation in New Zealand” – whenever we hear this phrase we think of learning stories. This was one of the main reasons I went to New Zealand, to explore learning stories in their origin country, but what I saw in the ECEC’s I visited, was that wall documentation were much more important than I expected. These were the most important variations I observed (these are not representative):

  • Learning stories that were pinned on a wall
  • Documentation of projects
  • Family photos
  • Subject corners.

Unlike in Germany, there is a big number of small ECEC’s, where all the children spend their time together as a group in one big room. The wall documentations are often used to structure the room and to label different sections of the ECEC. During my stay, I conducted many interviews with teachers and most of them said that the audience of the wall documentations are also the parents. Having many visual elements like photos, paintings and big letters parents notice them easily when they pick up their children and are often an opportunity for parents to get into dialogue with the teachers. This is a big influence from Reggio Emilia, which many teachers emphasised in our interview.
 
Of course, I also looked at learning stories and spoke about them with the teachers in my interviews. They are the lynchpin of educational work: They work as a basis for communication between teachers, as a diagnostic tool, as a basis for communications and reflections between children and parents. Usually, they are collected in portfolios which are mostly situated centrally. I noticed the huge variety of the learning stories: There are short ones and long ones, wordy ones and ones with photos, stories about small things and about big events. The writing style is very different from story to story. Experts in the area will know that the New Zealand Ministry of Education has created a document with examples for learning stories, here is the link: https://education.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Early-Childhood/Kei-Tua-o-te-Pae/ECEBooklet1Full.pdf
 
I also observed this variety in praxis. Because of the significance that learning stories have in New Zealand, many resources are made available for the creation of them. From cameras and laptops, everything is available. And especially a lot of time on the schedule, even though this varies from ECEC to ECEC. In some facilities, 1.5 hours a day are used, in others 1.5 hours a week.
 
In some ECEC teachers choose to share this time, so that they can share their thoughts. This is made possible because the ECEC (or the provider) makes a notebook available to every teacher.

Because learning stories are one of the main tasks of ECEC Teachers nationwide, there are a lot of opportunities, support and encouragement for training. I find it significant that there are a lot of opportunities for teachers to improve their writing skills. This is important because it is crucial to strike the right note when writing a learning story.
 
I had a huge interest in which resources and obstacles the teachers experience when creating documentations. At the moment I am conducting interviews about this in Germany – I will keep this blog updated about this, promised!


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