So you have collected data - it can be ...
the children's work
Now is the time to look at all this data, both as an individual educator, together with colleagues, with the children and with parents. Each time you look, each time you share with others you will gain a new perspective... some will tally with your perspective, others will add new details, and yet other might come in conflict with how you have interpreted the information.
It can be a good idea to have some questions at the ready when reflecting on the collected information... for example...
What is/are the child/ren doing?
Did anyone take the lead/Who took the lead? Did the other children allow this/contest this?
Did the child/ren ask questions? What sort of questions, to other children or the adult?
Was the child/ren following another child’s lead? Peer inspired. Or was it own creativity?
Was it inspired by Tv/film/book or...?
Was the child playing independently or collaboratively? Is this usual?
What friendship constellation? The usual ones, or a new ones?
How did the child/ren use any resources/materials?
Has the child/ren explained any actions?
What is the child/ren showing in terms of understanding? This can be individual understandings and group understanding.
What knowledge does the child/ren have? Again on a group and individual level.
What skills does the child/ren have? Do they use them to collaborate?
Which strategies does the child/ren use/seem to prefer? (the children's way of dealing with a problem, learning/playing... not the adult strategy of teaching)
How involved is the child/ren? Are the active participants with enthusiasm, reluctant partipants or passive (ie watching the others)
How do you know? What evidence do you have, is it backed up with previous evidence/documentation?
I think it is important to not only look at each child but to see the whole group. Remember to collect information of individuals, groups and whole class levels... and to also analyse it in the same way. Each person has their own way of evolving, but the groups and the class is also evolving too, and it is a good idea to understand the nature of the group dynamics in the class and how the children's roles and development impacts this. especially as you will need this analysis to plan future activities/lessons... so always documenting on an individual level will make it much harder to plan class activities... as activities rely often on social interactions for them to be successful.
You can use the following criteria to evaluate a child’s involvement level - this can also be viewed for the whole group too, not just on a individual level.
Complexity and creativity
Facial expressions and composure
Interaction with others/materials
Length of time of involvement
Time allowing it can be helpful to look for any connections in documentation, e.g. does the child/group always seem to be exploring their learning/play in a particular way?
Remember to reflect on your collection method too... was it a good way to collect information, not only at the time, but also how it enables the analysis part... for example when I was doing philosophical dialogues with my group of children I found that filming and recording the sessions ended up being more time consuming in the analysis part of the process, even though they could offer a greater depth. So we ended up only recording a few sessions to enable us to maintain a deeper thinking level of our notes, and also to help us understand what got missed in our notes (as voice inflection and movements and emotions are rarely recorded in written notes during a philosophy session due to the speed of the children's talking and trying to keep up with writing it down.
Also there has to be a level of respect and security with a team of educators to share films of themselves working with children... especially when this is open for critique... after all the whole aim is to understand not only how the children learn, but also to improve the way that we as educators teach... so that the learning and teaching are in symbiosis.
Directors at early years settings... well ALL educational settings - need to work towards creating an atmosphere that allows the educators to talk freely, openly and respectfully with each other. This is done in a similar way as we work with children... we need to give it time for these relationships and trust to be built... we cannot expect children or any person to feel courage to express all their opinions without that level of security and trust, and the need that mistakes are not frowned upon or laughed at, but merely seen as stepping stones of learning.
When it comes to the analysis part I really want to press the point of not just focussing on individual children... I know there is much said about the unique child etc... but we all function in society and therefore we need to understand how groups work, how the individuals work within the group. To understand if all the children are interested in the same things, or whether some children are not given enough time, space or volume to make their voice heard. Is there an equality in the group... and this can be seen from many perspectives... from age, from gender, from religion, race, interests etc etc.
A recent report here in Sweden about the need to review the Swedish preschool curriculum wrote
For me this is part of the democratic process... that individuals are an active part of the group... and that the group is an active part of the individual development of the children and teachers.
This democratic approach is also why it is important that children are active in the analysis of the documentation. Why not print out (or open a page on the computer in powerpoint, with the image and space then to write the child's thoughts) - and show this image to the child of themselves doing something or interacting with others... ask the children about what is happening, what do they remember, how did they feel; if they would want to do this again, if so in the same way or would they want to make any changes? etc etc... there are many questions that can be asked to find out more about what the children were thinking... and this might end up being very different from how you first interpreted the photo.
In the log-books for the children I would glue in photos of the play-spaces that we visited... and then ask the children about the space... was it easy to get to, was it fun to play there, was there anything there that was not as much fun, was there anything there that was tricky? Did they need to learn more skills to be successful...? I would then analyse the children's individual answers to see if there was a group pattern. I would use the group patterns to support continued learning and dialogues in the group/class... and always keep in mind the individual to ensure that we were providing an inclusive learning and play environment.
The more I write the more you might be thinking how on earth can I be thinking all these things and analysing all of this... the thing is the more you practice using this tool, pedagogical documentation the more it just becomes a part of how you see and listen... it is like broadening your spectrum of sight and sound... pretty much in the same way the curriculum becomes a part of your being and you no longer need to keep on referring to it, but that as you are doing your daily work with the children you see the curriculum happening in the small actions all around you. (of course it is good to keep on returning to the curriculum to reflect once more and to gain a deeper understanding). What I am trying to write is that the more you collect data and the more you analyse it... and use the entire circle of pedagogical documentation the easier it will become, as you learn better techniques of collection, and analysis, these stages will allow you to refine these techniques even more, and you will also become more comfortable with exploring ideas with colleagues, children and parents - and also to understand that not all feedback is going to be "great job" and that this feedback is about the work... and not you personally, and is there to help you get better at your work as an educator.
Having a weekly meeting where you spend time analysing the week can be a good start... asking the same questions allow you to have a systematic approach and easier notice patterns and anomalies.
For instance the following questions could be asked..
1. What are the children interested in (don't just write play... think about what it is in the play that is the most interesting... if it is a subject, for example robots, what is it about the robots that they are interested in... maybe they do not want to build robots, maybe they are scared of them and are dealing with overcoming fear)
2.How can we build on this? (what activities, visits, materials can we use to allow the children to explore these ideas through play, and through adult lead activities too)
3. Did the week go as expected? (each week will be planned... at the end of the week ask yourself did it go as you planned it... if yes, explain how it went as you planned, if no, explain that too... and remember not as expected also means that it went better than expected)
4. What have we learned from this... ? (For example if the math activity was more popular than expected and children complained there was not enough time/space/room - then what adaptations would you make to allow more children access to the activity, keeping in mind that many children might complicate the experience, but this can still be tested and evaluated... as it might work better)
5. are there any developments, milestones or concerns (on an individual and group level) - this is good to write down so that you can go back and see when you first started to have concerns, or the child/group first developed this particular skill etc.
6. What measures do we implement to respond to this... if there is a concern what are the teachers response... this is important to make sure you keep track of what measures you are using and how effective they are... there is no point reacting to a child in the exact same way week in and week out if it has no affect, this way you can keep track of effective measures to support the child/group learning and development.
7. How shall we plan for next week based on the analysis/reflections we have just made. For example if you had planned a science activity that the children have shown clearly they have no interest in, maybe it would be appropriate to change the activity to something the children are interested in. This new activity might have the same process but a content that is more meaningful for the children and will engage them.
Getting into a routine of analysing the data is important... especially with the children. Finding time is another essential question to answer... when is there time for collegial dialogues about the collected data, when is there time for dialogues with the children... and with the parents?
what sort of project would the children be interested in, and why
what sort of skills do the children already master, what do they want help with, need support with?
What learning styles/strategies do the children have?
Is the group settled enough for meaningful learning, or is the a greater need for more team-building activities... I am a big believer that children will learn if they feel safe, valued and included.
These questions will influence what you plan and how you create the curriculum/process for the learning/project in the near future... this might be something that occurs for a short time, or it might end up being a project that lasts a much longer time... for instance... the Leonardo da Vinci projected that I started with my group of children ended up being about robots and lasted a whole year and allowed the children to explore many different areas of their own development within the safety of the robot project... we explored, friendship, emotions, responsibility, making mistakes, technology and film making etc etc
For me this is one of the most exciting parts of the circle... exploring the children's ideas, play and learning - my own thoughts, with the children, with my colleagues (my closest colleagues and the whole setting) and also with the parents who can bring a whole-picture clarity to the child and how they are evolving as a citizen of the local community, of the town, of the country and of the world.
of course I am writing these posts in isolation... which means I will probably forget something important that if I was with a colleague I would be reminded of...
The next part of this series will be about making decisions and taking action.