Quick Thoughts on Documentation


by Shelley Welch

Over the summer, I fairly devoured The Hundred Languages of ChildrenAuthentic ChildhoodRe-Imagining Childhood and In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia (devouring that one as I write) in addition to lots and lots of  articles by researchers, teacher-researchers, administrators and other folks involved with exploring the Reggio approach. My intention all along has been, and remains, to grasp, wrestle with, explore, deconstruct and reconstruct this Reggio Emilia approach to educating and constructing meaning. To that end, I have found myself returning again and again to documentation and provocations. I find it challenging to discuss one facet of Reggio without the rest of the pieces and parts getting beautifully drawn into the discourse. Nevertheless, I took on the task of finding and grappling with every reference to documentation in The Hundred Languages of Children and a few other references to documentation in other texts (I gathered 16 pages of quotations referring to documentation!).

100 Langs Quote

While I work to organize these references in a way that is helpful and supportive to those who hunger for a deeper understanding of documentation, I wanted to offer my short list of What Documentation Is and What Documentation Is Not. So, here we go…

Documentation is…

both temporary and permanent

photography, audio taping, anecdotal records, note taking, video, or collections of children’s work

a daily diary that recounts the events taking place inside the classroom or the school

hand-written notes

audio-recordings and transcriptions of children’s dialogue and group discussions

print and slide photographs or videotapes of key moments and activities

collection of products and constructions made by children

of children, parents, teachers, school staff, community members

a provocation

a living record of educational practice

visible listening

traces—such as notes, slides, and videos

what helps children return with full rights among the builders of human culture and the culture of humanity

a record of performance that contains sufficient detail to help others understand the behavior recorded

more than ‘work samples’

a panel with commentary by teachers, staff, parents

a research report used to enhance discourse rather than a mere record of a past event

more focused on children than on a child

a presentation of the spirit of the school and the pedagogical principles at work

a presentation the wisdom of the teachers who write the explanations and provocations

quotes or questions from parents

tangible, visible, and accessible

a procedure that sustains educational action (teaching) in the dialogue with the learning processes of the  children

the leaving of traces, to create documents, written notes, observation charts, diaries and other narrative forms, but also recordings, photographs, slides and video

a tool that forms the thematic nucleus for a competent observation

the heart, the uniqueness of each specific project

the true professional training of the teacher

Rinaldi Documentation Quote

Documentation is not…

a collecting of documents after the conclusion of experiences with children

a display of photographs or children’s conversations

a systematic evaluation of instruction

another word for assessment or measurement

a final report, a collection of documents, a portfolio that merely assists with memory, evaluation and archives

More to come about this topic as the school year progresses!

© 2015 Shelley Welch