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THE DISPOSITION TO DOCUMENT:

THE LIVED EXPERIENCE OF TEACHERS WHO PRACTICE

PEDAGOGICAL DOCUMENTATION–

A CASE STUDY













LAURIE L. M. KOCHER









B. A., University of British Columbia, 1980

M. Ed., University of Victoria, 1999











A THESIS SUBMITTED IN FULFILLMENT OF

THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF







DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY





in





THE FACULTY OF EDUCATION







(Early Childhood Education)







THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN QUEENSLAND





2008

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Kocher, L. (2008). The Disposition to Document: The Lived Experience of Teachers Who Practice Pedagogical Documentation.



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ABSTRACT


In recent years there has been a great deal of attention paid in early childhood

settings to pedagogical documentation, a practice that has developed in the

preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy. Following upon the devastation of World War

II, educators, parents and children began working in this small city to reconstruct

their society and to build an exemplary system of education for young children.

This system has become known as the Reggio Emilia approach. A hallmark of the

Reggio Emilia approach, pedagogical documentation, is a way of making visible the

learning processes by which children and teachers work in early childhood centres.

It may include anecdotal observations, children’s work, photographs, audio and

video tape recordings, and children’s voiced ideas. An integral part of the

documentation is the teacher’s reflective commentary. Pedagogical documentation

can also be a focus for linking theory and practice.

This qualitative instrumental case study involved looking at the personal

qualities that have enabled three particular teachers located at an early childhood

centre in Seattle, U.S.A., to embrace with enthusiasm the practice of pedagogical

documentation. What are the lived experiences of these teachers? Do these

teachers demonstrate particular attributes that foster a “disposition to document”?

Three teachers, along with two of the school’s parents, participated in a series

of interviews which were analysed for significant themes. Subsequent

conversations with the participants confirmed the initial themes I had drawn from

the interview data.

A relationship of reciprocity emerged - working with pedagogical

documentation fostered dispositions that each teacher already had, while at the

same time, these teachers were drawn to the Reggio Emilia approach because it

resonated with them in an intuitive way. Pedagogical documentation demands a

high level of intellectual commitment and a passionate engagement with one’s

teaching. Parallels were also found between pedagogical documentation and

phenomenological research.

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Kocher, L. (2008). The Disposition to Document: The Lived Experience of Teachers Who Practice Pedagogical Documentation

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intimate setting where these relationships are really strong, as opposed to…

some… two hour workshop… But to really think about how this documentation

piece - how is it at the heart of our program? And how, with it at the heart of our

program, does it shape all of our practices? I think that’s the very powerful piece

(AP3).



Phillips and Bredekamp (1998) reinforce this idea of building professional

development around documentation: “As a collaborative interaction with other

teachers, the documentation process gives meaning and concrete references to the

teachers’ learning process. Teachers have records of their own ideas in historical

context, and a means to revisit their own growth and change” (p. 447).

Margie, writing for an audience of early childhood educators, draws upon

her experience working alongside of teachers at Hilltop:

In my opinion [most professional development efforts] often fail to achieve

lasting results because they are focused on training technicians, rather than

reflective practitioners; and they typically don’t address the organizational

climate and support systems that motivate teachers to continue their

professional development. When you are taught how to think through the

complexities of your work with children, you are likely to become more

engaged and find the work more satisfying, than if you are merely taught a

set of techniques to use. If you work in a setting that values and provides

time for focused discussions with your co-workers, you have the opportunity

to expand your thinking, and improve your practice. (Carter, 2006, p. 24)



Ann, Margie, and Sarah, along with their Italian colleagues in Reggio

Emilia, identify time and specific working conditions as requirements to make it

possible for schools and teachers to become real and effective sources of learning.

As Filippini (2001) explains:

In our ongoing and permanent staff development, we place a great deal of

emphasis on promoting constant learning and an attitude of research, an

openness to change and to discussing diverse points of view. Therefore, the

organization of work must enable and support communicative dynamics

which, by interweaving individual and collective thought, leads us to

experiment with the existence of “possible worlds” and the possibility of

constructing new meanings or, better, shared meanings. (p. 54-55)

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Kocher, L. (2008). The Disposition to Document: The Lived Experience of Teachers Who Practice Pedagogical Documentation

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Theme: The Tools of Technology – “A Mixed Blessing”



Technology Tools

In Reggio-inspired programmes, such as Hilltop’s, documentation affects all

aspects of teacher development, especially the teacher’s role as a co-constructor

of knowledge with children and as developer of curriculum. Documentation is a

bridge between theory and practice, and using the tools of technology helps to

accomplish this. Because the use of technologies, such as 35-mm camera or

digital camera, video-camera, tape-recorder, scanner, computer, and printer are

considered absolutely indispensable for recording and understanding teaching

practice, the effectiveness of technology has become an important issue in the

process of creating effective documentation displays. At the same time, using the

tools of technology has come to Hilltop as a mixed blessing. Without a doubt, for

those, like Ann, Margie, and Sarah, who are comfortable computer users, the

advent of digital photography, in particular, has simplified the task of compiling

pedagogical documentation.

~ Personally, I had a lot more comfort with computers than maybe other

folks, and I also feel like I hardly know anything. But to be able to do the written

reflective piece, and have it there, you know, and it’s not all hand-written… plop

in the photos, and maybe I’ll make one of photos with several kids that will go up

on the board, and then I’ll copy the text and plop in the three photos I took of D.

at different places in this, and then copy the text and plop in the three photos of

H… So then each kid has a copy for his journal, I have a copy for myself. I can

make a little CD and I’ve got the year on a CD, so my little professional portfolio

is “ta-dum,” there it is, sweet and easy. Publication coming out of that is so easy.

And for doing the web page, I hand the technology guy [a parent volunteer] the

CD of the three things I want to go on… It’s amazing, and I love it, I love it

(AP2).



~ The turn-over time that I can do all that in… half an hour, as opposed to,

you know, just push print and it all prints during nap and at the end of nap I pick

it up. [Compare that to] take a photo, take the film at some far away time and

drop it off for developing, you finally pick it up, you pay the money, you get

reimbursed, you divide them up – “Okay, I took these three, but I don’t know

whose photos these are, you guys figure those out.” Glue them in, write, write,

write…” It’s just so, oh my God, it’s so great. How did we do it before? That’s

what I wonder (AP2).

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disposition to document – what is it about the process that captures our

imaginations, informs us, provokes us to personal growth?



As you already know, the staff at Hilltop Children’s Center have been using

photography and recorded conversations in this fashion for many years to

document children’s thinking. I intend to study how the teachers at Hilltop use

documentation to foster children’s learning, and also how it fosters their own

professional development. I will be using a combination of current

documentation and Hilltop’s archive of past documented projects. A significant

part of the data collection will involve interviewing teachers about their individual

documentation experiences.



At the conclusion of this research project, a meeting will be held for all those

interested to share what I have learned. An executive summary of my research

study will also be made available.



Should you have any questions, or be interested in discussing this research, I

would welcome you to contact me. My supervisors at the University of Southern

Queensland are also available to discuss this project. Dr. Noel Geoghegan can be

reached at +61 7 4631 1418, or at [email protected] Dr. Nerida Ellerton can

be reached at +61 7 4631 2317, or at [email protected]



Thank you for your consideration.



Sincerely yours,



Laurie Kocher

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