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Documentation as a Process, Not a Goal
May 15, 2023
The belief that all genuine education comes about through experience does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative.
-John Dewey, 1859-1952, American Psychologist

In her new book, Slow Knowledge and the Unhurried Child, Alison Clark notes, "Documentation can lose sight of the child or children. It can become an end point—a goal in itself—a justification for what has been achieved rather than a process and a springboard for future explorations... Pedagogical documentation can, under these pressures, become life-less rather than dynamic and alive. This can result in the process being seen as merely for decoration or display."

In Really Seeing Children, Deb Curtis shares, “As I participate with children in these daily quests for understanding, I document what I am seeing to tell the stories of their rich intellectual pursuits. I study my photos and notes carefully to capture the significance of the children’s work. These stories show how children bring their whole selves—body, mind, and emotions—to every task.”

Curtis keeps observations and documentation focused on process by using questions from a Thinking Lens® developed with Margie Carter “to help me to remember to slow down, look for the details of what is unfolding, suspend my teacher agenda, and try to see children’s perspectives.”

Some of the Thinking Lens® questions include:

  • What in my background and values is influencing my response to this situation and why?
  • How do I understand the children’s point of view in this situation?
  • What is touching my heart and engaging my mind here?
  • What other perspectives could enhance my understanding of the meaning of this situation, i.e., perspectives of families, co-workers, colleagues?
  • How can I build on previous experiences of individuals and the group?


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