Pedagogical documentation - kids playing with wooden cameras

“Can we take a photo of my play?” - Pedagogical documentation in Finnish early childhood education

By Laura Lahin

June 30th, 2021

3 minutes read

This week we are diving into the world of pedagogical documentation. Pedagogical documentation is an important part of Finnish early childhood education (ECE). It’s a tool to plan, implement, evaluate and develop a pedagogical activity. So how does that really work?

What is the Pedagogical Documentation?

Imagine a circle: everything starts from children’s interests and needs, which guide the pedagogy. It then moves to children’s individual ECE plans and local curriculum that form the basis of the activities. The next crucial step is thorough planning. Planning is the key to quality pedagogy.

Planning starts with the objective of the activities: the first question is what do we want the children to learn or experience. Only the second question is how (or with what kind of pedagogical activities) can we offer the children an opportunity to learn or experience these things.

The next two parts of the circle are implementation and evaluation (read more in the following text) and it all ends up in the same place where it starts – children and their needs.

Why Does Pedagogical Documentation Matter?

As explained in the national curriculum, pedagogical documentation helps to create an understanding of the pedagogical activity.

The process of observations, documents, and their interpretation form a continuous process. Pedagogical documentation also increases children’s and their guardians’ participation in evaluating, planning, and developing the activities. The aim is to produce versatile knowledge about children’s learning, development, and activities of the group. Pedagogical documentation is a means to make children’s needs, interests, and thinking visible. This way personnel gets to know children and their relationships better. All in all, pedagogical documentation helps personnel implement ECE in a child-focused manner.

Implementation: the Creative Process of Documentation

Documentation can happen in various ways. However, it always starts with an observation.

In the simplest form it can be teacher’s notes in a notebook: how was the activity? Should something be done differently next time? But when the goal is to increase a child’s participation, it’s much more convenient to use methods like photography or craft.

Photography is a great way to document pedagogy since it can be done by children themselves. Photography naturally requires a device, and most kindergarten groups in Finland have a mobile phone or tablet device. Photography is done in different situations during the day. It’s equally important to document more teacher-led activities and children’s spontaneous activities, like play, arts, and crafts. At its best, documentation is a shared activity where children can participate equally with the personnel. “Can we take a photo of my play” is a frequently asked question.

Pedagogical documentation - kids playing with wooden cameras

Evaluation: How to Reap the Benefits of Pedagogical Documentation?

After observation and documentation come interpretation. Documents always need interpretation, and it’s important to make room for different interpretations: for personnel, children, and guardians.

The documents can be delivered to guardians for example by email or in other digital forms. If this is not possible, guardians can explore the documents at the kindergarten. It’s important to make sure the documents are accessible to everyone.

Examining the documents and captured images with children helps adults to understand what kids are really thinking about the planned activities. In Finnish ECE, children’s opinions are valued and they have an influence on pedagogical activity planning. Teachers may use various ways to find out children’s opinions. With smaller children the key method is observation. With bigger children methods like interviews, drawing or voting can be used. It’s essential to use various tools to make sure that every child is being heard, no matter how they express themselves.

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