Observation is the first and most powerful step towards changing teaching practices. Daily observation reveals a wealth of information about students, their competencies and skills, and the work of the teacher. Rotating20 Sharing observations through the use of documentation provides an opportunity to create a window for parents to peer inside the daily life of school and their children's activities here. Only by practicing the activity of observation can teachers begin to critique their own ability to observe, document, and engage in projects with their students.
When you observe you slow down, listen more carefully, and pause to reflect before stepping in to offer direction or help. You see and respond to who a child is and what a child needs. Observing helps you build relationships by revealing the uniqueness of every child, including the child's temperament, strengths, personality, work style and preferred mode of expression. Positive relationships between children and teachers are the foundation for children's exploration and learning within the classroom. As children develop trust in their teachers, they become more likely to take on new challenges, continue trying, and ask questions when confused. All of this enhances learning.
Think of a friend who accepts you as you are and takes pleasure in your accomplishments. How do you feel when you are with this person? At ease? Competent? Confident? Acknowledged for who you are? Trusting? Proud? Supported? Secure? Willing to take risks? These feelings are the building blocks of self confidence that we want all children to experience. How children in your group feel about themselves depends in large part on how you respond to their actions, ideas, questions, and work. And how they feel about themselves will influence how they feel about and interact with others. As children come to see that you respect their work, their discoveries and their ideas, they will come to respect themselves. Observation drives intentional teaching and thus learning When we observe, we gain insights about the child's strengths, knowledge, interests and skills. Teachers collect data and then reflect on where the child is in their development and what skills they're working on. Questions teachers ask themselves:
Documentation begins from observations. Documentation is a fundamental support for self-evaluation in learning; not only for the students, but also for teacher's professional development. Documenting the processes, projects, stories and theories from children allows the children, teachers and parents to look at the work and be reminded of their thinking – to re-look, re-visit and re-see their thinking. It allows teachers to reflect on and interpret what is actually happening with the children and perhaps see a new direction emerge or see the need for different direction or additional resources. When children are immersed in classrooms where their work and thinking processes are visible to themselves and others, we show children that thinking matters. We honor children's and teachers' thinking when we capture it precisely. Documentation is a tool for teacher's, and by documenting students' work we are documenting our own development as practitioners.