Our Journey

Our aim was deepen our understanding and valuing listening pedagogies and engage in a variety of listening modalities. We hoped to build a sense of professional collaboration, community, and pedagogical inquiry among our group.

“You always have time for the things you put first”

Significant learning from book study: Phase 1

Project: Phase 1: 4 month study of the book “Making Learning Visible”, with bi-weekly tele-conferences. 4 people.

Our project began tentatively, none of us having done a book study before. Some parts of the book were easy, some inspiring, some dense and difficult. At the end, as a group we took away three key observations from the book: 1) the depth of observation the Italian educators bestowed upon the children; 2) The time, space and support staff dedicated to the observation and documentation of children and project work; and 3) The creativity of the educators guiding children to work through cognitive knots. For example, in one chapter educators noticed the difficulty some children had representing 3D objects, which in and of itself is insightful. Rather than asking them to “draw 3D objects”, they invited the children to draft a manual of games for incoming children, including the game “ring around the rosy” which presented many challenges to draw. When children struggled with that challenge, educators posed questions or activities that provoked further thinking, rather than providing the answer. We remarked on the culture that has taken decades to form in Reggio, and wondered where to begin in our own centers. This is where we aspired to go as ECEs.

Next, we gathered to finalize the logistics for Phase 2- each member would use 1 documentation method for 1-3 weeks and create two pieces of documentation from their observations each period.

Significant learning from action research project: Phase 2

Phase 2: Action research project across 3 UBC centres, testing 4 observation methodologies (iPad pro, iPod touch, voice recorder/camera, and camera/notepad). 4 people.

Each member had struggles and successes with each methodology, and none were perfect. We all agreed that a smart device most effectively turns raw observational data into documentation, and everyone tangibly improved their skills using such devices. UBC privacy restrictions present additional challenges, so smart devices saved precious time. However, we struggled with children engaging with the device itself. Speaking or performing to the device, stoping their play to watch the video, or becoming distracted by it. Overall, we found documentation to be more authentic when we either propped the device up somewhere or had someone else do the recording so we could focus.

Ultimately, we have become better listeners. Previously, when children were engaged in free play we often would take the opportunity to tidy up, do the dishes etc. Now, we sit and observe. In this way, our documentation is more reflective of the child as a whole, rather than only the moments that interest us about their play. We can give richer accounts to parents, locate threads in their play across relationships and time, and now see (and look for) broader identities in children with challenging behaviours. We also notice that there is time in the day for observation and documentation, when we prioritize it. And, when it’s easier.

Moving forward, we hope to sustain the joy we’ve found in observing and documenting and bring more collaboration into observing/documenting and project work. We hope to share this new habit with our teams and teach them how to use these devices, and also how to sit and enjoy the children’s play, recorder quietly whirring. We hope to create our own culture of listening and making learning visible, one small step at a time.


Ali McCannell

University of British Columbia, Child Care Society (UBCCCS)

Erin Bowman

University of British Columbia, Child Care Society (UBCCCS)

Prabhulata Immaraju

University of British Columbia, Child Care Society (UBCCCS)

June Wong

University of British Columbia, Child Care Society (UBCCCS)