Documenting Learning And Development



Documenting a child’s work forms an invaluable tool to establish connections between what is taught and how the child learns. It can help:

To remember

A quick note in point form can help to record brief impressions. Studies also indicate a connection between writing and memory which forms a visual and kinetic connection in the brain, assisting memory and recall when needed or even in the absence of visual cues.

To compare

Children will develop and grow at a variable rate — so recording facts such as a child’s height or learning progress allows caregivers and educators to keep track of his growth and development, allowing them to draw comparisons between different periods of time. Written records are comprehensive, objective and help to provide tangible and reliable comparison points.

To amplify later

Sometimes you might not have sufficient time to write down the details of an incident or an event — so simply note a few strategic or key points which you can then go back and elaborate upon at a later date.

To catch and preserve details

Humans are likely to overlook or forget the finer details of an incident. Some of the fine details that can form the crux of the learning story might be overlooked or forgotten because of the frailty of the human mind, these can be best preserved by writing. Such details may help in tracking or providing significant trends or correlations.

To serve as a literacy role model

Children learn through imitation — when they see adults writing, this motivates them to write as well. Seeing adults write also drives home the practical importance of learning such skills. A child might ask: “What are you doing?” If he does, reply that “I’m writing this down because this is important” or “I’m writing this down so I won’t forget”, this reinforces the importance of writing, and serves to strengthen the child’s desire to write.

To ensure reliability and validity

A written record which is documented in a natural setting serves as reliable evidence, hence, can be used to support children’s learning and also to share with the parents or families for any follow-up. It provides opportunities for the teachers to be reflective and observant so as to plan or modify their practices and programme. It also serves as an authentic and valid source of information due to its reliability.

To provide accountability

Teachers are accountable to administrators, families, community members, and others, and documentation helps to provide evidence of children’s learning. In addition, documentation can improve relationships, teaching, and learning. Use of this tool helps educators get to know and understand children, and it allows them to reflect on the effectiveness of their teaching practices.

To extend the learning

Documentation of children’s experience helps the teachers and children to reflect, build upon previous experiences and extend curriculum further based on children’s interest and the teachable moments.

To make learning visible

It helps to ensure that the children are meeting guidelines as well as the national standards of education. It ultimately adds on to the teacher’s confidence in the value of their teaching.

To reflect and evaluate

It serves as an effective mean to reflect on the application of certain practices and also to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the programme, the learning environment as well as the teaching strategies.

To enhance the professional growth and development


Documentation provides an avenue to reflect on the current practices which helps to create possibilities of professional development by identifying the areas of improvement.

To communicate with children, families and other stake holders


The written evidence is a reliable source that can be shared with the children and their families to update the progress of the child and also to encourage family support in the areas of improvement.

What to document?

  • Individual child growth and development, e.g., progression in linguistic abilities
  • Expected behaviour and social skills, e.g., peer interaction
  • Curriculum ideas on events, e.g., learning journeys or excursions
  • Curriculum projects, e.g., learning about life cycles
  • Families and relationships, e.g., diversity in socio-cultural beliefs
  • Evidence of meeting learning standards, e.g., journals, work samples or artifacts
  • Questions and answers of children, teachers and families about topics within the classroom
  • Teacher’s reflection about the children’s learning and development
  • Updated record for communication with the families

How to document?

The process of documentation is best done in collaboration with a team of teachers, parents and in some cases, children, as soon as possible after the experience. The documenter is a researcher first, gathering as much data as possible to paint a picture of progress and outcomes which occurs during the following six stages of documentation:

  1. Deciding to document: “What should I document?” Be selective.
  2. Exploring technology use: Consider the appropriate software or hardware that will display the finished product.
  3. Focusing on children’s engagement: Zooming into the specific and focused moments of learning.
  4. Gathering information: Using captions, slogans or title to describe the sequence of children’s learning.
  5. Connecting and narrating stories: Collating the individual segments of learning to form a sequential and progressive product.
  6. Documenting decision making: Framing questions to reflect, assess, and evaluate in line with the learning standards so as to formulate theories of learning.

Documentation is…

  • Objective driven and revolves around a specific question that guides the process of learning.
  • More like a narrative or a descriptive story involving teachable moments.
  • Based on facts and evidence.
  • Best when avoiding the use of jargon and acronyms.
  • Focused on the process as well as the product of learning.
  • Can be created by the teachers, children, and or parents.
  • Captured through multiple forms, formats and languages.
  • Involves collective analysis, interpretation and evaluation of an individual or a group.
  • Subject to regular review.
  • Constantly updated and presented in chronological order.


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Gandini, L., & Kaminsky, J. A. (n.d.). Reflections on the relationship between documentation and assessment in the American context: An interview with Brenda fyfe. Innovations in early education: the international reggio exchange, 5-17. Retrieved from
Katz, L. G., & Chard, S. C. (1996). The contribution of documentation to the quality of early childhood education. Retrieved from ERI C database. (ED393608)
Nilsen, B. (2001). Week by week: Plan for observing and recording young children. (2nd ed.). NY: Delmar Thomson
Harvard University, Project Zero (2006). Making learning visible: Understanding documenting and supporting individual and group learning.
Queensland Studies Authority. (2013). Making learning visible. Queensland kindergarten learning guideline professional development. Australia: QSA
Seitz, H. (2008). The power of documentation in the early childhood classroom. Young Children, 88-93. Retrieved from