Documenting Collaboration in Teaching and Learning

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. Embracing Reggio principles in practice,  I am committed to research. I see research as an opportunity to act upon our knowledge in a way that is collaborative, creative and critical.  Collaboration can be rich. When I have the opportunity to write, co-facilitate professional learning and together with others, mess about with social media as a vehicle for making meaning and build professional knowledge on topics I am passionate about, it motivates my journey.  Along with Reggio inspired practice it is the theories of Messing About as inspired by the philosophy of Frances and David Hawkins that fuel the vehicle. Frances, an early childhood educator, like myself said:

FrancesHawkins quote

I have a number of critical friends who help me move forward on the journey. The term critical friend has its origins in critical pedagogy. Costa and Kallick (1993) suggest that:

A critical friend can be defined as a trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critiques of a person’s work as a friend.  A critical friend takes the time to fully understand the context of the work presented and the outcomes that the person or group is working toward.  The friend is an advocate for the success of that work. (p.14)

Critical friends provide constructive feedback as advocates for each other. It is through social media that I  have been able to expand my circle of critical friends. Building a culture for collaboration virtually like others have done in real time –

It is through the virtual world that I have been able to expand my network in ways I have not been able to do in real time. In the past, I have also had the opportunity to develop courses with others. I have learned much from this opportunity and with one particular course reading the course by Alison Clark, Transforming Children’s Spaces: Children’s and adult’s participation in designing learning environments  I was prompted to think deeply about the future.

Transforming Children's Spaces cover

I am drawn to the following question posed by Clark (2010) “what does it mean to be in this place?” (p. 11). In my previous place of work, like the workplaces of many teachers, I felt isolated. Educational institutions are often more easily described as a “telling culture” rather than a “listening culture.”  Yet, I have Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest friends. I have live chat on Twitter  #ReggioPLC. Social media has provided what Clark (2010) calls “reciprocal listening” (p. 10) and I have been  especially excited as the #ReggioPLC network expands internationally thanks to Suzanne Axelsson with the possibilities for international collaboration in teaching and learning. The first #ReggioPLC international chat happened on January 11, 2014 at 4:00 pm (EST). The topic was teacher collaboration, inspired by the many heartfelt stories of inspiration and collegiality expressed by #ReggioPLC participants, particularly kindergarten teachers and early childhood educators, working together in full day kindergarten programs.

Social media is an “enabling environment” (Clark, 2010, p. 13). For me it has opened the door to “reciprocal listening”. Clark (2010) explains that, “the notion of reciprocal listening is linked to the leadership approach within individual institutions” (p. 10). It is difficult to teach within a culture where your work and views are not acknowledged and valued. It is for this reason, that I took early retirement from my previous place of work  to continue the journey of research in more enabling environments.

It is on this blog, on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. that  I document my journey in a quest to build knowledge and make visible the meaning of the work of my professional lives. I have written about pedagogical documentation in the past.


“Pedagogical documentation can play an important role in meaning making (Clark, 2010, p. 11). Rinaldi (2005) states that when it is used in process (during the experience) “it enables reading, revisiting and assessment in time and in space, and these actions become an integral part of the knowledge-building process” (p. 23).

Documentation as according to Clark (2010) is a “theoretical viewfinder” (p. 12).  It supports the notion of the teacher as researcher and theory builder. In the past I have often turn to the Acorn School for inspiring documentation as pictured in the images below. Thank you to all my critical friends and social media friends for sharing your work, your documentation and inspiring my professional journey that has now become less isolated and more validating.

Acorn Tomato Documentation


Acorn Tomato Documentation 2


Acorn: Tomato Exploration


Acorn: A tomato in clay


Acorn: How is a leaf born?


Acorn: A leaf is born 2


9 thoughts on “Documenting Collaboration in Teaching and Learning

  1. Diane,
    Thank you for this powerful post. After reading your entry, I was moved to reflect on my own journey thus far, as an educator. You have managed to explicitly articulate many truths, namely the importance of having one’s views valued and acknowledged. It wasn’t until you mentioned it so eloquently, that I realized how empowering social media has been for me, even though I am relatively new to the social media scene. The reflections shared via Twitter especially, have fuelled my thirst for more learning and exploration while reinforcing my own beliefs and pedagogy of learning and teaching…even when I may be challenged by others. I look forward to listening more, to absorbing ideas more, to sharing more, to collaborating more.

    Wishing you continued success on your journey.


    • Thank you Toni for your kind words. I look forward to many more years of continued collaboration as we all take this journey together : )


    • We would love to have you there Leigh Ann – your work is so inspiring! We recommend using for the live chat. Go onto the site and put in #ReggioPLC as the hashtag just before the time of the chat (9pm). You can read the tweets as they appear and reply, favour or retweet as well as post your own tweets right on tweetchat. Don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed at first – we all do … it is fast paced but the hour of enlightened dialogue goes really quick!


  2. Diane
    What a rich, thoughtful post. I am devoted to teacher research, documentation and intentional reflective practice. I blog at (and also for Bing Nursery School, Stanford University). Along with Leigh Ann, I would love to join in the live chat on Twitter if my timing works out! Can I join via tweetchat, also? Thanks again for the inspiring post! Jeanne


    • Thank you! We love your blog, Jeanne. We would be honoured to have you join the chat. You can join via tweet chat. It makes it easier to follow the discussion. We hope you will join our regular chats every other Tuesday evening at 9 pm and our first International chat on Jan 11th at 4 pm. We are very excited to widen our circle of friends.


  3. Thanks for this post! Documentation is such a rich topic to explore, guiding investigation of children’s thinking in a collaborative and meaningful way. It leads people to become more interested in each other’s perspectives. I posted some of my thoughts about it last month at
    I’m looking forward to the #reggioplc chats: What a great way to support each other’s learning!


    • Thank you Matt. We agree that documentation allows for multiple perspectives which are essential if the documentation is to be pedagogical. The Opal School is an inspiring example of Reggio inspired practice and we would be honoured to have you join our chats.


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