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Documentation as Shared Democracy

October 22, 2009


“What we document represents a choice,

a choice among many other choices,

a choice in which pedagogues (educators)

themselves are participating.

Likewise, that which we do not choose

is also a choice.”

Carla Rinaldi

Documentation is a philosophical decision.  It is a process for supporting and constructing value, and requires the cooperation of the community.  This process requires dialogue among teachers and parents on the true nature of the learning.  When we present documentation, our thoughts on learning, to the community we receive feedback, which drives more research and documentation.

In this idea of documentation, we can essentially define education as participation – it is a shared process in the community that is not based on objective observations, but rather, interpretations of what we see and what we place value on.  Documentation is a social construction of knowledge and culture, and through it we get to define and redefine our values together as a community.  Thus, documentation is democracy in action.

To put it another way, our decisions about what to document and what not to document (which ends as a sometimes permanent installations on the walls of the school) helps children understand what we value as a people.  In this frame of reference, schools become fundamental places for transmitting and constructing new values and meanings.

The idea of documentation as a democratic process really struck me as something at the heart of how they approach education in Reggio Emilia.  Perhaps it was a severe reaction to the fascist government that was in place here before the schools opened.  It’s clear in the way that teachers dialogue, students work (mostly in groups), and the continual challenging of popular thought about child development and educational philosophy, that they are searching for democracy in everything they do.  What do you think about this?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2009 4:01 am

    “Documentation is a social construction of knowledge and culture, and through it we get to define and redefine our values together as a community. Thus, documentation is democracy in action.”

    This idea is what keeps me so passionate about this kind of teaching…understanding the ideas, making them happen at my school, spreading the idea to other teachers.

  2. October 25, 2009 11:07 pm

    Democracy has a different meaning in Reggio and in Wash DC. I think that because the Reggio schools were born from Socialism, and now reside in an atmosphere of Social Democracy, there is sensitivity and value for Social Justice. This is something worth embracing within our Democracy born of Capitalism, however it is not the norm within ECE or education in my neck of the woods. Onward we march…

  3. November 1, 2009 9:34 pm

    The way a community defines democracy (if they value democracy) is always different – coming back from Reggio it seems that democracy and the sharing of information and dialogue are seen as rights of the citizens of a school and a classroom community. I see how true it is that municipal schools in Reggio Emilia are a reflection of the local culture – each person was passionate about the rights of children. It would have been interesting to be there for the week on documentation – the in depth study of such a vital practice must have been fascinating.


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