What are some scientifically unexplained everyday observations

The practical application of perceptual observation

From the book: Gerd E. Schäfer, Marjan Alemzadeh: "Perceptual observation - observation and documentation using the example of the nature learning workshop"(Berlin, Weimar: verlag das Netz 2012). Internet publication with the permission of the publisher

Marjan Alemzadeh


Perceptual observation is an everyday instrument that is used to perceive children and their learning processes on a daily basis and to align the educational work with the individual possibilities and resources of the children. Perceptual observation is not an instrument to ascertain performance levels or to make diagnoses, but rather a professional attitude to perceive and effectively support the educational processes of children. Perceptual observation is the professional answer to the new image of the child as a curious, independent and competent person. Perceptual observation is at the heart of a pedagogy that pays attention to the child's activities and interests.

The practical application of the observation procedure consists of four steps, which are described in detail below:

  • observing perceptively,
  • describe,
  • reflect,
  • document.

1st step: Observe perceptively

If you would like to support the children's educational processes in such a way that the child's self-control and self-activity is preserved, you are dependent on perceiving and interpreting the signals from children and using them to record their interests and upcoming developments (cf. Stenger / Viernickel 2010). You can use perceptual observation as a tool for everyday pedagogical work. Observation takes place freely, without pre-defined observation categories that guide the eye.

How do you observe perceptively?

Dense perception

Focus your full attention on one child or group of children. Be involved in the observation with all your senses, also and especially with your physical and emotional perception. Consciously intensify your perceptions. Look attentively, listen consciously, visualize your feelings with the help of your emotional perception.

Remember: individual modes of perception are limited in their range. What cannot be perceived with the eyes may be grasped by feeling.

Try to perceive closely. To perceive tightly means to grasp different forms of perception and the information that can be obtained through them.

  • Take your time for perceptual observation.
  • Make use of all possibilities of perception, including emotional perception.
  • Make yourself aware of what you have observed in a variety of ways and in as many details as possible.
  • Use technical aids where it appears helpful, for example a camera, video camera or tape recorder. These tools allow certain perceptual processes to be repeated afterwards.
  • Put yourself in a process of slowing down. Perceive as consciously as possible (cf. Schäfer 2010).

Participation and inner involvement

When observing, go with the children in the truest sense of the word. Address the children both physically and mentally. Immerse yourself in the action: "To be there does not just mean to be present, but to at least partially understand what another person might experience, feel or experience in his or her actions" (Schäfer 2010, p. 74f.).

Be involved inside. Try to empathize with the child. Try to track down the meaning of what happened:

  • What could the child be about in the observed situation?
  • What significance, what meaning could the event have for the child? How does this become clear?

How do you begin perceptual observation?

Perceptual observation helps you to develop an attitude in which you strive to understand children, to perceive their signals and to align pedagogical modes of action such as everyday structures in such a way that children can pursue their interests and needs autonomously. As a result, perceptual observation can be used as an everyday tool in any situation. To begin with, however, it makes sense to first focus on individual situations, for example on:

  • activities of children chosen by oneself;
  • Situations that attract attention;
  • everyday routines such as eating or getting dressed;
  • Situations in which you are involved in what is happening.

The focus can be:

  • a single child,
  • a group of children,
  • the interaction between one or more children and the teacher.

Chosen activities of the children

If you perceive situations in which children pursue activities of their own choosing, the following questions are the focus of interest:

  • What actions, ideas and possibilities does this child - or this group of children - bring to a given situation?
  • What skills does the child use?
  • What experiences does the self-chosen activity have in store for the child?
  • What significance could the experiences have for the child?

With every activity, children want to explore, understand and shape a piece of the world. If they find it difficult to delve deeper into something, this could be a mirror for the fact that they lack a stimulating environment that invites them to explore. It is primarily about experiences in everyday contexts.

Children have the gift of being very involved in things. If they don't, this is a hint for you to check what could be the cause. (Angelika von der Beek gives in her books "Educational Rooms for Children from Zero to Three" and "Educational Rooms for Children from Three to Six", published by the publisher das netz, wonderful suggestions on how to design rooms in such a way that they meet the needs of Children).

In a further training course, an educator said that she could seldom observe children in her facility who pursued activities of their own choosing for a long time. The kids would always wait for her to suggest something. I pointed out to the educator that there might not be enough materials to stimulate the children's independence.

When we saw each other again, she said she had noticed that there was hardly any material in her facility that the children could use freely. There were almost only ready-made toys and games that could not be used for other purposes: puzzles or board games. So she bought new, open materials, including natural materials for the construction sector, a sand tub with ladles, funnels and bottles for filling and decanting for the group room, pipes, hoses and other everyday materials for the outdoor area. She reported how this had had a fruitful effect on the children's play and that she now frequently observes children who have been absorbed in their activities for a long time.

Situations that attract attention

Everyday educational life is complex. Often many different things are happening at the same time and attracting your attention. If your gaze falls on a certain situation, it makes sense to keep this focus consciously and to direct your full attention to it - even if you do not think the situation is significant or have the impression that it is not particularly meaningful to the children.

"Things that you understand have meaning, but also those that you don't understand, that irritate, point to something for which you have not yet had an explanation. The latter arouses curiosity. Another horizon of meaning is opened up by the observer's fascination or enthusiasm. Also Affection or indifference, excitement or boredom draw attention in different directions "(Schäfer 2004, p. 10).

You should even observe situations that keep coming into the center of attention in order to recognize what would like to be shown in them.

Daily routines like eating or getting dressed

Educational processes take place in everyday life, including everyday routines such as eating or getting dressed. But:

  • How much independence do these situations allow?
  • How much freedom of choice do the children have?
  • How actively can you get involved in the processes?

In order to perceive everyday situations, you have to create a certain distance that enables you to see what is happening in a "new" way. Try to see everyday routines from the children's perspective.

From your point of view as an educator, it may be necessary for all children to wash their hands quickly before eating. If you look at the situation from the children's perspective, washing your hands provides an experience with the element of water. Perhaps you would like to seize this moment and get involved intensively?

If you perceive the needs of the children, you could draw the consequence of creating opportunities in which the children can extensively explore the phenomenon of water. If the children have the opportunity to play and experiment with water at any time in everyday life, the hand-washing situation before eating is sure to be much more relaxed, as the children know that they always have the opportunity to play in the washroom. However, the sanitary rooms then have to be redesigned accordingly (see the books by Angelika von der Beek).

If there are situations in everyday life in which stress can easily arise, you should take a closer look:

  • How is such a situation going?
  • What causes the stress?
  • How could you change the process to avoid stress?

Situations in which you are involved in what is happening

Pedagogical fields of action are complex because they place high demands on the staff due to the daily handling of many different situations and tasks. Over time, certain routines develop that make it easier to structure and cope with everyday life. Precisely because such routines arise, self-observation must be part of professionalization in order to be able to continuously reflect on one's own pedagogical actions.

Pedagogical action is characterized, among other things, by how you enter into relationships with children, how you interact with them, how their needs are met, how they are supported in their educational processes, how you create an environment for them. You should therefore also use situations for perceptual observation in which you are involved in what is happening, in which you pursue an activity with the children or accompany them in the process. In order to be able to reflect on such situations later, it is advisable to record them with the tape recorder or video camera from time to time.


When you start observing, it makes sense to first use situations in which you can fully immerse yourself in what is happening. For this purpose, there are situations in which the children pursue activities of their own choosing. It has also proven useful to first observe individual children perceptively.

The more experienced you become in dealing with perceptual observation, the more complex the situations that you observe can be. Over time you will also be able to observe small groups of children or use situations in which you take an active role in the action.

Step 2: Describe

Writing notes, stories and documentation is a necessary step in self-clarification and self-reflection of what one has observed. If you have regular opportunities to discuss your observations in a team, you no longer have to write so much down. But as long as you are practicing and consolidating perceptual observation, you should write down, tell and document your clarification results as often as possible.


Notes are written or pictorial representations of observations that are already recorded in the situation or written down immediately afterwards. They serve to record the impressions immediately, but also contain personal comments and remain private. In addition, they are a first step in retaining your own participation. As external memory, they contain the material on which the stories and reflections - in the team or with yourself - are based. Each colleague will develop her own way of taking notes.

Have a pen and paper handy at all times. During the current situation, take notes that will enable you to write down the observation. Make a note of the children's statements so that you can repeat them verbatim later.

Photos help to reconstruct situations in retrospect. They also capture situations differently than texts. When taking pictures, make sure that you choose meaningful sections and angles. You can highlight details or capture the whole process so you can have a series of photos later. Other technical aids such as a video camera or a tape recorder can also be helpful, especially when you are involved in what is happening.

It is important that the aids do not create a distance between you and the children. In time, you will find your own techniques for capturing important things.

Make sure that the batteries are always charged and that there is enough space on the memory cards. The daily transfer of photos to the computer ensures order and easy access.

The notes and pictures serve as a basis for bringing the children's educational processes and their own educational thinking and acting into context and reflecting them.

Write down your observations as soon as possible. Try to pull back briefly right after the observation situation to do this.

write stories

Use your notes, photos or other aids to describe what happened as precisely and in as much detail as possible.

At the beginning of every observation you should record the following key data:

  • Date,
  • Name of the observed children / of the observed child with details of their age,
  • Observer,
  • Duration of observation,
  • Place of observation.

These data are important if the observations are used to understand processes or developments in children. They also make it easier to organize and sort.

In addition, it makes sense to briefly describe the initial situation of the situation at the beginning of each perceptual observation and to explain how your interest was directed to the situation. This makes it possible to classify the observation in the appropriate context later.

With stories you make your observations accessible to other people. Write a story that will enable readers to understand what you saw. Describe the observed situation as detailed and descriptive as possible. As you write, make sure not only to record what the children have done, but most importantly, how they did it. Write so that people who were not involved in the situation can get a vivid picture of it.

Think about what information someone needs to understand what happened. So that the document contains all information relevant for the interpretation, you should use adverbs that describe the quality of the child's actions. Does a child sit relaxed or tense in the chair? Does it look curious, attentive, or bored? How can this be recognized?

If you write that a child appears happy, you should describe how you can tell: the child's posture, gestures and facial expressions. How does it go about its business? What does it express? How do you recognize this? What role do you play in the action?

Don't be afraid to write down your sensations and perceptions. If you omit this information, you may no longer be able to see why the situation is for her was meaningful and did not use the written document as a basis for reflection on pedagogical action.

Both have their place in the document: what you observe and how it affects you. However, it is important that you make your perceptions recognizable and are aware that it is Your Are perceptions, not those of the child.

With your story you bring what you perceive into a context of meaning. Still, keep the story open for variation or change. When you present your perspective to the team, the colleagues can add further perspectives. By combining different perspectives, the story can change or expand.

Writing is already a process of reflection, as you have to visualize the situation again in order to put it into words. You will notice how attentive you were to the situation and how differently you perceived something. You will also become increasingly aware Which Situations you how perceive.

The interaction between perceiving the situation and writing it down afterwards will differentiate your perception over time.


Documentation is the result of a reflection process. You can find out more about this in the next chapter.

3rd step: reflect

The reflection serves to uncover the educational processes of the children and to think about their own educational action.

Uncover educational processes

Perceptual observations are used to try to get closer to the educational processes and perspectives of children. Only in this way can these processes become the basis of educational action that follows the individual interests and abilities of the children.

If the observations are reflected in the team, the different perspectives of the team members expand the horizon of meaning of each individual educator. Your ability to perceive the various dimensions of children's educational processes is sharpened. In the interpretation process, the different perspectives on the situation contribute to the creation of a multifaceted overall view (cf. Staege 2009).

The results of the team reflection should be recorded in writing. They play an important role in the compilation of documentation and serve to check the implementation of pedagogical goals.

Reflect on perceptual observations

The reflection tries to understand what was shown in the observation. For this purpose, reflection questions are used that direct thought to certain aspects of the educational process and enable individual parts to be put together to form a whole - but always in the awareness that all knowledge is only possibilities, not truths.

In the team reflection, the observer tells of her observation in as much detail as possible. The colleagues have the opportunity to ask questions. Only when all those involved can visualize the situation are the reflection questions used for the interpretation in order to track down the meaning of the situation.

Reflection questions

The following questions can be related to individual or multiple children. They serve for a deeper examination of the observed situation.

Go through all of the questions, even if you don't have to answer all of the questions.

The situation and me

What drew my attention to the situation?

How did the observed effect affect me?

The child in the situation

Initial guess: what could the child be about? What could be important for the child in the situation?

  • What are the child's perceptions?
  • Which skills / which previous experiences can be identified? Are they being expanded?
  • Which images, stories, insights or theories does the child develop in the situation?
  • How much does the child get involved in his or her activity? How can attention and commitment be recognized?
  • How does the child relate to other children, to adults, to things?
  • What materials or tools does the child use? How and for what?
  • How do the spatial and temporal conditions affect the child? Is the child missing something?

Final guess: Can I give the observation a title? Did my initial guesses change?

Conclusions and suggestions for practice

Conclusions emerge

  • for personal professional action?
  • for the team?
  • for working with parents?

The focus of the reflection should always be the question of the extent to which the situation allows and supports children's educational processes. Since children's educational processes do not arise out of nothing, but always contain an answer to given conditions, it is important to look at and question not only the child's behavior but also everyday structures, spatial and factual conditions and pedagogical behavior.

Relate observations

The findings from the observations have to be compared again and again. The first form of verification determines whether further observations can be brought into agreement with the previous considerations. The second form of checking clarifies whether the individual perceptions match the perceptions of other people. In relation to the child, this means that the images that arise of a child through perceptual observation are not fixed. They change according to the experiences that the child has and that are perceived by the educators.

It makes sense to present several perceptual observations about a child in team meetings from time to time, which have been written down by different educators over a longer period of time.

If one relates several observations, another form of reflection is achieved: the child is viewed in as many different situations as possible.

  • Do certain developments or processes become clear?
  • Are there certain patterns that say something about the child's special features or preferences?

In addition to the knowledge and pedagogical consequences that are drawn from the reflection, the results can be used to create documentation for the child. This documentation can in turn be used as a basis for a parenting discussion and filed in the child's portfolio.

Relate observations of a process

If you observe a process involving a group of children over several days, you should relate these observations. At first, you may have only noticed that a certain group came together in the game. By reflecting on several observations, you may be able to recognize relationships that previously only presented themselves as individual situations. Sometimes it makes sense to consciously look for such connections in order to understand what the children might be talking about:

  • What questions do the children have?
  • How do you try to answer these questions?
  • How do they get insights and explanations?

These questions are discussed in the team. In doing so, arguments are sought for meanings, hypotheses are formed, possibilities are recorded in writing:

  • Is there a certain topic that runs through several observations, even if it is not visible at first glance?

In most cases, such issues are not explicitly expressed by the children, but rather evident from their play or actions. That is why perceptual observation is so important.

The results of these reflections, in which connections are worked out and made visible, can later be used to create documentation.

Reflect on your own educational activities

Regular reflections in the team on observations from everyday life make it possible to review pedagogical practices together. Regular reflection on one's own pedagogical activities allows one to look at one's own actions with a distanced view and in slow motion, as it were. The basis for this are perceptual observations of situations in which you were involved in what was happening.

Perhaps through the reflection it becomes clear that you intervened prematurely and thereby blocked the child's own solutions. You could draw the conclusion from this that you should give the child more space and time for their own experiences in the future. However, the reflection could also show that you left the child alone for too long trying to figure something out, so that he eventually gave up. In the reflection you can now pursue the question of how and with what impulse you could have supported the child in pursuing his project.

In observed situations in which you were involved in conversations with children, the interaction can be put at the center of reflection:

  • What types of questions were asked?
  • Was the child encouraged by open questions to talk about his plan?
  • Or were mainly closed questions that could only be answered with yes or no?
  • Did the speeches of the children and the teacher tie in with one another in terms of content?

Reflecting on the situations does not serve to identify errors. Rather, it should make people aware of routine behavior and make it possible to work out alternative patterns of action in order to expand the pedagogical repertoire of action. For this, trust and mutual respect in the team are essential.

Recognize yourself in the observations

A written document, in which your own perceptions and feelings are recorded, can serve as a basis for reflecting on your own pedagogical thinking and acting. The following example proves this:

I accompany Leon through the forest. After walking through the thicket, we reach a fallen tree trunk that is not lying directly on the ground, but at least two meters above the ground. Leon immediately climbs the trunk. I am afraid and afraid. If he falls down! He looks around at me and changes his mind. Without saying a word, he climbs down and we move on ...

In a reflection conversation, the educator talks about the situation described. She reports that she was relieved when Leon stepped down from the tree trunk. It turned out that the teacher often reacts anxiously when children want to climb. Finally it turned out that she feels motor insecure and does not trust herself to do a lot. She realized that her fear was related to her own experiences.

Leon would have been able to climb over the tree trunk. He moved very confidently with his motor. But the fearful look of his teacher had unsettled him. Since he could read in her facial expressions that she didn't trust him, he suddenly didn't dare to do it himself. Had she looked at him with confidence, he would probably have climbed the tree trunk.

It's human to be afraid, and it's not about negating your own limits. Rather, it is about perceiving them in order to consciously react differently in similar situations. For example, you can ask a colleague to accompany the children climbing.

Own biographical experiences can lead to educational activities that limit the children's possibilities of experience. "The educator, who was once a child himself, has to know this child in himself with the experiences that have shaped him in order to be able to react to the child in front of him and not without reflection his own fears, relationship experiences, preferences etc. Child to project "(Bernfeld 1971).

Only by uncovering unreflected fears can solutions be found to deal differently with situations like the one described. But the prerequisite is: You have to know fears or biographically motivated limitations so that you can overcome them or learn to deal with them.

Recognize your own perception patterns

If perceptual observations are regularly written down, these documents can also be used to discover one's own perception patterns.

Twice a year, you should check to see if there are any patterns running through the records. For example, you could look at the observations under the following questions:

  • Did I rather observe individual children or groups of children?
  • Did I tend to observe active or calm children?
  • Was it more likely that I observed boys or girls?
  • What perceptual observations have I chosen to record? Can you identify patterns or preferences?
  • Are there any observations in which I also describe my own actions? Or is the focus exclusively on the activities of the children?
  • Are there many observations from one area of ​​activity, for example children building, while other areas do not appear, for example role play? (If the daycare center works openly and according to the specialist woman principle, it goes without saying that the kindergarten teacher mainly observes in her functional room).

Such evaluations can help you to recognize that every person is more open to certain perceptions than to others. Becoming aware of your subjective patterns of perception is part of professional action and enables you to open yourself to other situations and pursue their meanings despite your own perceptual preferences.

On the other hand, certain strengths can be recognized and used: Perhaps the evaluation makes it clear that an educator is particularly interested in a certain educational area and perceives the activities of the children in this area very differently. Perhaps the observations of many educators reveal preferences for certain areas of education? This could be an indication to deal more intensively in the team with the specialist woman principle and open work.

But you may also notice that there are no observations at all on an area of ​​education. This could indicate that the facility is not paying enough attention to this area. What could be the reason? Perhaps the children do not have enough attractive opportunities to play in this area? To find out, observations are necessary. Perhaps it will turn out that changes need to be made. Afterwards it is again observed: How do the changes affect the play behavior of the children?

In general, it can be helpful to check again and again whether the sum of the observations reflects everyday kindergarten life. If certain situations are completely absent and others are often the focus, the team should ask why this could be.

It makes sense to carry out the evaluation on a team day. Every educator can first devote herself to her own observations. In the next step, you exchange ideas about which patterns you have discovered.

4th step: Document

A story or documentation does not have to emerge from every observation note. Documentations prepare observations, contexts of action and meaning in such a way that the findings and conclusions for other people - children, parents, colleagues or other interested parties - are visible and comprehensible. They should show something, make it understandable and show connections.

The documentation

The documentation is used to record results. However, it can also be used as a didactic tool during a process. "The documentation structures one (or more) observation (s), summarizes them, arranges them; it formulates statements, hypotheses and questions. It expresses a state of knowledge, but at the same time leads to new knowledge" (Kazemi-Veisari 2004, p. 104).

The documentation as the result of a reflection process

In a documentation, various documents that have been written by one or more educators on a specific process, topic or question are related to one another. This results in a systematization. One or more perceptual observations, verbatim statements by the children, photos, notes from the teachers, drawings and other works by the children are combined with the results of the reflection.

The documentation is a kind of red thread that connects all the important events that were previously uncovered in the reflection. "The documentation has the task of decoding and decoding, that is, of doing meaningful work, albeit with precise and careful reference to the observations (...). This meaningful work, however, always remains - and this must not be forgotten - like any observation subjective interpretation, a construction work of the person who does and documents this work "(Kazemi-Veisari 2004, p. 99).

Documentations are compilations that combine what is perceived, interpretations and interpretations in order to show what significance the events could have for the children (cf. Spaggiari 2002). Each child should have their own book or folder in which such documentation can be collected.

Documentation as a didactic tool

As a didactic tool, the documentation enables the children to tie in with their current topics and activities and continue them. So that a documentation can function as an external memory for the children, there are two main forms:

  • Wall documentaries,
  • small exhibitions.

Wall documentaries

After the process of observing, describing and reflecting, you choose which moments seem important and noteworthy to you in terms of possible ways in which the children can learn and understand, and prepare them as a wall documentation in a timely manner. The documentation uses photos to show key scenes, which in turn are provided with headings, short texts, statements by the children and interpretations. As a result, the children are confronted with what has already happened and thus challenged to new arguments and perceptions (cf. Stenger 2010).

Good wall documentation raises questions, encourages exchange, new interpretations and can trigger new ideas. They show related events that began some time ago and will continue in the future. In this sense, they are used to support children's educational processes. They reflect what has been perceived and remind the children of what has already happened (cf. Stenger 2010).

Wall documentation should be attached at eye level with the children and designed in such a way that new photos and texts can be added daily after the joint reflection in the small team in order to accompany the course of a process. These updates keep everyone involved in contact with what is happening.

The documentation shows the children that their activities are being noticed and taken seriously. They enable them to retrace their learning processes, to talk about it and to reflect. The documentaries allow adults to follow in the children's footsteps over a longer period of time, to support them in their learning processes and to spark new ideas.

"The wall documentaries give both children and adults the feeling that they are part of an experience or a story that extends beyond the present moment, that began some time ago and that points to an interesting future. to become part of the stories oneself by promising that future experiences will be valued "(Stenger 2010, p. 133).

Small exhibitions

In the rooms of a daycare center, spaces should be set up for small exhibitions: window sills, a table or a shelf at children's height.

Small exhibitions show which topics the children are currently dealing with. After a day in the forest, the finds can be exhibited. Since they usually have a meaning for the children - for example, a stone is a flint, a stick a dinosaur bone - it makes sense to put small signs on them with the meanings recorded. If things are exhibited that are significant for the children, they are given a frame and are highlighted. This supports the children in pursuing their interests.

An exhibition grows bit by bit with the experiences and ideas of the children. The educator designs the exhibition and provides suitable items such as pictures or books that can stimulate the children to think further. Sometimes it makes sense to combine it with a wall documentation. If, for example, pictures or other works by the children are exhibited, the wall documentation could show the creation process of the works.


When a child found a flint, several children started talking about the possibilities of making a fire. Various ideas were collected.

The teacher had created a framework that made it possible to pursue these ideas. One day a fire was kindled in a fire basket and later extinguished.

A boy said that you can light a fire with a magnifying glass. This was tried out the next day: The children made newsprint with magnifying glasses, sunbeams and a lot of patience to coke. Other children drew pictures with the charcoal they had made the day before.

The various possibilities were put together by the teacher in an exhibition and encouraged the children to further exchange.


Ben collected feathers in the forest and took them to the study workshop. There he wanted to write with it. My colleague provided him with paint and Ben went about his business. When the season was over, she asked him if she could interpret his writing. Ben agreed. She asked if she should write something about it. Ben told her something and she made a note of it.

The next morning, Ben came into the learning workshop with a pen. Since I had heard what was happening the day before, I noticed it immediately.

"Hello Ben, you brought a feather with you," I greeted him.

Ben was happy and said: "Yes, I found it."

After the morning circle the following conversation arose between us:

"Yesterday you wrote with a quill. Shall we look at that again?" I asked Ben.

He said yes, went to his picture, which was on the display shelf, and said: "There is something written there."

I read the sign: "Ben in Turio."

He corrected: "Centurion!"

Me: "Oh, Centurion. What is Centurion?"

Ben explained, "Centurion also writes with a quill."

I further asked: "And who is the centurion?"

Ben: "In Asterix and Obelix."

In the afternoon, Ben used the opportunity to write with his pen again.

The documentation as a reason for discussion

Peer interactions

Wall documentations and exhibitions offer opportunities for discussion, because they are places where children come together and tell each other about their experiences. In doing so, they may refer to pictures or objects that are on display. New ideas can develop in conversation. These moments are important and should be carefully accompanied by the educator, as ideas for the further course can arise.

Interactions between educator and child

The documentation enables the educator to keep talking to the children about what has already happened and to learn more about their ideas and thoughts. During a project, the children often come to the daycare the next day with an idea or a thought because they were still busy with the topic at home. If there are places where past experiences are bundled together, children also use them to share new experiences.

Parent-child interactions

Documentation is also of interest to parents, as it gives them an insight into their children's learning processes. In this way, mothers and fathers can share part of their everyday kindergarten experience with their children, even though they are absent.

Wall documentations or exhibitions offer parents an opportunity to talk to the children. If parents and children look at documentaries together, the children usually tell in detail about their experiences. The parents, in turn, can refer to the pictures and texts that the educators have put together.

This form of exchange actually enables parents to participate. You will be sensitized to current questions and topics of the children and maybe notice events at home that are related to what is happening in the day care center.

Interactions between parents and educators

Documentation makes the educational work of the educators transparent. They can be used for discussions with parents to show the educational processes of the children and to explain what could be behind the experiences shown:

  • Why is something important to the children?
  • What can the children learn from it?

At the same time, documentation offers the opportunity to exchange ideas about whether a child shows similar interests at home and in the facility. Perhaps the conversation sensitizes the parents to enable certain experiences at home. On the other hand, the parents can give the educator tips that enable her to understand and classify the behavior or actions of the child.

Perceptual observation, reflection and documentation as instruments for project work with children

A prerequisite for a project to come about is a current situation that triggers something. It can be a question, a particular fact, a problem or an idea. In all cases, there is an initial spark from which further events, ideas and developments can arise because it grips and inspires other children and adults. If you are aware of moments in which brilliant ideas arise through perceptual observation, it is your task to take them up.

The role of the educator in project work

There are two forms of projects: open and directive projects.

While the individual steps in directive projects are planned in advance by the educator and implemented step by step with the children, children and educators in open project work often do not know where the journey is going. This is where perceptual observation becomes your everyday tool. It is used in a focused manner to accompany a process. That is, you follow how the children pursue their ideas and thoughts. On the basis of your perceptual observations and their reflection, you will repeatedly assess the form in which your support is necessary.

In the project work, the times alternate in which you are active, support the children in their projects and then retreat back into the role of perceptive observer in order to follow how the children continue to work independently on their ideas.

The interaction between educational action, perceptual observation and reflection

During the project work, at least the small team should exchange ideas as often as possible - preferably daily. You let the events pass you by in slow motion, try to discover connections and reflect on the learning processes of the children and the pedagogical approaches of the educators:

  • Were the children able to build on their questions and interests?
  • Have you been able to deepen your experience or gain new experience?
  • How were the children supported by the pedagogues?
  • Were their impulses received by the children?
  • Did their impulses tie in with the thoughts or ideas of the children?
  • What could the next steps look like?

Project work in this sense is only possible if there is an intensive process of interaction between educational action, perceptual observations, their reflection and interpretation. The next step in each case results from the reflection and interpretation of the previous steps.

During the reflection, you try to identify the children's questions, interests or problems and, together with your colleagues, think about how you could support the children in pursuing their plans. In some places you could perhaps give an impulse in the form of a thought or a question, in other places you offer a new material or tool and observe whether and how it is taken up by the children. They follow in the children's footsteps and, when observing them perceptively, receive hints as to which steps could follow. It is your responsibility to create a framework in which such steps are actually possible. Findings from the reflection are recorded for documentation.

In open project work, it is essential to start with the documentation during the process, i.e. not to understand it as the end result, as it serves the children and you as a didactic means to make connections visible.

Final remark

The four steps of perceptual observation are also available as a clear orientation aid for printing. The PDF file can be downloaded free of charge from www.wahrnehmendes-beobachten.de/orientierungshilfe/ and printed out. You can find more information at www.wahrnahmendes-beobachten.de.


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Marjan Alemzadeh worked for several years as a research assistant to Prof. Dr. Gerd E. Schäfer and worked on the "Nature Learning Workshop" project at the University of Cologne. She is a freelance trainer specializing in early childhood education, observation and documentation, children under three and the educational field of nature. Of course, she also offers training in perceptual observation. Homepage: http://www.alemzadeh.de, contact: [email protected]