November 9

Pedagogical Approach to Assessment: Pedagogical Documentation

Pedagogical documentation is “a process for making pedagogical (or other) work visible and subject to dialogue, interpretation, contestation and transformation.” (Dahlberg, 2007, p. 225). By engaging in this process of interpreting student thinking and conversing in professional conversations with our colleagues, we can gain a deeper understanding of student learning and our own teaching practice. When we engage in pedagogical documentation, we are “examining and responding to the interplay between learning, the educator’s pedagogical decisions, and the student’s role and voice in the learning” (Capacity Building Series: Pedagogical Documentation Revisited, 2015, pg. 2). 

What on earth is pedagogical documentation?

Assessment FOR and AS learning are both integral parts of the learning process, providing us with ongoing opportunities to give feedback to students, as well as guide them to become valuable self-assessors. Pedagogical documentation, assessment FOR learning, and assessment AS learning all have a focus on the students’ learning process. It is important that we reflect on and discuss our teaching process that led to our students’ work samples. Assessment FOR learning provides students with learning opportunities in which they can practice the skills being taught., while assessment AS learning allows students to self-reflect on their own performance and set goals. Assessments FOR learning also provide teachers with the opportunity to provide feedback to students, guiding them in their learning process towards success. Through pedagogical documentation, we can reflect on the moments of feedback that we provided our students and work with our colleagues to improve our current feedback practice.

Pedagogical documentation differs from assessments OF learning, as this type of assessment is based on the student’s achievement of learning curriculum expectations at the end of a learning cycle, rather than the process of learning that they engaged in leading up to the summative assessment. While we can use pedagogical documentation to reflect upon student learning displayed through assessments OF learning to guide future instruction, it is much more of a proactive approach to reflect on and adjust our teaching practice throughout the learning process, as guided by assessments FOR and AS learning.

I think I would choose to engage in pedagogical documentation because it would allow me to connect with other educators and discuss aspects of our current teaching practice, whether they could be improved or not. We know that learning is an ongoing process and therefore, there will be many moments of reflection throughout in order to guide future actions. It is especially important for educators to find time to reflect with each other, whether that be with another classroom teacher, Special Education teacher, administrator, educational assistant, or a consultant. “When engaged in collective reflective practice, teachers question, reason and probe ideas in order to push thinking of the group further” (Collaborative Teacher Inquiry, 2010, pg. 4).

This approach would also benefit students when they are invited into the process. When students are aware of what they are learning, how successful they currently are, and what they need to do next in order to achieve their goals, they can be contributing members of the learning process and have agency over how they learn (i.e., “I didn’t quite understand that task. Could I continue working on it tomorrow with a classmate?). Through pedagogical documentation, students “can develop and use metacognitive skills crucial for ongoing, lifelong learning” (Capacity Building Series: Pedagogical Documentation Revisited, 2015, pg. 2).  

This approach can be incorporated into my plan for professional learning with colleagues by encouraging pedagogical documentation as a regular practice among our team. The Capacity Building Series article suggests getting started with this process by documenting some form of student learning for about two minutes a day. We are all able to find 2 minutes a day to focus on documentation, and by doing so, we will organically begin to make it part of our daily practice. We can keep each other accountable by having short-and-sweet check ins with each other to reflect on our documentation process and discuss future steps for student learning based on what has been recorded.

I think it would be a valuable professional development exercise to challenge our division staff to predict how their students will perform on a future assessment OF learning task based on their documentation and review of the assessment FOR and AS learning tasks that led up to the assessment OF learning. After making their predictions, they would mark the assessment OF learning task and could see how accurate they were. This would provide many opportunities for reflection: If student performance did not correlate with predictions, then why? Was it the task? What part of the learning process could have been improved to further student success? This action item following our meeting would encourage our staff to truly focus on the learning process, especially the assessments FOR and AS learning.

While at first it may be intimidating to open up my teaching practice and student work samples for other teachers to examine, it is important to remember that it would be for the ultimate benefit of the students’ learning process. When we open ourselves up to feedback from other professionals, it can be a bit scary, but it can also lead to incredible learning outcomes that can greatly improve our teaching practice.

We need to make the positives so loud, that the negatives are almost  impossible to hear. – The digital classroom, transforming the way we learn


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Posted November 9, 2021 by Spencer in category "Additional Qualifications", "Learning", "Teaching

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