We held our first Tapestry Education Conference (TEC 1) in July 2019 with a focus on Reflective Practice. The afternoon consisted of three table-top discussions led by members of the Early Years community, and for these we were joined by colleagues from Tapestry to record each conversation. Here, FSF and Tapestry’s Tim writes up one of the workshops for us.
Dr Rebecca Webb, Lecturer in Early Years and Primary Education at the University of Sussex and Kathy Foster, MA student, University of Sussex led a discussion about using a scrapbook approach to support reflective practice. Their workshop overview was:
The Inspiring Pedagogy and Practice of ‘Ignorance’ - reflections on the use of a practitioner ‘scrapbook approach’ in an Early Years nursery to facilitate curiosity and engagement. In this workshop session, Rebecca Webb and Kathy Foster set out the engagement of one nursery teacher with her own reflective practice which – they believe - has wider possibilities. Rebecca and Kathy work with Dewey’s ideas of responsibility, open-heartedness and open-mindedness to show-case ways in which a ‘scrapbook-approach’ gives Kathy permission to become agentic in positing ‘ignorant’, ‘stupid’, ‘uncertain’ questions in her Early Years Teacher role that shape her practice. They suggest that providing all practitioners with a space and opportunity ‘not to know’ can be freeing, energising and a catalyst for individuals to, paradoxically, ‘know more deeply’ with the possibility also of promoting trusting and energising community-of-practice sensibilities. The workshop involves all participants in the opportunity to share their ideas to think through the implications of the ‘scrapbook-approach’.
Kathy and Rebecca began by introducing the importance reflection has in “producing uncertain knowledge”, with “not knowing” the answers being the starting point. They contrasted this against the teaching methods employed in Early Years Teaching (EYT) courses, where there are pre-defined standards to learn and demonstrate compliance with.
As part of studying towards her Master’s, Kathy has gained EYT status and employed a scrapbook approach to help her reflect. In Kathy’s case this was a simple blank scrapbook of A4 size, with handwritten notes and pictures and resources stuck in, but she explained that the format and content should be whatever personally feels right and works best for the individual. She describes the scrapbook as, “a safe place” and “a space in which you don’t have to know.”
Within her scrapbook, Kathy had included not only observations of practice, notes, questions and thoughts, regularly linked to the standards required for the EYT qualification, but also large sections about her own education and early childhood experiences, and how these shape and inform her practice now.
Kathy led us through an experience in her KS1 teaching placement, and how this case study related to Dewey’s fundamentals of open-mindedness, responsibility and wholeheartedness. The case study began with a music lesson observed by Kathy. Children were picked to come to the front to try an instrument, followed by a game where the children were blindfolded and would try to identify which instrument was being played. Kathy noticed that many children didn’t experience playing an instrument and felt disappointment. She used the scrapbook to document the children’s experience as well as her own feelings. In response to the lesson, using Dewey’s fundamentals, she reflected:
· Open-mindedness – accepting what we don’t know: Kathy observed that approximately 90% of the lesson was watching, with 10% of the lesson involving playing the instruments. In her scrapbook she asked ‘Is this the norm? Are there reasons for this?’
· Responsibility – what are the consequences for others? Kathy wondered ‘How did the children feel about the lesson?’ She found that there was a box of good-quality instruments on a high shelf in a store cupboard. She asked the teacher about them and the teacher explained that when she brought the resources out for children to self-access, they had been mishandled and were getting broken.
· Wholeheartedness – taking active control to make change: Kathy asked the teacher if she would be happy for her to arrange a music workshop, using the instruments. She did this in a dedicated outdoor area, and along with the children, agreed clear boundaries and expectations. The children then led the session, creating their own music and defining their own, and Kathy’s roles.
Kathy took us on her journey using the scrapbook as the tool for her reflection, accepting that there was no defined solution and not knowing where it might lead, yet taking responsibility and facilitating change.
The presentation was rounded off with a look at Tapestry and how reflective practitioners could make observations with less certainty, accepting what they don’t know, and inviting a more collaborative relationship with parents and carers. For example, using the observation function as a tool to ask parents reflective questions and find out about their children.
We then discussed using reflection as a time to say what you don’t know in order to find out more, while keeping Dewey’s open-mindedness, responsibility and wholeheartedness in mind.
There was a general feeling that in a busy setting, it may be hard to prioritise a reflective scrapbook and give it the time it deserves. Some discussion focussed on how to solve this:
One setting currently uses scrapbooks to help reflect, but in a different way. They have introduced one book per age category, so each room has a book, rather than each individual staff member. The scrapbook is available to all staff as well as parents and carers, with no expectations regarding content or frequency of contribution. It is seen as part of everyday life in the setting rather than something requiring additional time to complete. This is used to reflect on and inform practice, as well as being able to review to see how far they have come. One point of interest here was how the different rooms used their scrapbook in different ways, from the kinds of things they documented to where it was kept in the space. We came back to acknowledging that even with a joint scrapbook, the approach is really personal.
Ideas about how the scrapbook approach could take different forms came up. For example, an area of wall with space for post-its. Another suggestion was using the scrapbook to identify questions for parents, but with a reflection on how to make this more accessible to all. The result was having one question on display and parents were asked to simply drop a pebble in a 'yes' or 'no' jar.
There was also a discussion about how to involve children in scrap-booking to notice and to reflect. It was agreed that for children, this can be done with objects. For example, having a small bucket in which to collect things they find. This is a way of looking, thinking, choosing and reflecting.
Kathy reflected that she had shared her scrapbook with educators that had been mentoring her, even when she was critically appraising them. She told the group how this can often drive positive change, with the open-minded acceptance of uncertain knowledge helping to facilitate.
The group left with thoughts about how to involve parents, children and staff in the reflective process and how a 'scrapbook' can take on different meanings depending on the setting and the individual.
Edited by Jules