Project-Based Learning…..

Much like John Dewey, William H, Kilpatrick believed in progressive education, or as Kilpatrick referred to it, the project-based approach.

I may sound silly admitting this but I did not realize there was so much research behind project-based learning. As well, the popularity of it all around the world. I guess I did not ever correlate

Dewey’s idea of progressive education to project-based learning. After reflection, I can see how the two are closely connected.  In saying that, Dewey’s (1938) idea of progressive education includes an “emphasize on experiment, experience, purposeful learning, freedom and other well-known concepts of progressive education….(p.3).”

Whereas, Katz and Chard (2013), define project-based learning as “an extended in-depth investigation of a topic, ideally one worthy of the child’s attention, time, and energy” (p.98).  With that, you can see how they can be related. Katz and Chard (2013), also admit

that projects can be done as a class, in a small group, or even individually. Prior to reading this article, it was my belief and understanding that older grades should more so focus on the idea of project-based learning. I had not really thought of or knew the benefits of implementing project-based units in younger grades. Most of my teaching experience includes teaching grades ¾. OF course, I have engaged my students’ very small and very structured projects here and there, but nothing too large, or purely inquiry based. I think my worry has always been that students need, especially at age 3/4, much more guidance and instruction, or as Katz and Chard (2013) refer to is as, systematic instruction. As well, the time it takes to do project-based learning has always been a concern for me. I usually asked myself… What if this takes to long? What if it does not hit the outcome I need it to?

However, after reading the article, I think I need to allow my students to explore more on their own, and let THEM become more of a facilitator when it comes to project time in the classroom. As Katz and Chard(2013) put it, “the teacher’s role is more consultative than instructional. The teacher facilitates the progress of the work by guiding and monitoring the children’s progress” (p.99). As well, I learned about the many benefits of project-based learning that students can experience in terms of academically. Katz and Chard(2013) also talk about the theoretical rationale of project learning.

The four learning goals, knowledge, skill, dispositions, and feelings are all skills we need to work on in the classroom as it is. For example, for feelings, a sense of belonging is HUGE in a classroom. Who wants to be in a classroom where they don’t feel they belong. Project-based learning can help students achieve this goal, whereas one might not realize it can.

I also appreciated how this article describes how to implement a project approach, as well the phases the approach consists of. Most of the steps leading up to the project including selecting the topic solely depending on the child. Katz and Chards (2013) state that “many factors contribute to the appropriateness of a topic. Much depends on the characteristics of the particular group of children, the teacher’s knowledge, and experiences related to the topic of his or her interests, in it, the local resources available, the larger context of the school and community, and the various mixes of all these factors” (p.103). This is my favorite aspect of the project approach. Students are able to be part of the deciding factor of their learning! When reading this I was trying to figure out how this would look in a young elementary classroom. As I continued reading, I realized that there was an example of what the project approach looks like in a kindergarten room. The topic was the experience of buying shoes. The teacher still had to organize everything, however, children were still able to choose one of five groups, all relating to buying and owning a shoe. She even had an opportunity for the parents to come in. What a great idea. I am always looking for new ways to engage parents in

my students learning. After the project was completed, “the children became interested in new kinds of play. They wanted to explore the bus travel that had begun during the shoe project as some customers “came to town” to buy shoes using the local transit system” (p.111). After reading this, I definitely have a more clear picture of how I can use this type of learning in my grade 3 classroom.

Overall, I have a better understanding of the benefits of project-based learning. In the future, I am going to try to be less worried about systematic instruction (within reason), covering curricular outcomes, as well as the time it takes to complete a project. I will more optimistic about all the possibilities and doors that project-based learning can open for our students.


Katz, L., & Chard, S. (2013). The project approach: An introduction. In J.L. Roopnarine & J.E. Johnson (Eds.), Approaches to early childhood education. New York: Pearson.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Collier.



An Alternative Way to Assess…….

Assessment FOR learning, to me, is the most important part of an assessment. Thinking back, I realized that I did not understand the value of assessment FOR learning during my internships and first couple years of teaching. It was not until I was actually  assessing my own students, and trying different ways to assess,  that truly learned the importance of it. Zhang (2016) describes assessment FOR learning as:

Assessment for learning is described as ‘noticing, recognizing, and responding’….These three processes are progressive filters. Teachers notice a great deal as they work with children, and they recognize some of what they notice as ‘learning’. They will respond to selection of what they recognize (p.258).

In terms of the article this week, I thought the study about learning stories and assessment Zhang(2016) conducted was impressive. The question “do ECE settings in NZ support the approach to assessment of learning taken by the ECE quality assurance authority of NZ” (p.255) was certainly valuable in my eyes. Why wouldn’t an educator or parent want feedback on the education their child is receiving. In saying that, I didn’t quite understand what the study was actually about until I began reading it.

I found it interesting that all of data collected was collected by himself. Phenomenographic interviews are extremely time consuming and difficult to decode alone. Zhang (2016), had several findings in this study and organized them in three sections, each with seven categories. The practitioners experience, parents experience,  and the ERO approach were the three sections. I will review some of the findings that stood out to me below.

One of the practitioners  admitted that “in terms of you presenting something the parents like portfolio books, they do, they like to see the pictures, they like to read everybody” (Zhang, 2016, p. 260). I can totally relate to this. Parents love to see their children demonstrating their learning during conference or meeting times. As well, another practitioner discusses how learning stories allow for great communication with parents as well captures important learning milestones. For me as a teacher, communication is the key to success for my students.

There were many good reviews from the parents as well. One being, “I think what we are getting from the learning stories is a wonderful documentation of her time at the kindy, something she would love to flip through, it’s colorful, it brings back memories” (Zhang, 2016, p. 261). There was no doubt in my mind when reading the article that the parents would have an issue with this assessment. Learning what their child can do and looking at their strengths can definitely be exciting for parents. Learning what their child can do and looking at their strengths is definitely be exciting for parents.

A few imitations were addressed in the findings. Four main consequences include that learning stories can be subjective, selective, time consuming, as well superficial. When thinking about someone assessing a child through a learning story, it truly is coming from one lense. Therefore, one can be arguably subjective and selective. Learning stories are also time consuming. This means that the time that a practitioner could be spending interacting with the child but instead are busy observing and collecting data. As well, “a lot of learning stories are very basic, you know it tells you what the child did in the sandpit, but it doesn’t go into the relationship, it’s about you know the relationship between the children and cooperation and the patience they have with each other, it’s all those sort of things, you need to look into deeper” (Zhang, 2016, p. 260).

Overall, I believe that learning stories are a great tool for assessment FOR learning. However I agree with Zhang (2016) that this should not stand alone when it comes to assessment. As stated in his research, there are many different types of assessment that should be used to assess our children. He states that “both the practitioners and parents regarded learning stories as an assessment tool that had both strengths and limitations, with the practitioners stating explicitly that there are a range of other ways that are essential for assessment of learning, and learning stories should not be treated as the only, or best, way of assessing the children’s learning” (p. 265).

OVERALL, I believe that  it totally depends on the needs of the child when considering an assessment!!!!! Do you agree?!

Thanks for reading!

The Importance of Documentation.

What does documentation mean to me? Well, to me, it is recording students knowledge in a variety of ways to see what they can do and what they know. So, basically, it is about collecting different types of data to ultimately see what students know.

After reading Rinaldi(2004) ,and reflecting on my own experiences with documentation, I feel like I have a much deeper understanding of it. Many aspects of documentation described by Rinaldi  were attractive to me. Some of her ideas I have actually have attempted to do in my own classroom (so it was nice to know I am not completely off in terms of documentation).

One idea I liked that Rinaldi spoke about is allowing children to have the freedom to explore and come up with their own theories. She states “making listening visible means to be open to the theories of the children. The elements of observation, interpretation and documentation are strongly connected. It is impossible to observe without

interpreting because observation is subjective” (2004, p.4).  Allowing children to do this is not

always easy as teachers. We have tight timelines and certain outcomes that need to be covered within a year. However, giving students that extra time to explore can have huge benefits as it is another way that students can truly share their knowledge. This ties into the next aspect of Rinaldi’s idea of documentation I liked. The idea that the  actually process of student learning is much more valuable than the final outcome or the final assessment. Rinaldi (2004), states that “from your documentation, the children can understand not only their processes but what you value as meaningful for their learning processes” (p.4). In my own classroom, I do my best to document their process of learning. For example, when working in small groups in both literacy and numeracy, I write notes about each student in a notebook every time I work with them. Once I get to report card time, I gather all my documentation and notes on the student to help decide on a final mark.

In terms of the  Dahlberg, Gunilla, Moss, Peter, Pence, Alan R  (2007) article, they did a fantastic job explaining the elements of pedagogical documentation. As I was reading chapter 8 and taking notes, I made a specific chart with all the elements of pedagogical documentation. Check it out below:

Elements of Pedagogical Documentation
  • Does not assume what the child does is a direct representation
  • Reflexivity and self reference
  • Process of visualization
  • Vital tool for the creation of a reflective and democratic pedagogical practice
  • Central role for meaning making
  • Communication, Interaction, and observation
  • Building relationship with student/other colleagues
  • Requires interpretive work and dialogue between pedagogues
  • Documentation can engage parents
  • Requires interpretive work and dialogue between pedagogues
  • Documentation can engage parents

Again, these were some of the main elements I picked out during the reading. Similar to Rinaldi,  one aspect of pedagogical documentation I really like is that it is the process of learning that means the most rather than the end result. “Pedagogical documentation’ as content is material which records what the children are saying and doing, the work of the children and how the pedagogical relates to the children and their work” (Dahlberg et al., p.144). I also like the fact they outline the importance of using a variety of methods to collected documentation. Audio recordings, collecting photos, handwritten notes are examples they gave.

One thing I took away from this chapter is the differences between pedagogical documentation and simply child observations. I appreciated that they included the section Why Pedagogical Documentation is NOT just Observing in this article.  I had not realized what the true difference was before and now understand that pedagogical documentation is a lot deeper than just the act of observation. “Dahlberg et al, (2007) state that, “It should not be confused with child observation. As we understand it, the purpose of child observation is to access children’s psychological development in relation to already predetermined categories produces from developmental psychology and which define the normal child should be doing at a certain age” (p.143). I feel as if those who disagree with this idea of assessment , have the notion that pedagogical documentation is simply just observing a child. Therefore, they would not think it’s a valuable form of assessment.

Overall, reflecting and engaging in these two readings was very informative for me. Reminding myself that it’s the process of learning that is most important for students was most valuable for me. As well, understanding what pedagogical documentation is made my understanding of documentation much deeper.



Dahlberg, G., P. Moss and A. Pence (2013). Beyond Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care: Languages of Evaluation, 3rd ed., New York: Routledge. Read chapter 8, Pedagogical documentation: A practice for reflection and democracy. Available as an eBook through the URegina library.

Rinaldi, C. (1994). Documentation and assessment: What is the relationship? Linked on UR Courses.

What Assessment Means to Me: Reflective VS Determinative

As a teacher, assessment is something that requires ongoing development and thought. In my 5 years of teaching, my beliefs and knowledge about assessment have deepened greatly. This includes my understanding on formative and summative assessment, reflective and determinative assessment, schooled readiness, and finally standardized testing. Similar to one of

Murphy’s (2013) Principles of Epistemically Responsible Assessment, I believe that teachers must keep an open mind in terms of assessment and must consider a variety ways about how to administer assessment. This week I will be discussing my own definition of assessment, my experience with both reflective and determinative assessment, as well, standardized testing.


As stated above, my understanding and feelings toward assessment has changed throughout my career as a teacher. If I created my own definition or statement of what I believe assessment is today, I would say:

An assessment should truly reflect what a child can do both in an informal and formal setting. Assessment should be a combination of formative and summative. Assessment should also be adapted for students in order for their needs to be met.

Like I said, this definition would have been completely different if you would have asked me my first year of teaching. I don’t think I would have truly understood the importance of the balance of formal and informal assessment.

Murphy(2013) describes many principles of reflective assessment. Most seemed attractive to me in terms of student success in the classroom. In my experience, I find that my students get a lot more out of  this style of assessment. I see a lot more student engagement when asking them to represent their knowledge. Not always using the traditional assessments allows students to truly show what they know. Other aspects of this assessment I like is the flexible grouping and small group instruction time. I currently do both Daily 5 and Explore +4 in my classroom which allows me to work very closely with my students. This type of environment allows me to have very valuable time with my students, especially those with extra needs. Although attractive, it is not always possible to effectively assess reflectivly. Resources, materials, and time definitely is a factor. As Murphy (2013),  states “every assessment is marked by limitations in design because no design can serve all possible functions(p.3)”.

Determinative assessment is also not an assessment I completely avoid. Murphy (2013) describes determinative assessment as three assessment types. “Three different assessment types fall within those involving determinative judgments: 1) standardized testing, whether large in scale or individualized; 2) rubric-based assessments; and 3) assessments based on

observational or developmental checklists (p.5)”.  Fountas and Pinnell is considered a standardized test in which all grade threes in my school division need to complete two times a year. I  actually like this assessment because we can see what students reading levels exactly are. When I first started teaching however, we had about 3 different standardized assessments we needed to do at both the beginning and end of year. These test included a math, writing, and comprehension test. I was not a fan  of these assessments. They were very time consuming and very irrelevant to students and content being taught in class. I also appreciate the rubric based assessments as sometimes that is the best way to assess students knowledge.

Overall, I believe that both styles of assessment are extremely important for our students success. As Murphy admitted (2013),  “the type of assessment you choose to use as a teacher depends on the different people and places we are in” (p.10). Therefore, it is up to the teacher to decide what type of assessment they use to best meet the needs of their students.


Murphy, S.(2013). “Towards Knowing Well and Doing Well: Assessment and Early Childhood Education,” In. J. Larson & J. Marsh (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Early Childhood Literacy. New York, NY: SAGE

Traditional VS Progressive Education

Ever since I began my journey of becoming a teacher, I have believed that the main purpose of education is to prepare young children to become successful members of society. As well, to use their interests and to help motivate and guide them in a direction in life that can allow them to be successful. However, I also believe that a teacher should be using a variety of philosophies to accomplish this including the both Dewey (1938) discusses, progressive and traditional. 


Dewey (1938), outlines many principles of each philosophy. I found myself caught in the middle of deciding which philosophy I felt can best meet the need of my future and current students. I reflected on the principals and properties of each and was able to think deeply about which I truly believe might work best in the classroom. For this response, I will share my reflections on both philosophies and the two qualities I find most appealing.


The traditional way of teaching is not all that bad. As Dewey (1938) discusses, it is the attitudes of both the teacher and students that can make an experience a positive or negative one. Two principles of the traditional way of teaching in Deweys (1938) book, and also in my own experience in elementary school, stood out for me. As we know, the progressive way of teaching is all about students having learning experiences. However, there are many opportunities in a traditional setting for students to have similar experiences that can impact their learning greatly. Dewey (1938) concurs by admitting that “it is a great mistake to suppose, even tacitly, that the traditional schoolroom was not a place in which pupils had experiences” (p.9). In my early elementary years, I would have considered my school experience traditional. Despite that experience, I remember having many memorable experiences that I was able to learn from. Next, I believe that learning about history and the ways in which society has been and not been successful in the past has a lot to offer. I remember appreciating learning how our history has shaped our world today. Dewey (1938) raised a great point when stating that “how shall the young become acquired with the past in such a way that the acquaintance is a potent agent in appreciation of the living present” (p.8). I did not mind being taught information and answering questions as I found myself truly comprehending and learning the content. Therefore, having experiences and learning about how our past has shaped our future are two principles that I found attractive about the traditional way of teaching.

Progressive education, on the other hand, has many principals in which I believe can benefit students both in and outside of the classroom.  Aside from the “organic connection between education and personal experience” (Dewey, p.8), progressive education is not contained to potentially dull textbooks. Progressive education provides more flexibility for the teacher and students. As well, teachers are able to really focus on the needs of the students rather than trying to educate our students with irrelevant and foreign knowledge. Another positive element of progressive education is the fact that it provides a better quality of human experience. Dewey (1938) also states, “can we find any reason that does not ultimately come down to the belief that democratic social arrangements promote a better quality of human experience” (p. 12). In my five years of teaching, I can name dozens of experiences in which children who have learned through experiences, conversations with peers, and through doing. Therefore, the flexibility and opportunities for endless experiences are two principles of progressive education the stood out for me.

Overall, I believe that it is important for students to have the opportunity to be exposed to different teaching philosophies. I don’t believe there is one right way to educate our children. I believe, and continue to believe, that the way in which a child should be learning depends solely on their needs. After all, “teachers are agents through which knowledge and skills are communicated and rules of conduct: enforced ( Dewey, p.5)”.

I hope you enjoyed reading my response 🙂

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Collier