As part of the First Things First grant, the PVCC Early Childhood Education Program provided hundreds of pounds of mark-making tools and supplies to early childhood educators in the Collaborative Educators’ Institute (CEI)*. The 2021-2022 Collaborative Educators’ Institute is an in-depth study of the potential of collaboratively studying documentation and what new early childhood discoveries might be encountered and mapped.
This Fall, many more materials were distributed, enough for educators to use and explore with an entire group of children. Participants received a variety of mark-making materials including charcoal, chalk pastels, highlighters, paint pens, metallic sharpies, various papers such as vellum and cardstock and a small light tracer box, in addition to the catalogue Mosaic of Marks, Words, and Materials and the children's book, You Belong Here.
Participants are meeting in small collaborative groups with a focus on the important role documentation (photographs, video recordings, written observations, children’s experiences and communication) plays in interpreting the encounters and interactions between children, adults, and the surrounding world. Participants consider how these interactions can be used to develop their work with children, families, each other, and the wider community.
Last year’s CEI Summary Report demonstrates the power of sharing the materials with educators, offering guided exploration of the materials, and then studying the documentation of what happens when the materials are shared with children. The experience led educators to (a) an enhanced understanding of their individual learning process; (b) a greater awareness of how process art facilitates children’s learning; and (c) a heightened sensitivity to how they interact with or what they expect from children. Participant’s reflections included:
- “We cannot be good observers of what is happening with children and materials, unless we have explored those materials ourselves.”
- “It helps us better understand children’s expressions, frustrations, and needs more.”
- “You get a sense of what it can do before you just give it. And you have that sense of joy, and it’s contagious and you’re able to share that.”
- “Exploring materials is reflecting on the process in order to understand a child’s process – so you may plan confidently for possibilities.”
"Teachers are traditionally educated to focus on learning outcomes, not the process of learning. The CEI experience has always focused on shifting the lens from “what” children learn to “how” they learn and to use documentation as a tool to make this learning visible," said Christie Colunga, PVCC Early Childhood Education Program Director. “The materials are the spark or starting point for the subsequent conversation, dialogue, and study. This process empowers educators to have agency or self-efficacy in developing their professional practice. The children's engagement with the materials is stunning and the educator's insights are very rich.”
*About the Collaborative Educators’ Institute (CEI)
The Collaborative Educators’ Institute (CEI) is a community of practice of diverse early childhood educators. CEI was founded in 2015 by Christie Colunga, Director of the College Center for Early Childhood Education, and is funded by the First Things First Phoenix North Regional Council. Its goal is to provide a transformative educational experience rooted in constructivist, progressive education theory to enrolled students and early child practitioners seeking high quality professional development opportunities. CEI is unique in that it offers the community an alternative early childhood narrative focused on holistic, collaborative, and generative practices.