“Preschool teachers' perspectives on planning and documentation in preschool”.

Alvestad, T.
Sheridan, S.
Early Child Development and Care, 185(3), 377-392.


The purpose of this study is to examine how Norwegian preschool teachers experience the challenges, problems and dilemmas in their planning and documentation of children’s learning at preschool. The study questions are as follows: “How do pre-school teachers plan their work with children?”, “What is in focus in documenta-tion?”, and “How do preschool teachers express the relationship between planning and documentation?”.


The results show that, when planning activities with children, preschool teachers focus on the age and interests of the children as well as how they can ensure good care. None of the preschool teachers describe their planning in relation to the curriculum. On the other hand, one of the teachers says that they try to avoid conflicts between their own interests as preschool teachers and the interests of the children. They do this primarily by focussing on the interests and experiences of the children.

The study shows that one of the general challenges in documentation is that it has to serve several different purposes. For example, documentation has to supply infor-mation for different stakeholders, function as a tool for the preschool teacher to monitor the children’s learning processes, and it has to serve as a basis for critical re-flection of their own teaching practices. The preschool teachers in the study primarily use photographs of the children’s activities as documentation. On the other hand, they rarely or never use documentation in which they write down their own observa-tions and reflections. Documentation is primarily used as a tool for the preschool teachers themselves to improve their work and to inform parents about activities at the preschool. Focus in documentation is most often the preschool teachers’ own work and children’s participation in activities, with less focus on children’s learning processes.


The study is a user-involvement study in which there has been close communication and interaction between the researchers and the nine preschool teachers from four preschools, who took part in the study. The preschools were selected on a stratified basis applying the criteria that the preschool teachers worked with children aged 1-3 within the Kanvas organisation and that the teachers were willing to take part in the study. Six preschools were interested in taking part, of which four were selected for the study of the Kanvas organisation. One preschool teacher of a group of one-year-old children took part, as well as two preschool teachers of a group of two-year-old children and six of two groups of 1-3 year-olds.

Data collection was over a period of two months, in which the preschool teachers documented the learning environment at their preschool using various methods (e.g. video footage and photographs of the children’s activities). On two separate occasions during the period, each preschool teacher received guidance lasting one hour. The video footage taken by the preschool teachers and the photographs formed the basis for individual interviews lasting 60 minutes with each preschool teacher. The in-terviews were recorded on a dictaphone and transcribed.

The study and analyses build on Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory about human development, which assumes that individuals develop in interaction with, and in relation to, their surroundings. Furthermore, Bronfenbrenner’s theory is expanded in this study with the theorists Garbarino, Miller, Dalli and Urban, who work with a critical-ecology approach.


Alvestad, T. & Sheridan, S. (2014). “Preschool teachers' perspectives on planning and documentation in preschool”. Early Child Development and Care, 185(3), 377-392.

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