”Documentation and Communication in Swedish Preschools”.

Emilson, A.
Samuelsson, I.
Early Years: An International Research Journal, 34(2), 175-187.


The purpose of this study is to examine communication between preschool teachers and children in Swedish preschools in situations where the teachers are engaged in documenting practice. The documented situations serve to illustrate the educational practices and the children’s learning and to increase the teachers’ awareness of the individual child’s skills. According to the authors of the report, significant attention is being given to documentation in Sweden. The authors explain this focus on documentation by pointing to the national curriculum and the fact that education in Sweden is heavily influenced by Reggio Emilia’s theory and practice. This study focuses on what is documented by preschool teachers. The following research questions are answered in the study: What characterises communication between preschool teachers and children when the teachers are also engaged in documentation when communication with the children? What is the focus of the documentation?


The results of the study show that the communication between preschool teachers and children in the documented situations can take on various forms. The analysis shows the teachers act as either silent observers, meaning hardly no communication between the child and teacher, or as eager moderators of the communication. The communication in the latter situation is often lively and the teacher takes an active role in directing the children’s attention towards specific phenomena (how paint drips for example).


In both cases the communication in the documentation situations is focused on specific objective and strategic. Moreover, it is characterised by an asymmetric subject-object relationship between adult and child. Characteristic of all the situations is that the children’s actions constitute the object of investigation. The communication is strategic in that it aims at getting the children to do something specific: paint a bus, build a tower, etc. The study also shows that documentation primarily includes the children’s creations or achievements, for example paintings, answers to questions and understanding of the relationship between objects (such as an actual drop of water and a painted one). Thus documentation in general focuses on the activity and the child’s achievement, rather than on the child itself.



The data material consists of video footage showing communication between preschool teachers and children, of which 157 minutes of communication has been analysed. The participants comprised 30 children aged 1-3 and their seven preschool teachers. The documentation situations were recorded as they happened. The 157 minutes of recording consisted of a total of 15 documentation situations. Communication in this study is analysed based on Habermas’ concepts of strategic and communicative action.


Emilson, A. & Samuelsson, I. (2014). ”Documentation and Communication in Swedish Preschools”. Early Years: An International Research Journal, 34(2), 175-187.

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