Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of


Date of this Version

September 2007


Published in Early Childhood Research and Practice 10:2 (Fall 2007). Online at
Copyright (c) 2007 by the authors.


Study groups and learning circles can offer a systematic way for early childhood teachers to interact about their work and create a culture of professional development. This paper describes how faculty systematically followed a collaborative co-inquiry process in order to improve a new early childhood interdisciplinary teacher preparation program. The team met on a regular basis throughout one academic year, with the stated objective of infusing observation/documentation knowledge and skills in a coherent and systematic way throughout the students’ program of studies. The group created a template of the cycle of inquiry, which could apply to all courses, and analyzed the documentation process along a series of skill dimensions: (1) level that students are expected to achieve (awareness, application, refinement/integration); (2) focus of the students’ observations (who, what, where, when, how); (3) width of the lens of observation (e.g., focused narrowly on one dimension of behavior or widely on a whole classroom environment); (4) intended audience of the completed documentation (e.g., children, parents, professional colleagues); and (5) finished product of documentation (e.g., project panel, memory book, slide presentation). The co-inquiry process allowed the faculty to improve the ways that the program helps students move from an awareness level toward a practitioner level in using observation and documentation. The students’ reflections and finished work suggest how they learned to promote children’s learning, partner with parents, and come to think of themselves as “professionals” in their field.