Louisa Penfold, University of Nottingham

This presentation reports on an action research project that introduced the process of pedagogical documentation (Reggio Children & Harvard Project Zero, 2001) to the early year’s Atelier programme at the Whitworth, University of Manchester. The paper draws on the extensive observations undertaken over a 13-week period including photographic records, video footage, artist interviews and meeting transcripts. Shared analysis and discussion before, during and after each children’s art session were used to generate results and identify how pedagogical documentation – a process that seeks to make children’s and adult’s learning visible – could be used to co-construct gallery programming between children, families, artists, learning curators and the institution.

Key results suggest that pedagogical documentation can be made specific to gallery learning and used to record a wide array of children’s and family’s experiences. These observations can then be used to generate collaborative critical reflection to inform future programme planning. The research confirms that pedagogical documentation is a useful way to support gallery teams in reconsidering assumptions, ethics and practices towards children in art museums. This then allows for practices to become more complex, for that complexity to be made visible and therefore open to interpretation from others. Results also suggest that this process can be used to support the emergence of alternate pedagogies that are constructed from within a specific social, political, cultural and temporal context.

However, a sole focus on social interactions when collecting, interpreting and critically reflecting pedagogical documentation is limited in its acknowledgement of the broader non-human entities (artworks, the gallery space, materials, concepts and curatorial discourse) that shape children’s experiences. Critical reflection on the first cycle of action research therefore points to a broader conceptualisation of children in art museums, one that moves towards what Lenz Taguchi (2010) describes as an ‘intra-active pedagogy.’ This material-discursive approach to gallery learning shifts our attention from:

“…intra-personal and inter-personal relationships towards an intra-active relationship between all living organisms and the material environment such as things and artefacts, spaces and place that we occupy… material objects and artefacts can be understood as being part of a performative production of power and change in an intertwined relationship of intra-activity with other matter or humans (Dahlberg & Moss, 2010: xiv).”

If children explore and construct relations between human and non-human entities rhizomatically (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987) in which learning enters and exists at multiple points, then the reflection of documentation needs to be approached as a diffractive process (Barad, 2007) that seeks to disrupt fixed discourse and practices towards children. Pedagogical documentation can then be used to debate: what does ‘child-led’ mean? How does this term and its subjective understandings support and restrict practices? And how can pedagogical documentation be used to further encourage the development of ‘emergent programming’ in art museums?

Future research will take these questions on board and consider how pedagogical documentation can be introduced to different gallery and institutional contexts.



Barad, K (2007). ‘Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning.’ Signs. 28 (3). 801-831

Dahlberg, G & Moss, P (2010). ‘Introduction by the series editors,’ in Lenz-Taguchi, H. Going beyond the theory/practice divide in early childhood education: Introducing intra-active pedagogy. Routledge, New York.

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia (B. Massumi, Trans.). Second Edition. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Lenz-Taguchi, H (2010). Going beyond the theory/practice divide in early childhood education: Introducing intra-active pedagogy. Routledge, New York.

Reggio Children & Harvard Project Zero (2001). Making learning visible: Children as individual and group learners. Reggio Children publications, Reggio Emilia, Italy.


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