Artists Interviews

Each month we feature an in-depth exploration into a current project in order to share learning and provide insight into approaches to practice.

May 2011: Christina MacRae


Christina MacRae:

I have chosen the subject of pedagogical documentation for the basis of my interview with Helen Manchester.

Could you talk about what your understanding of “visible listening” is?
In terms of my practice as an artist, using a sketchbook to capture my ideas is an important part of my practice. What role might do you think artists could play in relation to documenting children’
Do you think there are things artists might learn from the practice of pedagogical documentation that might feed back into their own enquiry and sketchbook practice?
What do you think some of the difficulties raised by documentation might be?
Given the current climate how do you see the role of artists in sites of learning developing?

Related articles by the guest author

About the artist

Helen is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Education and Social Research Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University and an independent educational research consultant.  She has recently completed two nationwide research projects (with Sara Bragg) for the Open University and funded by Creative Partnerships: "Youth voice and Creativity"  and School ethos and the Creative Partnerships programme (in press). This research involved working closely with resident artists and creative practitioners in early years settings in the UK.  Her edited book entitled, `Creative approaches to participation: giving learners a say` will be published by David Fulton Press in August 2011.

About the project

As Helen has been a researcher and co-enquirer on many artist-led projects in schools and in Early Years settings in the UK, I am interested to hear how documentation of these projects has been approached.

In many early years settings in the UK it’s become common practice to document children’s learning in the form of a "learning journey".  The idea behind this is that instead of having a point of arrival where children’s knowledge is assessed, a child’s interests, explorations and actions are documented on an ongoing basis.  This approach has been influenced by the pre-school philosophy of the Emilia Reggio district in Italy. 

Carla Rinaldi, who is a key thinker in the movement, describes pedagogical documentation as  "Visible Listening". 

Because of strike action and not wanting to cross picket lines we had our conversation in a park in Manchester, so there is not only the backdrop of birdsong, but the occasional car and siren also.  I began our interview by asking Helen to talk about what her understanding of "visible listening" is...

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