Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

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Robbie394
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Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

Post by Robbie394 » Wed May 16, 2018 8:31 pm

I'm a bit confused about the demands for learning stories, planning notes and follow ups.
I'm a co-educator in my centre's Kindergarten room, and we are told that the assistant has to do two individual stories a week (one outside, one inside), plus one group one. Due to the high amount of children we have in our class, both last year and this year, I tend to do more than that.
With the planning notes and follow-ups, it's almost a hanging crime if these are not done. We have been told several times that the best way to do all this is along the lines of observing something a child is doing (with photos), then try and split it up into the original learning story, followed straight away by a planning note, then use the second part of it as a follow-up. To me, this is very contrived. Surely the nature of a follow-up is something that should be worked out in time? Yet the Director is insistent on us doing it all on the one day.


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Lorina
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Re: Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

Post by Lorina » Wed May 16, 2018 11:33 pm

Learning stories, anecdotal observations, running records, photo observations these are all type of different observation methods which can be used to assess children's learning. A learning story doesn't have to be the only method used to observe children, it can be one type of documentation used and you incorporate others as well - even if you are doing monthly observation per indvidual child, you can use a different method each time - some Educators feel that a Learning Story is the one and only method that HAS to be used but this isn't so.

It sounds like you are doing more than needs to be done, which is not necessary. When writing a Learning Story, you include the details of what happened then add the analysis and follow up, this may help:

How To Write A Learning Story

As for Observations, have a read through the following:

Observations In Childcare

If you still have further questions or require clarification, let me know. Happy to help!

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Re: Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

Post by Robbie394 » Thu May 17, 2018 5:12 am

Alright, I'll look at these. : ) Thank you.
Just to clarify, we use Storypark. I'm not sure if you're familiar with it? It's an online website which is the major way of communication at this centre, and it's where we do our observations, as well as interact with each other, parents and pretty much everything.

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Re: Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

Post by Lorina » Thu May 17, 2018 5:40 am

Yes, I am familiar - here at Aussie Childcare Network we actually have our own Documentation App - called Appsessment.

Appsessment includes all documentation that an Educator requires when assessing children's learning - observations (jottings, photo obs, etc), learning stories, curriculum plans, daily diaries, artwork samples etc. These are default templates. You also have the option of editing and creating your own templates, forms, checklists etc.

All documentation gives you the option to interlink documentation to each other and to child records, add photos, videos, files, choose Australian framework outcomes and much more.

You also have the option of sending parent input forms and reminders directly to parent timelines. which is then linked back to the parent profile on your centre's app.

All parents have their own activity timeline where they can view their child's documentation created by their child's educator and parents have their own individual photo gallery and video gallery which is automated.

Appsessment is a high-quality documentation app with an abundance of new features and I really think you should check it out (even if you are using story park) I think you will be surprised!

Appsessment

Here is a full list of features:

Appsessment Features

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Re: Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

Post by Robbie394 » Thu May 17, 2018 5:49 am

Okay, I've just read though the two links, and they're pretty much what I do. In fact, my learning stories are highly praised for their writing style (despite the fact that I'm not very good at using the professional lingo that we're supposed to use) and, according to the director, they "make you feel like you're there".

However,the demands are each child in each room MUST have two a month, as well as MUST have a planning note and then follow up, all on Storypark, and preferably all done on the same day. Each room is even given printouts every now and again to show who has been done and who has not yet in the progressing month, like a scoresheet (all this is possible through Storypark). We have something like 27 children in the Kindergarten room, and I've calculated that this amounts to 54 a month between we two staff, with me only obliged to do about 8 to 10 of them. This is in addition to something like 8 group stories. Add the follow ups (there's contention as to whether the group ones should be followed up or not), and that means 108 individual stories a month, which we never meet.

I work for a Goodstart centre, and I don't know if this is specific to our particular employer, as I know that, with a few of the mountains of paperwork we have to do, we're told "this is a Goodstart expectation" (I think at least one of the personal reflections we do is included in that). I don't know if the demands on the stories and follow ups are included, and I also wonder if they are so insistent because of some kind of possible jealousy from certain parents, like "little Johnny over there keeps getting things written about him, but my Mary hasn't had a thing in ages!" I know that has been an issue with daily curriculums, where we've been told to make sure that, each day, every single child is mentioned and photographed, because the occasional parent (although it's never happened in our room) has complained about not seeing their child referenced.

Anyway, this is just one of a number of things I'm trying to understand in my job, as all the paperwork is excessively demanding, helping make the whole experience very hard to enjoy and, in regards to these learning stories, it's almost to the point where I can't just settle and work with the children; it's more a matter of keeping score of everyone and focusing on who needs what each week. Along with stacks of other stuff.

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Re: Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

Post by Lorina » Thu May 17, 2018 6:34 am

Yeah, it seems like a ton of documentation that you need to get through. Having two a month for each child especially for 27 children is a lot to get done. There is no set limit on how many observations are to be done but typically 1 a month is the norm, per child.

Do you need to do all learning stories?

Wouldn't be practical to do a combination of different types of observations not just learning stories so you can get an overall picture of assessing children's learning. Such as art sample, jottings, photo obs?

I have never worked for good start so I cannot make comments on their documentation methods however from the statistics you gave it seems a little excessive. 108 learning stories a month is crazy!!!! One centre I worked with previously also had an excessive amount of documentation as well as "prettying" up portfolios for parents - which left us Educators no time with the children to engage in their learning, after speaking to management about this - our documentation was reduced and even though it was important, the children were our first priority and we found other means to document.

It is a lot to get through as well as all the other types of checklists and forms you need to complete on a daily basis - it's definitely hard to manage!

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Re: Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

Post by Robbie394 » Fri May 18, 2018 6:50 pm

Thank you for the links to Appsessment, Lorina, and it does look quite a bit like Storypark, with a few certain differences here and there.

The learning stories are really the thing. We should try and include drawings/paintings/etc in the children's Port Folios as well, while I'm not really sure what the deal is in regards to observations. I've heard them mentioned, but almost like it's just a term used to mean the learning stories, even though I'm aware of the difference. I've never done an observation as you described them, and how I learnt them many, many years ago at TAFE, and I've never been pulled up on it. It's learning stories, learning stories.

In addition to these Stories, we have also been encouraged to include WOW moments - these are similar, only they are little, special moments where we might see a child dressed up as a fairy, and we photograph them and pretty them up with some background decoration, and little text, before posting them. They don't need planning notes or follow ups. However, our 2IC suddenly said recently that even these are now supposed to be a demand, with one done per child per month, in addition to the two learning stories per month, but I'm sure there has never been such a requirement before.

Something she has also said recently that, in regards to the daily curriculum, every thing mentioned in them should also be accompanied by a learning story. Among other things, that doesn't add up. If I'm only obliged to do two stories a week, and I have to add something to the curriculum every day, then that would mean I have to do at least five stories a week.

This is all in addition to weekly personal reflections, monthly documentation reflections, weekly questions on one of the QA standards (although, after much tooing and froing, these are now becoming monthly), and also, we are being told that we are supposed to respond to any parent (at least, the ones in our particular rooms) when they write their own story on Storypark about what they and their child(ren) did on the weekend, and then put up a planning note and do a follow up to them as well! So, in theory, if six different families happen to hit the Kindergarten room with stories on what they did over the previous two days, we have to do six follow ups to all of them virtually straight away. As far as I'm aware, these are not included in what we already have to do.

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Re: Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

Post by SakuraChelle » Sat May 19, 2018 12:33 pm

I'd guess that 'learning story' would be any story you put up on Storypark, be it an actual learning story, anecdotal observation, running record, photo observation, ect. That's how I see it anyway... your particular service may see it differently

It sounds to me like your service is giving in to the demands of parents to get as much as possible on there & include every child just in case a family complains. That's not a demand across all Goodstart centres, or at least isn't at the one I work at. All I have to do is one story per child in my key educator group per month. Its preferably if they get an individual, or even better if its an individual & a group, but so long as they have one that's what matters. Then no one comes down on us if we miss a child one month, we then just need to try make up for that the following month. They also don't have to go up as they happen if you don't have the time. Its preferable, then some stories you can tell should or have to go up on the day, but they don't have to for all of them. Programming time is usually when I start linking things up to goals, ect. Then I'm sure there's a whole bunch of Storypark features I have no idea how to use & probably should use that it sounds like you use, but again things like that at my service would normally be done during our designated programming time

It also sounds like far more work than necessary & you're more doing these stories than actually spending time with the children. It seems to defeat the purpose if you're just constantly doing story after story, follow up after follow up... if you're constantly doing all of those stories it doesn't leave time for you, or for you to do the other parts of your job

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Re: Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

Post by Robbie394 » Sat May 19, 2018 7:45 pm

A learning story is when we click on Create Story in Storypark, and write an account of something that happened - for instance, Mary kicking a ball with me, and my reflection on how it went, followed by the learning outcomes and accompanied with photos. Also, the name of the child is clicked on from the available list. This is then posted, and, very soon afterwards (we've been told on the same day, but I rarely find it possible) a planning note added, and then a follow up story. Each child is meant to have two of these per month, and I mentioned before that I wonder if it's something to do with jealousy between families, but I now wouldn't think that could be it, since, to my understanding, only the families of the child see the actual story.

We get badgered about this all the time, receiving periodical "scoresheets" which show how many children have received stories so far in a month, if any, both individually, and group ones (the group stories don't count towards the two per month). In Kindergarten, we now have our own sheet with a list of all the names in our class (27 at present), so we can see who still needs one or two done before the month is out.

Most of these I complete in my own time. With the initial stories, I take photos of what has happened and save them and, except occasionally if I find time during work, I then write up the story, do the outcomes, etc from my computer at home. I can't do that with the follow ups, as I can't save the photos for them beforehand, so I normally do them when I go in to work early before I actually start, or in my lunch hour.

The real burden of it is having them as such a dominant thought. At the moment, one of my big focuses come Monday and Tuesday will be trying to do up to six follow ups for stories I either have done in the past week, or the week before (I keep my own personal records to help me keep track). This is in addition to having to do at least two new stories for children who have not yet had two this month. And then there will be at least a couple of stories that certain parents will put up about what they did on the weekend, to which we're supposed to add planning notes and do follow ups for them as well. I don't actually do them, as I simply can't cope with it. If the Kindergarten teacher (who is new, only having been with us for about a month to date) wants to try them, she can.

And then there's all the other stuff that needs to be done...

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Re: Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

Post by SakuraChelle » Sun May 20, 2018 1:59 pm

Exactly. But how you write your learning story is up to you (E.G. anecdotal observation, running record, photo observation, ect.). That is of course within the restrictions of Storypark (which I frequently want to yell at personally as I find it very restrictive & annoying). Then it sounds like you've got to have text & pictures so maybe you've been made even more limited on what you can do with it. I know I recently put up a story which only had text because I'd been unable to take pictures at the time. For my centre it isn't ideal but its ok. I've also used Storypark to share pictures/moments with no story attached (E.G. we took some cute pictures of an older sibling visiting their younger sibling & I just put them on Storypark basically saying here's some cute pictures of your children together). But in that case I didn't count that as a story for that child for that month, & I'm positive for you that wouldn't be counted either

I don't really understand why you're being made to do so much work. What purpose does it actually hold? You are right that only the family of that child can see what they get. But if its a group story & their child is tagged but not pictured/mentioned they see that & could complain. So if you missed a child for a period of time or did more for one none of the families would know unless they compared notes. The families may have a high expectation of seeing X amount of stories & getting X amount of response from Storypark which may influence it but those expectations wouldn't come from them being able to see what the other families/children receive. We of course can see everything but a parent should only see their child's stories. Unless they're both parent & educator but I believe in that case they've got two accounts - the parent one & the educator one

I don't know if you know this but was it because of Storypark that this amount of stories was required? I presume that at least having to respond to the family stories/have a follow up would be because of it. But otherwise? I don't know if you can raise it as a concern but for me if you're that focused on making sure you get those stories done (which could potentially mean what 3 for one child in a day if they haven't had two this month yet & their parent put something up over the weekend) you're not focusing on the more important things. Especially if the stories have to fit a set goal so you may need to ensure a child does a set thing so you can get the right story. Your focus seems to be more on getting learning stories up than actually interacting with the children & helping them learn. Maybe take your concerns up with your director? See if you can at least find out the reasoning why you've got to do so much - especially with 27 children between 2 staff that need around 108 stories each month. It sounds very excessive to me. Even the strict requirement of the 54 seems a bit much as while it does guarantee a larger picture of the child's progress throughout the month & year its a lot of work. Then why inside & outside? To show their outdoor progress as well as their indoor progress? To me having a requirement of one story in either location each month would be easier on the staff (less stress is a good thing), but then have the preference for more to encourage more to be done... Do you know if you're the only one you work with who feels as you do? If you're not then you may have people to support you in questioning the demands for that many stories being put up.

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Re: Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

Post by Robbie394 » Sun May 20, 2018 2:44 pm

Alright... well, a big issue with our centre is that we had assessment (A & R) last year, with the Director desiring an Exceeding rating, and we got it. Hence, in that regard, we are one of the leading daycare centres in our area. And I will say that I think we are certainly a high quality centre. However, it has become an albatross around our necks (if albatrosses have a habit of hanging around necks), with us constantly being reminded of how we are Exceeding, with a sign outside boasting about it, and one of the areas in which we got Exceeding was documentation, including all the learning stories we do. Hence, it's just remained a huge thing, especially as we're regularly told how our standards have slipped, we're not as good as we used to be, etc.

In the time I've been with the centre (I started as a casual just over two years ago, and became permanent in Kindergarten some months later, landing in the lead up to assessment), stories and follow ups have been almost an obsession with our Director, and also the 2IC.

Like your centre, SakuraChelle, photos aren't essential, but they are preferable, so I always try to include them, and I will admit that they can help me in remembering what actually happened for me to write about. And just photos, or photos with a bit of text, are what we call "Wow" moments, which do not need planning notes or follow ups, but, after initially being told they were something nice we could do as extras, the Director was soon expressing disappointment that more had not been done, and then, just a few weeks ago, the 2IC was saying that each child should have one of them a month, in addition to the two general stories a month. I'd never heard that before, and I'm pretty sure no-one else had either.

I certainly know that I'm not the only one who's unhappy with all this. Indeed, earlier this year, the Director sent through a requirement that, in addition to all this, each of us had to send through to her a daily bit about some activity we had done, with photos, so she could put them on our Facebook page. One of the other staff, a group leader, groaned to me, "Another thing we have to do??"

This is in addition to other documentation stuff, and I'm just an assistant complaining. The group leaders have way more demands.

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Re: Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

Post by SakuraChelle » Mon May 21, 2018 4:42 pm

Understandable if you got exceeding you'd then always have the pressure to not slip down from that. But if it is stressful for the staff I'd still suggest mentioning maybe that some aspects of the demands are affecting the emotional wellbeing of the staff? Or if a group leader feels that way they could mention it as it may come across better from them? I don't know. To me it sounds like your expectations & requirements are set very high, probably higher than necessary. Especially having to write stories immediately as apposed to when you have time

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Re: Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

Post by Lorina » Mon May 21, 2018 5:41 pm

Just because your centre got exceeding it isn't just about the documentation alone! You are being put under way too much pressure! How can you actively engage in a child's learning when you are all busy trying to get learning stories complete? How can you interact with each child, supporting their sense of wellbeing and building secure attachments when all this documentation is required! Seriously, yes documentation is required but the excessive documentation doesn't help anyone, it's useless because you all start to think about quantity, rather than quality....

You have to address these issues as a group of Educators to your management.

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Re: Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

Post by Robbie394 » Mon May 21, 2018 7:32 pm

Quantity rather than quality is a good way of putting it. I have had the view for a while that documentation has become the end, rather than the means. Instead of doing paperwork to enhance the children's learning, the children's learning is being used to enhance the paperwork. I actually shared this with one of the management, and she agreed with me completely.
This same person was someone I spent some time with a few weeks ago when I was on the verge of quitting, and she talked me out of it (for the moment), before she spoke to the Director herself, complaining how she also was finding it too hard to keep up, and the Director then spoke to the 2IC about toning things down a bit, but none of these requirements I've been sharing here have changed at all. It's still a mountain of work.

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Re: Learning Stories And Follow-Ups

Post by Lorina » Tue May 22, 2018 2:59 am

Definitely a huge climb up that mountain each day! I'm sure you're not the only ones that feel like this. You should approach your Educational leader and share your concerns with them. Also, talk to your room leader as well as others and work together with them to come up with a solution. if you all come up with a solution then the Director/2iC may understand and be willing to change - go through the regulations, read through the nqs find articles etc. on documenting requirements and work out a way with all Educators on how you can possibly change the current documenting into something more purposeful and efficient. Present this at the staff meeting and see what happens. You 2IC may not understand that it's over the top and may think that it's just complaints but if you come up with a workable solution then it's more likely to change...

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