Online professional learning opportunity, coming Spring 2021!

Course Overview 

This course will focus on how observation, documentation and assessment can be used to inform understandings about children and the practice of teaching. Specific attention is given to learning how to observe and document children’s thinking and learning processes so that useful documentation can be produced and later analyzed for new understandings and insights. You will learn how observation and documentation are tools for assessment of children and for self-assessment of your teaching practice. Ecological and child development theories are combined with documented observations and assessments to make informed decisions in the classroom. Additionally, you will learn that understanding children's strengths, competencies, cultures, races, languages and family experiences -- what they bring to the classroom -- is essential to teaching and learning.

a child investigates

Course Objectives

  1. Understand and describe what is of value to observe and document during an experience and why.
  2. Use documentation as a tool for capturing and uncovering children’s thinking and learning processes.
  3. Use documentation as a form of assessment of children and for self-assessment of your teaching practice, ultimately informing the decisions you make as a teacher in the classroom. 
  4. Identify and describe the complexities of the observation/documentation process and implement solutions.
  5. Identify meaningful aspects from documented artifacts that provide insights about children and the practice of teaching.
  6. Judge the limitations and affordances of various tools for documentation in relation to research goals.
  7. Evaluate the quality of documentation and its potential for offering insights to inform your understandings of children and your teaching practice.
  8. Conduct analyses from documentation that generate critical hypotheses and interpretations about children and your teaching practice that will impact the decisions you make in the classroom.
  9. Apply knowledge of child development, sociocultural and learning theory to analyze and interpret documentation.
  10. Understand how to use documentation to make children’s competence and learning visible, promoting the voice of the child as a tool for advocacy about the right of all children to quality educational experiences.

Course Organization

There are 3 modules of learning in the Observation, Documentation and Assessment course. Each module is organized by readings/multimedia resources, invitations and submissions of individual and group work. All modules require that you observe and document within your context or another context that includes children’s learning. The modules are geared towards educators and leaders working in schools. With instructor support, assignments can be altered for those not working in schools.

The full course spans 16 weeks. You can expect a rigorous and rewarding learning experience for the time and energy you will put in. There are periodic due dates for submitted assignments throughout the course. There will be synchronous zoom meetings organized around students’ schedules throughout the semester and students will schedule their own time for coursework. This will allow students to organize the course around work and other life commitments. 

For more information, please contact Sara Van Dyke.

I learned a lot about myself. I need to be vulnerable during the experiences and during the reflection after. I think this learning happened because I was forced to think about how I was feeling and what I was doing during the observations, which helped me learn about myself and how reflecting on the experiences was important for my learning in the classroom with the children." - Past Course Participant
I liked the course as a person new to observation and documentation. I think that it really helped me to know what to do and how to use different tools. I feel comfortable getting in there and documenting, when I otherwise might not have. I also feel like observing children is a way to build relationships and advocate for children. I used to see observing as a passive, removed act and now I don't." - Past Course Participant

*This course, when taken for credit, articulates into two master’s programs in partnership with Boulder Journey School: (1) Innovative Early Childhood Education MA, Boulder Journey School Partnership as an online program or (2) Learning Developmental and Family Sciences MA, Boulder Journey School Teacher Education partnership, which is available at Boulder Journey School as a residency program.

About the Course Designer


About the Partnership


Boulder Journey School

Boulder Journey School is a full-day, full-year early childhood program located in Boulder, Colorado that welcomes over 200 children, ages 6 weeks to 5 years, and their families. We have a faculty of about 70 educators, that includes approximately 55 classroom teachers, both intern and mentor teachers, as well as 15 administrators, directors and teacher educators.

reggio student inspecting blocks

Our school focuses on the education of young children, as well as the education of teachers. In 1999, Boulder Journey School entered into close partnership with the University of Colorado Denver and the Colorado Department of Education to create a residency-based Teacher Education Program within the school. Through this one year program, Graduate Student Teachers earn a Master’s Degree in Learning, Developmental and Family Sciences and a Birth - Third Grade Teaching license. These partnerships, created around teacher education, have resulted in two decades of experimentation and innovation that have affected all aspects of daily life at school, including our image of the child, relationships with families, teacher professional development, curriculum planning, collaboration among faculty, and our connection to the local, educational, global and political communities.

Graduate Student Teachers enrolled in our program are teachers of record who team teach with Mentor Teachers. Mentor Teachers have already graduated from the Teacher Education Program. These teaching teams are charged with innovating new teaching practices as teacher researchers.

Our relationship with Reggio Emilia, Italy

Students paint at Boulder Journey School

Boulder Journey School and the University of Colorado Denver are promoting founders of the Fondazione Reggio Children - Centro Loris Malaguzzi, an international organization founded in 2011 with the mission to “promote solidarity through research.”

Additionally, Boulder Journey School and the University of Colorado Denver bring groups of educators to Reggio Emilia, Italy annually to participate in the Student Professor Study Group organized in collaboration with Reggio Children.

Choose CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development

The School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver is a statewide and national leader for educational quality, access and equity across the education lifespan, birth through higher education Our undergraduate and graduate programs prepare and inspire education and mental health leaders to have a profound impact in fostering student opportunity, achievement and success in urban and diverse communities. We believe that all students, diverse in race, ethnicity, economic resources, language, fluency, abilities, geography, first-generation status, age, gender and sexual identities, deserve access to an excellent education. Our academic programs, our world-class faculty and our curriculum reflect this philosophy of inclusion and social justice. Through innovative research and partnerships, we strive to be passionate agents of change, inspiring upcoming generations to learn from the past and shape the future. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion works toward a more just and compassionate world.

We offer high quality Early Childhood Education in BA, BS, MA, EdD and PhD programs to prepare inclusive ECE teachers (with and without licensure), directors, leaders, researchers and policy makers. Our 20 plus year partnership with Boulder Journey School is a gem in our ECE program portfolio. We share deep interest and extensive experience with the innovative schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy and have successfully partnered in residency-based educator preparation for over two decades. Recently, we added an online MA rooted in the work of Boulder journey school and inspired by the acclaimed pedagogy known as the Reggio Emilia approach.