Life stories: developing a Froebelian approach to documenting children's experiences in the early years 

Cowgate Under 5's Centre

This project is a small piece of action research, to be undertaken by practitioners at the Cowgate Under 5’s Centre, a Froebelian nursery in Edinburgh ( The funding from the Froebel Trust would be used to pay for: staff time to conduct the research, research support from academic consultants, and IT specialist, and a small budget for materials, consumables and event support.


The project seeks to address a problem that has arisen at the nursery, but which has wide relevance to the early childhood sector. As public investment in Scottish early learning and childcare (ELC) increases, so does the requirement to observe, assess and ‘track’ young children’s learning against developmental outcomes. Cowgate Under 5’s Centre is currently using a commercial online “learning journal” tool, which replaced the previous, paper based system of documentation. This proposed research project would investigate the views of children, families and staff about the current system, and test ways to bring it into harmony with Froebelian principles.


Some key issues are: the online learning journal system compartmentalises curricular areas. Children are assessed against simplistic ‘red, amber and green’ levels of learning. These standardized tracking measures leave little space for a holistic view of development. Most of the documentation in the online journals is being done about children and not with children. Children do not have free access to the online learning journals, and are rarely consulted about what is being added to the journals by adults.


The requirement for some form of ‘tracking’ is not going away. Therefore we feel it is urgent to assess our current practice and scope potential for developing an alternative, in keeping with Froebelian principles. The learning from this project will be useful for the broader early childhood sector, and we have written our knowledge exchange and impact activities accordingly. 

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