What Are Learning Stories


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“A story is powerful and meaningful to families and can often communicate more than a number, a score, or a checklist of skills” (Pack, 2015, p.2). According to Judi Pack, who works as an independent consultant and who highly encourages early childhood professionals to attentively listen to children to build on their ideas and interests and focus on the joy of being together, discovering, and learning, a learning story is, “a form of observation and documentation that is written in a narrative story format” (Pack, 2015, p.1), which its foundation curriculum document was the New Zealand national early childhood curriculum document, Te Whaariki, with its five strands of integrated knowledge and dispositional outcomes (Carr et al.2012) with five indicators described as the “tips of iceberg” of each of the curriculum strands. These indicators are: taking an interest, being involved, persisting with difficulty, expressing an idea or feeling, and taking responsibility (Carr et al. 2012).



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During this process, educators watch and listen as children explore through play. They may also take a photo or two, jot down some notes, and create a story about what they have observed to share with children and their families. To create a learning story, educators must first write the story, then read the story to the child, and finally plan and connect to families. When documenting a learning story, educators need to look for key elements such as : child-initiated play, engagement, intentionality, relationships and learning dispositions prior to writing their stories.

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It becomes a ‘learning story’ when the educator/adult adds his/her interpretation of the child’s competencies and dispositions toward learning such as courage and curiosity, and perseverance. It is generally formulated by the adult to highlight what the child can do and is doing rather than what they can’t do. Because children should be seen as “skillful communicators, experts in their own lives, right holders and meaning makers” (Clark & Moss, 2011, p.6). They are also “social actors who are ‘beings’ rather than ‘becomings’” (Clark &Moss, 2011, p.8). And educators need to “listen to children more rather than assume we already know the answer” (Clark & Moss, 2011, p. 8).

The benefit of using learning stories or portfolios (a collection of learning stories)  is highlighted by the use of text and images that will be shared with the child and the child’s family. Learning Stories are suitable for children of all ages, and can become longer and more complicated as the children grow and their skills develop. Usually because they take time to write, Learning Stories are written up after the event has actually happened and when the teacher is not working with the children. Therefore, “teachers need to have a good memory! And an accurate memory” (ECE Experts, 2013-2017).

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This documentation process of Learning stories have benefits for each one of the children, teachers, the entire school community and the families and the teacher/family relationship since they  can respectfully connect teachers with families and build strong relationships. “When they write stories, teachers become better observers of children and develop their storytelling voice to joyfully share with the entire community” (Pack, 2015, p. 3).


Tom Drummond, a retired early childhood educator wants to pass on all his knowledge and expertise to all the educators out there. He demonstrates how one can write a Learning Stories “to attend to and convey the stages of learning for anyone in any context, for all learning has a natural flow — passages” (Drummond, 2017, p. 1) outlined as the following: Initiative → Engagement → Intentionality → Representation → Benefaction → Reflection. He believes that all learning stories following those passages are to be “profound agents of transformation for all involved” (Drummond, 2017, p.1). According to him, learning stories have effects on the writer (educator); “I am seeing the child in my Learning Stories differently” (Drummond, 2017, p. 2), the families; “a much deeper disclosure happened” (Drummond, 2017, p. 2),  the child in the story; “a child’s self-esteem was transformed dramatically from being mostly silent to being in the forefront” (Drummond, 2017, p. 3), the other teachers; “after listening to another teacher’s learning story, I see that child differently” (Drummond, 2017, p. 3), and the other children; “the children loved hearing the story. I was shocked how they were so into it. I would love to get this into a form, so I could do it for everyone” (Drummond, 2017, p. 3).



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Now that we know where learning stories come from and who’ the genius behind them, lets take a look at some examples following the advices of Tom Drummond and Suzan Stacey.









Carr, M., & Lee, W. (2012). Learning stories: Constructing learner identities in early education. Los Angeles: SAGE.

Clark, A., & Moss, P. (2011). Listening to young children: The mosaics approach (2nd Ed.). London: National Children’s Bureau.

Drummond, T. (2017). Resources and Writings: Looking Closely at Children: Writing Learning Stories. Retrieved from: http://tomdrummond.com/looking-closely-at-children/writing-learning-stories/

ECE Experts. (2013-2017). Learning Stories: What is a Learning Story? And is it a good way of assessing a child’s learning? My ECE, 227. Retrieved from: https://www.myece.org.nz/educational-curriculum-aspects/227-learning-stories

Learning Stories: Documentation Project – Pedagogical Narration in Saanich Elementary Schools. (2014). Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRWKp4hXadQ

Pack, J. (2015). Learning stories. Teaching Young Children, 9(2), 18. Retrieved from; http://www.naeyc.org/tyc/files/tyc/judipack_0.pdf

Image 1 retrieved from: https://tse3.mm.bing.net/th?id=OIP.e2HBecGJUgjNDiuuM1ELaQEsDU&pid=15.1

Image 2 retrieved from: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/3a/23/16/3a23167bb90bb96776bbb89f76565152.jpg

Image 3 retrieved from Carr, M., & Lee, W. (2012). Learning stories: Constructing learner identities in early education. Los Angeles: SAGE

Image 4 retrieved from:http://images.slideplayer.com/24/6995684/slides/slide_12.jpg

Image 5 retrieved from:https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/0d/13/d0/0d13d059889d7361f6811733c05144c8.jpg

Image 6 retrieved from:http://images.slideplayer.com/25/7862650/slides/slide_14.jpg

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