Some practical advice for when undertaking the continuous improvement process is to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. The sooner we are, the better we can accept the ongoing nature of true reflective practice.
From Start to Review: the ongoing nature of reflective practice and how we can better use it to support our role and save time.
Ok, let’s start from the top. The Australian Early Childhood Education and Care Regulatory Authority aka ACECQA is an independent body governed by a 13-member board with nominations from each state and territory, as well as the Commonwealth. These board members are not at all chosen on a whim, and hold a proven track record as well as a broad range of professional skills and expertise – in one or more of the following areas:
- Best practice regulation and consultation
- Research, evaluation and performance
- Provision of advice and information on a worldwide recognisable scale
- Assessment of quality in education and care services or other relevant services
- Early childhood development interpretation & recommendation
- Labour market and workforce participation
- Financial management and corporate governance
When considering this in the sense of our caregiving responsibilities, we must also factor in the importance of the National Quality Frameworks principles, practice and the expected outcomes that we hope to achieve from this.
It takes a relevant starting point in order to meaningly reflect, especially as a team.
Some of the other important aspects include the ability to:
- provide a safe space to explore all options
- understand that everybody has the right to participate
- allocate and take accountability where required
- actively respond to all personnel professionally
- communicate openly and honestly in a professional manner
Creating and sustaining a culture of inquiry requires a huge amount of trust and cooperation in the working environment. It is extremely important that educators feel safe enough, and are able to talk about their concerns – in regards to the challenges that they face.
A major aspect for this is in the respect of different viewpoints, are we providing opportunities for all educators to contribute to discussions and debates? It has been far too many times to which I’ve seen great ideas shut-down or completely ignored, all because the contributor was not held in high enough regard by certain others in the room. In these types of instances, we must remember the importance of being the change we want to see and actually living the principles and practices we speak of to others.
It also takes a solid commitment to inquire at the organisational level. This supports the overall objectives and also helps to allow time for reflection, as well as the time needed to develop skills in a range of approaches to reflective practice – an example for this could be journal writing, critical conversation, and focus groups. The recognition of the fact that there is no one right approach or answer is important to explore early on. This assists to set a standard for conducting this type of process in the future and highlights the ongoing safe nature for information sharing and innovation within the space. This also directly leads into the all-important subject of courageous conversations that are paramount to have in order to question (taken-for-granted) practices and assumptions.
A great way to start the process is by:
- Reflecting upon practices, identify the concerns and choose an issue
- Gathering information/evidence on what is currently happening – look for patterns
- Reflect on what the information is telling you – become informed
- Frame a question to be explored – research and share
- Decide upon action—change of practice
- Evaluate the change – what worked
- Start the process again – review for changes and try again
Find a Critical Friend and Supporter
Reflective educators often find it useful to have a ‘critical friend’ to support and challenge their thinking and practice throughout the learning journey.
A critical friend can:
- Inspire, reminding you of the importance of your work and ongoing learning
- Provoke and challenge you to explore your habits and practices (why and how you do things) with questions, insights and alternative viewpoints
- Supporting you to identify information, resources, and processes that may expand your inquiry
- Provide ongoing support by lending you an ear, a shoulder and perhaps even friendship
Now let’s take a look at what the learning framework means for us as educators…
Relates to connections and relationships with other educators and professionals from other disciplines, participation in professional organisations and networks, and community involvement.
Relates to the individuality of each early childhood educator and to the distinctiveness of each team of educators. Individuals and groups bring a unique collection of beliefs, values, interests, knowledge, experience, and perspectives to planning, practice and relationships.
Relates to the importance of learning and reflecting in order to increase professional knowledge and improve skills and practices.
So we know it’s important to…
Reflect on your professional knowledge, which includes your knowledge of each child & their family’s strengths and interests, as well as,
Reflect on what children and families are bringing/contributing, saying, doing – all the while,
Reflect on the different cultures, ways of knowing and being as well as,
Reflect on what the individual, group, and overall community priorities are for your setting.
- How can we use children’s prior learning, interests, and strengths in conjunction with the learning outcomes to guide planning for children’s learning?
- How are we working in partnership with families to plan for children’s learning?
- How can we engage children actively in learning?
- What are appropriate teaching strategies/practices
- How are we holding high expectations that all children will be successful learners?
- How are we striving for effective and equitable ways, ensuring that each child has opportunities to achieve the learning outcomes?
And last but not least, think about:
What was the last big change made at work and how did this impact?
What else would you like to change, and why?
How could you support others to understand your thinking?
And then forward plan from this.
This guest post is written by Kelly Sims, from Tasmania, Australia. Kelly is the CEO of professional development and customised training provider: Education and Care Connections. Kelly has years of experience with the EYLF, guiding early years practitioners to consider quality in everything they do.