Documenting professional growth in ECE
Documenting professional growth in ECE is an essential element and indicator, of quality practice. But finding the right system for collecting examples of your learning, relating this evidence to your work with children, reflecting on and using your learning to enhance your practice can be challenging to say the least.
In the central North Island of New Zealand, Central Kids Early Education, believe that it is essential for their educators to have the expertise and knowledge which puts children at the heart of their planning and implementation of an effective learning programme. With 49 kindergartens and 8 early learning centres, the teaching teams are well supported by a team of experienced leaders with teaching backgrounds. They provide mentoring and ongoing professional learning for their staff.
In the past, they had systems in place for documentation of their professional growth, and many chose to continue using a paper-based model. Some stored their work directly on their computer. Others preferred to record their professional learning journey using the basic portfolio tool on Storypark.
While these systems essentially “worked”, educators often had difficulty finding their reflections, and grouping their appraisal information in one place. It was also challenging to share their work directly from their Storypark portfolio with their appraisers. Unless the educator was happy for their entire portfolio to be viewed, this system raised some privacy issues.
As an organisation, Central Kids didn’t want to prescribe how professional learning should be recorded. They had a framework for appraisal and expectations that aligned with the Teaching Council but felt strongly that individuals and appraisers should be able to find a way to chart their own journey. Choice and flexibility, coupled with a frequently changing landscape from the Teaching Council around appraisal expectations meant it was easier to opt-out of documenting via Storypark and sticking with a paper-based approach.
Some educators started using the planning tool to group their stories, reflections and evidence as a way to chart their appraisal journey. But the need to duplicate stories and pdf plans in order to link evidence of their learning were extra steps that stopped some educators from engaging with Storypark as a way to chart their journey.
The organisation wanted to find a smarter way to work, and incorporate the following into their process for documenting educator’s professional growth and development:
- Better privacy and control
- Ability to collate all documentation in an easy to follow format
- The ability for educator stories to be written and shared with colleagues
- Ease of use and clear alignment with Teaching Council requirements
Central Kids began using Storypark’s new Educator Portfolio tool as part of the first pilot. Educators could choose whether or not they wanted to use the new tool for their professional learning portfolio. The Professional Learning and Development team offered workshops that helped educators explore and see the value of the functions provided by Educator Portfolios. Armed with new knowledge, educators explored their Portfolios and soon found that charting their professional growth this way was going to be far easier. A core group of the Central Kids team fielded questions from educators and shared their knowledge to encourage wider use of the tool.
Feedback coming in showed that educators were creating their own plans, and linking their documentation, reflections and evidence to share with appraisers. Educator Portfolios were being embraced and educators were seeing the value the tool offered.
Professional Leader at Central Kids Early Education, Gail Pierce, shared some of the benefits and results they have seen since adopting Storypark Educator Portfolios in their organisation.
“By developing smarter ways of documenting and engaging in professional growth, we are seeing a renewed enthusiasm for sharing the learning that individuals value, with others. If our educators are feeding themselves with learning they are passionate about, then we see a direct link to what is happening for children and families. It supports educators to work smarter and be enthused about charting their professional journey. The ability to have contributors (mentors) from outside of the kindergarten or centre has the potential to provide greater choice for teachers to receive mentoring support, specific to their needs. The ability to add and remove contributors provides flexibility and scope for supporting flexible mentoring.”
Having participated in the pilot for Educator Portfolios, the team at Central Kids have noticed positive results from using the tool for educators professional growth and development. Early results show an increase in the number of individual educators across the organisation that are using Storypark’s Educator Portfolio tool to chart their professional growth journey. In November 2020, there were 50% of individual learning services throughout the organisation creating educator portfolio stories. This has now risen to 71% of their centres using the tool.
Are you looking for an easy to use and intuitive tool your teaching team can use for documenting professional growth in ECE?