During June/July, We Hear You will be featuring a special three-part series exploring critical reflection – ‘Uncovering the layers of reflective practice’.
In the second instalment, we consider teaching, learning and how we reflect within a holistic approach.
Part 2: Reflection on teaching and learning
Critical reflection involves educators analysing their own practices – thinking about how their language, their level of involvement in play, their support of children to communicate and resolve conflict and how the organisation and environment impacts learning, relationships and interactions.
These insights should be used to inform the development of plans for children’s learning and development, both as individuals and groups of children. The focus should be on learning and outcomes rather than activities and resources.
Being a reflective practitioner means embracing multiple perspectives, your own unique approach and process as well as considering what might need to change. This process of reflecting on actions, intentionality, programs and children’s learning is one that educators engage in every day.
- What are my understandings of each child?
- What theories, philosophies and understandings shape and assist my work?
- Are there other theories or knowledge that could help me to understand better what I have experienced?
A holistic approach
It is important to reflect on the learning across all aspects of the program including routines, transitions, planned and spontaneous play and leisure experiences. Children’s learning is constant and happening everywhere and it is up to educators to reflect on how time, resources and access to learning environments is facilitating sustained shared thinking.
Who should be involved?
Everyone! Critically reflecting on children’s learning involves all educators talking, questioning, challenging and affirming each other. Two key questions to consider here might be:
- Are planned experiences reflective of children’s knowledge, interests and identity?
- Are experiences, environments and interactions supporting children’s learning and development across the learning outcomes?
Children and families are important participants in the reflection process, from setting goals to analysing and sharing the learning from the program and informing the direction of group and individual learning. Community expectations and context are relevant considerations to inform curriculum decision making.
How do we reflect and what should be recorded?
While there is no legislative requirement for educators’ reflections to be documented, it is a useful way for services to track and show how critical reflection influences their practice and contributes to continuous improvement and the cycle of planning.
The emphasis is on the process of critical reflection, not the product, so there is evidence the program is informed by these reflections. Children can be active participants in critical reflection, and in documenting their learning progress. Documenting this reflection can be completed in a variety of ways – in the program, in a reflective journal or diary, or in the minutes of team meetings.
Catherine Lee, the Director and Nominated Supervisor at The Point Preschool, shares her thoughts on critical reflection.
Supporting reflective practice
The educational leader plays a role in developing and supporting a culture of reflection by :
- leading and being part of reflective discussions
- mentoring other educators
- discussing routines
- observing children and educator interactions
- talking to families
- working with other education and care professionals
- considering how the program can be linked to the community
- establishing effective systems across the service.
Anne Stonehouse suggests the use of concise questions when reflecting on children’s learning and analysing information to focus on the process of their actions rather than the product:
- What is this child learning?
- What does this child know or understand?
- What level is the learning? For example, emerging, beginning, practicing, consolidating, exploratory or mastery.
- What learning dispositions are evident? For example, persistence, confidence, resourcefulness, curiosity or problem solving.
Assessment and rating
In terms of assessment and rating, a crucial factor in assessing quality practice relates to educators’ understandings of the process and the purpose of critical reflection as opposed to gathering evidence.
During an assessment, the authorised officer might:
- observe educators having discussions with team members, children and families reflecting on how the program is supporting children’s learning in groups and as individuals
- discuss how educators make decisions on the program and the process for considering the effectiveness of the program
- sight documentation of decisions, how and why they came about, information in policies, parent information and staff induction that explains the process of how reflection guides the program.
Questions for further reflection:
The Educators’ Guide to My Time Our Place describes the process of self-reflection as:
- Deconstructing practice – What happens?
- Confronting practice – What works well? What is challenging?
- Theorising about why – What literature/research/experience helps you to understand this?
- Thinking otherwise – What do you need to change? What is the first step?
These questions may prompt a robust discussion on what is working and how well practice aligns with philosophy and ethics, as well as creating a positive culture and professional learning community.
Further reading and resources
Cartmel, J. – ‘Techniques for Facilitating Reflection’, Reflections (43): 12-13.
Early Childhood Australia – Thinking about Practice: Working with the Early Years Learning Framework
Queensland Studies Authority – Reflecting on my teaching practices
Stonehouse, A. – ‘Assessing children’s learning—work in progress! (Part 1)’, NQS PLP eNewsletter (73).
Read the complete series: