ACECQA’s Quality Support Program Team outlines the importance of articulating practice and provides practical tips to assist educators articulate the achievements and strengths of their service and team members during assessment and rating visits.
As an educator, your contribution to your service’s assessment and rating visit can really make a difference.
The visit is your opportunity to highlight what your service and educators do well, celebrate your strengths and achievements, open conversations about the quality of your programs and practices, and gain valuable feedback.
Many will be thinking that this is easier said than done. After all, one of the things that many educators find difficult is communicating to the authorised officer all that your service does well, and how practices provide quality outcomes for children and families.
This is the skill of articulating practice.
In fact, educators articulate practice on a daily basis. They talk with and about children and their knowledge, strengths, ideas, culture, abilities and interests. They also discuss children’s learning, their social and emotional development, wellbeing, and friendships.
Articulation is generally understood to mean the act of expressing something in a coherent, understood way. Articulation in education and care is essential to building relationships with children (Element 5.1.1) and collaborative partnerships with families and communities (QA 6).
It is through these conversations and relationships that educators gain an understanding of, and build on, the strengths, aspirations and priorities of children and families. This in turn makes your education and care programs, practices and policies meaningful, inclusive and child-centred.
Authorised officers are trained to follow an ‘observe-discuss-sight’ method at the visit to gather evidence to support a rating against the NQS, including compliance with the National Law and National Regulations.
While authorised officers may ask questions to gain more information and examples, it is important to think about what you would like to discuss and which examples highlight how the educators, service leaders and team are meeting or exceeding the NQS. The term ‘discuss’ is used in the Guide to the National Quality Framework to provide opportunities for respectful two-way conversations between authorised officers and the educators or service leaders to identify examples of quality practice that align with the NQS.
Here are four practical tips to assist you in articulating practice during your service’s Assessment and Rating visit:
Tip 1 – Build knowledge
Support your educators to build on and become confident in their knowledge of the NQS, the relevant Approved Learning Framework/s and your Quality Improvement Plan. Hold regular meetings, reflective sessions and, if relevant, professional development workshops to discuss these topics.
A good working knowledge of these fundamentals is a basis for providing quality outcomes for the children in the service and their families. This knowledge will, in turn, provide educators with the ability to look at practices in the service and articulate them in the context of these documents.
Tip 2 – Practice articulating practice!
Start talking about the service philosophy and how it informs decisions, along with discussing the ‘what’, ‘how’ and especially the ‘why’ of practices. Talk to your families, children, each other, management and the community.
Team meetings are a good opportunity to have these discussions with other educators and it can be useful to add ‘quality practice’ and ‘reflective practice’ as regular agenda items.
The reflective questions in the Guide to the NQF can be used to provoke discussions in these meetings. You can use techniques such as brainstorming or mind mapping to document what quality at your service looks like in a Standard or Element and to discuss how your service is performing.
Tip 3 – Ongoing self-assessment/walk in the Authorised Officer’s shoes
Ongoing self-assessment against the NQS and related regulatory requirements drives continuous improvement and is essential to providing quality outcomes for children (Guide to the NQF, p.316).
As part of your self-assessment, identify what an authorised officer might observe, discuss or sight about the quality of your service practices and programs. To do this, “step into the authorised officer’s shoes” and take a walk around your service or in your family day care (FDC) office and educators’ homes.
As an example, let’s look at what some of the ‘discuss’ items for QA 3 could include:
Element 3.1.1 Fit for purpose
- How the environment is planned and organised, taking into consideration the need for safe, yet challenging spaces.
- How FDC educators balance their family members’ need for privacy with providing sufficient space for the children who are educated and cared for.
Element 3.1.2 Upkeep
- What regular safety checks are in place, as well as maintenance monitoring of the building and equipment.
Element 3.2.1 Inclusive environment
- How natural environments are valued at the service and plans for outdoor and indoor environments are given equal consideration.
Element 3.2.2 Resources support play-based learning
- How resources, materials and equipment are provided and arranged to support children’s play, exploration and investigations
- The way in which children are invited to choose resources.
Element 3.2.3 Environmentally responsible
- How children and educators are supported to engage with and respect the natural environment on a regular basis.
Many more examples of what authorised officers may observe, discuss and sight for each of the quality areas are in the Guide to the NQF.
Tip 4 – Language
It is important to ensure that the language you and your educators use during a visit is both authentic and makes reference to the language of the NQS. This helps demonstrate familiarity with the NQS and will show the authorised officer your service’s commitment to quality outcomes.
It can also be helpful to practice discussing your approach with words that emphasise the importance of children and families at your service and show collaboration, for example, using phrases such as:
- “Together with the children we discussed….”
- “Families were able to share their thoughts through…”
- “After the team reflected on this feedback we changed the way we…”
- “The children share their ideas by…”
- “The children and educators reflected on…..and together decided…”
- “Children and families are able to have input into decisions about…through…”
Confident and effective articulation of practice at your service’s assessment and rating visit is an attainable goal. An investment of time and the ongoing commitment of the entire team is certain to reap benefits.