Uncovering the layers of reflective practice: Part 1

During the month of June, We Hear You will be featuring a special three-part series exploring critical reflection – ‘Uncovering the layers of reflective practice’.

In the first instalment, we explore meaningful self-reflection, what this looks like in practice and the importance of the process not the product.  

Part 1: Self-reflection – The key to growth

We know being reflective educators allows for greater self-awareness, drives continuous improvement, improved outcomes for children and families, as well as being a feature of high quality education and care. We also acknowledge a culture of learning, reflection and continuous improvement are driven by effective leaders. A culture of learning is fostered in an organisation that empowers educators, promotes openness and trust, and reflects a space where people feel heard and valued.

Catherine Lee, the Director and Nominated Supervisor at The Point Preschool shares her thoughts on critical reflection.

Reflecting

We often hear educators ask ‘What am I supposed to be reflecting on?’ There are a range of professional standards educators can draw on to analyse their practice:

Considering the prompt questions from the approved learning frameworks can be useful tools to prompt more analytical thinking (Early Years Learning Framework, p. 13; Framework for School Age Care, p. 11). A great starting point or points to revisit regularly include:

  • What questions do I have about my work?
  • What am I challenged by?
  • What am I curious about?
  • What am I confronted by?

One way of ensuring meaningful self-reflection could be to discuss issues educators have been considering during performance review processes, opening up professional conversations at team meetings, and facilitating educators to affirm and challenge each other as a ‘critical friend’. Research by the University of Melbourne identifies key factors for supporting educators to critically reflect, allowing for deep reflection of their practice:

  • guidance and structure to allow for critical reflection and change
  • effective mentoring for additional resources and perspectives
  • adequate time and space
  • professional development opportunities.

Documenting

Another common question is ‘what do I need to record or document?’ When it comes to reflective practice, the most important aspect is that it is about ‘process not product’. It is about being able to articulate why and how you made decisions and changes. Documenting key decisions may occur in a variety of ways – in the program, in a reflective journal or diary, or in minutes of team meetings.

Documenting in this way has the potential to promote in educators a sense of responsibility and accountability for their self-reflection and professional development. At this level, you may prefer to keep your reflections private.

Effective communication skills are crucial to creating a positive culture of learning. As part of the self-reflection process, you may identify further learning and professional development is needed. This could be added to your individual development plans. However, not all learning needs to be formal, such as attending a workshop. There may be opportunities to build on people’s strengths through mentoring, sharing professional journals or by accessing learning online.

Questions for further reflection:

  • What opportunities are available for educators to reflect on their practice?
  • What opportunities are created for educators to discuss and identify achievements, issues, challenges?
  • How does self-reflection inform individual development plans?

Documentation – Are we there yet?

In this month’s We Hear You Blog, we encourage educators to develop confidence in their own decision making.  

Do you sometimes feel you’re on a never-ending quest to identify the best way to document the cycle of planning?

In the search for the ultimate template which specifies what to document and when, how will you know when you have arrived at the strategy that works best for your service, children, educators and community?

While there is a lot of guidance available to support providers, educational leaders and educators to make informed choices about meeting the requirements of the National Quality Framework (NQF), there is no magic template that will suit all educators, services and contexts.

Educators reflecting on their practice, who constantly strive to ‘do it right’, may ask questions such as ‘how much information is required and what methods should we use to collect information about children’s learning?’ There is often a call for a template or a list of ‘must haves’.

It is a myth that the answers to these questions might be found in a template or a prescriptive list.

A strength of the NQF is that it supports educators to feel empowered and develop confidence in their own professional judgement and decision making. One of the best ways to know if we are on the right track is to consider the outcomes of our practice for children and families.

The National Quality Standard (NQS) helps to focus on outcomes, and acknowledges all children as capable and competent learners. It requires educators to draw on their pedagogical knowledge, the legislative framework and quality standards, as well as the understanding they have of the children, families and communities within the unique context of the service.

The approved learning frameworks encourage educators to draw on their own skills, knowledge and understandings. In making professional judgements, they weave together their:

  • professional knowledge and skills
  • knowledge of children, families and communities
  • awareness of how their beliefs and values impact on children’s learning
  • personal styles and past experiences.

Educators also draw on their creativity, intuition and imagination to help them improvise and adjust their practice to suit the time, place and context of learning. (Early Years Learning Framework, p.5/ Framework for School Age Care, p.7)

So the answer isn’t in a template, but instead will be based on your knowledge of the National Law, National Regulations, NQS and the approved learning frameworks. It will involve discussing, questioning and reflecting as a team and considering how you are working to improve outcomes for all children, families and communities. This should be happening as a part of your service’s continuous improvement journey.

By adopting a more analytical approach it actually has a win-win effect. As educators develop confidence in their own professional judgement, they are more likely to critically reflect on and question statements like ‘this is the way we have to do it’ or ‘that’s the way we have always done it’.

Connecting with the intent and rationale behind practice assists in the process of articulating to families, the community and authorised officers, why and how professional judgements are made and how they support quality outcomes for children.

Further reading and resources    

Review and reflect on the new version of Early Childhood Australia’s Code of Ethics.

Unpacking the planning cycle: Part 3

During the month of September, We Hear You will be featuring a special three-part series exploring the ongoing planning cycle and documentation – ‘Unpacking the planning cycle’.

In the final instalment of our series, we close the loop on the planning cycle by returning to documentation and records, as well as the practice of evaluating children’s learning and wellbeing using the learning frameworks and educator guides.

Unpacking the planning cycle - blog graphic

Unpacking the planning cycle

Part 3: Closing the loop: Planning, implementing and evaluating

In part two of our series, we looked at Gathering meaningful information, questioning and interpreting the learning. We considered some questions to reflect on about the effectiveness of methods used to capture children’s strengths, interests and relationships over time and to consider whether Element 1.2.1 (Each child’s learning and development is assessed as part of an ongoing cycle of planning, documenting and evaluation) was visible in this process.

This article closes the loop of the planning cycle by returning to children’s records and evaluating children’s learning and wellbeing as well as reflecting on the effectiveness of pedagogy.

The learning frameworks emphasise assessing, planning and documenting children’s learning, development and wellbeing, enabling educators in partnership with children, families and other professionals to:

  • plan effectively for children’s current and future learning/wellbeing
  • communicate about children’s learning and progress
  • determine the extent to which all children are progressing toward realising learning outcomes and if not, what might be impeding their progress
  • identify children who may need additional support to achieve particular learning outcomes, providing that support or assisting families to access specialist help
  • evaluate the effectiveness of learning opportunities, environments and experiences offered and the approaches taken to enable children’s learning/ wellbeing
  • reflect on pedagogy that will suit this context and these children (Early Years Learning Framework, p.17/ Framework for School Age Care, p.16).

The Educator guides to the approved learning frameworks support educators to engage in the planning cycle, with a particular focus on completing the cycle by assessing and evaluating learning and wellbeing. This is a key component of the process and involves educator decision making about the educational program and practice. It involves setting goals and planning experiences, interactions and environments that build on children’s interests, abilities and identities in relation to the learning outcomes.

At this stage, it is helpful to revisit the series of vignettes from article two in this series, which presented examples across a range of different ages. Here, each example showcases a number of methods and techniques to collect information as well as the addition of goals, plans and the evaluation of learning and wellbeing.

unpacking-the-planning-cycle-part-3-fdc-case-study

unpacking-the-planning-cycle-part-3-bihn-case-study

unpacking-the-planning-cycle-part-3-oshc-case-study

Thoughts and ideas for your next team meeting:

  • Where are we in terms of our individual and collective team skills and knowledge about the planning cycle?
  • What does this mean for individual and collective professional development plans?

Resources and further reading

Early Childhood Australia – Planning and documentation video series

Gowrie – Early Years Learning framework –  Assessing children’s learning

ACECQA – Cycle of planning

We hope you have found this blog series informative, thought provoking and a catalyst for quality improvement. If you would like to further investigate Quality Area 1, the webcast of the ACECQA National Workshop Educational program and practice is a great place to start. It provides information and resources, as well as prompts for educators to reflect on their professional development needs.

Read the complete series:

Part 1: Why do we document? Thinking through the what and the how of the cycle of planning for children’s learning, wellbeing and development

Part 2: Gathering meaningful information, questioning and interpreting the learning

Part 3: Closing the loop: Planning, implementing and evaluating

Unpacking the planning cycle: Part 2

During the month of September, We Hear You will be featuring a special three-part series exploring the ongoing planning cycle and documentation – ‘Unpacking the planning cycle’.

In this second instalment, we extend our discussion about documentation to consider the information you are collecting and the way it is used to understand and add value to learning outcomes for children.

Unpacking the planning cycle - blog graphic

Unpacking the planning cycle

Part 2: Gathering meaningful information, questioning and interpreting the learning

In our last instalment, we looked at Why do we document? Thinking through the what and the how of the cycle of planning for children’s learning, wellbeing and development. We left you with some questions to reflect on how you document, plan and critically reflect on children’s learning/wellbeing in relation to Element 1.2.1: Each child’s learning and development is assessed as part of an ongoing cycle of planning, documenting and evaluation.

The Guide to the National Quality Standard highlights what the National Quality Standard (NQS) aims to achieve with this Element:

Educators use a variety of strategies to collect, document, organise, synthesise and interpret the information that they gather to assess children’s learning. They search for appropriate ways to collect rich and meaningful information that depicts children’s learning in context, describes their progress and identifies their strengths, skills and understandings (p. 38).

ACECQA’s Using the early years planning cycle takes educators through the process of critical reflection, providing practice examples as well as linking the planning cycle back to service philosophy.

In part two we ask you to consider the information you are collecting, how meaningful it is and the way it is analysed and used to interpret each child’s learning. It is important to remember the reason you are collecting information – it needs to add value to outcomes for children.

The following series of vignettes present examples across a range of different ages. Below each case study are questions to encourage educators to focus on the meaningful aspects that might inform the planning cycle. They showcase a range of methods and techniques of collecting information as well as questions and ideas to draw out learning. Remember, there is no one way of documenting – these vignettes are presented as just one example of the planning cycle.

unpacking-the-planning-cycle-part-2-fdc-case-study

Questioning and interpreting the learning:

  • What does this information tell us about the way children under three learn?
  • How does this learning affect the way we plan opportunities and environments?
  • How can we further support Jade in transferring and adapting learning and support her agency and interactions?

unpacking-the-planning-cycle-part-2-bihn-case-study

Questioning and interpreting the learning:

  • What does this information tell us about Bihn‘s sense of belonging, connectedness and wellbeing?
  • How can we build on the knowledge and understandings that Bihn has developed?
  • How can we support Bihn’s increasing capacity for self-regulation and provide opportunities for him to engage independently with tasks and play?

unpacking-the-planning-cycle-part-2-oshc-case-study

Questioning and interpreting the learning:

  • How can we support these children to find effective ways of communicating their concerns and to collaborate with others?
  • In what ways are we supporting children’s understanding of interdependence and how can we facilitate this sense of ownership and belonging within the program?

Thoughts and ideas for your next team meeting:

  • How do we know what is meaningful information and what is not?
  • How effective are your processes for capturing and recording information about children’s strengths, interests, relationships and learning over a period of time?

Resources and further reading

Child Australia – Effective Curriculum Planning and Documentation Methods in Education and Care Services

Early Childhood Australia – Case studies: Documenting children’s learning and development

ACECQA – We Hear You – How we document: Albury Out of School Hours Care

Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework: Practice Principle Guide – Assessment for Learning and Development

Read the complete series:

Part 1: Why do we document? Thinking through the what and the how of the cycle of planning for children’s learning, wellbeing and development

Part 2: Gathering meaningful information, questioning and interpreting the learning

Part 3: Closing the loop: Planning, implementing and evaluating

Unpacking the planning cycle: Part 1

During the month of September, We Hear You will be featuring a special three-part series exploring the ongoing planning cycle and documentation – ‘Unpacking the planning cycle’.

In the first instalment, we consider the challenges and requirements of Quality Area 1 and Element 1.2.1 and the why, what and how of planning for children’s learning, wellbeing and development.

Unpacking the planning cycle - blog graphic

Unpacking the planning cycle

Many educators are finding Element 1.2.1 – Each child’s learning and development is assessed as part of an ongoing cycle of planning, documenting and evaluation – one of the most challenging, according to national assessment and rating data analysis.

Is it because educators struggle to articulate practice and why we document? Or could it be that they are not sure about what is required in relation to Quality Area 1: Educational Program and Practice? Or is it a question of not being sure about how to assess children’s learning and development as part of a cycle of planning?

We hear from some educators that, at times, they feel documentation is onerous and time consuming. ACECQA is keen to share examples of practice such as those showcased in EYLF in Action: Educators’ stories and models for practice and celebrate the wonderful work that educators are doing to contribute to children’s learning and wellbeing. We recognise there is a wide variety of experience within our readership and we encourage you to engage with the Educators’ Guide to the Early Years Learning Framework and Educators’ Guide to the Framework for School Age Care to take a deeper look at the planning cycle involving questioning philosophy and theory.

Over the course of the next few ACECQA blog posts, we will present a series to assist in unpacking and clarifying the requirements of the National Quality Framework (NQF), revisiting and building familiarity with legislative requirements under Quality Area 1. We hope this series will be used by educators to feel empowered and increase their knowledge and understanding of the requirements of the National Quality Standard (NQS) in relation to Element 1.2.1 and the cycle of planning in particular.

Part 1: Why do we document? Thinking through the what and the how of the cycle of planning for children’s learning, wellbeing and development

When we think about planning, we should be thinking about the full planning cycle and keep in mind that documentation is only one part of that process. The focus should be on gathering, analysing and interpreting information that is:

  • rich and meaningful, and not simply a description of what children are doing
  • relevant to individual children, while capturing their identity, culture and what they are investigating and exploring
  • focused on achievements and children’s strengths, what children know, can do and understand.

Often we hear about educators, nominated supervisors and approved providers being caught up in the myth of what documentation and the planning cycle should look like rather than knowing or understanding the requirements. While these are not new concepts, for some, the purpose of documentation may have been lost along the way.

Let’s revisit why it is important to engage in the cycle of planning, starting with the requirements of the NQS. Quality Area 1 and Standard 1.2 especially require educators and coordinators to be focused, active and reflective in designing and delivering the program for each child. This involves a wide range of practices including:

  • observing children and gathering meaningful information about children’s current knowledge, identity and culture to assess their learning and progress, a crucial step in planning meaningful learning experiences
  • interpreting the learning and setting goals for individual and group learning
  • involving families in decision making
  • planning for further learning that supports children as capable, competent people with agency and the ability to make choices and decisions
  • engaging with the principles, practices and outcomes of approved learning frameworks
  • critically reflecting on children’s learning and development in a collaborative way with colleagues to affirm and challenge practices.

Now let’s move to what is required under Quality Area 1 to inform the planning cycle.

The Education and Care Services National Law requires services to deliver a program that is based on an approved learning framework and takes into account the learning needs and interests of each child (Section 168). Assessments or evaluations are also expected to support the delivery of the program for children according to the Education and Care Services National Regulations.

For children preschool age and under the focus is on:

  • assessments of developmental needs, interests, experiences, participation and progress against the outcomes of the program (Regulation 74(1a)).

For school age children the focus is on:

  • evaluation of the child’s wellbeing, development and learning (Regulation 74(1b)).

In either case, the amount of documentation depends on how often and for how long children attend a service (Regulation 74(2a)). The program must be displayed (Regulation 75a) and information about the content, operation and the child’s participation must be provided to parents on request (Regulation 76).

The Early Years Learning Framework in Action: Educators’ stories and models for practice provides a wide range of examples and techniques for recording and documenting the planning cycle, including journals, jottings, electronic records and online programs.

In thinking about why we plan and document the way we do, you might want to consider the following questions at your next team meeting.

Thoughts and ideas for your next team meeting:

  • How do you currently document and why do you do it the way you do?
  • What theories inform the ways you organise your documentation? (Refer to the Educators’ Guide to the Early Years Learning Framework, 54-57 and Educators’ Guide to the Framework for School Age Care, p.21-24.)
  • How have you critically reflected on and evaluated the program?

Resources and further reading

ACECQA – Occasional Paper 1 – Educational Program and Practice: An analysis of Quality Area 1 of the National Quality Standard

ACECQA – Information sheet: Guidelines for documenting children’s learning

ACECQA – We Hear You – ACECQA helps unlock the door on documentation

Read the complete series:

Part 1: Why do we document? Thinking through the what and the how of the cycle of planning for children’s learning, wellbeing and development

Part 2: Gathering meaningful information, questioning and interpreting the learning

Part 3: Closing the loop: Planning, implementing and evaluating

How we document – Albury Out of School Hours

Educator Will Nichols , Tilly Mitchener and other Children votingV2This month, Cathy Northam, Director of Albury Out of School Hours (OOSH) writes about her team’s innovative approach to documentation, reminding us there are many ways to approach this responsibility.

My colleagues and I had a light bulb moment when we sat down to review the documentation policy for our service. We felt the diverse and transient nature of out of school hours care required a different approach to the documentation framework used in long day care.

We asked ourselves: What does documentation in OOSH look like? Is what we record relevant and how can we improve it?

Once we stopped to think about the ‘how’ and ‘why’, we were able to identify a method of documentation that works for our children and their families.

At Albury OOSH we have a strong focus on respecting children’s rights, particularly a child’s right to have an opinion and be heard, and a child’s right to privacy. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child underpins our work and we consult with both children and families on documentation requirements.

Children at Albury OOSH can choose how to document their time here and if they don’t want to participate in projects, they are free to tell us. We do this by formal discussions, conference and democratic voting. These processes allow the children’s voices to be heard.

So, how do we meet our NQF requirements and honour our children’s rights? This is a question that we continue to think hard about as we change, refine and develop new ways of encouraging children’s growth while ensuring we document our own journey and show the meaningful collaboration, documentation and reflective practice.

Our approach

Taking a holistic view of each child and what they bring to OOSH is fundamental in how we support them. Our current documentation process consists of the following practices:

  • Use of a staff-only diary that documents significant events for individual children each day. This usually relates to social and emotional development. Each Friday we discuss the entries of three or four children and work on consistent strategies for the team and individual child. We also focus on opportunities for “teachable moments” as outlined in My Time Our Place. We’ve found this helps us in communicating with families around how to support their child.
  • Once or twice a term we document a learning story (as described in the My Time Our Place Educators’ Guide). These are written in collaboration with the child and are a significant piece of documentation. We try to select and reflect something that has made educators and parents go ‘wow’. One example is the invention and self-umpiring of group games that the children run themselves. Another example is the ‘Welcome to OOSH’ Video Project. Read more about our video project below.
  • Our weekly reflective diary documents the children’s experiences from the week in text and photo form, linking to the Outcomes in My Time Our Place. An example is documenting the children in Year 5 supporting and playing with our new Kindergarten children. This may be the only thing we reflect for the week, but over a term we cover all the outcomes and most of the children.
  • Each year we have two celebrations that our children help organise – winter solstice and an end of year performance. The children plan and direct these events with our support. We document these events in a variety of ways, using art work, invitations, notices and video.

We also have art work, messages, projects and other historical works of the children displayed at our service. When they walk into Albury OOSH, children and families can see their changing lives reflected in our space.

If there is one last idea that may help other educators, it’s to reflect deeply on how and why you do things and note the children’s ideas and interests. Every service is unique. Remember to listen to the children’s opinions on what they feel is acceptable and how you can best document their time. If you can do this, then you will aid the success of your documentation plan.

Case Study: Welcome to OOSH video project

Cathy shares a learning story that captures the children’s creativity and develops their connection to Albury OOSH. 

The biggest project for the children has been the development of an orientation video to introduce new children to the service. We felt the children who start with us mid-year often receive less of an orientation experience than those who start at the beginning of the year.

Our Year 4 girls expressed a keen interest in drama and acting activities and were keen to get involved. They drafted a script and story board for how they saw the video working. They asked the other children what they thought was the most important thing to know ‘child to child’ about coming to OOSH.

The video covered everything that the girls scripted and a lot more. Overall, we recorded more than an hour of footage.

The children were very excited to see themselves in the video. They made small changes to make it more appealing to the target audience and everyone was amazed with the product.

The project supported the children’s interest in drama and video production, and linked to Outcome 4 in the Framework for School Age Care (page 32). Children were able to freely follow their interests, investigate their own ideas, take control and make their own choices. They demonstrated leadership and direction, and persevered with the task until they were satisfied with the finished product.

ACECQA helps unlock the door on documentation

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Our National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone, looks at documenting learning, provides some pointers for educators and helps bust some of the surrounding myths.

The issue of planning, documenting and evaluating children’s learning and the best ways of recording this cycle has been the subject of much debate and discussion during the more than two decades that I have been involved in children’s education and care.

We know from research and experience that documented plans, records of children’s assessments and evaluations can be effective strategies to promote and extend children’s thinking, learning and development.

One of the strengths of the approved learning frameworks[1], the National Quality Standard and related regulatory standards, is that while acknowledging the important role of documentation, they are not prescriptive about how it is done.

There are no mandated recipes or templates for documentation and for very good reason. Recognising the uniqueness of each service, there is no one-size-fits-all approach and educators are empowered to explore a range of styles and methods to determine what works best for their children, families, services and community.

This approach recognises the professionalism of the sector and allows educators to focus their energies on documentation that supports quality outcomes for children.

I recently visited a colleague delivering a kindergarten program in regional Victoria, and saw first-hand the professionalism, dedication and commitment to the children and their families. We spoke for many hours about the kindergarten program, the policies, the environment and the nature garden, the support for children and families provided by her team of dedicated and caring educators and committee members, among many other things.

We also discussed the challenges of balancing the need to document with our key focus of interacting and engaging with children and extending their learning. We agreed on a number of things relating to documentation that included:

  • Documentation is an important part of our work with children and families, not just because it is a requirement
  • Children’s voices and ideas should be captured in planning, documentation and evaluation
  • Even experienced educators need to try different methods to find what is realistic, achievable and relevant for the children, families, educators, the setting and establish some benchmarks that are regularly reviewed
  • We need to be selective in what we choose to document, because it is not possible to capture all of the rich experiences and learnings that occur every day
  • We need to share our documentation efforts and experiences, and continue to learn, grow and develop
  • We need to constantly review and remind ourselves why we are documenting and for whom
  • We need to be clear about what the standards, learning frameworks and, if relevant, the funding agreements are asking us to do, as there are a number of myths emerging.

We also agreed that being open, honest and critically reflective in our self-assessment process and work helps to identify strengths in this area as well as identifying areas that need focus. This helps in identifying and informing families, other educators and professionals and authorised officers, how your documentation meets requirements and promotes each child’s learning and development.

My colleague’s service has just been assessed and rated and I was not surprised to learn they had received an overall rating of Exceeding National Quality Standard. The team are highly reflective educators and the authorised officer would have no doubt observed this in the assessment process.

So let’s revisit why we need to document, look at how services are going with this quality area, unpack some of the myths, explore the place of templates and programs, think about what the authorised officers might be looking for in an assessment visit and consider what resources are available to assist.

Why do we need to document?

Gathering and analysing information about what children know, can do and understand is part of the ongoing cycle that includes planning, documenting and evaluating children’s learning. It helps educators (in partnership with children, families and other professionals) to:

  • Plan effectively for children’s current and future learning
  • Communicate about children’s learning and progress
  • Determine the extent to which all children are progressing in their learning outcomes and if not, what might be impeding their progress
  • Identify children who may need additional support in order to achieve particular learning outcomes, providing that support or assisting families to access specialist help
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of learning opportunities, environments, and experiences offered, and the approaches taken to enable children’s learning
  • Reflect on pedagogy that will suit this context and these children.[2]

How are services performing against Quality Area 1 – Educational Program and practice?

The sector is to be congratulated for embracing the National Quality Framework (NQF) and the dedication and commitment shown to promoting positive outcomes for children and families.

While recent NQF Snapshot data shows most assessed and rated services are either Meeting or Exceeding the NQS in Quality Area 1 about 30 per cent are Working Towards NQS in this quality area.

This is recognised as the area where services require most support and ACECQA’s recent regulatory burden research has shown that documenting learning, although extremely valuable, is seen as one of the more time consuming aspects of the NQF.

Unpacking the myths

There are a number of myths circulating about the expectations for documentation, and the best way to do this is to number plans and records or to colour code them. For example, it is a myth that you need to write a report on every child, every day.

Another is that links must be drawn to the quality areas in plans and documentation, and the best way to do this is to number plans and research or to colour code them.

There are a number of websites (including ACECQA and Early Childhood Australia) and newsletter articles (for example Rattler editions 108 and 109) that de-bunk or bust these myths that you may want to review.

Do I need a template or a program to follow?

There are no mandated templates or programs for documenting children’s learning or educational experiences.

While templates and programs may be a helpful way to organise information, there is a risk that they can be limiting and as Wendy Shepherd, Director of Mia Mia Child and Family Centre at Macquarie University suggests in a recent article in the Autumn 2014 edition of Rattler magazine, there are no shortcuts and the complex process of documentation should not be reduced to a simple ‘fill-in-box’.

The reality is that mandating a certain way of documenting, for example the number of observations you must take of each child, would limit your ability to be creative in documenting the richness in the program and children’s learning.

There are many ways to document children’s learning and the cycle of observing, planning, reflecting and evaluating. Some examples I have seen include reflective journals, photographs, videos, children’s work, observations, portfolios, narratives and learning stories to name a few.

The key thing to remember is that it is not the amount of documentation you have, or how immaculately or colourfully the information is presented, it is how the documentation is used to do all those things mentioned previously, such as planning effectively for children’s current and future learning and communicating about the children’s learning and progress.

What is the authorised officer looking for when they are assessing and rating?

The authorised officer will observe, discuss and sight supporting documentation to identify examples and evidence that your service is meeting the requirements. So it is important to be prepared by thinking about how you would talk about your documentation and what you particularly would like to show and discuss to demonstrate how you are meeting the requirements.

The Guide to the National Quality Standard provides examples, however, it is important to remember that the examples provided are not a checklist, but rather ‘paint a picture’ of what is expected at the Meeting National Quality Standard level.

Are there resources and examples of documentation available?

Many educators have generously shared their thoughts and ideas about documentation. For example, the Early Childhood Australia Professional Learning Program includes a number of newsletters that explore documentation and provide examples.

Another example can be found in the previously mentioned edition of Rattler where teachers from Mia Mia share examples of their documentation.

In addition, the Inclusion and Professional Support Program (IPSP) online library also includes resources, and the Professional Support Co-ordinator in each state and territory provide professional development and support in this area. Your peak organisation is also likely to have resources and professional development available to assist you.

As well as the learning frameworks the Early Years Learning Framework in Action and relevant Educator’s Guides are useful resources.

Enjoy your documentation journey and don’t forget to look back on your documentation to identify and celebrate the achievement and successes of your children, your families and your team. 

For more information on documentation please visit:

This article was originally published in the Early Learning Association Australia’s Preschool Matters magazine.

[1]The Early Years Learning Framework and the Framework for School Age Care and in Victoria, the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework

[2] Early Years Learning Framework and the Framework for School Age Care (p.17)