Agency in practice

 ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone provides insight into National Quality Framework topics of interest.

The Early Years Learning Framework and the Framework for School Age Care define children’s agency as ‘being able to make choices and decisions, to influence events and to have an impact on one’s world’ (EYLF p45 and FSAC p41). So what does agency mean for children who attend early childhood services?

Children’s agency is based on the idea that all children:

  • are capable of making choices and decisions
  • can initiate and lead their own learning
  • have a right to participate in decisions that affect them.

In promoting agency, educators enable children with real choices and support them to make decisions about how they participate. Children’s participation is encouraged by shared understandings and collaboration between adults and children.

For educators to support agency they must be aware of the capabilities and interests of the children they work with. Children are competent, capable learners when they are fully engaged and supported to participate in meaningful learning experiences that follow their interests. These experiences can be planned or spontaneous.

Educators can design open-ended learning environments with children, setting up activities of interest together and sharing the outcomes from these activities. This can be as simple as providing a range of materials for children to use as they choose.

For toddlers, as they move towards independence, educators can support agency by offering them real choices in activities and routines. For example, toddlers can participate in preparing and serving morning tea to themselves and others.

Under the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child, children have a right to be active participants in all matters affecting their lives. Children with agency develop strong dispositions for learning. They are more:

  • confident in making decisions about their learning
  • able to work successfully with other children in a variety of situations
  • able to persist when there are challenges
  • able to communicate their ideas with adults and their peers.

In some jurisdictions the educator to child ratios are changing and these improved ratios have the potential to provide greater opportunities for educators to give more individual attention to children and support their agency and educational outcomes. Information about ratio changes coming into effect in 2016 is available here.

Children actively explore and make sense of their world from birth. By ‘viewing children as active participants and decision makers opens up possibilities … to move beyond pre-conceived expectations about what children can do and learn’ (EYLF p9, FSAC p7).

Reflecting on your practice, how do educators at your service:

  • encourage children’s agency through meaningful interactions?
  • include children’s perspectives?
  • work with children as co-constructors of curriculum?

 

Using the AEDC to support transition

ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone provides insight into National Quality Framework topics of interest.


A positive transition to school is one of the most important journeys a child will make. In fact, research has shown that children’s initial social and academic successes at school can be crucial to their future progress.*

Strong social abilities such as self-regulation, self-help skills, and being a confident learner maximise children’s opportunities for a successful transition to the school environment. Positive and collaborative relationships with children, families, educators, teachers and relevant community representatives are also crucial. This includes appropriate information sharing and relationship building.

Early childhood educators are well placed to contribute to a child’s success at school by supporting all areas of their learning and development and focusing on building strong, responsive relationships.

A new resource which can support educators is the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC).

This is a data snapshot that measures children’s development in their first year of school. The data is collected against five domains and measures whether children are developmentally ‘on track’, ‘at risk’ or ‘vulnerable’ in terms of meeting developmental milestones.

The Early Years Learning Framework outcomes and National Quality Standard align closely with the AEDC domains. This means that when educators are effectively implementing the National Quality Framework, they are also supporting children to meet the AEDC domains.

The AEDC acts as a common language between early childhood services, schools, families and other professionals. Educators can use it to discuss how children are progressing against the domains, where additional support is needed and to plan collectively to meet these needs.

Early Childhood Australia and the Queensland Government Department of Education and Training have developed a suite of free AEDC resources to support the use of AEDC data.

*Fabian, H & Dunlop, A-W. (2006). Outcomes of Good Practice in Transition Process for Children Entering Primary School. Paper commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2007, Strong Foundations: Early Childhood Care and Education. UNESCO

 

 

 

Reconciliation, what is it?

ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone provides insight into National Quality Framework topics of interest.

Reconciliation is about improving relationships between Australian Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians. Educators have the potential to make a significant difference in reconciliation through their work with children, families and the community.

Working towards reconciliation involves commitment to continued learning about Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and our shared histories. It is inspiring and reassuring to see educators across Australia committing to ongoing learning, critical reflection and building cultural competence in themselves and in children.

Upcoming events

As an educator, it is important to strengthen knowledge and form mutually supportive and respectful relationships with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members. National Reconciliation Week (NRW) and National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week present great opportunities to learn more and get involved in the local community.

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is celebrated nationwide from 27 May to 3 June. During NRW we have the opportunity to unite and reflect on our shared histories and the differences we can make towards reconciliation. For information and to get involved, visit the Reconciliation Australia website.

NAIDOC week celebrations will be held across Australia on 5 July to 12 July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The theme for NAIDOC week in 2015 is ‘We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and Celebrate’. Visit the NAIDOC website for more information.

The role of the Educational Leader


 ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone provides insight into National Quality Framework topics of interest.

The educational leader has an influential role in inspiring, motivating, affirming and also challenging or extending the practice and pedagogy of educators. It is a joint endeavour involving inquiry and reflection, which can significantly impact on the important work educators do with children and families.

With the introduction of the role, a number of myths have emerged. One of these is that the educational leader must complete all of the programming for all educators. This is a very narrow and prescriptive view of this important role.

The National Quality Standard (NQS) primarily deals with the role of the educational leader through Quality Area 7 – leadership and management. But neither the NQS nor the regulatory standards are prescriptive about the qualifications, experience, skills or role description for the person chosen to be the educational leader. There is a very good reason for this. The flexibility of these provisions allows approved providers to choose the best person in the service to take on this role.

When designating an educational leader, consideration needs to be given to whether the person is:

  • suitably qualified and experienced
  • willing to make time for the role and eager to learn more
  • approachable and well respected
  • knowledgeable about theories, pedagogy and the relevant learning frameworks
  • skilled at supporting educators of varying abilities and learning styles
  • knowledgeable about the NQS and related regulatory standards

The most effective educational leader views their role as collegial. They seek to play an integral role in mentoring, guiding and supporting educators. Some roles of the educational leader include:

  • promoting understanding of the approved learning framework
  • keeping up to date with current research/resources and sharing these
  • exploring opportunities for professional development
  • helping educators to understand and implement policies and procedures
  • encouraging educators to reflect on their practice
  • discussing ways to demonstrate the service is meeting the standards.

If you have been chosen as the educational leader in your service, congratulations on being selected for this important role and enjoy this journey of learning and growing with your team.

Further reading and resources 
Early Childhood Australia Newsletter 33: The educational leader

Early Childhood Australia E-learning video, Talking About Practice (TAPS): The role of the educational leader
IPSP online library: The distributive leadership model by Ros Cornish
IPSP online library: Pedagogical Leadership: Exploring New Terrain and Provocations by Anthony Semann and Rod Soper in Reflections issue 47
Laurie Kelly (Mindworks) video: Leadership in education and care
Discussions about the educational leader role

Documentation

ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone provides insight into National Quality Framework topics of interest.

Planning, documenting and evaluating children’s learning has long been the topic of debate and discussion, certainly in the 30 years I have been involved in education and care.

The evidence of the value of documentation is clear, however a question that is often asked is, ‘How do we document, and how much is enough?’ One of the strengths of the National Quality Framework is how it emphasises the importance of documentation in promoting and extending children’s thinking, learning and development. It does not however, go into precise detail on how it should be done.

While templates may be helpful in organising information, the risk is that templates can also be limiting or sometimes cause unnecessary administrative burden. It is important to remember there are no mandated templates or programs for documenting, and for very good reason.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to documentation and educators are encouraged to explore a range of styles and methods to determine what works best for their children, families, service and community.

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.

It is important to review and reflect on why and what we are documenting. The Early Years Learning Framework (p. 17) and Framework for School Age Care (p. 16) identify the reasons we assess/evaluate children’s learning, development and participation. It is important to remember that it is not the amount of documentation or how colourfully it is presented, but rather how it is used to support children’s engagement, learning and development.

There are numerous resources available that explore the role of documentation and provide further insights and ideas on a diversity of ways to document. 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.

Further reading and resources

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

ACECQA – Forum panel discussion video – Incorporating cultural competence in everyday practice