The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 5

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

A statement of philosophy guides all aspects of your service operations and your approach to achieving quality outcomes for children and families. But how can this statement be a living document that is the foundation for continuous improvement every day? In this final instalment, we wrap up the series by exploring the connection between your service philosophy and self-assessment and quality improvement processes.  

Part 5: A philosophy of continuous improvement

A statement of philosophy, which guides all aspects of a service’s operations, is a requirement under Element 7.1.1 of the National Quality Standard (NQS). The National Regulations (Regulation 55) further require the approved provider of an education and care service to ensure the service Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) links to a statement of the philosophy of service.

Your service’s statement of philosophy should be a living document used in daily experience, setting the foundation for your approach to achieving quality outcomes for children. It should be used in daily practice and clearly guide your decision making and service practice – outlining the purpose and principles under which your service operates. Further, it should reflect the unique ‘personality’ of your service and incorporate the beliefs, goals, commitments, aspirations and intentions of those who belong to your service community. This service philosophy should also express a shared understanding of the role of the service with educators, children, families and the community.

The 2018 NQS provides an opportunity to think through your service philosophy and actively consider the extent to which it references quality improvement and/or speaks to the intent and importance of self-assessment and quality improvement processes within your service. It is also an opportunity to reflect on how your service self-assessment and quality improvement practices are informed by the philosophy and how well this is understood in your service community. You may also look at the introduction of the 2018 NQS as a chance to reflect on how your service philosophy advocates more widely for the profession and the provision of quality education and care.


Tip
: In making decisions about operating education and care services and working to achieve the National Quality Standard to improve quality at services, the guiding principles of the National Quality Framework (NQF) apply. The guiding principles of the NQF can be found on pages 10-11 of the Guide to the National Quality Framework or section 3(3) of the National Law.

Your service philosophy should also reflect the approved learning framework/s that guide curriculum decision-making and inform educational program and practice.

 

Questions for consideration:

  • How is your service philosophy used to inform decision making, build commitment and align actions with your self-assessment and quality improvement priorities, goals and outcomes? How do your practices match your philosophy?
  • Is your service philosophy statement a living document that reflects the views, values and beliefs of current management, educators, children, families and the service community regarding quality, self-assessment, best practice and the commitment to continuous quality improvement? How often is it reviewed?
  • How accessible is your service’s statement of philosophy? Is it visible and made available to your service community, such as induction processes for all staff members, orientation processes for families, on the service website?
  • What messages does your philosophy communicate to the broader community about the importance of self-assessment and continuous quality improvement in providing quality outcomes for children and the importance of quality education and care more generally?

~o~

I hope this series has provided you with useful and practical ideas, prompts and resources to support and strengthen your self-assessment and quality improvement planning processes. It is important to recognise and remember these processes reflect the uniqueness of your service and are shaped by your meaningful and collaborative relationships with children, families and communities.

 

Read the complete series:

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 1

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 2

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 3

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 4

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 5

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 2

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

In the first instalment of this series, I explored the role of critical reflection in supporting and strengthening self-assessment and quality improvement planning processes. In this next part, I want to focus on the way professional collaboration can strengthen and inform both of these processes.

Part 2: Professional collaboration – Together we can achieve so much  

The importance of promoting a positive organisational culture and professional learning community built on a spirit of collegiality and trusting, respectful relationships is well recognised in the National Quality Standard (NQS). Likewise, professional collaboration, building shared professional knowledge and active participation in a ‘lively culture of professional inquiry’ are acknowledged in the NQS, the approved learning frameworks and the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) Code of Ethics, as fundamental to supporting continuous quality improvement.

While the National Regulations (Regulations 55 and 56) require the approved provider of an education and care service to prepare, review and revise a Quality Improvement Plan (QIP), it is not expected that the provider be solely responsible for all the work, decisions or outcomes. Rather, self-assessment and quality improvement processes should be a shared and collaborative process engaging everyone: the approved provider, nominated supervisor, services’ leaders and management, co-ordinators, educational leaders, educators and other service staff. Your service’s journey of self-assessment and quality improvement should also provide an opportunity for collaboration with and input from children, families and the community (which I will explore further in my next instalment).

Implementing the 2018 NQS provides an opportunity to consider how your self-assessment and quality improvement processes:

  • support the development of shared visions and goals
  • foster and sustain a culture of collaborative professional inquiry
  • empower educators by instilling a sense of ownership and shared accountability.

You might also consider how your service’s self-assessment and quality improvement processes support your team to articulate professional values, knowledge and practice, and assist in building confidence regarding the changes to the National Quality Framework (NQF) and what these mean for service practice and continuous quality improvement.

Questions for consideration:

  • How are the views and suggestions of all members of your service team used to support self-assessment and the development and review of quality improvement plans? What are some of the challenges to involvement that you have faced?
  • How does your service create and sustain a ‘lively culture of professional inquiry’ that contributes to continuous improvement? Are there regular opportunities for self-assessment and quality improvement discussions?
  • How do you develop a strengths-based approach to self-assessment and quality improvement planning that recognises the diverse skills, capabilities and experiences of all team members and supports a sense of shared responsibility? Are there opportunities for various team members to be ‘QIP champions’ responsible for aspects of quality improvement goals?
  • Are all team members aware of the strengths and quality improvement goals and strategies identified in your service QIP? Is the intent and vision of your quality improvement goals clear and able to be communicated by all team members? Are these discussed at team and/or planning meetings?

~o~

Following on from these professional conversations, the next instalment in the series will explore the meaningful collaborations and engagement with families and the community, and the way they can shape your quality improvement processes.

 

Read the complete series:

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 1

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 2

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 3

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 4

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 5

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 1

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

We know a comprehensive process of critical reflection, self-assessment and evaluation, along with a commitment to continuous quality improvement, is essential in contributing to and enhancing quality outcomes for children. But how often do we take time to reflect on the effectiveness and intent of our self-assessment and quality improvement practices? 

In a sector that recognises the importance of high quality education and care and is driven by a focus on raising continuous quality improvement, it is appropriate that the changes to the National Law and Regulations* and the introduction of the 2018 National Quality Standard (NQS) merit an opportunity for services to reflect, review, update and enhance their self-assessment and quality improvement planning processes and arrangements.

In this series, we explore five ideas to support and strengthen your self-assessment and quality improvement planning processes building on the ideas and the 2018 NQS self-assessment strategies discussed in the February ACECQA Newsletter.  This first instalment will provide a starting point,  and offer practical support to guide reflective practice, spark professional conversation and identify ‘where to next’ actions.

*Changes to the National Law and Regulations came into effect on 1 October 2017 in all states and territories (except Western Australia, which will commence by 1 October 2018). The 2018 NQS and related changes commenced on 1 February 2018 across all states and territories.

Part 1: Critical reflection – Take a brief look back to pave a path forward

Rear Admiral and pioneering computing scientist, Grace Murray Hopper, stated that the most dangerous phrase in our language is: ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ A key strength of the NQS is the way it supports education and care services to commit to best practice and engage in ongoing critical reflection and self-assessment to inform professional judgements and drive continuous quality improvement. Educators are encouraged to stop, reflect and rethink the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of their practice and consider ‘why’ they do things in particular ways. This assists in assessing the effectiveness of current practices and analysing what might be changed or improved. It also has the potential to enrich decision making and provide opportunities to explore new ideas and approaches.

The 2018 NQS represents an opportunity for education and care services to consider the efficiency and effectiveness of existing self-assessment and quality improvement practices. It is an opportunity to identify the implementation of successful strategies and celebrate the achievement of goals as well as acknowledge what has proved challenging and/or confronting. Reflecting on previous self-assessment and continuous improvement processes can provide the impetus for change and is an important step in paving an informed path towards continuous quality improvement and improved outcomes for children and families.

Questions for consideration:

  • How does your service undertake self-assessment, decide what is being done well and identify areas where quality improvements could be made? Is self-assessment an ongoing, regular and systematic process? If not, how could practice be adapted?
  • How is feedback from children, families, community representatives and critical friends invited and incorporated?
  • How does your service prioritise areas for quality improvement and identify goals that will enhance the quality of children’s and families’ experiences? What processes exist to monitor goals and regularly review progress?
  • What information, resources and guidance currently inform and assist your service’s self-assessment and quality improvement practices? For example, how are the Guide to the National Quality Framework, National Law and Regulations, approved learning frameworks, and the Exceeding NQS guidance for standards being used in your service?
  • Are there opportunities to streamline processes and integrate other service plans (such as the Strategic Inclusion Plan, Reconciliation Action Plan) into your service Quality Improvement Plan?


Tip
: You may also like to refer to the questions, included in the Guide to the National Quality Framework, to guide reflection for Standard 7.2 – Leadership. The guide to practice for Element 7.2.1 – Continuous Improvement, which describes how the element might be put into practice at the service and how the element may be assessed, may also be a helpful reference to for professional discussions at your service.

Refer to the Assessment and rating chapter of the Guide to the National Quality Framework for further guidance on the self-assessment and quality improvement and planning process available on the ACECQA website.

 

In my next instalment, I will explore how professional collaboration and ‘a lively culture of professional inquiry’ can strengthen and inform your self-assessment and quality improvement processes. Additional questions will be provided to further stimulate critical thinking and build on your professional conversations.

 

Read the complete series:

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 1

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 2

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 3

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 4

The cycle of self-assessment and continuous improvement: What do you need to consider? Part 5

Thinking about applying for the Excellent rating?

We regularly hear of exceptional practice occurring in education and care services however when speaking with educators and providers, many are unsure of what it takes to be rated Excellent by ACECQA. In this We Hear You post, ACECQA provides advice on applying for the rating and we hear tips from the Director of an Excellent rated service, Megan Dodds of KU Corrimal East Preschool.

Services rated Exceeding National Quality Standard (NQS) overall are eligible to apply to ACECQA for the highest quality rating – the Excellent rating.

Many of these services are delivering exceptional practice but are hesitant to apply for the Excellent rating, thinking the application process involves a lot of work. While this might be a common first impression, the process needn’t be as time-consuming and complex as you may think. The truly hard work lies in the delivery of exceptional practice.

Choosing to apply for the Excellent rating may involve some internal discussions and as Megan from KU Corrimal East Preschool describes, getting started is a time for reflection.

Once a service has decided to apply, they will need to submit an application which addresses the following criteria:

  1. The service exemplifies and promotes exceptional education and care that improves outcomes for children and families.
  2. The service demonstrates leadership that contributes to the development of a community, a local area, or the wider education and care sector.
  3. The service demonstrates commitment to sustained excellent practice through continuous improvement and comprehensive forward planning.

This is a different process to that carried out by the regulatory authority during assessment and rating as Megan shares.

The application does not need to be lengthy; you can succinctly describe exemplary examples of leadership, environments and/or practices and the resultant quality outcomes for children and families.

For KU Corrimal East Preschool, choosing the themes to respond to was one of the most challenging parts of the application process.

There is no one set formula; each application will be different and assessed in relation to the context of the service and community. The focus is not the amount of information provided or the format you choose to present it in, but rather on the way the application clearly identifies and outlines genuine examples of:

  • leadership, practice and/or environments that address the criteria and themes, and
  • quality outcomes for children, families and communities.

Excellence is contextual; it is about improving outcomes for children, families and communities while connecting with community through strong leadership and a commitment to engaging with continuous improvement on a deep level.

When preparing your application, Megan suggests that you collaborate and network to get other people’s perspectives on the work that you do as this may identify ideas for your application that you had not considered.

ACECQA staff will seek additional information from the relevant regulatory authority and will conduct a teleconference to discuss the application. A visit may also be arranged to verify, clarify or add to the information provided in the application. ACECQA staff are also available to answer questions and guide applicants through the process.

ACECQA has awarded the Excellent rating to a range of services across Australia. Long day care, family day care, outside school hours care, kindergartens and preschools in both city and regional areas and across the range of socio-economic areas have been recognised.

For more information about the application process, take a look at the application criteria and guidelines and the presentation identifying tips on addressing the selection criteria.

Practical strategies for reviewing, planning and improving team performance

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

William Shakespeare said ‘we know what we are but not what we may be’. One of the many roles of leaders is to assist team members to realise, and reach their full potential.

Assessment and rating data shows that element 7.2.2 of the National Quality Standard (NQS) is among the top five most challenging to meet, requiring that ‘the performance of educators, coordinators and staff members is evaluated and individual development plans are in place to support performance improvement’.

Professional development supports educators in their work to provide quality outcomes for children and families. We know when education and care services establish and maintain a culture of ongoing reflection and self-review, team members are more likely to feel challenged and motivated, and experience job satisfaction (Early Years Learning Framework p.13, Framework for School Age Care p. 12).

The Guide to the National Quality Standard refers to a cyclical process for performance review and improvement, but doesn’t set specific guidelines around timing or how the process should work in practice. Services should establish a process that works best for their staff and management structure. The process should be one that identifies staff members’ strengths and assesses and enhances staff performance.

Strategies

When implementing a performance review system, (including Professional Development Plans for each team member) a self-assessment tool developed by the Professional Support Coordinators Alliance is a useful resource. The tool can be used to establish goals and identify areas for professional development.

When education and care professionals engage in self-assessment with managers, they’re able to build on strengths, identify areas they would like to develop and celebrate the successes and contributions of all team members. Whatever system is used, it’s important the purpose is communicated clearly to staff and they feel empowered and supported in the process.

Another approach to self-assessment might be regular one-on-one catch ups to discuss current achievements and challenges. Meeting regularly ensures the team is supported on an ongoing basis and through periods of change. This is especially helpful when teams consist of casual or short term members. It can also reduce the sometimes onerous task of undertaking the process annually.

Additional strategies to self-assessment can be found in our previous article on professional development planning, as well as the Gowrie Tasmania fact sheetLeadership in Early Childhood Education and Care Services.

Quality Improvement Plan

Reviewing your current process for planning, supporting and improving team performance is important and can form part of your Quality Improvement Plan. How does the team feel about the process? Are there opportunities to share achievements? How do other services approach professional development? These are some questions you might like consider when reviewing your service’s plan.

Reflecting on and planning for inclusion

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

Practices can sometimes unintentionally limit children’s inclusion in education and care services. If vulnerable children and their families are not considered and supported, it can result in children not enrolling in a service.

Inclusion is broader than considering children with additional needs. It’s also about being inclusive of different family compositions as well as refugee, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. Inclusive practice is acknowledging, respecting and valuing diversity and recognising the opportunities to learn from each other through meaningful participation.

The Early Years Learning Framework and the Framework for School Age Care assist educators in providing opportunities for all children through a strength-based approach focusing on all children’s strengths, skills and capabilities and promoting each child’s learning and development.

Promoting inclusive programs and practices requires a commitment to continuous improvement and the confidence to ensure all children’s experiences are recognised. Quality Improvement Plans (QIP) and Inclusion Improvement Plans (IIP) are useful planning tools involving self-assessment and goal setting for continuous improvement. The IIP is a valuable self-assessment tool for reflecting on your service being ‘inclusion ready’. Both can inform each other and reduce duplication.

KU Children’s Services, as the National Inclusion Support Subsidy Provider (NISSP), has developed some helpful resources that focus on critical reflection, problem solving and planning. The videos and tip sheets are designed to support educators to be proactive and take ownership of both the QIP and IIP.

You might like to consider the following questions when critically reflecting on inclusive practice:

  • Is the service welcoming, accessible and responsive to the diverse range of children and families in the community?
  • What links are established and maintained to understand community needs and access resources?
  • Are educators intentional in scaffolding learning in group play?
  • How are children’s peers involved in inclusion?
  • Are physical and human resources adapted and used flexibly to support every child (regardless of abilities, needs and interests) to achieve maximum participation in all routines, transitions and learning opportunities?
  • How are educators supporting children’s social and functioning skills with a particular focus on supporting transitions?
  • How is the orientation process adapted according to the needs of each child and family?
  • Does the service know and acknowledge the traditional owners of the land?
  • Has the service considered developing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP)?

 

Professional development planning

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

As part of a service’s commitment to quality improvement and the delivery of quality education and care programs, service providers have the responsibility to build and maintain a skilled and engaged workforce. To meet NQS Element 7.2.2, the performance of educators, coordinators and staff members need to be evaluated, with individual development plans in place to support performance improvement.

What is professional development?

Professional development is the processes used to develop knowledge and skills in identified areas and assists in keeping up to date with emerging research and best practice. Service staff can engage in professional development through informal methods such as networking with other professionals, staff meetings and personal reading or through formal methods such as attending training, workshops, conferences or through mentoring.

Identifying areas for professional development

Services must develop Individual Professional Plans for educators, coordinators and staff. There are many ways services can identify areas for professional development and for whole service improvement:

  • through use of the Quality Improvement Plan
  • undertaking an open and honest self-assessment
  • using the assessment and rating instrument
  • and using the service philosophy to decide on focus areas for professional
    development

Performance evaluation

There is flexibility in the structure used to evaluate staff performance, however processes should be in place to ensure that quality feedback on performance is provided and areas of development can be identified. The process might include agreeing on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for achievement within designated time frames. The evaluation may include
competencies (skills and knowledge) and behaviours (professional standards). Engaging in self-assessment allows education and care professionals, together with their managers, to identify areas they would like to develop. The performance evaluation is also a chance for service providers to acknowledge the achievements and contributions of staff.

What is an individual development plan?

The most effective individual development plans are:

  • developed collaboratively by the employee and the manager
  • identified through self and service evaluation processes, which outline career objectives and areas of development
  • documented with appropriate resources allocated
  • reviewed at least annually.

 

 

 

 

 


Further reading and resources

Professional learning plan- self assessment tool
Child Care Staff: Learning and growing through professional development