Queensland’s educational leader professional program

This month we hear from Donna Wynn, a Principal Project Officer from the Queensland Department of Education. Recently involved in the development and facilitation of the Queensland Department of Education Early Childhood Education and Care Metropolitan Region Educational Leader Professional Program, Donna provides an overview of the intensive six-month program. 

The Educational Leader Professional Program was developed in response to an identified need within the metropolitan region to support educational leaders’ professional development and understanding of Quality Area 1 – Educational program and practice and Quality Area 7 – Governance and leadership, specifically Standard 7.2.

Now in the final phase of delivery, the program has engaged and supported 40 educational leaders.

The comprehensive six-month program adopted a range of professional activities and a multilayered approach to leadership learning and development incorporating workshops, webinars, workplace tasks, reflective practice and professional conversations. Some key aspects of the program included:

Introduction day – An introduction day was held to welcome participants and provide an overview of the objectives and structure of the program. The day included professional workshops and presentations exploring topics including: leadership, coaching and mentoring, emotional intelligence, leading and influencing change and unpacking the role of the educational leader.

Webinars – Monthly professional practice webinars, delivered by experienced education and care practitioners, were provided throughout the course of the program. The webinars focused predominately on educational program and practice including: curriculum decision-making, the assessment and planning cycle and critical reflection. A final webinar explored the role of educational leader in supporting professional development and maintaining the momentum for continuous quality improvement.

Professional conversations – One to one professional conversation sessions were an important quality characteristic of the professional program. Participants were partnered with an experienced early childhood professional and provided time and guidance to work on goals relevant to their workplace, giving them increased confidence in their professional roles and own abilities.

Workplace tasks – Evidence-based learning tasks, which complemented the monthly professional practice webinars, were provided to invite individual reflection on skill development and support participants in establishing goals for educational program and practice within their service. The workplace tasks were seen as an invaluable professional development tool that could be incorporated into the context of educator’s daily work and used to support professional collaboration and learning among service teams.

Digital space – To promote professional dialogue, networking and connection, an online collaboration space was provided where participants could pose questions, seek advice and share information and resources.

Educational Leader toolkit – Throughout thecourse of the program, participants built their own ‘Educational Leader confidence toolkit’ – a practical collection of information, workbooks, workplace activities and reflections. Principal Program Officers also developed and distributed virtual information including e-books and monthly ‘educational leader professional program quick tips’ to support key learnings and professional practice.

Leadership learning

Throughout the professional program, participants developed their understanding of leadership through the lens of leading self, leading others and leading practice. Core competencies and concepts explored throughout the program included:

Leading yourself

  •  Projecting a professional image.
  • Understanding your role as a leader.
  • Communicating with influence.
  • Understanding self.
  • Courageous decision making.

Leading professionals

  • Leading the way – team vision.
  • Developing and growing the team.
  • Mentoring and coaching – SMART, GROWTH and COACH models.
  • Planning, organising and delegating.
  • Building collaborative teams.

Leading practice

  • Driving continuous improvement.
  • Influencing practice change.
  • Facilitating professional discussions.

Feedback on the program

Feedback on the Educational Leader Professional Program has been positive, with participants engaging in an array of processes and measures to support continuous quality improvement, professionalism and professional collaboration across their education and care services. 

What participants are doing so far

  • Developing or re-developing shared team visions.
  • Applying a focus on capturing strengths and ideas of all team members.
  • Ongoing reflective practice on self-awareness and awareness of others.
  • Using Inquiry Cycles to collaboratively create change.
  • Well-developed confidence in knowledge of the role and responsibilities of the Educational Leader.
  • Deepening critically reflective practice.
  • Fostering team knowledge and understanding of the components of high-quality play.

Where to now?

The Educational Leader Professional Program is in the final phase of delivery. In November there will be an official presentation ceremony and celebratory morning tea for participants of the program. As part of the event, participants will be provided with the opportunity to present on their involvement in the program, articulate their leadership stance and share the strategies they have implemented within their service to support and strengthen practice in relation to Quality Area 1 – Educational programs and practice. The event aims to highlight the important role of the educational leader in deepening shared pedagogical action and supporting transformative change.

For more information on educational leadership, you can download The Educational Leader Resource and accompanying information sheet and videos from the Educational leadership page on the ACECQA website.

Establishing an in-nature pedagogy

This month we hear from Gabby Millgate, the nature pedagogy leader at Woden Valley Child Care Centre (WVCCC) an early childhood service based in Canberra, established in 1992.

Gabby shares her insights into establishing an in-nature pedagogy in the early childhood setting.

Tell us about the role of Nature Pedagogy Leader at your service.

The Nature Pedagogy Leader develops the art of teaching through nature by creating natural environments with the children. The children learn holistically across the curriculum while experiencing care for the land,  plants, animals and people.

The parent committee’s support for our former director’s vision has seen nature pedagogy smoothly embedded into the service. Our most recent director and subsequent committees have also continued to champion this program and practice.

As Nature Pedagogy Leader I am one of four leaders on the centre’s leadership team. It’s a full time role as we provide inclusive opportunities for all children to engage in nature, play based learning. Ongoing consultations and collaborations with each team at the service aims to embed nature pedagogy and sustainable practice within their programs. This approach underlies our success. I value my time supporting other educators with their developmental objectives for the children and can see how many more opportunities can be discovered when we have a shared vision.

How does nature pedagogy support children’s mathematical and scientific learning?

As the children discover patterns within flowers and plants they develop spatial understandings. When planting seasonal crops or collecting groups of objects and counting, they develop mathematical concepts. Scientific understanding builds as they actively engage in learning about life cycles, become water wise, or develop an understanding of sustainability and its impact on individuals.

At our service, professional development for educators has helped to build their knowledge about how the Ngoonawal people care for their Country and the sustainability pathway. This informs our learning and teaching. We’ve found that an early childhood curriculum and program can all be experienced and taught within the natural environment. Learning and playing in nature supports children to value the natural environment.

Case study: Transforming a bare backyard into The Narragunnawali Garden

When I assumed the role of nature pedagogy leader in 2017, WVCCC was transitioning to a  nature play focused centre. A new space – The Narragunnawali Garden – had just been created by reclaiming some land outside the fence line where there had been a chook house, chickens, garden beds and compost bays.

I was given the freedom to create gardens for and with the children. Together, the children and I transformed a bare backyard into a lush edible garden with a riverbed and chickens.

One of my first job  was to organise the composting systems. I revived an abandoned worm farm and a compost turner that had stopped turning. Although I was not a composting expert, just like the children engaging in research and trial and error, I soon became one. I also began a ‘Garden of the Future’ project and by January 2018  there were sunflowers, beans and cosmos (a flower) growing in the space outside the front of the service.

Recognising the value and importance of connecting with the community and finding free resources for our projects allowed us to  demonstrate our promise to ‘look after the land’, by embedding sustainable practices. For example:

  • Farmers donated manure bursting with earth worms
  • A connection was made with a local hardware store who donated resources
  • Jerusalem artichokes were sourced from the local Facebook Canberra Homesteaders group
  • I collected wheelie bins full of coffee grounds from a local café.

These connections and relationships brought fresh tried and tested knowledge into our centre. It also allowed the children to learn more about the role different people and organisations have in sustainability.

Key learning: Better ways to engage to support a nature pedagogy

All journeys come with ebbs and flows and  an initial challenge was encouraging enthusiasm for our Garden of the Future and the Narragunnawali Garden.   

Our Pedagogical Leader recognised my vision and helped me create communication pathways with educators and team leaders to improve engagement with the nature pedagogy.

This enabled me to give this program a voice, clearly directing information and provocations and linking children’s progress with the learning outcomes of Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia.

I used reflective tools and consultation methods, and enhanced my documentation to include evidence about how nature pedagogy could be integrated into early learning settings.

What seemed like a bumpy start became a truly inclusive program boosting the quality of the children’s access to nature.

Nature pedagogy continues to inspire and educate us all

Over the past five years we have learnt a lot about children’s capacity to connect and contribute to their world.

We encourage them to understand their role in caring for the plants we are growing, while still  being able to touch, pick and eat what they grow.

When we see children explaining to their peers that we need to leave ‘some’ [flowers] for the bees or ‘some’ [seed pods] for the birds, they are enacting their learning and knowledge in a truly inspiring way.

Resources to support your learning

ACECQA Guide to the National Quality Framework

ACECQA National Quality Standard – Quality Area 3 National Quality Standard Element 3.2.3

United Nations Human Rights Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative

TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson Changing education paradigms.

This talk discusses children’s access to nature and the impact of the industrial revolution on our attitudes towards education.

After reading this blog post, you can follow more of Woden Valley Child Care’s practice through their Facebook page .


Connecting with families during COVID-19

Throughout the pandemic we have been reminded how valuable connection to community is to children, families, and educators’ sense of wellbeing. In a previous post How have COVID-19 restrictions shaped your service’s community engagement? we spoke about why connection is important, and how the COVID-19 pandemic barriers to community engagement can be meaningfully addressed. It is equally as important to consider how your program and quality practices can be extended to reach children and families who are not attending your service or are having minimal contact with you, so they feel connected and supported.

When considering how to extend your program to enrolled children and their families who are not currently attending, start by reflecting on Quality Area 6 and what the unique relationships with families look like within your service. This will support you and your team in deciding which outreach ideas would be the most effective. It is also important to note that connection efforts do not need to only be directed to family members. By reaching out directly to children, you are able to enhance their feelings of belonging and their social wellbeing.

Adapting your current strategies

Your service will already have diverse support systems in place for your children, and connections with families to support them in their parenting role (NQS Element 6.1.3). Together with your team, reflect on the most suitable ways to adapt and build on your existing connection strategies.

Some areas to reflect on when brainstorming and choosing strategies to connect with families could include:

  • Families are receiving increased amounts of digital correspondence and communication from schools, government organisations, workplaces, etc. How do you consider this if attempting to connect in this way?
  • How does your mindset and language focus on the current needs of your families? Keeping in mind children’s and families’ wellbeing and their evolving needs for safety, security, and connection during COVID-19 can help to ensure your connection efforts are truly supportive.
  • How do you ensure your connection efforts are respectful, inclusive, and based on real understanding of the diverse family structures and/or cultures across your service?
  • How frequently do you and your team reflect on and review the ways you connect? Things are changing frequently due to COVID-19 – consider if it would be beneficial to review practices more regularly than usual to ensure they still work for your service, your families, and children.
  • If families have opted out of using digital platforms or other means you use to connect, how do you ensure they still feel part of your community?
  • As explored in the exceeding guidance for Standard 6.1, how does your approach to building supportive relationships and connections align with your service philosophy and the values of your families?
  • Consider your current levels of staffing and your continuing operational requirements. Could smaller gestures to help families feel connected potentially be more appropriate during this time? How could you make these meaningful?

Family engagement and feedback

Feedback is an important part of connecting with your families and ensuring your policies, procedures, practices, and overarching program meet their diverse needs. When continuing to gather meaningful input during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be helpful to consider the following:

  • Consider what strategies successfully encouraged collaboration in the past and how you found out what works best for families when asking for feedback. How could you adapt these methods or work with children and families to come up with new, creative strategies?
  • How can you find out if your requests possibly require more time and energy than families can commit to right now?
  • How can you ensure your families understand the language you use when asking for their input? For example, how do you empower your families with information and opportunities to build their understanding of the educational program at your service before asking for their feedback?
  • Aligning with Elements 1.3.1 and 6.1.1, what parts of your program are your families passionate about and how can you ensure they have the opportunity to contribute feedback in genuine, authentic and meaningful ways on a range of policies, procedures and practices (e.g. COVID-19 routines, transitions, spaces)?

It is equally as important to consider whether families could be fatigued with requests for feedback and whether these appeals may be transactional as opposed to building relationships and supporting families at this time. Whether families are attending the service, or have limited access due to restrictions, it can be helpful to use your professional judgement and what you already know about your families in order to trial options, build on connections, and take actions.

The bigger picture

“Improving the wellbeing of families is an important contributing factor in improving children’s overall wellbeing”

Guide to the NQF, p.264.

When you connect, it is important to share that you are an advocate for the health and wellbeing of your families and highlight that this may look different for each individual child/family. You and your team have wonderful opportunities to provide warmth, reassurance, and enhance the wellbeing of both those who are seeking support for their family during this time by attending your service, as well as for families who have chosen to keep their children at home.

While COVID-19 restrictions have presented challenges, they have also encouraged the exploration of opportunities to build trust and support for your families. Your tailored approaches will draw on your knowledge of each family in order to connect thoughtfully and meaningfully, whether that is in person or through other means. While you may not receive an immediate response, or any response at all, to your connection attempts this does not mean your efforts to keep in touch have not been appreciated. While it is fulfilling to have certainty that your message has touched who you intended it to, the aim of connecting with families is to provide support and enhance their wellbeing. It is important to remember there will be diversity in preferences in ways to connect and consider the possibility that a response from families may not be something they can commit to or prioritise at this time.

Reflecting with your team on the new strategies for connection that have been developed and considering how they can go beyond the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic can also support quality improvement into the future. As service leaders and educators, we view responsive, reciprocal supportive and ongoing relationships as crucial to our program. These reflections on relationships and connections can also strengthen your, and your team’s, dedicated commitment to understanding and building on meaningful, regular engagement with families to support children’s learning and wellbeing.

Digital documentation for families – quality or quantity?

Digital devices are of great use when documenting a child’s learning. They are particularly useful for capturing photos and videos of children to include in daily or weekly communications with families.

Documenting the program and the child’s progress within the program can make a child’s learning visible to their family. It creates valuable opportunities for starting meaningful discussions with families about their child’s progress and involvement in the program and routine.

National Regulation 76 and Element 1.3.3 of the National Quality Standard outline the requirement to provide families information about their child’s participation in the educational program. In addition, Quality Area 6 of the National Quality Standard focuses on building supportive and respectful relationships with families. These relationships are based on active communication, consultation and collaboration, which in turn contribute to children’s inclusion, learning and wellbeing.

With all aspects of documenting children’s learning there are opportunities and challenges. We often hear that educators feel overwhelmed by the amount of documentation and are not sure about the best ways to document meaningful learning experiences, rather than just capturing what has happened during the day. It may be timely to review practices at your service to mitigate the challenges and maximise the opportunities.

The challenges

A digital portal, emails, social media and online newsletters are commonly used to share children’s photos or videos with families. Some services will often set a target for the number of digital items to be sent to families each day and educators will be expected to meet this.

Is this reflective of the digital age in which we live, where we have come to expect a constant stream of information? On the one hand, sharing each day with families what you capture provides them with the reassurance that their child is settled and happily engaged at the service. On the other hand, the images or videos that are shared may not be a true reflection about the child’s learning, play and time at the service.

To meet the challenge of providing a large number photos or videos – and particularly ones that are ‘picture perfect’ – an educator may end up choosing ‘clickable’ moments showing what has transpired, rather than the child in the context of their learning and development. As a consequence, other aspects of quality may also fall by the wayside, such as ensuring the images or videos serve as a springboard for meaningful conversations with families about their child’s learning and progress, and planning to extend children’s thinking and learning.

Another possible effect is that the dignity and rights of children may be impacted (Element 5.1.2) when numerous photos or videos are taken. The children’s voice may also be absent if they do not have the opportunity to consent to having their photo or video taken.

For families, multiple content each day can result in saturation. Consider at what point will the child’s family stop paying attention to what the child is learning and doing, and the images or video simply become a passing distraction.

For educators, there is a possibility that churning out photos and videos of each child may become a drain on their time, detracting from quality educator-child interactions which support children’s learning and development.

An educator’s role is also to model the respectful and moderate use of digital devices within a child’s routine, and their over-use to capture images and videos may send mixed messages to children.

The opportunity

A reset of the expectations around digital documentation for families is recommended. Involve all stakeholders – the service team, children, families and the community – in a reflection on what is needed, what is wanted and what is realistic for your service community and context.

Questions to explore

You can use the following questions as conversation starters at your next team or family meeting:

  • What parts of the program can be documented with a photo or video?
  • How does what we document contribute to the program and practice and the outcomes of the approved learning frameworks?
  • How can we ensure that we are respecting the rights of children and involve them in decision-making on documentation? For example, can we invite them to take the photos and videos of their play and experiences, or can we invite them to choose which ones we take?
  • How often should we document the children’s program and progress? Are photos and videos needed every day or is there an opportunity for ‘camera-free’ days?
  • What are the ways in which our families want to receive photos and videos of their child’s involvement in the program?
  • How do we ensure that we are meeting children’s individual needs while capturing their play and learning in the program?
  • How can we provide children with an opportunity to view and revisit their photos and videos?
  • How does our digital documentation of the program link to any paper-based documentation?

Continuous improvement

Quality, not quantity, is the old adage, and it rings true when it comes to documenting a child’s program and progress for families. Meaningful photos and videos that make learning visible are of far greater value than an overabundance of daily content.

As long as expectations are established at the outset, families will appreciate the quality and meaning of your rich documentation and the story that it tells about their child.

Resources to support your ongoing learning

  • The National Quality Framework: Documentation and linking with communities

Community partnerships and the benefits of learning through play

This month we hear from Nominated Supervisors, Ona Buckley and Daniel Betts, Preschool Supervisor, Michelle Williams and Early Childhood Teacher, Whitney Williams from Guliyali Preschool.

Recently awarded the Excellent rating by ACECQA, the NSW Central Coast based service shares learnings from their longstanding partnership with residents of a local retirement village, part of their Ageless Play Program.

Partnerships are embedded in every aspect of our practice at Guliyali Preschool. Engaging meaningfully with our community promotes understanding and provides a genuine opportunity for relationship-building and collaboration. We have developed strong partnerships with many different organisations, colleagues and community members to enhance educational programs for our children and our service as a whole. These reciprocal relationships provide an opportunity to learn from each other, share ideas and plan for continuous improvement.

At Guliyali Preschool, our community engagement programs are meaningful, authentic and mutually beneficial. Our longest running community partnership project has been with the Living Choice Deepwater Court retirement village residents who engage in our Ageless Play Program that has been running consistently for six years. 

Our relationship with the Deep Water Court retirement village sprouted from a conversation with a new family over 10 years ago. The family had recently moved into our local area away from their support network. The mother mentioned to an educator that her child was finding the move challenging as he missed the interactions with his elderly neighbours and grandparents. To support this family the educator made contact with the local retirement village and organised a visit. To begin with, the visits were only once a term, however as the relationships grew the partnership organically grew into monthly and now weekly visits. Each year we reflect on the partnership and the feedback from our families and children overwhelmingly supports us continuing these beautiful weekly connections. 

Mutual benefits

‘We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.’

George Bernard Shaw

Our Ageless Play community members, many of them retired school teachers, have unique strengths that we draw on to create programs that are inspiring and rewarding for everyone involved. The project has mutual benefits for the children in our service, the residents in the village and for our wider community. Through this program children learn the importance of providing friendship and companionship to others, regardless of whether they are significantly older or younger than themselves. The program enables our children to develop positive attitudes towards the elderly and to feel comfortable around those with disabilities and impairments. The retirement village coordinator reports that these visits help the residents break up their everyday routine, reduce feelings of isolation associated with ageing, and allows participants to rekindle relationships with the broader community. 

Reciprocal relationships

Our programs evolve to meet the needs of all stakeholders. Our Ageless Play program seeks to bring together various generations through a range of play opportunities, supporting communities and nurturing relationships. All key stakeholders are empowered throughout the delivery of the program as their voices are respected and heard. Children and residents of the village contribute to decision making within the group by making decisions on what activities to participate in. Educators benefit from the residents’ expertise and residents gain an increase in self-esteem and emotional and social wellbeing, reconnecting them with their community. Our Ageless Play partnership evolved and endured despite the visitation and communication challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was strengthened during the pandemic, and we were able to break down the restriction barriers by using technology to send video messages as well as traditional communication methods such as letter writing to maintain our relationships with the residents. 

Here are some strategies that we think could help services who are thinking about how to build their community engagement and partnerships:

1. Build local knowledge

Become familiar with your local community and the available resources and organisations with whom you can share experiences with. Take the time to visit places in the community that are easily accessible or invite members from local community groups into your service to share their knowledge and skills. Engage in authentic and respectful community celebrations that will build children’s understanding of their community and their respect for diversity.

2. Get involved!

Be a part of everything – become informed of community agencies in your area and reach out to local organisations that may also be looking to build a community partnership. Seeking the support and advice of community agencies such as libraries, Senior Citizen Associations, Rotary Clubs and Lions Clubs may assist in providing links that can be nurtured and developed into long lasting relationships. 

3. Think broadly

Consult with stakeholders. Many families, educators, teachers and/or staff have links to community groups that would be happy to form community connections with children’s education and care services. There are a myriad of ways and opportunities for children to feel a sense of belonging in, contributing to, and influencing their world.

4. Critically reflect

Spend time reflecting on your sense of community and think about how it has been informed. Reflecting on what community means to you and the service can enrich decision making, increase awareness of influences and bias and provide goals for continuous community improvement projects. 

What has helped guide and support your community partnerships?

Living our values

Our service philosophy and vision remind us daily of our role in the community, it inspires us and provides direction and purpose. Visual representations of our philosophy around our preschool outline the purpose and principles under which we operate. It’s a tool to assist with the navigation towards our continuous improvement. 

Communicate widely and effectively

Effective means of communication aids in shared decision making for children. As educators, we must be givers of information but also receivers. Communication is integral in building relationships and engaging with others to create connected communities. We recognise that this comes in many forms: verbal, non-verbal, online, newsletters, informal and formal meetings and social media platforms. We are mindful of first languages and take a ‘not a one size fits all approach’ when communicating with our community. 

Recognise the experts within

Learn about your colleagues’ hidden areas of expertise, your families’ special skills and community resources that might benefit your program. Reach out to other children’s education and care services in your community. Acknowledging and recognising these ‘hidden experts’ identifies opportunities to initiate and establish community connections and collaborations. 

Interested in finding out more?

The Ageless Play Program is just one of many community-based partnerships and exceptional practices recognised in the awarding of the Excellent rating to Guliyali Preschool. Read more about their practices on the ACECQA Excellent Rating page.

Read more about Guliyali Preschool, which is situated within the grounds of Woy Woy Public School. Guliyali Preschool invites interested children’s education and care services to connect and share practice.

Looking to get involved with Ageless Play? Learn more about intergenerational programs here.

More information on the importance of your service vision and philosophy can be found in the following ACECQA blog post – Does your service vision lead the way?


Educational Leader


ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone provides insight into National Quality Framework topics of interest. This month showcases the role of the Educational Leader, and a We Hear You blog series exploring the why, the what and the how of the role.

The first instalment, The role of the educational leader: aims, objectives and intent, includes information about why the role was introduced and what it aims to achieve.

Additionally, it provides questions to encourage educational leaders to self-assess their own skills, knowledge and understandings and put in place a plan to develop the areas that need strengthening.

The next phase considers how leaders then use their skills, knowledge and understandings to lead the development of the curriculum/program, culminating in the final instalment that looks at working with teams to set goals for both teaching and learning that help bring the program to life. The series includes a range of great resources for further reading and reflection.

We have also looked at ways we can bring ideas to life and so have published a presentation based on an address to the Educational Leaders Western Australia Forum. This presentation explores the way educational leaders around Australia drive quality practice by working to lead, coach, mentor and inspire educators towards continuous improvement, ultimately delivering quality outcomes for children and families.
Educational Leadership – National Education Leader presentation

Emergent Curriculum… doesn’t mean no need to plan


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

Emergent curriculum is a method of planning and curriculum decision making used readily across the sector. It describes curriculum that is responsive to children’s interests, and is meaningful, relevant and engaging for each child.

Yet, the pedagogical intentions of the approach are often misunderstood or misrepresented. A current myth is that planning isn’t required and programs emerge solely from children’s interests. This is not the intention of the emergent curriculum.

Planning for children’s learning

Emergent curriculum:

  • has a strong theoretical background
  • is inquiry and play-based
  • is responsive to children’s interests, strengths and aspirations.

This approach allows educators to respond to observations of children, build upon their strengths and scaffold their learning. It requires professional knowledge, planning for learning, and a focus on progressing each child’s learning and development towards the learning outcomes.

Educators working within the emergent curriculum, endeavour to build on children’s prior learning and current interests, and provoke new ideas and learning opportunities that challenge and extend children’s existing understandings about the world.

Planned learning programs are flexible and responsive to the spontaneous and emerging interests of children and serve to seize key ‘teachable moments’.

Informing decision making

Emergent curriculum can initially come from a range of sources including:

  • children’s interests and current knowledge
  • educators’ interests
  • families
  • the physical environment
  • the social environment
  • values held in the education and care context (school, community, cultural group).

Elizabeth Jones is an American educator who has written widely on emergent based curriculum and suggests:

“We are the stage directors; curriculum is the teacher’s responsibility, not children’s. People who hear the words emergent curriculum may wrongly assume that everything emerges simply from the child. The children’s ideas are an important source of the curriculum but only one of many possible sources that reflect the complex ecology of their lives” (Jones and Nimmo 1994, p.5).

Emergent curriculum identifies the need to include child led learning, coupled with educator-supported learning opportunities. Curriculum is viewed as a ‘child-initiated and educator framed’ process, a negotiated and co-constructed process in which educators and children have a voice.

Intentional teaching

Emergent curriculum is not an unplanned process but very much intentional in its nature. Intentional teaching and curriculum decision making are often seen as at odds with a child-centred, play based approach. This is another myth to debunk.

Intentional teaching can be responsive to both children and the learning outcomes identified in the approved learning frameworks.

The term ‘intentional teaching’ is not used to describe a formal or structured approach to teaching. It is used to describe teaching that is purposeful, thoughtful and deliberate.

When we look at the practice of intentional teaching through this lens, we can see how it compliments rather than contradicts the emergent approach to curriculum decision making. Intentional teaching offers a rich opportunity to actively promote children’s learning and knowledge building.

Approved learning frameworks

The approved learning frameworks and National Quality Standard do not prescribe how educators should plan for children’s learning, as the context and setting of the service will guide each service’s approach. Services may use a variety of approaches, such as emergent curriculum, to inform their curriculum decision making.

When planning it is important to consider the key elements of the approved learning frameworks, including the belonging, being and becoming, principles, practices and learning outcomes (Early Years Learning Framework, p.10 Framework for School Age Care p.9).

belonging_page10.jpg          

 

 

 


Reflective questions

Use the following questions to prompt further professional discussion at your service.

– How does this information fit with your view of emergent curriculum?
– How do you incorporate intentional teaching while planning from children’s ideas or interests?
– How do you use children’s voices to promote the learning outcomes?
– How will you use the approved learning frameworks to strengthen your pedagogical beliefs and develop a spirit of enquiry about what you do and why?

See also Early Years Learning Framework, p.38

Further reading and resources
Understanding emergent curriculum in practice
Thinking Big Extending Emergent Curriculum Projects
Educators’ Guide: My Time Our Place
Educators’ Guide: Early Years Learning Framework

Demystifying sustainability


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

You are not alone if you find yourself challenged when thinking about ‘embedding’ sustainability into your service, or how to engage young children in learning about environmental responsibility. In their recent research, Dr Sue Elliot and Professor Nadine McCrae from the University of New England identify gaps and challenges for educators when it comes to sustainability and environmental learning.

The research points to an ‘urgent need to demystify sustainability’ because ‘educators frequently require programming assistance to translate sustainability concepts into authentic practice’. It also suggests a key challenge for educators is in moving educational programs beyond sensory and scientific concepts and simply being outdoors, to authentic investigations and projects around real issues.

The importance of sustainability is reflected in all of the seven Quality Areas (for example, Quality Area 2 and maintaining hygienic practices with a sustainable focus) and is specifically identified under Quality Area 3 of the National Quality Standard (NQS):

Standard 3.3: The service takes an active role in caring for its environment and contributes to a sustainable future.

Element 3.3.1: Sustainable practices are embedded in service operations.

Element 3.3.2: Children are supported to become environmentally responsible and show respect for the environment.

Standard 3.3 is one that services find challenging. Nationally, Element 3.3.1 and Element 3.3.2 have consistently featured in the top 10 elements not met.

While this is the case, we do know that educators and service providers have been developing their collective skills, knowledge and experience in relation to:

  • how physical spaces and resources support learning
  • sustainability and what it means to embed sustainability across service operations
  • what education in sustainability looks like in practice, particularly for young children, babies and under three year olds
  • building confidence in educators about articulating and connecting sustainable practice and environmental learning.To help demystify sustainability, the Guide to the National Quality Standard outlines and unpacks Standard 3.3 to support quality outcomes for children, families and communities (including our global community). It is through our understanding and intentionality that:
  • educators and children work together to learn about and promote the sustainable use of resources and to develop and implement sustainable practices
  • children develop positive attitudes and values by engaging in learning experiences, joining in discussions that explore solutions to the issues that we face, and watching adults around them model sustainable practices (Climbing the little green steps, 2007)
  • school age care environments and resources can emphasise accountability for a sustainable future and promote children’s understanding of their responsibility to care for the environment, day to day and for long-term sustainability (Framework for School Age Care, p.15).

Sometimes hearing about examples of what this looks like in practice can also help demystify challenges and clarify expectations. KU Ourimbah Preschool & Children’s Centre (NSW) and their story about winning the 2016 UN Association of Australia Victorian Division World Environment Day Environmental Education Award immediately came to mind. Here the service’s Nominated Supervisor, Rosanne Pugh, shares some key messages about their journey to winning this prestigious award.

Further reading and resources
Sustainability in children’s education and care
Taking an active role in the environment and promoting a sustainable future 
IPA World – Children’s right to play and the environment
Australian Association for Environmental Education – Early Childhood
Special Interest Group (AAEE EC SIG)
ECA – ‘It will be a wasteland if we don’t recycle’

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 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 ACECQA 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 OECD Working PaperLeadership for Quality Early Childhood Education and Care.

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.

Connecting with communities

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

Standard 6.3 of the National Quality Standard (NQS) highlights how helping children contribute to their community can improve children’s wellbeing and learning.

When educators make connections within the wider community, they advocate for children’s rights to be seen as active citizens who contribute to society. Children’s understanding of citizenship and stewardship develops and the community is reflected in the service program, practice and operations.

Early Childhood Australia’s Code of Ethics includes a set of statements related to engaging with the community, advocating for children’s rights, and promoting shared aspirations for children’s learning, health and wellbeing. These statements also emphasise the value of learning about the community to:

  • enhance practice and the educational program, ensuring it is reflective of the context and community priorities
  • promote community understandings of how children learn.

It is useful to find out what is happening in your local community and identify national or international events that children can be involved in. This can help children to feel a sense of belonging in, contributing to and influencing their world.

Recent posts on our We Hear You blog highlight the practices of two services that have effectively engaged with their communities. Larapinta Preschool in the Northern Territory focused on developing and nurturing partnerships with families and their local community by working alongside organisations in the community to develop an understanding about Indigenous perspectives in the local context. Gowrie Victoria Docklands worked with the Melbourne Museum on the redevelopment of the museum’s children’s gallery, advocating for children’s ideas and suggestions to be taken into account in the design and development stages of the project.

Making links with the local library, schools, Indigenous communities and family support services, for example, can help build understandings and make relevant and authentic connections and partnerships in the community. The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) also is a useful source of information about your community, that can inform decision making.

Engaging in authentic and respectful community celebrations is also a great strategy for building children’s understanding of their community and respect for diversity. You might like to develop a calendar of relevant community events and add national events appropriate for young children and their families, such as Children’s Week (22-30 October), NAIDOC Week (3-10 July), Book Week (20-26 August 2016) and Literacy and Numeracy Week (29 August-4 September).

Further reading and resources

ACECQA – We Hear You – Embedding culture in sustainable ways

AEDC – Working with communities