Networking – opportunities for sharing practice and creating professional learning communities


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

One of the things that inspires me in the national workshops I’ve been facilitating is how much educators enjoy getting together and engaging in professional conversations about the work they do. Most educators enjoy sharing practice ideas and working together to critically reflect on the situations they come across each day.

What if you had these opportunities more regularly, building local learning communities where you come together as professionals and talk about what you do and reflect on issues and trends together? Professional learning communities can connect people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to interact, enabling them to explore new possibilities, solve challenging problems, and create new, mutually beneficial partnerships. These communities stimulate learning by serving as a vehicle for authentic communication, mentoring, coaching, and self-reflection.

Opportunities to network in this way can come from conference attendance, workshops and professional development opportunities. You could also join an online community, such as the ACECQA and Early Childhood Australia Facebook pages and blogs or establish your own sharing platform. eSafety offers some useful thoughts about keeping safe within an online community. There is a range of learning and networking communities already established, some examples are listed below.

Under National Quality Standard Quality Area 7, Standard 7.1, leaders in the service are encouraged to develop professional learning communities. This is also reflected in the Early Years Learning Framework and the Framework for School Age Care principle of ongoing learning.

A professional learning community within a service has a shared vision for service operation in which everyone makes a contribution and is encouraged to collectively reflect on, with the view of improving, practice. A professional learning community in the wider sense enables sharing multiple perspectives from a range of services, providing a vehicle on which to engage in critical reflection on and about practice.

AITSL, in The Essential Guide to Professional Learning: Collaboration, shares the essentials for supporting a collaborative learning community. While this resource focuses on school settings, many of the principles can be used to establish networking opportunities within your wider early education community. You could do this by asking:

  • What structures are in place to facilitate regular, meaningful collaboration (for example, meeting times)?
  • Who decides the focus and structure of collaborative activities?
  • How can we build our collaborative learning community?
  • How might we involve all services within our community?

There is a range of established networks, including the following:

Community Early Learning Australia
Child Australia NT
Gowrie Tasmania
Child Australia WA

Further reading and resources

Child Care Staff: Learning and growing through professional development

Useful email subscriptions for early childhood services could include:

ECA Web Watch
Australian Early Development Census
Australian Policy Online
Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth