Standard 1.1 Program – Case study 1

The educational program enhances each child's learning and development.

This case study is a collection of examples of high quality practice to prompt reflection and discussion about Exceeding NQS practice in a range of service contexts. It is not an extract from an assessment and rating report for a service that is rated Exceeding NQS for this Standard, and does not comprehensively describe the ways that a service can demonstrate Exceeding practice.
A girl holding tongs to grab some fruit

 

icon representing family day care - a set of houses and children

An inner-city Council manages a family day care service with educators located across a number of suburbs within the local government area. The service is supported by Council’s family day care coordination unit. The approved provider conducts interviews with prospective educators to share the service’s philosophy and approach to enhancing each children’s learning and ensure that the educators’ values and approach align with that of the service.

Educators participate in a comprehensive induction training on commencement with the service, which is tailored to each educator’s background and experience. The induction introduces the National Quality Framework, covering the National Quality Standard and the approved learning frameworks. It also gives an overview of the service’s policies and procedures, including those specific to educational program and practice.  

All educators draw on their knowledge of children, gained through information provided by families at enrolment and in ongoing conversations with families over time, to strengthen their deep knowledge and understanding of each child. Opportunities are provided for children to contribute to this process, as appropriate, using enrolment form questions designed by children who attended the service in the past. Some educators use a two-way notebook system to communicate with families. This allows families to share information that educators use to inform the program. This includes, for example, family events, their child’s new or emerging interests, dislikes and learning and developmental milestones, as well as responses to or suggestions about the service’s educational program.

The educational leader supports educators to develop, implement and reflect on the influence of the approved learning frameworks, educational theorists and alternative approaches in their educational programs. Team meetings, which also incorporate professional development opportunities, are held every three months. In a recent team meeting, educators shared some of the theories informing their educational program and practice. This led to an interesting discussion about the key ideas in the theories identified in the approved learning frameworks and the extent to which educators use these in an intentional and considered way.

One educator spoke of the influence of Louis Malaguzzi and how his thinking informed their educational programs for children. They spoke of their image of the child as capable and competent and the importance of children being active participants in their own learning. They talked about how Malaguzzi’s thinking informed their curriculum decisions, such as the provisions they made available for children in the learning environment and how they organise their routines to maximise children’s learning. They also spoke of how it shaped the way they saw their role as educator, working alongside children and their families, to support and extend their children’s learning and development. As an outcome of this discussion it was agreed that educators would take turns to select a different theory or theorist to explore at the team meetings. The educational leader also suggested they extend this discussion to explore how the theories connect with the service philosophy and the principles and practices of the approved learning frameworks.

By increasing their experience and confidence through these reflective conversations, the educational leader and coordinators found that they arose organically in other contexts such as Zoom catch ups, conversations at play sessions and at face-to-face professional learning sessions. They often led to lively conversations about what the principles look and feel like within the educational program. These conversations highlighted key considerations such as the diverse cultural backgrounds, traditions and interests of families attending the service and the wider community and how this can positively influence curriculum decision making to enhance each child’s learning. In their conversations, the educational leader liked to focus on connections to the service’s philosophy, which values and celebrates diversity and difference as well as respectful relationships and meaningful engagement with families. By consistently connecting practice with philosophy, educators are more confident talking about these connections with each other and with families. 

One educator, for example, works predominately with children and families from a Chinese background. For many years the educator has collaborated with parents to incorporate some of the traditions of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival into the educational program. This was based on suggestions from families and included experiences such as baking moon cakes and making lanterns. Last year families also shared photos of their involvement in Mid-Autumn Full Moon Festivals over the years, which were displayed in the educator’s home. The children were excited to see photos of their families at the service and spent a lot of time talking about who was in the photo and what they remembered about the event. Some children were particularly interested in the colour and design of the lanterns in these photos, which became the inspiration for their own lantern designs.

This educator recalled the enjoyment gained from children and families through these experiences. Through critically reflective discussions with the educational leader and other educators, however, they began to rethink the experiences. By hearing other people’s views and perspectives they began to question whether enjoyment alone was a sufficient measure of success. They also began to examine the extent to which these experiences promoted a one-off, tokenistic approach, despite this not being their intention.

With guidance from the educational leader the educator undertook further reading about anti-bias approaches in early childhood. They also engaged in ongoing conversations with the educational leader to talk about the ideas highlighted in the readings, what questions these ideas raised for them, and if and how they might use them in their educational program and practice. Links were also made back to the service philosophy and the principles and practices of the approved learning frameworks. Throughout this process the educator also communicated with families to understand their perspectives and ensure they were reflected across all aspects of the program. This helped guide their thinking about how they could strengthen their curriculum by incorporating Mandarin into daily routines, interactions and the educational program more holistically throughout the year to support children’s sense of identity.

The educator was keen to extend and further strengthen their practice in relation to other goals of anti-bias education. This includes being comfortable with human diversity and difference and recognising and taking action against unfairness and discrimination. The service has provided opportunities for the educator to share their findings with other educators by establishing an online group and encouraging ongoing connections and conversations through their play sessions. The educational leader has also offered to source and share readings about the anti-bias approach to build on and extend this conversation with all educators.

Another educator, who had a number of children with an interest in cooking, lived close to the local shops. Following a request from several families, they went on regular trips to the local supermarket to purchase ingredients to prepare healthy snacks with and for the children. This led to a conversation amongst the children about where the ingredients come from. Children also became interested in growing their own vegetables instead of buying them from the shops, with some children researching the best vegetables to grow for the season and how to care for them.

The interest and enthusiasm of these children were infectious and soon many parents were talking to the educator and each other about the project. One parent, who worked at a local nursery, donated seeds for the children to get the garden project started. This parent also came to talk to the children and provide guidance on how to prepare the vegetable garden bed. They also offered to provide ongoing assistance and advice throughout the year on the rotation and harvesting of seasonal crops.

Over several weeks, the children have been involved in preparing the garden bed, planting seeds and watering the garden. The children also assisted in documenting the project, taking photographs to share with their families. After sharing the photos with their grandparents, one child excitedly returned to the service having visited the community garden their grandparents were a part of on the weekend. The child shared photos with the educator and the children showing the vegetables being grown at the community garden. Together they made comparisons about what was the same and different compared to their own vegetable garden.

The children’s favourite photos were of the community garden’s worm farm. Given the children’s enthusiasm and interest, the educator arranged with coordination unit staff to take the children on an excursion to the community garden to see the worm farm first hand. The child’s grandparents were excited to show off their vegetable garden to the children. The children were equally excited about the trip and have already started keeping their fruit and vegetable scraps to give to the worms when they visit.

As the project continues the children’s interest has shifted to cooking their home-grown produce. One child brought in some cooking magazines from home to source recipes while another did some on-line research with the educator. Parents have also contributed recipes, as have other educators who enjoy hearing updates at weekly play sessions. Staff from the local supermarket were also delighted to share their recipes with the children when they heard about the project. While the children wait for their produce to be ready to harvest, regular outings to the local supermarket continue.

You may wish to use the indicators for Exceeding practice, the reflective questions for Exceeding practice at the Standard level, or the questions used by authorised officers to establish Exceeding practice to review and consider the examples of practice described above. You may also wish to consider them as part of your self-assessment, and in the development of your Quality Improvement Plan. 

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