Standard 1.1 Program – Case study 2
The educational program enhances each child’s learning and development.
In this long day care service located in an inner city suburb, the vision, principles, and practices of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) are embedded in the service’s philosophy and guide the service team’s interactions with children and families. These concepts also provide the basis for educators’ pedagogical decision-making, including the experiences that are planned for children, their responsiveness to children, and the teaching and learning that occurs daily.
Service management works with new educators as part of orientation and induction to ensure all educators understand the significance of the EYLF and the service’s philosophy statement in relation to the service’s teaching and learning culture. The service allocates time in whole team meetings to deeply explore and document their reflections on the key ideas of Belonging, Being and Becoming and the vision, principles, and practices of the EYLF, to ensure that they are ‘living and breathing’ the framework.
All educators are supported to understand the EYLF’s model of curriculum decision-making as an ongoing cycle. For example, the educational leader engages in regular, formal discussions with all educators to reflect on whether their individual pedagogy is in line with the vision, principles, and practices of the EYLF. Educators are also supported to draw on their professional knowledge and in-depth knowledge of each child that has been gained in various ways, to analyse, plan, implement and reflect on their programs to support learning.
The service’s philosophy is informed by the EYLF’s statement (p.10) that children ‘bring their diverse experiences, home languages, perspectives, expectations, and cultural ways of knowing, being and doing to their learning’ and that they should be viewed as ‘active participants and decision makers’ (p.8). Educators in each room focus on gaining as much information about each child as possible from their families, as well as through their own observations and interactions. This ensures that each child’s knowledge, strengths, interests, and capabilities form the foundation of the educational program. This includes giving careful consideration to how routines are organised to maximise opportunities for children’s learning.
The service encourages families to share their knowledge of their child from enrolment and on an ongoing basis. This aligns with the EYLF’s principle of working in partnership with families and viewing them as each child’s first and most influential educator. It is also consistent with their philosophy statement, which values collaborative partnerships. Educators recognise that the diversity of families means that each child will be unique and their experiences within their families will also be unique.
The service has a strong commitment to meaningful engagement with families to support their understanding of and contribution to the educational program. For example, educators share information about the EYLF and engage in regular conversations with families to support their understanding of the importance of play and everyday experiences in supporting children’s learning, wellbeing, and development. In addition, initial observations, photos, and notes collected by educators over a child’s first few weeks are shared with families, to gain their input and perspective. Daily schedules are also made available for families in a visual format, following feedback from some families seeking more information about the daily program. The schedule shows how the day will flow and details how different aspects of the program, including routines and transitions, support children’s learning, development, and wellbeing.
As the year progresses, educators make a copy of photos and their initial comments and questions to give to each child’s family to share their child’s experiences with them and encourage them to share their insights, understandings and perspectives before educator’s design further learning experiences for the child.
Educators across the service work in consultation with the educational leader to consistently develop a meaningful and responsive program that builds on their deep knowledge of each child. For example, educators in each room meet weekly, supported by the educational leader, to critically reflect on the educational program and their practices, and to plan programs that are child-centred and support each child’s learning, wellbeing, and development.
These weekly room meetings are documented and reflected upon regularly by all participants, to ensure they continue to be useful opportunities to have professional conversations about each child’s progress, to plan the educational program and to incorporate all educators’ contributions. These ongoing conversations have helped to ensure a shared understanding of the service’s approach to developing, implementing, and reflecting on the educational programs developed for children in each room. They also provide an opportunity for educators to ask questions, raise concerns and explore solutions to challenges, and to acknowledge and celebrate key achievements.
At the room meetings, educators also ensure their curriculum decisions are informed by families’ feedback and insights. Through ongoing discussion, critical reflection and trial and error, educators have found this approach to be particularly helpful in gaining new perspectives that they may not have considered previously. Educators review any information that has been provided by families through conversations or by their feedback on previous notes or photos that had been shared with them about their child.
Some families were initially hesitant about providing feedback, as they were unsure what was being asked of them, how they could contribute, or how their ideas would be helpful. To address these concerns, the educational leader included an article in the service newsletter to articulate the purpose and intentions of encouraging contributions from families, making clear links to the National Quality Standard and the EYLF. The educational leader also spoke to families individually, to reinforce for them that they have expert knowledge of their child and to explain how their insights, perspectives and aspirations for their child are invaluable in developing educational programs for all children.
Through their reflections, educators have identified that families have come to appreciate contributing in this way. They have also become more confident in sharing their ideas and perspectives. As part of their commitment to meaningful engagement and collaborative partnerships with families, the service continues to seek input from families via bi-annual surveys and ongoing conversations about different ways families can provide feedback according to their personal preference. Based on this feedback, for example, some families have started bringing in photos or videos to show how their children are learning at home, in addition to sharing information verbally or via email.
As well as critically reflecting on information shared by families, educators review photos, observations, videos, and transcripts of conversations with and between children that they have collected during the week. In conjunction with input from families, they reflect on, discuss, and analyse what’s happening for individuals and groups of children. They also use the data collected to assess children’s progress towards the learning outcomes from the EYLF and to guide their planning for further learning.
During room meetings educators also draw on the theoretical perspectives of the EYLF to guide their critical reflection and analysis and inform ongoing curriculum decisions and planning. For example, the service team has been exploring socio-cultural theories and theorists such as Vygotsky, as well as the approach used by the preschools and infant-toddler centres of Reggio Emilia and their founder, Malaguzzi. Several educators discussed how they have been inspired by the alignment of their service philosophy with these approaches, which are consistent with their own views about children as capable and competent, and the importance of play-based and child-centred learning.
An example of how data collected by educators and families is analysed and used to support further planning for the children’s learning occurred in the birth to two year olds’ room meeting. One educator reported that they had observed a child’s interest in their own reflection in a large mirror that had recently been fixed to a playroom wall. The child, who was 20 months old, noticed the mirror early in the morning and remained at the mirror for sustained periods of time, looking at their reflection close to the mirror and then from further away. Another child of a similar age noticed the child at the mirror and went over to investigate. The first child shifted their gaze from their own reflection to the other child’s reflection, smiling when their gazes met in the mirror. The other child, in response, laughed, moved away from the mirror, and then turned back again. They repeated this exchange multiple times, their laughter becoming louder each time.
The educator was able to capture this interaction through a sequence of photographs without distracting the children. During the team meeting, the educator shared that they were hesitant initially to take the photographs without seeking the children’s permission to do so, but while reflecting in action, considered that the interactions would have been interrupted and most likely the play would have changed had they done so. The educator shared that later in the day the children were shown the photos to gauge their reaction. The children smiled on seeing the photos and immediately went back to the mirror where they resumed their previous interaction.
The team discussed this, and while they agreed that across the service the rights of the child to be photographed or not are important, in this case they felt that capturing the learning without interrupting the moment, took priority. They discussed the draft notes that the educator had made about possible learning that was occurring during the children’s interaction and questions for further reflection and planning. The educator reported these were also shared with the families of the children involved.
Both families had come back to the educator the following day. One family had made their own notes to the documentation, reporting that peek-a-boo was their child’s favourite game at home. They were interested to know what other activities the two children enjoyed together, noting they were keen for educators to extend their child’s increasing interest in other children. The other family stopped to speak with the educator at the end of the day. They talked about their child’s sense of humour, which was evident in the images being shared with them. They spoke about their child’s hearty belly laugh on hearing spontaneous sneezes, especially by the family’s dog. They also commented on their child’s recent interest in hide and seek games and were curious about how they could extend this at home.
As the team critically reflected on the educator’s notes and the families’ feedback, they made further notes about their ideas and possible understandings about the children’s interaction, using the learning outcomes from the EYLF to assess the children’s progress. They explored several themes such as identity, wellbeing, social interaction, communication, friendship, and humour. They also revisited previous discussions about the development of humour in young children and the impact of humour on children’s learning, development, and wellbeing.
Together, educators considered subsequent planning for the children, including the strategies and experiences they could include in the program to build on and extend the children’s learning and interests and to reflect families’ aspirations. They decided to include mirrors in other play spaces in the indoor and outdoor environment, to build on the children’s developing self-awareness and interest in each other. They planned to watch for incidental opportunities to extend the children’s interest in peek-a-boo games and support their interest in hide and seek games by creating ‘hiding’ places with large rugs. They also decided that, to create further opportunities for children to connect with each other and engage in social play, they would make laminated individual photos of all children in the group and have them freely available for children to use in their play.
These decisions were included in the educational program and shared with all families. Also, to follow up on one of the family’s interests, the educational leader sourced some articles about young children’s developing sense of humour to share with them. This was also used as a basis for an article in their next service newsletter given its potential interest to all families.
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