Standard 1.2 Practice – Case study 1

Educators facilitate and extend 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.
picture of a young child painting


icon representing centre based care - a family under a roof
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this material contains the name of a person who has passed away.

At this long day care service, staff meetings are used to critically reflect on practice. Successful outcomes and how to build on them are discussed, as well as issues, challenges and possible solutions. Each staff member contributes to conversations, and agreed actions are documented to capture decision-making processes and ongoing actions, as well as to enable review and critical reflection. These conversations also help everyone to understand how any proposed changes in practice are aligned with the service’s philosophy and its underpinning values and principles. They also ensure that the intentions and aspirations for introducing any changes are understood by everyone in the service.

The topic of children’s rights is an ongoing agenda item at staff meetings as this is embedded in the service philosophy and is a strong focus within the service. The educational leader encourages all educators to reflect on how they currently promote children’s agency by seeking children’s input about where and how they can improve, as well as incorporating their ideas into the program in authentic and meaningful ways.

Over several meetings the team revisited their service philosophy, which was a regular source of inspiration and guidance. In particular, they reflected on their statement about promoting every child’s rights and sense of agency. They also reflected on how the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) supports this view of children and in particular discussed the following statement. ‘Viewing children as active participants and decision makers opens up possibilities for educators to move beyond pre-conceived expectations about what children can do and learn.’

The service uses a range of strategies to seek out families’ ideas and perspectives on a range of topics. This includes their views on extending children’s learning, wellbeing and development. One such strategy is a family survey, which is conducted twice per year. The most recent family survey revealed that some families wanted their children to have opportunities to be more involved in decisions throughout the day. Working in partnership is another key component of the service philosophy and one of the principles of the EYLF, so this feedback from families prompted further conversations about how this might be facilitated.

As a result of these discussions, educators identified the importance of having an even stronger focus on encouraging and listening to children’s voices. They decided to introduce daily room meetings for children and educators to provide planned opportunities to gather children’s ideas and reflections on the program. How these room meetings occur depends on the age-group and the children in attendance.

Room meetings with children and educators in the three to five year old's room, for example, occur when small groups of children are having morning tea.  Discussions are facilitated by educators and children’s ideas, curiosities and reflections are recorded by educators in a planning book. Further discussions take place between the educators on how to include the children’s suggestions in the educational program. Both the planning book and the program are available for families to review and comment on. This has resulted in ongoing conversations with and between children, their families and educators. These conversations are also documented, discussed and critically reflected on in future room meetings. Educators working with children across all age groups share the ideas and issues raised in their room meetings as an ongoing agenda item in staff meetings.

At a recent meeting in the three to five year old's room children said they wanted to be able to get art materials and resources for themselves without having to ask an educator. In a series of discussions, children and educators explored how they might reorganise the physical environment, furniture and art provisions to better reflect the children’s wishes. These conversations were documented as further examples of the children’s vision.

Educators reflected together on their ongoing conversations with the children and discussed their various perspectives and insights. They agreed that changes should be made so that children could be more self-sufficient and able to make decisions for themselves. However, concerns were raised over possible wastage of materials and how that would sit with the service’s values about sustainability. As a result, they discussed the role of the educator to support and extend children’s learning depending on their individual learning dispositions, strengths, interests and capabilities. Exploring the ideas of theorists such as Vygotsky and Malaguzzi helped to inform educators’ thinking about how the provision of resources, as well as the use of open-ended questions and feedback, might scaffold children’s learning and support children to scaffold each other’s learning.

Educators agreed on changes that would be made to the learning environment and to the way they would work with children in the space. They also discussed strategies for communicating the rationale for the changes so that it would be understood by everyone. This included educators who work casually. As a result of these discussions, an information sheet was made available for casual staff working in the three to five year old's room. Feedback from permanent staff indicated this was also a useful resource for them to refer back to from time to time.

The arts space that has resulted includes equipment, resources and materials to allow for multiple uses and promote child-initiated exploration and learning. A collection of art books contributed by a local library is available in the area and has become a regular source of inspiration for children and educators. Children look at these resources to gain ideas and spark their creativity. For example, a small group of children were drawn to a book on the work of Emily Kame Kngwarreye, an Aboriginal artist from the Northern Territory. They were particularly drawn to her use of colour in what they learned was her ‘high-colourist’ phase, where she used vibrant blues, pinks and oranges. This inspired an extended investigation by children on the use of colour in their own paintings.

Educators extend children's thinking and knowledge through discussions about the art books as well as helping them to research online. Educators also engage in regular dialogue with the curator of a local art gallery, who is well known to the service through ongoing reciprocal visits. Following more recent discussions with the curator educators have begun to explore the possibility of having an artist-in-residence to work with all children and educators for a block of time. Based on the children’s interest in Emily’s work, the educational leader reached out to a local Aboriginal Elder and regular visitor to the service, to seek their ideas about engaging a local Aboriginal artist for the project.

Educators continue to listen to children to evaluate how the art space is working. This includes what is working well, the use of materials, the effects on children's experiences, and what they could do differently or better. The children’s contributions form an important part of educators’ critical reflections about their practice. These contributions are recorded in the planning book so they can be revisited with children over time to guide ongoing conversations and inform decision-making.

Photographic and written documentation of the children’s engagement in the arts space is displayed, including individual pieces, group projects that have developed over time, and their feedback on the space and how it is working. Families are encouraged to come in and view the displays, to provide feedback and to engage in shared learning and collaboration.

How practice in this example aligns with the Exceeding themes

Exceeding theme 1

Practise is embedded in service operations when it occurs consistently, frequently and intentionally as part of an ongoing process that is understood and implemented by all educators across all aspects of the program. In this example:

  • All educators know and are guided by the service’s philosophy statement. It is used as a catalyst to inspire discussions about their decision-making. The EYLF is also reviewed to assist reflections on practice. These documents assist educators to identify where further quality improvements can be made.
  • Educators consistently provide children with opportunities to make a range of choices and decisions to influence events and their world. Although the service already has a history of discussions about children’s rights and is committed to consistently supporting their sense of agency, educators are challenging themselves to extend this further. 

  • Educators are engaged in children’s learning as resourceful and respectful co-learners and collaborators. Educators consistently extend children’s learning through open-ended questions, interactions and the provision of resources. Deep and reflective discussion has led to further clarity about these strategies and how they use them when working with children in the art space.

Exceeding theme 2

Critical reflection involves a deep level of regular and ongoing analysis, questioning and thinking that goes beyond evaluation and review. Critical reflection informs practice when the continuous reflection of all educators, individually and together, influences decision-making and drives continuous quality improvement. In this example: 

  • Educators consistently reflect with one another on their educational practices and alternative approaches. Staff meeting discussions prioritise reflections on practice and the educational leader encourages and supports educators to reflect more deeply on their practice.

  • All educators are encouraged to reflect on their practice, identify any improvements needed, and plan how these could be achieved. Everyone is encouraged to express their views in a collaborative, collegial and trusting environment. 

  • The rights of each child are embedded in the philosophy of the service and actively considered in staff meeting discussions to inform thinking about practice and identify opportunities for improvement. 

  • Educators reflect on opportunities to cultivate deep respect for the cultural diversity of the broader community in educational practice, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, histories and cultures.

  • Efforts are made to ensure that all staff members can participate in discussions about proposed changes, to understand the rationale for the changes, as well as any implications for practice. 

  • Educators reflect on theoretical influences to inform their practice. A review of the ideas of key theorists noted in the EYLF encouraged educators to review their practice and further understand how children learn.

Exceeding theme 3

Practice is shaped by meaningful engagement with families and/or the community when educators actively seek input, guidance and feedback from children, families and the community. Meaningful engagement with families and/or the community helps to shift thinking, shape ongoing practice and foster a culture of inclusiveness and sense of belonging for all. In this example:

  • Educators welcome and draw on the opinions and perspectives of children and families. They do this in a consistent and ongoing manner and in multiple ways. The room meetings have been a catalyst for listening to children’s ideas and wishes and acting on them.

  • Educators actively seek feedback from families in different ways. They are responsive to the feedback received, including planning and implementing changes to practice.

  • Educators draw on their unique community context to extend children’s learning. Their connection to the community through the local library and art gallery has provided the children and educators with opportunities for further creative inspiration and extension of learning.

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 using the online Guide to the NQF. 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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