Standard 1.3 Assessment and planning – Case study 1
Educators and coordinators take a planned and reflective approach to implementing the program for each child.
At this inner city before and after school care program, educators wanted to improve their educational program planning process to ensure it reflected children’s strengths, interests and abilities. As a starting point they set up a working group, which included children and educators, to review the service’s enrolment form. This was to ensure it captured key information from children and families, to strengthen knowledge of and relationships with children and to inform their program decision-making.
This process was consistent with their service philosophy and the principles and practices of My Time Our Place. This included the importance of building and sustaining respectful and reciprocal relationships with children, collaboration with children and learning through play and leisure activities. It was also consistent with the service’s reflection on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This included a focus on Article 12, which relates to children having a voice when adults are making decisions about matters that affect them.
Changes made to the enrolment form as a result of the working group included the introduction of a new section for children to complete. Educators saw this as another useful way to collect information about each child, which was an important first step in their planning cycle. Feedback from families as part of this process was that it would also be helpful for the service and school to collaborate more closely at enrolment, to ensure children are supported as they transition between these environments. This suggestion resulted in the coordinator meeting with school leaders to discuss ideas and possibilities. As an outcome of this conversation information about how the school and the service collaborate was included in their respective enrolment packages and handbooks.
Educators documented the work undertaken by the working group to share with other children and families. This documentation was also used as a discussion point in staff meetings, to keep other educators informed and provide them with opportunities to ask questions and give input. Additionally, the team used the documentation to reflect on the processes undertaken with children. Educators reported that not only had this process improved the programs they designed and implemented for all children, it had also significantly strengthened their relationships with children. Educators had also noted that many children were more engaged in the program and more confident in themselves having been involved in the project.
Given the success of the working group, and at the suggestion of some of the children involved, the service decided to set up another working group so children could provide input into the program on an ongoing basis. To ensure all children had opportunities to be involved, the working group devised a number of ways they could contribute. This included an ‘ideas’ book, where children write or draw their ideas into the book. It also included an ‘ideas’ wall in the foyer, where children and families add their suggestions in that space. This often led to lively discussions between families at drop off and pick up times.
For example, inspired by a recent school excursion to the state art gallery, some children asked to set up a dedicated arts space and were interested to explore graffiti art. Some children asked to have an opportunity to try out a greater range of sports and sporting experiences. One child, with an interest in gardening, wanted to create a herb garden. This suggestion inspired other children to request a greater range of cooking experiences. Other children described their favourite activities already included in the program that they wanted to see continued.
Educators and children talked about the practicalities of all suggestions and how many they could accommodate at one time. Issues such as the resources required, including space, money and supervision were also discussed. Children voted for their preferred project/s so that timelines and action plans could be developed. These plans were incorporated into the service’s program and documented in a large A3 folder. Space was provided to add ideas as the program developed and to document spontaneous experiences as they occurred. Space was also provided for review and evaluation as part of an ongoing cycle of planning.
Educators, with support from the educational leader, evaluated children’s wellbeing, learning and development within the planning cycle. This was achieved by gathering and analysing information to determine what worked and didn’t work, specific to individual children and the program as a whole. As an important part of this process, and consistent with the service philosophy, educators encouraged children to assess and evaluate their own learning and progress towards learning outcomes. This information was used to inform future planning as well as improvements to the program, such as routines, transitions and changes to the environment.
Reflecting on the process, the coordinator and educational leader observed an increase in critical reflection skills in educators who were new to OSHC through their participation in the project and the mentoring provided by the more experienced educators. The project has led to a larger debate amongst the team about what critical reflection means and looks like across all aspects of the program. At a team meeting, educators discussed how and when to engage in critical reflection of program implementation to inform future planning, with some staff concerned that it would take up too much of their time.
As part of this discussion, the educational leader shared a reading highlighting the thinking of Dewey and Schon and the idea of reflecting in and on practice. This also prompted educators to think about the practice of acting with intentionality, as described in My Time Our Place. The educational leader also offered the What? So what? Now what? model as one way to structure educators’ reflections. This model supports educators to review an experience in terms of what happened, how to make sense of the experience in terms of what was learnt and what questions it raised, and what they might do differently. In thinking about the ‘So what?’ one educator noted the importance of asking the right questions, with particular consideration to social justice issues. In this regard they found some of the reflective questions in My Time Our Place helpful, including the question: ‘Who is advantaged when I work in this way? Who is disadvantaged?’
Over time staff came to understand there was no one way or right way to engage in critical reflection. They also came to realise that reflection was part of their work rather than additional work. Consequently, a range of reflective practices were used amongst the team. Some educators now use a personal reflective journal to document reflections, learning and analysis. Others have buddied up to support each other to critically reflect on specific incidents and situations as they arise. Others continue to use documentation of children’s learning to reflect on their role from different perspectives. The educational leader also dedicates time to meet with educators to support their reflective practice.
Time is also regularly allocated in staff meetings for staff to critically reflect on relevant topics and issues. For example, educators routinely make time to critically reflect on specific aspects of their practice, drawing on a range of reflective questions. In a recent discussion, educators were asked to reflect on the extent to which they actively seek different views and perspectives and consider new or alternative possibilities in their assessment and planning processes. The introduction of the programming working group, the ‘ideas’ book and ‘ideas’ wall, were all seen as examples of positive ways to get input from children and families with regard to planning.
Educators felt they had made good progress in supporting children to assess their own learning in an ongoing way. However, some educators felt they could do better at seeking children’s perspectives about planning of routines and transition times. One educator noted that they sometimes found routine times quite stressful and chaotic. This caused them to reflect on how children might experience these times. To test their thinking, educators came up with some questions specific to routines and transition times to discuss with the children. By doing so, they hoped to get a better sense of the children’s perspectives about these times. As a next step they plan to involve children to an even greater extent to come up with new ideas to improve these aspects of the program.
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