Standard 4.2 Professionalism - Case study 3

Management, educators and staff are collaborative, respectful and ethical.

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.
image of a staff meeting


icon representing centre based care - a family under a roof


This long day care service is situated in a rural/remote location. The service team has a strong culture of professional learning and development as part of their commitment to ongoing quality improvement. This is reflected in their service philosophy, which highlights the value of lifelong learning. The service promotes lifelong learning for children, families, and service staff, as well as through their ongoing engagement and collaboration with local early childhood education and care services. The service’s management team is committed to not only supporting the service team to build their professional knowledge and sustain communities of practice within the service, but also other early education and care services within the local community.

The service was instrumental in establishing an early childhood network with local services to provide opportunities to connect and share ideas on a range of topics and issues. It also hosts professional learning programs for all educators in the local community to share their professional knowledge, skills, and expertise. Topics covered in these programs have included preparing for assessment and rating, pedagogical practices, sustainability, and developing Reconciliation Action Plans. Recently, the service worked in partnership with members of the network, the local council, and some local schools to arrange an education expo to showcase the range of programs and services they provide for children and families.

Following the positive feedback received from families and community members at the education expo, the director set up a ‘stories of success’ display on a wall in their staff room to highlight and celebrate these messages of appreciation and create a tangible reminder of the team’s value. 

The staff room has recently been reorganised, following extensive critical reflection and opportunities for input by all educators, to make better use of the available space. It now includes a collaborative learning space for educators to meet in room teams for critical reflection and program planning, and for all educators to come together as a whole team at staff meetings.

Staff meetings are facilitated by the director or the educational leader depending on the focus of the meeting. Time is allocated at the beginning of each meeting for educators to reflect on and share key achievements, highlights, and success stories since the last meeting. This encourages individual educators and teams to highlight their strengths, talents, and interests. Some of the questions used to guide these discussions include: ‘What are you most proud of this week? What is a success or key achievement? What is a personal highlight? What challenge did you overcome this week?’ Educators’ responses are recorded in the staff meeting minutes and, with their permission, on the ‘stories of success’ display.

The management team has observed educators have become more confident and willing to contribute during these conversations over time. This includes some educators who were initially uncomfortable answering these questions. Educators are also increasingly sharing their constructive observations of what they see their colleagues doing, saying, and achieving, and in many cases are expressing gratitude for their contributions. These conversations have enabled educators to get to know each other better and develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of everyone’s strengths, skills and interests. The management team has also noticed increased motivation and cohesion across the service team since the introduction of these professional discussions.

As an extension to this approach, educators in one room started a conversation at their children’s room meetings about what was the best part of the day for them. Their responses were transcribed and captured in a project book, along with any artwork the children had created in response to this question. Educators build on and extend the children’s ideas when planning the educational program. They also use time in staff meetings, to share what they have learnt and seek insights and perspectives from others.

The service’s management team is mindful of the importance of collaborative leadership and teamwork in realising their aspirations and creating a positive workplace culture. As part of their vision, the management team ensures that everyone has a clear position description and that each staff member understands their individual and collective roles and responsibilities to support the attainment of the service vision. They also provide the opportunity annually for all staff to review their position description, to make sure they are still reflective of the needs of the service and their current role.

The service director supports educators to develop and share their personal philosophies. In developing these personal philosophies, educators are encouraged to consider how their values and beliefs complement the shared values and commitments articulated in the service philosophy, which is reviewed on a regular basis by the service team as well as families, children, and key community stakeholders. They are also encouraged to reflect on how their personal philosophy demonstrates their commitment to quality outcomes for children and families, and how their work reflects professional expectations and standards.  

Key documents are included in a comprehensive educator handbook, which also includes the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics is often used to support critical reflection and guide discussions about professional practice and relationships with children, families, colleagues, students and the community. An important feature of these discussions is critically reflecting on how the service’s practices align with current recognised approaches and Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF).

The director was keen to build on and extend the professional collaboration of all educators. This included supporting educators to understand, articulate and implement the National Quality Standard (NQS), and to articulate how their practice demonstrates quality and why they do what they do.  Another aim was to share the responsibility of the service’s quality improvement journey so that everyone was more involved and had greater ownership of their Quality Improvement Plan (QIP). This was consistent with the service’s commitment to collaborative leadership and teamwork beyond formal leadership roles, and to supporting educators’ professional growth and development. The director spoke with the team about these aims, highlighting the value of every step forward to make continual progress, including the individual contributions of each educator.

After discussion about how the aims might be achieved, one educator came up with the idea of everyone identifying a part of the NQS that interests them and designing a mini project related to this to contribute to the service’s QIP. This sparked interest with some of the team, although other educators were concerned it would create more work for them. The director reminded the team of the importance of ensuring their projects were manageable and realistic and could be incorporated into their existing roles and responsibilities. Educators were encouraged to think about projects they were curious about and interested in, and that were personally important and meaningful to them.

Reflective questions were used to guide their thinking. For example, educators were encouraged to reflect on what interests them most about this part of the NQS, including what they are currently doing, and how they might do this differently or better. Educators were asked to set an intention and design some action steps as part of an individual action plan so they could review their progress. Some educators were initially uncertain about what they wanted to choose, so the educational leader supported them by providing ideas to get them started.

Time was prioritised in staff meetings for educators to share their individual goals and how they were progressing with their planned actions, and to receive feedback, assistance, and encouragement. This part of the staff meeting became popular with all educators as they looked forward to hearing where their colleagues were up to with their various projects, and to highlight and celebrate their knowledge, skills, and achievements together. To keep the projects visible to everyone, they were captured on a whiteboard in the staff room alongside the ‘stories of success’ display. Families were kept informed of educators’ projects via a regular feature in the service newsletter.

The director used monthly check-in sessions with educators to discuss progress with their projects, celebrate achievements and explore solutions to any issues or challenges together. 
The projects initiated by educators to date have covered several components of the NQS. These individual initiatives are now captured in the service’s QIP as a record of the individual and collective contributions of all educators to ongoing quality improvement. For example, one educator, selected Element 6.1.3 as the focus for their individual project.

This educator had noticed that many of the resources in the family library were not being used and was curious to know why this might be the case. A short survey was designed for families to better understand which resources were useful and which were not. Families were also asked what topics they were most interested in and how they would like to access information and resources to support their parenting and family wellbeing.

This project highlighted that many families didn’t have time to read a whole book or to search for articles, even when they were interested in a particular topic. The educator introduced a new section in the service newsletter featuring a short article on a topic of interest, drawing on the suggestions received in the survey. Links to online information and related resources in the family library were also included in the article. Each article ends with a question as a provocation for critical reflection and further discussion. Positive feedback has been received about the articles and the reflective questions have generated many interesting conversations between families and educators at the beginning and end of the day. 

Educators were encouraged to reflect at the end of each project about what worked well, a key learning or insight they had gained, and what they might do next. These critical reflections were shared in their meetings with the director and documented in their individual performance plans. Educators also received a specially designed certificate of participation after they provided photographic evidence and/or documentation of the actions taken and their evaluation of the outcomes.

As the end of the year approached, the management team wanted to identify, acknowledge, and celebrate the service’s success stories in an extended staff meeting and celebration dinner. At this event, the director asked each educator to share a personal highlight, which was added to the ‘stories of success’ display and featured in the service newsletter, with their permission. The director was keen to acknowledge and celebrate educators’ strengths, knowledge, skills, and achievements, but also encourage them to think about any additional outcomes or benefits they hadn’t initially anticipated, and how these could be sustained as a long-term change.

Many educators noted their individual projects as a personal highlight and key achievement. They also spoke about the additional outcomes and unexpected benefits. Examples included getting to know their colleagues better, including having a greater appreciation of their strengths and interests, and experiencing a greater sense of purpose and enjoyment in their work. Educators also felt the projects had strengthened team cohesion and enhanced respectful and professional collaboration within the team. As educators celebrated the successful completion of their projects, they were already considering how they will sustain and build on the changes introduced and what goals they might set themselves for the coming year.

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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