Exploring professionalism: Will you ‘interpret the rules’ or ‘debate the intent’?
ACECQA’s National Education Leader, Rhonda Livingstone provides insight into National Quality Framework topics of interest.
I thought it would be timely to explore how education and care professionals have grown and developed since the introduction of the National Quality Framework (NQF). Given that we are about to embark on the next stage of the continuous improvement with a revised National Quality Standard (NQS), I would like to open a dialogue that may spark some conversations with your teams as you ponder the questions:
- What is your approach to the changes to the NQS?
- Will this be an opportunity for innovation and change in the ways you look at quality improvement?
Sims, Forrest, Semann and Slattery (2015) raise the issue that whilst the intent of policy changes might be to empower educators to consider how the standards apply to their context, the result could in fact be that educators are disempowered.
This thinking is based on the idea that educators may fear straying too far away from accepted ideas and practice due to a strong focus on accountability. The article goes on to say that there can be a tendency to simply focus in on understanding and interpreting the ‘rules’ rather than debating the intent of the ‘rules and experimenting with a variety of ways relevant to context’ (p. 150).
So how do we as a profession begin or escalate the discussion about the intent of the NQS and build professionalism and confidence? I reflected back on my involvement in the development of the NQS. We set out to develop an aspirational standard that was predominantly outcomes focused, not prescriptive and had inputs embedded within the minimum legislative requirements set out in the National Law and Regulations.
The exciting thing about this shift in focus from being told what to do and how to do it, is it empowers educators to draw on their pedagogy, knowledge of child development, the approved learning frameworks, the NQS and underpinning regulatory standards. This combined with their knowledge of individual children, families and communities empowers educators to make informed decisions about how they meet the standards in ways that are contextually relevant for the families and communities of their service. I believe the revised NQS could be the catalyst to start such the discussion.
To engage in critical inquiry, action research and professional conversations about what are the outcomes for children when these standards are met or indeed when they are exceeded. An example could be opening up a professional dialogue about why the planning cycle is important to facilitate children’s learning. Some questions which may prompt reflection and discussion in your service:
- What opportunities exist for educators to engage in professional conversations, critical inquiry and investigations?
- How do you create and promote a culture of innovation within your service?
- How open are educators in your team to trying different approaches?
- Throughout the self-assessment process, how do educators unpack the ‘why’ behind practices, in particular those identified as strengths?
Sims, M., Forrest, R., Semann, A. and Slattery, C. (2015) 'Conceptions of early childhood leadership: driving new professionalism?' International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice, 18 (2), 149-166.
Further reading and resources