Uncovering the layers of reflective practice: Part 1

During June/July, We hear you will be featuring a special three-part series exploring critical reflection – ‘Uncovering the layers of reflective practice’.

In the first instalment, we explore meaningful self-reflection, what this looks like in practice and the importance of the process not the product.  

uncovering the layers of reflective practice diagram

Part 1: Self-reflection – The key to growth

We know being reflective educators allows for greater self-awareness, drives continuous improvement, improved outcomes for children and families, as well as being a feature of high quality education and care. We also acknowledge a culture of learning, reflection and continuous improvement are driven by effective leaders. A culture of learning is fostered in an organisation that empowers educators, promotes openness and trust, and reflects a space where people feel heard and valued.

Catherine Lee, the Director and Nominated Supervisor at The Point Preschool, shares her thoughts on critical reflection.

 

Reflecting

We often hear educators ask ‘What am I supposed to be reflecting on?’ There are a range of professional standards educators can draw on to analyse their practice:

Considering the prompt questions from the approved learning frameworks can be useful tools to prompt more analytical thinking (Early Years Learning Framework, p. 13 / Framework for School Age Care, p. 11). A great starting point or points to revisit regularly include:

  • What questions do I have about my work?
  • What am I challenged by?
  • What am I curious about?
  • What am I confronted by?

One way of ensuring meaningful self-reflection could be to discuss issues educators have been considering during performance review processes, opening up professional conversations at team meetings, and facilitating educators to affirm and challenge each other as a ‘critical friend’. Research by the University of Melbourne identifies key factors for supporting educators to critically reflect, allowing for deep reflection of their practice:

  • guidance and structure to allow for critical reflection and change
  • effective mentoring for additional resources and perspectives
  • adequate time and space
  • professional development opportunities.

Documenting

Another common question is ‘what do I need to record or document?’ When it comes to reflective practice, the most important aspect is that it is about ‘process not product’. It is about being able to articulate why and how you made decisions and changes. Documenting key decisions may occur in a variety of ways – in the program, in a reflective journal or diary, or in minutes of team meetings.

EXAMPLE: Private journal reflection*

22/02/2017: I have some families that are adamant about their child not sleeping at rest time and yet the child really struggles to stay awake and is quite clumsy and irritable in the afternoons.
Issue: I am really struggling with balancing being an advocate for children’s rights and individual needs for rest and sleep with my professional commitment to honouring and respecting parents’ values. 

Actions/Considerations: 

  • Clarifying the issue from the child’s perspective, working with families to form a stronger partnership with an emphasis on being on the same side and both working together in the interests of their child. Maybe preparing some key points from both perspectives with the point of view of both being advocates for the child.
  • Maybe do some research into sleep requirements/benefits? What guidance do recognised authorities offer?
  • Discuss with the team about doing an action research project around rest time and investigating other options such as meditation or guided visualisation. Need to involve the approved provider as we may need to consider some different arrangements for educator breaks. 

15/03/2017: We have had some positive responses from some families (not all, so we may need to try different methods of communication). This has led to the development of plans for alternative arrangements for some children and the organisation of some regular communication updates with families. The team is really keen to do an action research project investigating routines around sleep, including getting family input and gathering research on sleep needs/ issues/ challenges throughout the child’s whole week. We will plan networking/ service visits to other services.
*Some of this may be discussion or thinking is not necessarily written down.

Documenting in this way has the potential to promote in educators a sense of responsibility and accountability for their self-reflection and professional development. At this level, you may prefer to keep your reflections private.

Effective communication skills are crucial to creating a positive culture of learning. As part of the self-reflection process, you may identify further learning and professional development is needed. This could be added to your individual development plans. However, not all learning needs to be formal, such as attending a workshop. There may be opportunities to build on people’s strengths through mentoring, sharing professional journals or by accessing learning online.

Questions for further reflection:

  • What opportunities are available for educators to reflect on their practice?
  • What opportunities are created for educators to discuss and identify achievements, issues, challenges?
  • How does self-reflection inform individual development plans?

Read the complete series:

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