Element 1.2.3: Child directed learning

Each child’s agency is promoted, enabling them to make choices and decisions that influence events and their world.

What Element 1.2.3 aims to achieve

When educators promote child directed learning, they foster children’s agency, build on the key concepts of belonging, being and becoming, and support children to develop a strong sense of identity. Promoting children’s agency recognises that children have a right to make choices and decisions, and are capable of initiating their own learning.

When children have opportunities to make choices, to attempt tasks, to make decisions for themselves, and to take on increasing responsibilities, they are able to recognise their influence and significance in the world and develop skills in assessing risk.

Educators who listen to and respect children’s ideas recognise children’s capabilities and help them develop the sense that their ideas and opinions matter. They support children to explore their world, to ask questions, to express ideas and to learn from their mistakes. Educators support children to develop decision-making skills to make appropriate choices for their own wellbeing and to realise that the choices they make may impact on others. When children are given choices and control, they begin to understand the connection between actions and consequences, and learn to assess what risks are appropriate and how they may be managed.

Educators promote child-directed learning by encouraging children to make decisions about, plan for and help set up their own play experiences or projects.

Assessment guide for meeting Element 1.2.3 (for all services)


The assessment will be undertaken primarily through observation and discussion with educators.

Child-directed learning


Assessors may observe:

  • educators:
    • arranging play experiences, routines and the physical environment so that children have a range of opportunities to make choices about what they will do and how they will do it
    • encouraging children to make choices and decisions
    • acknowledging children as capable and competent, and encouraging them to act autonomously
    • providing children with strategies to make informed choices about their behaviours
    • incorporating children’s ideas and suggestions in planning and implementing experiences
    • providing encouragement and displaying enthusiasm for children’s attempts to gain new skills and knowledge
    • embracing and supporting play experiences initiated by children, motivating children to persist and extend their learning
    • noticing and listening carefully to children’s concerns and discussing diverse perspectives on issues of inclusion and exclusion, and unfair behaviour
    • encouraging children to direct their own play and leisure experiences with their peers
  • children:
    • making choices and decisions about matters that affect them (for example, whether they wish to play inside or outside, whether they want to play with other children or play independently, whether they are ready to eat, whether they are thirsty, and whether they need to sleep)
    • openly expressing their feelings and ideas in their interactions with others
    • initiating play
    • beginning to display understanding and willingness to negotiate and share with others
    • showing leadership, making decisions and following directions given by other children
    • leading their learning, designing experiences and freely making choices about participating in experiences
    • actively participating in decisions that affect them, including their learning and leisure
    • being supported to assess and manage risk (adapted from the Early Years Learning Framework, p. 21; and the Framework for School Age Care, p. 20).

Assessors may discuss:

  • how educators:
    • support opportunities for children’s decision-making that are appropriate for the child’s age
    • provide opportunities for children to influence what happens to them and to exercise choice
    • support children to explore different identities and points of view through play and everyday experiences
    • reflect on what decisions children can make and the extent of those decisions (adapted from the Early Years Learning Framework, p. 23; and the Framework for School Age Care, p. 22)
  • how children’s interests are pursued and celebrated
  • what responsibilities children have and how this contributes to their sense of agency
  • whether educators have high expectations for all children (across ages, genders, abilities, and cultural, linguistic or family backgrounds).



Assessors may sight:

  • the service’s philosophy statement that recognises children’s rights and describes their role in decision-making
  • documented reflections that demonstrate changes in practice to support children’s agency
  • work developed by children with minimal educator input
  • use of open-ended resources and materials that allow children to express themselves (rather than using templates, stencils or resources that limit children’s capacity to create, interpret, experiment and explore).