Critical Reflection

A presentation from the 2022 ECEC Roadshow on critical reflection and how it should drive your practice.

Critical Reflection: what is critical reflection? How does critical reflection drive your practice?

- Great. Thanks very much for that, Kate. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the New South Wales Department of Education's webinar on critical reflection. My name's Belinda Wakeford and I'm one of the state operations managers in our quality assurance and regulatory services, which sits within the early childhood education. You may also know us as the reg authority. As we begin this morning, we have a video we'd like to share with some children acknowledging country.

- We place our hands on the ground to acknowledge Aboriginal land. We place our hands in the sky that covers Aboriginal land. We place our hands on our heart to care for Aboriginal land. We promise.

- Great. Thank you. Thanks for that, Kate, and I'd like to acknowledge that I'm meeting you today from the beautiful Dharawal land on the south coast and I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the various lands on which you're all joining us from today and pay my respects to elders past and present. I extend that respect to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants and colleagues that are joining us today. So to get us started, a few housekeeping bits. As Kate mentioned, your microphone and video and chat functions have been disabled for the webinar today. During the registration process, you were invited to send through some of your questions, and we had a huge response to this and received well over 300 questions from the group, which is fantastic. For that reason, we deliberately made a decision to close off the Q&A function just for today. What we have done though is use some of those common themes from your questions to inform what we've included in today's session, and we'll talk directly to a few of those popular questions towards the end. Please do note though, the Q&A function will remain in place for the remaining Roadshows. We acknowledge some of you would like to know how do we document to get exceeding. I have that question frequently when during A&R, and we've been asked directly, what do the department want to see? What are the officers looking for? And I just want to start by saying the purpose of critical reflection is to support your continuous improvement journey to enhance your service quality and practice, leading to improved outcomes for children, and that's what we're going to be focusing on today. This is not about us as a reg authority. It's about you and your service. If by the end of this morning's session we haven't been able to address your question, there will be further opportunities for you to connect with our team, and we'll share details about how to make contact later in the session. For any questions that you might have relating to your service operation, you can also contact our information and inquiries team who are able to support you. I'm just going to get lovely Kate to pop the details into the chat for you now. We're also going to be using a few interactive features during today's session, including Menti. Hopefully you're familiar with that if you've been to some of the other Roadshows this week. So can I please ask you to have your phone or another device to scan and have that ready? The code will pop on the screen so that you can interact with us, and finally, as you would've been informed when you came in, this session is being recorded and you'll be provided with information about how you can revisit the session once our Roadshows have completed. So today, we will look at reflection versus critical reflection, and our focus is to understand the difference between reflective practice and critical reflection in order to support your continuous improvement journey. So what is critical reflection, when is reflection more of an evaluation, and how does critical reflection drive your practice and quality improvement journey? This morning, we'll hear from Alison, who's one of our experienced authorized officers, as well as a service leader from the sector who has kindly joined us this morning to share with you their critical reflection journey, and we're hoping after today's session that you'll walk away with a deeper understanding of critical reflection, and importantly, how this might drive your quality practices. We know critical reflection is part of the National Quality Standard. If we look within Quality Area 1, Element 1.3.2 speaks directly to critical reflection of children's learning and development. Critical reflection is also one of the three themes that services need to demonstrate at the standard level to be rated exceeding the NQS. Some of the participants online with us today submitted questions around what's the difference between critical reflection in relation to 1.3.2 at the element level and critical reflection as one of the exceeding themes, and we weren't surprised to see this question come through commonly, as we know that this causes, broadly, some confusion across the sector. We acknowledge it can be confusing with the same terminology that's used for both. So I guess to look at what the difference is, I think I need to start by noting what's the same, and that is they both require critical reflection which involves closely examining all aspects of events and experiences from different perspectives. Critical reflection outlined in Element 1.3.2 is about how educators critically reflect specifically on children's learning and development, both as individuals and in groups, to drive the program and their practice. Some examples of how we focus on children's learning and development is through reflection in action, such as altering experiences where they're not, our children not engaging, or adapting the program to include all children, rather than adapting a child's routine or requirements to fit the program. We may also document critical reflection of the program and our practices by analysing our teaching strategies to determine if they're supporting our learning goals that we've created for individual children, or analysing if group experiences and learning goals are being achieved. So as you can see, critical reflection in this capacity has a focus on how children's learning is being evaluated and analysed and what changes are made to support their learning and development within the program. Exceeding theme two, practices informed by critical reflection, involves a deep level of regular and ongoing analysis, questioning, and thinking that goes beyond evaluation and review. Critical reflection informs practice when the continuous reflection of all educators individually and together informs decision making and drives continuous quality improvement. It's about the how and the why we do what we do and it's a universal theme that can be applied across all standards of the NQS, and it's not specific to children's learning and development per se. I'm now going to introduce you to Alison Hendry. Alison is one of our amazing authorised officers in the continuous improvement team, and Alison came to the department with extensive industry experience. She has a clear passion for critical reflection and quality improvement practices that are informed by theoretical and philosophical research in this area. Welcome, Alison. Thanks for joining me this morning.

- Okay. Hi, everyone. Great to see so many of you participants are online with us this morning. Before we deep dive into critical reflection and what that actually means, I'd like to hear from you all. I'd like to hear, what do you think critical reflection involves? So we're all going to use Menti now, if you could. Could you tell me in a few words what you think is involved in critical reflection? You can use the QR code on your screen or go to and enter the code that is on the top of your screen there. Then type in a few words, and I'll give you a few minutes. We'd love to see your thoughts and it is anonymous, so please feel free to join in. Great. I can see some of our words coming in and they are fabulous. A lot of people are saying analysing, which is exactly right. Thinking. Oh, I think a lot of you are really on the right track there. Look at all these responses. Fabulous. Thank you so much, everybody, for providing these responses. That's great. I can see that analysing is clearly something that's at the heart of what a lot of people believe is involved in critical reflection. Fabulous. Okay. So now we're at a point where we're going to look at what is the difference between reflection and critical reflection. What we want to understand is what is reflection and when does reflection transform into that critical reflection space. So theorists tell us that reflection is deliberate. It's conscious. It's a way of making sense of what we've been doing, and realistically, it's a way that we learn from the experience. John Dewey, who I have affectionately named the grandfather of critical reflection in education, most famously said, "We don't learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience." So if reflection is about meaning making, then what's critical reflection? Again, theorists tell us that critical reflection is the relationship between theory and practice or theory and experience. ACECQA reminds us that critical reflection really is multifaceted. It's multilayered. So it's no wonder we all, at times, find it hard to break this down and have a really good understanding of what's involved and then how we engage in the process. This is not easy. So if you find critical reflection smooth sailing, you might not be examining deeply enough. Critical reflection involves critical thinking and multiple perspectives. There's purpose in it and it's used to support enhancements or change or refining practice. Critical reflection is the link between thinking and doing, and my favourite part of these theorists' quotes is that "critical reflection can truly be transformative." This is where we see it come alive. Maybe potentially Freire sums it up best when he notes that "Critical reflection on practice is a requirement of the relationship between theory and practice. Otherwise theory simply becomes 'blah, blah, blah,' and practice is pure activism," but I'm sure you all want to know what the grandfather of critical reflection will tell us. Well, he tells us that critical reflection requires active, persistent and careful consideration of the conclusions that we draw and the knowledge base that we've relied upon to come to those conclusions. So if we now know what reflection is and what critical reflection is, let's see what it looks like when we put them side by side and try to identify what is the difference. We know that reflection is a very practical, in a very practical everyday sense is looking back on an experience to learn from it. Therefore, we know that reflection is a means of building knowledge. However, we know that there's a change to reflection to make it critical. The Australian Institute of Radiography has actually given us a very simple way of looking at when that change from reflection to critical reflection occurs. We know that critical reflection is a process of analysing, considering and questioning experiences within a broad context. Critical reflection can therefore be broken down into a continuous cycle involving the process of practice, reflection, viewing these two elements through a lens of theory, and then reflection or analysis on what we've discovered in that process. From a pictorial view, this ongoing and continuous cycle looks like this. If we start at practice, this is all about the things that we are mostly doing on a daily basis. We're noticing. We're observing what we're feeling. We're thinking about what we're doing. It's really about evaluating. For example, did the environment set up support the learning outcomes? Were the children engaged? Did the new routine work for the morning session, or are families able to understand and access the rostering structure? The next step is also probably something that many of us are doing in terms of that reflection step. We're recording. We're examining. We're confronting the situation we're experiencing and challenging why we're doing what we're doing. We may be writing in a journal or discussing at team meetings why something isn't working and collectively decide to make a change. For example, does the environment allow for children's agency? Collectively, we decide that it doesn't, as children are unable to access resources independently, so we decide to add an open bookshelf so that they can house resources that children can independently obtain. The element that needs to be added to this cycle in order for this to become critical reflection is theoretical influences. The reason why it's important that theory or philosophical influences become part of this ongoing continuous cycle of critical reflection is because these perspectives will underpin the why of what we're doing. It will guide the change. It informs the practice or informs the shaping of a new practice through research or exploring theoretical perspectives. We might read various articles or guiding documentation, such as recognised publications or other sources sharing best practice. We might meet and talk with some subject matter experts or attend professional workshops to learn more about the area that we're critically reflecting on. When we put together our original practice or evaluation and reflection with theory, we're able then to make an informed analysis. This informed analysis is another form of reflection whereby we could rewrite or re-evaluate or critique or challenge those original beliefs that we held or the original way that we did things in order to close the loop and inform our ongoing practice. Realistically, the process of critical reflection needs to take the first two steps of practice and reflection and review those through a framework of theory or philosophical influences in order to analyse critically what we're doing now and what we might do in the future. As I said, the magic happens when we close the loop and use our critical reflection or analysis based on theory to inform, improve or change our practice. As such, the outcome of our critical reflection, or simply the results, might include an uplift of practice or a creation of a new practice, creation of a new policy, a change to the environment, or a refining or affirmation of current practices. It's only when we close this loop that the process of critical reflection has been completed. These outcomes are important and they are examples that demonstrate how your service practice has been informed by critical reflection, which aligns to the exceeding theme two under the NQS. I would just like to give you some additional examples from published research and also recognised bodies who have tried to clarify the difference between reflection and critical reflection. So Dr. Jan Fook, who is an internationally renowned scholar widely recognised for her work on critical social work, practice research and critical reflection, tells us that the difference between reflection and critical reflection lies in that analysis step that we've been talking about, as this brings together the theory with our original reflection, and together, there is likely to be some transformative change, change in our behaviour or change in our practice. Effectively, this is an informed change of practice. Similarly, ACECQA reminds us that critical reflection occurs when educators consider, question, analyse, research, utilize recognised guiding documentation, and re-evaluate planning and decision making that informs practice and process. ACECQA also reminds us that the concept or culture of ongoing self-assessment and continuous improvement, as we've just viewed on the previous slides, the continuous nature of the cycle of critical reflection, all of which ultimately aims to lead to improved outcomes for children, families, educators and service leaders.

- Oh, thanks very much, Alison. That was really great. I think that summarises that really well, and really key for me is that connection of theoretical influences, or simply put, who and what's guiding our practice on our reflection or evaluations and then challenging these. So that's great. Thank you very much for that insight, Alison. I'm now going to introduce Bernice Mathie-Morris, who is the director of early learning at Bomaderry Community Preschool. Good morning, Bernice, and thank you for joining us. It's really lovely to have you today.

- Morning. It's lovely to be present and to be able to have the chance to share some of our practices that we engage with at Bomaderry Community Preschool. Before I start, I'd like to acknowledge that I'm meeting with you today on the lands of the Dharawal people on the beautiful south coast of New South Wales. So yes, I'd just like to start by saying at Bomaderry Community Preschool, we love to engage in critical reflection. I think that comes back to, and reflection, it comes back to our love of learning. So we always say that it's important to involve children and impassion children to have that love of learning, but as adults too, it's really, really important. So that practice of reflection and critical reflection for adults is something that continues to drive us and to want us to learn more, which then helps us, as in a practice, to drive that critical reflection and also those outcomes and that best practice. So at Bomaderry Community Preschool, we reflect every day, but we do choose, you can't possibly choose everything that you reflect on to critically reflect on. As Alison has said, and Belinda, there is so many things in that process, so you can't engage deeply with every single little thing that you want to reflect on but choose something that you think will have the greatest engagement with your staff, but also something that's going to create those quality outcomes for your children and your families and your whole centre. So we too have a great connection, I guess, with John Dewey and his work. So we always say we just don't learn from doing, from that experience. We learn from reflecting deeply on those experiences that we engage with every single day. So today, I'm just going to share with you two questions that we have recently used to deeply critically reflect on and to walk you through the steps of how we have done that, and every centre, every program will look very different. This is just something that we find works for us and it guides us through in a very, well, I guess, a very organized space to get to the outcomes that we want to get to. So if we could have the next slide, so two of the questions that we've recently engaged with in with critical reflection was, why is it important to understand the conceptual mathematics development as educators and teachers in the early years program, and how do aesthetics and relationships within an early education program impact on the cognitive, relational functioning of educators, children and families? So we also, we always start with practice. What does that look like for us in our service? So that is educators noticing, so noticing what's going on with the children, the families, our environments, our interactions with each other. The feelings. How is everyone feeling? That is a really big part, so making sure we're taking note of that as well. How are the children feeling? How are the families feeling? As educators, what are we feeling? How do we approach that? Then questions, lots of questions. We always encourage everybody to question each other, and it's not seen as a negative in our service. It's a positive. So I will often walk through our rooms and be with the children and the other educators and say, "Tell me more about this," and we really encourage that with all educators to be able to do that. Our wonderings, share our wonderings, and they are really valid in this process as well, and we also ask educators to reflect on their own teaching strategies, the resources and the environment. Conversations that we have are really important in the process as well, and then our intentional and spontaneous programming. So there's so much that goes into our days that helps us inform and to be able to critically reflect as we move through. So you wonder what, you say, "Well, how do we document all of this?" And you can't possibly be able to document every single thing, but we do, the next step for us is that reflection step. So we have something called a reflective document and it is a Google Doc that we just use and everyone can have access to that, and we all have different colours and everyone writes in that and we make comments on each other. So that's where we document our noticing, our feelings, our questions, our wonderings. We also then bring them to a team meeting and then to our whole team meeting and discuss every single one of those. Everyone has a voice, and then we also use, obviously, those conversations with families and children, and we document that in there. So it's not a formal document. It's just something that we add to. We might think of something and just quickly write, type it in there, and the beauty of a Google Doc is that everyone can see that and have access to it. So we're constantly thinking about that. I encourage also in that reflection process is evaluations and critiquing on our planning and our documentation as well. So anything that we're thinking about within that reflection evaluation, we pop into that Google Doc as well. Educator meetings is a great time to have great, robust conversations around what we have written, what we have thought, and what we have been discussing in that critical reflection document, and robust conversation sometimes can be really challenging. I will acknowledge that this process is not an easy process, but if you look at it as a point of being able to move forward and I always get so inspired because I know I'm going to learn more. So that's why it is something that's very passionate for me and for our team. Can we have the next slide, please? Thank you. So then, as Alison and Belinda have talked about before, we move on to that next step of theory. This is where a lot of people go, "Oh, this is a little bit too hard. This is really challenging," but it's not. It's inspiring, and as Alison and Belinda has said before, there's so many things within this theory section that we can tap into and learn so much from. So we use lots of different readings, academic journals, sector publications, Department of Education, Bedrock, Pedagogy+, Rattler, textbooks. We have a lot of university students that come to us, so we also tap into lots of resources like that. So what we often do is, as educational leader, we will choose something and it might be three or four documents and we share that with the whole team and they reflect on that and then bring that to a staff meeting. Another great way is to connect with your colleagues at conferences, at webinars, in-house presentations, from sector leaders, other colleagues that have a passion in a space. So it could be as simple as when we talked about aesthetics in our space, we got someone to come in and talk to us about the importance of that. Engaging within our community. Not all of us live close to a university, but the use of webinars and connection through the internet has created a whole other world for us. So we engage as much as we possibly can with universities in projects. So we did a mass project with Wollongong University. So put yourself out there. Make connection with those universities, and they're always doing beautiful projects and really engaging projects that I think your teams will learn so much from, and then once we've taken that, all of that theory, then we link it to our reflections, previous reflections, and our wonder, that first stage of reflection and practice. Then we put it all together. So that analysis, how do we do that? So we come together, as I said, at that team meeting and we discuss the most important questions . What did we learn and what did we get from all of those readings, from those engagements with other professionals? Is there anything that we need to change? If so, how and how are we going to do that? Is there any policies that need to change as a space in there as well? Environment changes. Is there anything that links to our environment that we need to change? And then we make some decisions around what we're going to do to move forward as a result of that whole reflection process and our practice and then engaging with theory, because often when we engage with that theory, there's so many things that come up that we have not been, we did not know, and so many people have very different opinions and thoughts. I think the most important thing with that is to make sure that you're reading some great, reputable documents that are something that you can rely on. So that's another just important little tip. So then we make those decisions, and some of the easy ways to document that in terms of having that, I guess, that documentation so that you can share that with the department when it comes to assessment and rating, we always record on audio, on iPods, and we keep that critical reflection document. We always save all the readings that we've done and just annotate them. It doesn't have to be any formal documentation, but just annotate. Keep all your staff meeting records, all of those types of things and all of that is just then available. It becomes part of your everyday practice and then it's available for anyone to see when they come in and you can share that with them. I would say it doesn't, sometimes it takes a long time. It doesn't mean you have to critically reflect in two weeks. Sometimes it might be months, so enjoy the journey. That's what I would say. Enjoy the journey of critical reflection, because it is something, once you really start getting into it, you become very passionate about it. It challenges you, but you get to the space where you just keep wanting to go because you keep learning so much more. So thank you. I hope that I have been able to shed a little bit of light on how that critical reflection can become an integral part of your journey and that it can be something that you can easily achieve.

- That's wonderful, Bernice. Thank you so much for sharing with us really great examples of how your service engages with critical reflection, and I'm sure that many of our colleagues joining us online have found this really beneficial. I think it's really interesting to see in your practice and reflection subject areas some of the practical things that your educators, some of the educators online would be able to recognise and relate to. So you've mentioned about observations and evaluations and looking at your teaching strategies and interactions, but also the use of the collaborative documentation used to support your critical reflection. It sounds like that Google Doc work is working really well for your team.

- It certainly does. It's something that was a little bit of a adjustment for some people that had never used a Google Doc before, but it's very easy to use. It's just very versatile, so everyone can have access to it. Everyone can see in current time as people write in it and it's not a critical thing that we go, oh, that, you don't have to worry about spelling and grammar. It's just writing it. So it just takes that pressure off everybody.

- Beautiful, I love it, and you made really clear how theory is recognized as an important part of the process together what the end result or action, and I really loved hearing about your overall approach. I can see the excitement and passion that you've shown us would be inspiring for your team. I literally think I could listen to you all day, Bernice. So thanks so much for joining us. That was really, really informative.

- Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity to share.

- Lovely. Okay, so we've covered a lot of things this morning. We're just going to move on now. It's time to get a bit of a pulse check to see what we now know about the difference between reflection and critical reflection. If I can just have the next slide, please. Thank you. So you won't need, oh, I'm going to give you three scenarios. So I'll share these with you and I'm going to ask you to use the poll that's on your screen. It'll just appear. You won't need to use your device for this one. I'm going to give you the scenarios and ask you to identify and think about each example to tell us whether you feel that it's an example of reflection or critical reflection. So we'll have that pop up. The poll will just appear on the screen. Thanks so much to the lovely support team who are doing an amazing job in the background there today for me, So the first scenario is during Assessment and Rating, a service shares their daily critical reflection sheet, which includes evaluations of the daily program, such as routine times and placement of furniture and layout of experiences. The sheet is also used to inform where experiences may be set out the next day, where additional supervision may be needed, or what the experiences are that are not being utilised. So I'm just going to get that poll up for you. So if you can use that to let us know whether you think this is an example of reflection or critical reflection. Great. Thanks so much. Just give everyone a moment to have a little look at that. Gosh, we've had a good, big group on today, which is great to see. Okay. How did we go with this one, Alison?

- Okay. So Belinda, this is an example which highlights evaluated reflection, where the daily happenings are noticed and observed. While the program is evaluated and used to guide future learning opportunities, placement of both resources and supervision and engagement of children, it does not include any theory-based analysis that's being used to change, shape or uplift practice. Something to think about, if you're using a form or document with the term critical reflection in the title, it doesn't necessarily ensure that critical reflection is occurring. This scenario is a scenario demonstrating reflection.

- Excellent, thank you, and we'll move on to our second poll question. Wonderful. Thank you. So during an Assessment and Rating visit, an authorised officer asks to see evidence that supports a stated key practice, that is, that indicates that critical reflection has been completed on changing the service programming template. So the ed leader at the service explained that the educators decided the programming template was no longer working for them and they've chosen to move to using an online programming application. The authorised officer asked what process was undertaken in changing that template, and the ed leader advised that one of the educators who'd been on a prac placement saw the online programming application and that service was awarded exceeding in Quality Area 1, so the team decided to change over to the application as well. I'm just going to get the poll to pop up for you. If you could let us know, do you think this is an example of reflection or has it moved to critical reflection? And that will just pop up for you in a moment. Wonderful. Thank you. Yeah. Where are we at? Excellent. Our poll's being quite tricky and putting all three up at once this morning, and that's okay, showing our flexibility and adaptability.

- That's right.

- So how did we go with this one, Alison? Where are we landing with this?

- There's some good results here, and I've got to say, I think people are starting to, are understanding what is involved with reflection and critical reflection. However, scenario number two or poll question two highlights reflection where a change of practice has occurred, although that change of practice appears to come purely from an operational decision and it's not driven by any theory-based reflection or discussion on practice and there's no evidence of any analysis occurring. So whilst a change did occur in practice, it wasn't driven through that theory and analysis, so this is an example of reflection.

- Excellent. Thank you, Alison, and our last one, I think some of you might have already completed this one, but I'm going to go through it anyway for those playing along in order. During the Assessment and Rating visit, a service explained that they're on a journey to embed inclusive practice, which was instigated when a child enrolled with mobility restrictions. So the educators hired and trialled specialised equipment that the child would need to assess their accessibility and barriers and identify barriers to learning. They met with the child's family and their specialists to develop strategies for inclusion, and the educators attended a workshop and consulted current research to expand their knowledge on inclusive practice, and they reviewed and updated the inclusive practice policy. Through the journey, a broader understanding of inclusive practice developed and a case study was completed on how the service and families understood inclusive practice and how this is demonstrated at their service daily. The case study was reviewed at quarterly interview intervals to ensure it's relevant, robust, and ongoing changes of practice were analysed. So I'll just get the last poll up there, final question for you. What are we all thinking? Looks like we're nailing it there, Alison.

- I completely agree. That's some really clear results there from the audience, from who's listening in. That's great. Yeah.

- Okay, great. So what are your thoughts on this, Alison, reflection or critical reflection?

- Well, first of all, I'm going to say excellent job for everybody. Thank you for participating in the polls, and this is our last scenario question. A lot of you actually answered that correctly. So scenario three is an example of critical reflection. This example highlights critical reflection through the approach of practice reflection, theory reflection and analysis. This critical reflection also has the component of being ongoing, with a review of the change of process practice undertaken, a review of policy and procedure, furthering educators' understanding, and supporting the inclusion of every child. Your critical reflections may not all be this long or they might not all look like this, but it's about what is relevant and reflects the practices in your service. You may notice this scenario refers to a case study which was relevant to this particular scenario. That's not always the case as each critical reflection will be unique to the topic.

- Great, thanks, Alison, and for those of you who may be still a little unsure, I think you'll find this next part of the session will be really helpful. We're now going to address some of those really popular questions I mentioned earlier that came through with your registrations, and I absolutely know that we're not going to be able to get to all of them due to the sheer volume that we received. However, as mentioned earlier, you can reach out to our team following today's session to talk about your own service and experience, and I will get their details popped up in the chat for you in a moment. So Alison, are you ready for me to run through some of our top three popular questions?

- Yes, I'm ready. Let's go. Thanks, Belinda.

- So multiple services have asked, where do we start and how long does it take to complete the critical reflection process?

- Yes, this is a great question actually and one we get often. So critical reflection will often start organically or it may require a conscious decision to identify opportunities. It may derive from highlighting something in your practice or your reflections. It may be something you choose to complete in response to a critical incident or to address feedback provided. Most commonly, critical reflection is undertaken by services to inform better practice or to uplift practice or to make a change to the environment. Additionally, services may choose to complete critical reflection to align their practices against the National Quality Framework. As we discussed earlier, critical reflection often starts in the noticing or observing of a practice or a situation. It may be about paying attention to what you're feeling and what you're doing. Often it's evaluative and this may lead to deeper questioning about the practice or situation. This is often how the critical reflection process starts in a service. Because critical reflection is unique to each service and each service context, how long it takes will be dependent on the processes the service undertakes. So some critical reflections may take less time than others as everyone's aligned to the outcomes of the critical reflection and in the analysis and a change or an enhancement in practice is adopted and understood quickly. Other critical reflections may take on a life of their own and require a case study or research paper to document the depth of the analysis and reflection. Again, it will be unique to your service and what your critical reflection involves. In terms of how long this takes to complete, it's important to remember that critical reflection is a continuous cycle. So in that sense, have a natural endpoint.

- Excellent, thanks, Alison, and one of the other frequently asked questions was, how do we get people involved and on board to support that critical reflection journey?

- Yes, so, one way is that we need to create a safe and positive work culture that allows for educators to be able to be honest and open and vulnerable when unpacking reflections on practice or feedback. Unless you have this underlying culture of safety, you'll find it's difficult to get to an authentic place where true critical reflection occurs. We need to be really clear and be able to communicate easily to each other what are the benefits of the process. Think about how you get the buy-in and what's in it for the educators. Ultimately, you'll see an uplift in your own practice and you'll be part of the fabric that underpins the practices that demonstrate quality at your service. Now, we're all different and you need to find what sparks the interest in your educators in the same way you reflect on what sparks the interest in your children. Acknowledge that your team will all have different learning and communication styles and how we gel these together to support an inclusive process. For some, this will be quite structured, but for other educators, it may be more informal. Services may find the process of critical reflection runs smoother when there's someone who takes responsibility within your service or organisation to ensure that the service community is working through this critical reflection cycle. As service leaders, it's important that we role model behaviours we want to see reflected. When I was at a service recently, they talked to me about how critical reflection has underpinned the journey of transformative change that they've been on for the last few years. This service shared with me that the initial seed of the transformation occurred through honest and open reflection on where each educator's strengths lie. Through this reflection, different educators started to discover a passion or a curiosity about different areas of the service delivery. These educators were then provided space and time to lead the critical reflection and were supported through the process of critical reflection because it was new to them. The process was broken down into small parts initially with supported individual reflections taking place, and these individual reflections then were used to influence that broader and more collaborative critical reflection that was instigated across the service, and ultimately, this led to a more empowered workforce that facilitated themselves this transformative change. I think I'd also like to say it's important that we are deliberate and purposeful and it's essential to provide time for our teams to connect with each other and with this process.

- Absolutely, I completely agree, and it's really difficult beause we are time for, but I like that you call out that it's really important to plan for that and to provide time for our teams to connect with each other in this process. So one last question that we'll have time for, and I think this will be one that people want to hear about, is how should we document critical reflection?

- Okay, so Belinda, you'll know this. This is actually one of our most asked questions, and truthfully, we can't give you a template or an example sheet on how to document your service's critical reflections. The honest answer is how you document will be unique to your service. In addition to how unique the critical reflection subject or topic potentially is, some services will start at the beginning stages of critical reflection in staff meetings or room meetings and therefore start the journey. The start of that journey may documented in meeting minutes, the agenda or summary notes. There may be evidence of the theoretical or philosophical documentation that's being used to further unpack the evaluative practice and reflection. However, this is more often than not going to be an online document or a professional development session or a conversation that's been held with a subject matter expert, and it may only be documented in the analysis notes of the critical reflection summary. Finally, the critical reflection's initial findings and changes or enhancements that have been identified may be noted in a summary document, and you heard about that earlier, but that works for Bernice and her service having a summary document. That summary document can be used as a reference point to come back to later and reassess if further changes or enhancements are needed. This reference document can then be used to support a continuous cycle of critical reflection. I'd also like to acknowledge that parts of the critical reflection process may be through conversation, and many educators ask, "How do we provide evidence that this has actually occurred?" Well, firstly, I acknowledge that may well be the case, and often is, however, this may be part of the initial reflection or evaluative practice stage of critical reflection and that critical reflection process. These conversations will lead to something and have further depth involved to them to allow for an informed change or enhancement. The conversations then become the spark that may well be noted simply in the summary of the critical reflection that's used as the reference point and may recorded as the initial seed that started that particular critical reflection journey. In regards to different methods of actually recording critical reflection, some of the ways you might consider documenting your critical reflection is in journals or mapped out and documented in services' online applications, maybe in services' unique template forms with specific probing questions to guide the reflection. Maybe it's in important improvement planning documents or even potentially through a whiteboard mind map that's been photographed to reflect back on later. There is no one way to document your journey. These are just some suggested variations. Be creative. Get others involved to ensure it's relevant to your service context. If you network with other services, have a chat and see what they use and what they find helpful. As Bernice said, enjoy the journey. What I would say is your critical reflection journey is your own. It's really important to document it in a way that's meaningful and useful to you. Ensure it's user friendly, accessible, and understood by those who are involved and those who'll be guided by it.

- Fantastic, Alison. That's great, and I think, you know, we can't give you a magic template that's going to solve it, but I love the examples that you have provided, and we heard from Bernice what works well for them for that service, and I think, as you said, be creative. Have a chat to others. Find out what works well for you and your educators at your service. So thank you for that. I think you've given those online some food for thought here, Alison.

- Thanks, Belinda.

- Okay, so let's move on. If we look at some of the words we've used today, active, analysis, research, thinking, examining, ongoing, cycle, you can see that there's not one way of describing or engaging with critical reflection. We can't give you a template, as we've just mentioned. It's not that simple. It is relevant to the individual context of your service, and we recognise, as Alison mentioned earlier, it's not an easy process, so take heart. You're not alone if you're finding critical reflection challenging, and as Alison mentioned earlier, if you are finding it easy, then perhaps you're not digging deep enough. This is not about ticking a box and I acknowledge we certainly have not answered the common question I get often is, how do I get exceeding? What this is about is supporting continuous improvement and identifying areas or opportunities for change and inform change in your service program and practice to ultimately improve the outcomes for children. We do though hope today has given you some insights in the differences between reflection, that may be more evaluative in nature, and critical reflection, and also given you some information about the continuous cycle of critical reflection and how each of these aspects of the process are important to consider and use to inform your practice. I'd like to thank you all for joining us today and for all of the questions that you provided and sent in. As I mentioned, if you'd like to make contact with our team, the details are in the chat. The information inquiries team is also available to talk to you about anything to do with your service operation, and following today's session, you will receive a link to a short survey and I'd really encourage everyone to complete this. The feedback that you share with us really does help us to provide purposeful and relevant Roadshow sessions in the future. In our last slide, as we're going, as people are leaving the session today, I'm just going to leave this up so you can see the sources of the references we've used in today's presentation and some suggested further reading. So thank you all again for joining us. I hope everyone has a wonderful day. Thank you.


  • Early childhood education


  • Frameworks and standards
  • Learning and development

Business Unit:

  • NSW ECEC Regulatory Authority
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