Documenting the program: Making children's learning visible

A presentation from the 2022 ECEC Roadshow on what educators are required to document and how documentation can be used to make children's learning visible and inform the program.

Documenting the program: making children's learning visible

- Hey, good morning everyone. We're just going to give everyone a moment to enter today's session. I can see lots and lots of people joining in today. So welcome to today's session. We won't start just yet, we'll give everyone a moment to join in. It's great to see that there's so many people joining in today. Looking forward to a very busy and popular session this morning. So I can see that there's lots of people still joining us. We'll just give it a few more moments. People from everywhere across the state. Thanks for your good mornings. And I can still see there's lots of people joining in, so we'll just give it a few more moments before we begin. It's great to see that there's so many people that have made the time to come today. So just a few more moments and then we can begin. Okay, so I can see it's just a few moments after 10:00. And we might get started because there is a lot for us to talk about today and those last few people I can see are joining in. So welcome to everybody that is here this morning. My name is Nicki McDowell and I'm today's host of this session that's called Documenting the Program, Making Children's Learning Visible. I'm an early childhood teacher and I am currently an early learning advisor with the Department of Education. I'm part of the curriculum in early years primary learners team. And my colleagues in ECE have asked me to come along today to talk to everyone about documentation. Such a hot topic and it's really grateful to see, I'm really grateful to see that there's so many people that have joined in. Before we go any further today, I would just like to acknowledge that I am joining you today from the land of the Dharug people. And at the Department of Education, we recognise the traditional custodians of the lands and the waterways where we work and live. We celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' unique cultural and spiritual relationship to Country. And we acknowledge their significance to culture in Australia. And we have a short video for you today with some children with their beautiful acknowledgement.

- 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.

- So thank you so much for those children and their acknowledgement for us this morning. So just while, oh, here we go. So just some housekeeping for today's session. So there is a large number of participants today, which means your microphone and your chat and your video functions are all disabled during the webinar. However, you can interact, there'll be a few different ways that you can. The first thing you can do is post any questions into the Question and Answer box down the bottom there. And again, due to the large number of people joining us, we will prioritise these questions. So vote if you see a question that you think you might like answered and we'll try and do that live throughout the presentation or towards the end. We have some allocated question and answer time. Any unanswered questions, we'll follow up in a response sheet that can be emailed out to all participants that have joined in today. Questions in regards to specific service operation won't be able to be answered today. However, you can reach out to Information and Enquiries who are always available to support with any questions that you do have around your specific service operation. And those details will go into the chat box for you to see. The next thing is that we'll be using Menti during today's session. So in preparation for that, please have your mobile phone so that you'll be able to scan the QR codes and join in. And the last point there is that this session is being recorded. So following on from this morning, it will be made available on the website. Before we go any further, I would just like to say that I am very much a hand talker, so I will try my best not to do too much of that and distract you from the content. Okay, so let's get started, into the real meaty stuff. Why are we here today? This session today is around the very hot topic of documentation and I've titled it documenting the program and around making children's learning visible because that's really the focus of the session today, how documentation can inform you to make curriculum decisions and how to make learning visible for the children that attend your services. So you will examine three things across the hour. It will really be around the requirements, what you're required to document. It will be some information around documentation to inform your programming decisions, and then, documentation to make children's learning visible. I'd also just like to call out that there'll be some, that today's session really isn't about telling you as an individual how you should document, and that's because it looks different in all the different settings and contexts across our service and our sector. So what it is going to offer you is, I guess an opportunity to reflect on what you're doing in your practices and maybe some areas of improvement or some strengths that you can identify and that you can work within your everyday practice. So there won't be any templates or checklists or digital platforms. It's really just a series of reflections for you to make those decisions yourself. So why do educators document? And I guess documentation is more than a professional responsibility. And there's this quote here from the guide to the NQF is that documentation "promotes relationships between children, educators, and families and it demonstrates professionalism." So yes, documentation is a professional responsibility. You do have that role as an educator to collect and collect children's learning, their skills and their understandings, but it's more than that. It's also knowing and understanding what you need to provide for children's learning. And when we think about documentation as a professional responsibility, there's many, many layers to this. And the first that we're going to explore today are, what services are actually required to document? So what does the law and what do the regulations say around documentation? So you can find this information in more detail at the link that can be placed into the chat now. But there are legislative standards around the educational program and practice for educators in the Early Years sector. And we're just going to have a quick refresh on the three regulations that really focus on documentation in practice for you to deliver that program. So the first is Regulation 74. And Regulation 74 is really about keeping records of what children know, what they can do and what they understand. So educators must document each child's needs, interests, experiences, and participation. And when they document this, that documentation will show the progress that children make against learning outcomes. It will take into consideration how long a child has been enrolled at the service. And then it will also take into consideration what's going to be done with that documentation, how it will be used, and how it will be understood by others. The second regulation that is specific to documentation is Regulation 75. And that means, Regulation 75 is aimed at making documentation accessible and available to others. And in particular, it's documentation about the educational program of a service being displayed in an accessible location for families to see. And the keyword in here is accessible. And that's accessible is going to look very different across all the different settings. So how do you ensure that families have the time and multiple opportunities to access that information? Are families asked what works for them? You may have an idea about how to do that, but is that actually responsive to your family's needs? Is there a tailored approach for individual families? Because one method of making the documentation accessible might not work for another family at your service. So things like languages, home languages, access to tech, technology, literacy skills within homes, all of these things need to be taken into account. And how do you ensure that documentation is shared sensitively considering a family's and a child's right to confidentiality? So that's the key focus of Regulation 75. And then the third regulation in regards to documentation is Regulation 76. And it's focused on families being informed of all the information that's collected in Regulation 74. So it really means that the the program is displayed and that families can see what's being planned for their child and that they have information about their child's learning and how they participate in the program. And again, it's around making it accessible. So how do you share this with families? Does it work for families? It has to work for them as well as working for you. Is it understandable for families? Is it presented in a way that they're going to understand the meaning behind it and the importance of that learning? And is it meaningful for families? Does it acknowledge things like individual families, cultures, and identities? Does it acknowledge what families find is important for their own child? And are they able to see that learning in that documentation? So that's just a really quick run through the three regulations that relate to documentation. Apart from the regulations, there's also some expectations. So under the National Quality Framework, there are the National Quality Standards and it's an expectation that all educators in early education and care settings meet these standards. And in particular, in relation to documentation, we're looking at quality area one, the educational program and practice, and then again, more specifically Element 1.3.1 assessment and planning. And you can see that the language of this standard includes the word documentation that each child's learning and development is assessed or evaluated as part of an ongoing cycle of observation, analysis of learning, documentation, planning, implementation and reflection. And that's direct from the NQS. So really this means the educators use the assessment and planning cycle to develop a planned and a reflective approach in designing and delivering programs for children. And we're going to explore that a little bit more. But before we go any further, it's time for you to use your phone or your device or whatever you have there with you, or you may even use the link there. So if you scan that QR code, you'll be taken to a multiple choice where you can answer this question. How confident are you to meet the requirements for documentation? So I'll just give everyone a moment to access that poll. If you can't use the QR code, you can go to and you can enter that code and it will take you to the interactive feature. Okay, so you can see we've got a very clear answer here that most educators, so I would even say majority of educators feel confident to meet these requirements, but I think what's also important to acknowledge is that there are some educators that this might be very new to. And it's about, thinking about who in your service or which person or what role is in your service that could support you with this to understand those requirements so that you can actually be meeting them. Some confidence to meet the requirements. Yes, it's quite a lot of information, but again, who in your service can support you with this? Is it your director? Is it your educational leader? Can you work within your team to get more of an understanding of this? Lots of people who feel confident to meet this and really great to see that there are some people out there who feel extremely confident and that they're exceeding their requirements. That's fantastic. And I think this is something to acknowledge that maybe you don't feel this way overnight, especially, if you are really uncertain of some of this, is that you need to take some time to develop your practices and to develop your skills so that you can feel that confidence in your own practice. I think, we'll move on from this. The other thing that can sometimes impact on our confidence around meeting these requirements and these expectations are some of the misconceptions because I think as a teacher, I'm very aware that there are a lot of common misconceptions and misunderstandings around what is required in regards to documentation. So I've just pulled four of those together today and I just want to make it really clear that these are actual just misconceptions and they can sometimes, I guess, cloud our views, and our understandings of what is a requirement. That the first common misconception around documentation is that you must have a quota or a certain number of pieces of documentation per child, per month or per term or whatever it might be. So in those regulations, that is not specified anywhere. It is a misconception. What I do want to say is that many services and many contexts have their own ways of ensuring that there is adequate amounts of documentation. And I think the question that you need to think about is the why. Why are those systems in place? And why do you have those numbers? And if it's working for you, then that's brilliant. If it's not working for you, what else can you do? Because it's not an actual requirement to have a set quota or a target. The next common misconception is that you must store all documentation where families can see it. And I think it's important to acknowledge there's a big difference between making documentation accessible to families, but also protecting and respecting their right to confidentiality. So there's some of that information that isn't available for all families to see. That is a misconception. However, what systems do you have in place so that families can see that information when it's important to them? Another misconception is that only the teacher is responsible for documentation. So again, nothing, none of that language in those regulations or those expectations specify roles. It is all educators who are responsible for documentation that will be led in different ways and there will be different levels of understanding. But it doesn't mean that one person isn't responsible and one person is. As an early education and care educator within the sector, these are all the expectations of you. And the last common misconception is that documentation must always be a written observation. And again, nothing in those regulations that specifies that, there are many different ways to document children's learning. And a common misconception is that it needs to be that written observation. And as today goes on, we'll have an opportunity to have a look at what some of your other options might be for you to capture children's learning in different ways. Okay, so we're just going to keep moving on here. And the next part of today's session is really focused on the role that documentation plays in the assessment and planning cycle. So if you've never seen this image before, I hope that you can take it today and really use it in your practice. This is taken directly from the guide to the NQF and this is the assessment and planning cycle. And this is what educators are required to do to deliver a quality program for children and individual children and groups of children in their service. So there's a short definition there that the assessment and planning cycle is used, is the process educators undertake to develop a planned and reflective approach in designing and delivering the program for each child. So it's really that way of making sure that you don't just do whatever you feel like you do, that your program is informed by children's learning and that's reflective and it's delivered in a very specific way. So how does documentation fit into this? I think the first thing that we need to explore is that documentation is a practice, it's a skill or a tool or an action that educators undertake that can inform their decision making. And on the screen is just, I hope a little bit of a graphic to help you to understand what I mean by this. So documentation allows educators to gather knowledge about what children know, what they can do and what they understand. This documentation is then used as evidence to inform future planning that you can reflect on your teaching, it helps you to make judgments about learning and then respond in appropriate ways. And then it just continues on. Again, you collect new documentation, which then allows you to gather new knowledge about what children know and what they can do and understand. And then that new knowledge that you've collected then in continues to inform your evidence. It becomes your evidence to inform your planning, to reflect on teaching and to make those judgments. So I think if you can see that documentation is a practice that can actually inform your decision making, then you can see how it fits into that assessment and planning cycle. And on the next slide, we're just going to explore what that can look like at each stage of that assessment and planning cycle. Because it's really important that when you are planning for children that each of those steps becomes part of your focus. So we're going to start at the top in a red box here. So I guess this is, I guess when you think about documentation, this is where your mind goes to first. Documenting observations. So this is the gathering of information about children's learning. This might be all the information that you collect about what children know, what they can do and what they understand. But documentation doesn't actually stop there because the next stage of the assessment and planning cycle is the analysis. So documenting the analysis of learning, interpreting what children know. So from that evidence that you've collected, that from those observations, what do you understand about that child? And you need to document that down. And I do have to say, I'll say this many times throughout today, is that not every piece of learning needs to be documented and analysed and go through each step of this program, of this cycle. But it is important that you've got evidence of this in, for all different children and to show their progress. So the next stage of that cycle is that you're documenting your plans for learning. So you've collected the evidence about where they're at, you've analysed what that means for each child and you've recorded or documented that in some way. And then you're going to document your plans for learning. What is your program going to be about and how are you going to present that or teach that to the children that are in your care. The next step of the planning cycle is that you are actually going to implement that. So you are going to document what happened, what strategies did you use when you engaged with the children? Was it spontaneous learning? Did you use intentional teaching strategies? But you're going to make a record of what worked and maybe what didn't work as well. And that's that last section of the planning cycle is that you reflect, you record some information and some documentation about what areas of learning were really successful and what didn't work so well. And you might begin to identify why that was so in those reflections. So you can see that documentation is a really essential element at every part of that assessment and planning cycle. I can see that there's some questions coming into our Question and Answer box. I'll just take a moment to have a look and oh yes, I can see. So maybe as the session's going on, I can try and address these or at the end, we can just spend some time to go through them all. So I think, keep them coming if you've got a question. Okay, so the next thing that I'd like for us to examine today is when you are documenting what actually needs to be visible? What should be in your documentation? So at each section of those, of that assessment and planning cycle, what should you include? We've given a little bit of insight already, but what should documentation demonstrate? And I guess documentation, the key purpose of documentation is really around outcomes or impact. And when we talk about outcomes or impact, I guess you can define that outcomes are what is used to measure children's learning. We've got the outcomes of the Early Years Learning Framework that gives you a guide. And then you've got your impact. How is that learn- what happens and how does that contribute to overall progress for children? So when you're thinking about outcomes or impact, you're thinking about what children can know, do and understand. So in your documentation you have information that shows that to somebody. In documentation, the other thing that you may consider that you need to make visible is what children are learning. What skills and what development are they making around those outcomes and that impact? How does it contribute to their overall progress? The other thing that can be visible in your documentation is progression of learning and development. So this might be that progression towards learning outcomes, that bigger aspiration, it might be progression towards a very specific individual goal that might be part of an individual learning and education plan. There are lots of different goals for many different reasons, but your documentation can show how children are making that progression towards whatever goal or outcome that might be. That's a little bit about what to include in your documentation. The next thing to consider is how, how to make that visible? What are the documentation methods that you can use to make those outcomes and that impact visible? So I guess there are many, many different ways that you can do this. And I think when you consider collecting a range of documentation or using a range of different methods, it supports you to develop a more holistic image or understanding of a child. So as the screen comes on, who else is- So, photos. Photos are a great way that you can collect information about children's learning. You might use videos and then you can see how children are engaging and interacting with others or with outcomes. You might even use an audio recording. And then you can listen back and analyse that learning and you can identify what strategies you've used that were successful in your implementation of that. You might collect work samples. So creations or things that children have made themselves. And you can make some annotated notes to that to show that there are different ways of learning. It could be that it's a written observation that you use to collect information about children's learning. You might use something like a mind map that's developed over time that really demonstrates that progression towards a goal, towards an outcome. You might use learning stories, particularly, around group, groups of children and group learning. Learning stories can really capture the collaboration that can happen in those experiences. Your collection of information might come from a conversation with a family. So you need to remember that families have all of this knowledge about their own children and that can be used to inform how you make decisions and how you plan to reach outcomes and measure impact. Or it could be a series of jottings. You know, you start making some notes over a couple of days or maybe over a few weeks and suddenly you can see how it's all connected and you can use that series of jottings to demonstrate that, to show those outcomes are being made and progressed towards. And there are more. There are so many more other methods that you can use. And I think what this demonstrates is that the legislative and quality frameworks are not prescriptive about how documentation is completed. And they are open for the reason that documentation can come in many forms. It's not always that written observation. And that's because children learn in many different ways and that you need to have many methods to capture that over time. So we've talked a little bit about what needs to be visible in documentation and how you can make that visible. And I guess that's probably important to acknowledge that there are many ways again, that you can make that learning more visible again. And we talk about that as being rich and meaningful documentation. And that's a really big mouthful, a very open ended concept, rich and meaningful documentation. So what is mean by that? What do I mean by that? And it's around using the outcomes, using the Early Years Learning Framework to make that learning visible, because that's what it's there for. That the rich and meaningful documentation requires educators to understand the learning that's expressed in the Early Years Learning Framework because that's what that framework is for. The language of those outcomes in that framework, prompts educators to know what they are looking for and the language that they can use. So in particular, I'm talking about this column of those outcomes. And you can see that educators use the language and the outcomes of the framework to create that rich and meaningful documentation, that content in that documentation that shows the children's learning and it identifies their strengths and their skills and their understandings. And a very quick example of that, for example, is that if a child was engaging with an outdoor activity like an obstacle course, you can see there in Outcome 3, it might be that you're describing what that child is doing. And you know that that's important because here it says here in Outcome 3, that children engage in increasingly complex sensory motor skills and movement patterns. And that they're developing their spatial awareness to move themselves around the environment in a confident and safe way. So the language of the outcome is there to support educators to make that learning visible in their documentation. So on the next slide, we have an example. So this is just one example and I've got, actually, sorry, I apologise. We've actually got two examples of some documentation. And I must say that this is in no way the way that you should be documenting. This is again, just one example from one educator in one setting, and this is some of their practice. Your documentation may look very different to this, and that's okay because remember there aren't any prescribed methods or ways, you really need to find the methods that work for you. But I think what I would like to highlight is it's how, it's the making the learning visible. So here in this first image, you can see that we've got a child who is drawing, and underneath we've got a reference to often people shorten these outcomes. LO5, children are effective communicators. Children express ideas and make meaning using a range of media. So it's initially got that language of the outcomes, but really it's not an accurate representation of the learning for that child because where does it actually reference what that child is doing towards achieving that aspirational, bigger outcome of being an effective communicator? Whereas if we look a little bit closely, and another example here, it's just a small change in their practice that this educator has taken on, but you can see they've just gone a little bit further. So they've included a description of how that child is demonstrating the learning of the outcome. And it's a little bit hard to see, but the text in that description there is that, "This child communicated she was going to draw her family. As she drew each member of her family, she describes something significant about the picture." So she was saying things like, "She has long hair but not as long as mine." "We're wearing polka dot dresses and I'm balancing potatoes on my head," "Mum has the same hair color as me." But then the educator goes on a little bit further to say that "This child is demonstrating ways to be an effective communicator. She is using the creative arts, drawing to express her ideas and to make meaning." So it's using that language of the outcome to show how that child is working towards that. So again, that's just one example of how you can make that documentation rich and meaningful. So we're going to stop again and I'm going to stop talking for just a moment. And I guess, now we've talked about what you need to make visible in children's learning and how you can do that. We really need to think about who it's for. So who needs to see the learning in your documentation? So we've got a QR code there again, and you will be able to select and answer around, and I get there is I want just say that you choose what you think. So who do you think needs to see the learning in your documentation? And you can see on the screen there, we have a very clear winner in this. And yes, documentation is for families, but it's more than that. Documentation is for more than just families. It's a very important element to your documentation and part of your responsibility as an education and care educator is that you're meeting those regulations and that you're showing that to families the progress that children are making. But I guess it's more than that too. And I can see there are, I'd be interested to know what everyone's understanding of other is. And maybe that's something that you can talk about in your teams who are the other people that need to see your documentation. Just give everyone a few more moments to put their answers in. Yes, other, all of the above, very true. I can see that's been put into the comments there, into the Question and Answers. So on, I guess I've taken a quote directly from the NQS here. Who needs to see learning? That, "Documentation of children's experiences and their responses to the environment makes learning visible to children, educators, and families. And it promotes shared learning and collaboration. So children, educators, and families were all options. So you can see that there actually isn't just one answer. Families are very important in sharing documentation too, but it's also really important to share that with children and educators and by others. I guess my interpretation of others could be people like authorised officers who are coming to make assessments about how you're meeting or exceeding or working towards those quality standards. It could be other professionals within your community context, a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, a child health nurse, a representative from DCJ. It could be that it's the Kindergarten teacher at your local school and when children are transitioning to school, you're sharing information about what type of learner they are. So I guess documentation has purpose for lots of different people within our sector, but I think we'll just spend some time unpacking three. So educators, children, and families because that's our main priority when we're documenting learning. So why make learning visible for educators? Because when you make learning visible for other educators, for your colleagues and for your team, it means that when you write meaningful information about children's learning, plans for teaching and learning, and evaluating this, it helps all educators to support children's learning all children's learning. So for example, if you weren't there one day, who else would be able to implement learning for that child? If you've got it documented well, then someone else will be able to do that, someone else from your team. Another reason to make learning visible for other educators is that it allows educators to foster continuity of learning. And it can help children to transfer learning and adapt learning from one context to another. Because we all know that we all can't be everywhere all at once. It's physically impossible. But if you've got some methods in place to share learning, it means that no matter where those children go, whether it be within your service or even outside of your service, if your documentation captures the important information about their learning, then others can apply that as well. And the last reason that I can think of today that you could make learning visible for educators is that it allows educators to work collaboratively, and you can mentor each other and you can support each other to interpret and to analyse and improve your own practice. So sharing your documentation with other educators, getting some feedback, do you think this captures what this child can do? Can you add to it so that it can be clearer? So they're just a few reasons why you can share your documentation, make that learning visible for educators. What about making learning visible for children? So again, they're there. That's the centre of our practice. It's the reason why we're there and those outcomes and that impact for children. And when observing and collecting information, it's essential to create opportunities to capture children's voices and ideas. And the best way to do this and to make learning visible is actually with children themselves. And we know that when you make learning visible for children and when you include children in that learning and that analysis of learning and planning for learning and evaluating learning, it promotes their agency and it fosters those opportunities, those dispositions for learning. That's a really fancy word to say. Things like shared thinking and collaborating and all of those skills, those 21st century learning skills that children are going to be required to have as they make their journey through their lives. So when you make learning visible for children, you make opportunities for them to be a part of that. And the third stakeholder, or the third group of people that you can make learning visible for that we'll focus on today is for families and documentation for families. It's a huge part of our practice. And when making learning visible for families, it's essential to provide information that's focused on learning and growth over time. So again, back to those regulations. And I think the key thing to call out here is that it's not a description, it's not just about what children have done, it's actually capturing the learning in the documentation. So using the language of those outcomes and making decisions and professional judgments around what that child is learning and how they're progressing towards a goal or an outcome. When making learning visible for families, it also means that your access, actively seeking input from families about what their children know and understand away from your care. So what can children do at home or what can they do when they're out with their families? Because that's just as important to know that, is what they can do when they're with you. And it means inviting families to be involved in goal setting for children's learning and reviewing their progress because then families begin to understand why those early years are so important and foundational for learning for the rest of their life. I'll just, before we look at the next slide, I'll just say that unanswered questions stay, because I can see that there's a lot of questions that are building up in the box there. We will, so specific questions won't be able to be answered, but we will spend some time at the end I guess coming back to those general type questions that people might have around documentation and we'll also follow them up in that response sheet after the session. Okay, so how do you make learning visible for families? Again, this is just one way that you can do that. There are many different ways that you can make learning visible for families. And I think the other really important thing to say is that not every piece of learning can be made visible for families. It's just not possible. When you're documenting, you need to be able to find ways that you can manage and sustain your documentation. You don't become overwhelmed or overloaded with your documentation. And it's, I guess part of that is reflecting on what is important to be documented and what doesn't need to be documented because that is what's going to contribute to making that documentation manageable and sustained. So again, just one example of how one educator has made learning visible for families. It doesn't need to look this way, this is just an example. So again, that Regulation 74, sorry, 75 and 76, to make it accessible for families and to show that progress and that learning. So this educator has used photos and a written paragraph to do that. I think it's important to acknowledge that photos are a great way to document children's learning. And sometimes a photo on its own is enough, especially if there's been lots of communication around how a child is working towards a goal or how they're showing their progress once, one photo or a series of photos can really capture that. But I guess if you are sharing just a photo, is that enough? Because, and it's what you say or what you talk about with that family in that photo. Because if it only described the play that was happening and the name of the outcome, then it wouldn't make that learning visible for families. So, you know, if you were just describing children like to play puzzles and do drawings, and this is important because of Learning Outcome 4, Learning Outcome 5. It's a great start, but it doesn't actually show the learning. And what you need to consider is what method do you have in place where you can describe the child's interests, their strengths, and the progress that they make towards achieving those outcomes and the learning that's happening. So this educator has, I think this was part of like a summary, so a summative documentation piece. Over a period of time they had identified that this child was becoming a strong and effective communicator. She can ask for help from educators and love to role play using dramatic play. She enjoys small group interactions with peers and in particular funny rhymes. In the photos, so to the left, she's followed the rhyme under the web and she's used symbols in her drawing to link to the storyline. So there's that key documentation that demonstrates that learning to that family and makes it visible. And again, this is just one way of doing it. It might be that information that's shared in that green box. For you, it might be a conversation that you have with a family. And that conversation might be at arrival or at pick up time. You might be able to talk to a family about how a child is demonstrating some learning. Or it might be that you make a phone call, you know that the parents know that there's a child that's been particularly focused on a goal and all of a sudden you can see that they've made this great progress and that you make that phone call and you communicate that learning to that family. It doesn't always need to be a written observation or a written piece of documentation. That's just one way of of doing that. And I think it, there're really unreasonable expectation, that every photo and every moment that you capture would be shared with families that way. It would make that documentation load very unmanageable and very unsustainable. And I guess the last part to this section is, when you're thinking about making learning visible for families and reflecting on your practice around documentation for families, maybe it's a good opportunity for you to think about if you share a daily, "this is what we did today" summary. So remember that you do need to make the program and learning accessible to families and lots of services do this in a daily summary. And for some contexts, that's a great way of doing that. But it's important that you know why, why you are doing that. And does that summary really capture a learning that happened, the learning that has happened in a day. So if you're, you know, if you have that type of system in place, you might like to think about why, what are your reasons for sharing it this way? And do you know if the families like it? Most families do, but when they are looking at that and when they're reflecting on their child's day, is the learning visible or is it just a description? You really need to think about how you're going to promote children's learning to their families. Does it have meaning for individual children and their families? Because we know that for some children, for whatever reason it might be, they can't be part of that sharing. So how do you meet the needs of those families? And I guess as a teacher that's been in the classroom, is it the best use of my time? You know, I've been there, I've been there at 2:30 in the day thinking about how am I going to get this out to families who are going to be arriving within the next half hour? Is it taking my time away from the children? Is it the best use of my time? And is it meeting the needs of that sharing and making learning visible? So it's certainly not saying that this is something that you shouldn't be doing. For many, many services, it works, and it works for many families. But do you have a good understanding of why you are doing it and how you're sharing that information with your families. I'm very mindful of our time and I can see we have about 10 minutes left. So I guess it's time to begin to think about everything that I've talked about today and critically reflecting on your practice. So really, thinking about what's being said today. I would encourage everyone that's been listening today and that is ready to take some time to reflect on how they document and what they document. Maybe these are the steps that you'd like to follow. What will be documented? Because not every moment can be captured. How will you decide what's important for a child or a group of children? What will be the focus of your documentation? It can be the first step. The next step in your reflection could be how. How will that documentation be recorded? We've talked about some of the methods and there were many different options there. You might have some more. It might be photos, observations, the child's voice. How do you collect that background information for families? The next thing that you might like to consider when you are reflecting on your practice is, how will it be presented? What will you do with that information to make it accessible, meaningful, and understandable to those key stakeholders, to children, to other educators, to families, to people that are coming into your service to see and you can showcase your practice. What will you do to ensure that's being presented in the best way possible? How will the documentation reflect the individual? Because remember, documentation needs to show the learning and it needs to show what children can do, what they know, what they understand, and what in your documentation will communicate that. And last of all, how will the documentation showcase the learning? Is it a quality, is it rich and meaningful documentation or is the focus on a quota? You're just collecting these pieces of information because you know you need to reach a target, but is that information you're collecting, showing the learning for children and for groups of children? So these might be some questions that you take time to consider on your own. It might be some questions that you take to your team or to a colleague or maybe a mentor or a mentee that you have and spend some time really having a clear understanding of why you are doing what you are doing and how you are doing it and how you're showing the learning in your documentation. Okay, so we're nearly at the end, but I guess now it's an opportunity for you maybe to share some documentation practices that work for you. So if you have a practice or if you have a strategy or if you have a way of making documentation really effective, you can scan the QR code and it will take you to a text box and you'll be able to just enter some of your thoughts and ideas around documentation. While you are doing that, I'll just take a moment to have a look at the questions that we can answer in our next five minutes. So I can see lots and lots of suggestions and coming up photos, videos, group observations, great. It's a great way to make it sustainable and manageable for educators because we know that our time is so stretched and it's so valuable. So what strategy can you use? Things like observations, conversations, a reflective journal. Yes, that's a great way to doing it with the children. Perfect. Because it means that you're capturing their voice in that and you are demonstrating to some learning to them as well. And they can have a good understanding of what their own learning is. Learning stories, jotting. So I can see lots of people using things like digital platforms, daily reflection, diaries. Work smarter, not harder. Absolutely. Really easy to say, sometimes really difficult to apply, but this is a good opportunity for you to actually maybe pause and think about some of the things that we've talked about today and reflect on why you document in certain ways and what is it achieving. If it's really unachievable and those expectations are too high, what can you do about it? Who do you talk to about it? Yes, mixture of anecdotal observations all in one, photos, videos, jottings, recording conversations, a fortnightly curriculum. Yes, definitely. There's nothing that says that planning cycle needs to happen weekly. It might be something that could happen in a day, across a month, across lots of months. You might have many planning cycles happening alongside each other at the same time. That can be one way that you can think about how your time can be spread and shared evenly across your work. Yes, so displaying those work samples and capturing the children's voices in that display, making that learning visible to whoever's coming into your service. Lots of people talking about floor books. So yes, there are some really great examples there. All right, so what we might do is just keep moving. And I can see, I've got my colleague Bridget here today and Bridget's been working really hard behind the scenes and she's been looking at the questions in the question box. Hi, Bridget.

- Hi Nicki, lots of questions.

- Yes. So what we're going to do is I've, there's some links to some resources around documentation and each of those QR codes can be scanned and you can take them to the link, it will take you to the information. So we've got an e-newsletter from the Early Childhood Resource Hub, produced in collaboration with ACECQA. We have unpacking the planning cycle there. So another resource for you to dive into that a little bit further. The ACECQA Fact Sheet, guidelines for documenting children's learning. And I have to do a little bit of promotion here. So I also put a link to the Early Learning website and on that website there are, there's a catalogue of professional learning and included in that, is some information around documentation. There's also podcasts and all sorts of resources there that can support your practice in the early years. So while you are just accessing those resources, Bridget's going to read out some of those key questions that got answered today and I'll do my best to answer them live. If we don't get to your question and if it had lots of likes, and it's been promoted up, then we can reply to it in our response sheet as well. So Bridget, I might hand over to you.

- Thanks, Nicki. So quite a few questions about using technology to document and whether that is sufficient, whether hard copy is also required and just using those different platforms to communicate with families.

- Yes, so I think when you are thinking about digital platforms, this is really around accessibility. Who is that digital platform accessible to? Because if it meets all of those accessible needs, then I would imagine that you are meeting those regulations and those requirements. However, who in your service, whether it be children, families, other educators, authorised officers, whoever it may be, is it access to everybody? Because if it isn't, how are you going to solve that? And it might be that you need to have hard copies as well. So I guess there isn't one answer to that question. It's really deciding, as a service, how are you meeting those regulations using those platforms. Excuse me. And can you be confident in saying that, yes, I am or do you need other strategies in place as well?

- Thanks, Nicki. A more specific question, but just explaining curriculum and program and whether they're the same thing. A few likes on that one.

- Yes. Yes, absolutely. So your curriculum is everything that happens within your day and within curriculum is your program. So maybe you'd like to think about it that way, but definitely, I know that there are a lot of services that swap out that word to that your curriculum, your curriculum decision making is informing your programming as well. So very, very similar terms there.

- Okay. Trying to choose now.

- [Nicki] It's all right.

- Some suggestions for educators who might struggle with documentation in written form for various reasons and maybe different methods that could be used and whether that's appropriate?

- Yes, absolutely. Again, those regulations don't actually prescribe that documentation must be written. So what other methods can you use to capture the learning? So remember it's not about the way it's presented, it's about the content that's presented. So how, what method can you use to demonstrate children's learning? And we know that you don't have to write something down to communicate something. You might use a recording, it could be a series of images and you're taking language from the outcome, you know, you're using different ways to demonstrate that learning. It doesn't need to be that written observation. And I guess it's a way of educators really playing to their own strengths and knowing how they can do that in different ways and acknowledging that individuals can be very creative and can do that in different ways.

- And maybe with the 30 seconds left, Nicki, if you have any words of wisdom on engaging families to actually read, I guess, and engage with the documentation or the information provided?

- Yes.

- Challenges.

- Yes, it's a challenge. I think that's probably maybe one thing you could say that is a challenge across the entire sector because you're always going to find groups of people for whatever reason that are really challenging to engage with. So what strategies are you using? Are you expecting that all of the families in your service are going to engage the same way or do you need to tailor your approach a little bit more? Is it that a lot of your engagement with some families is over the phone or are you expecting that all families will come to a set time or a set meeting with one of your educators, but how are you going to reach out to that family that can't get there for some reason? And what are you actually telling the families when you are talking to them? Are you just giving a broad general description of their day and, you know, they've had a great day or are you actually talking about the learning and the progress that their child is making and is that important to them as well? So really understanding what families are looking for when they are talking to you and when they're wanting information about their child. Because what you might see as a priority could be very different for a family for many different reasons. So having a shared understanding around what you're working towards. And I think if you can consider that then some of those families that are a little harder to engage with you might have some more success, yes Okay. So I'm really mindful of the time. And I know we've gone just a few moments over. I would like to say thank you to everyone for coming today and I know it's not always easy to make time to move away from working with children in the room or in the playground, but it's also really important that you make some time for some critical reflection. So thanks for joining and this will be made available to you in, after this session. Thanks.


  • Early childhood education


  • Curriculum
  • Learning and development

Business Unit:

  • NSW ECEC Regulatory Authority
Return to top of page Back to top