Continuous improvement – the real meaning behind self-assessment
Our Continuous Improvement Team shares how self-assessment supports quality uplift, tips on articulating key practice, details on the new online portal and more.
11 October 2023
Self-assessment is an essential function that drives quality improvement, resulting in improved outcomes for children and families. Self-assessment and quality improvement are inherent in the National Quality Framework (NQF). As outlined in the Guide to the NQF, under element 7.2.1 services must have an effective self-assessment and quality improvement plan in place:
Quality services regularly monitor and review their performance to guide planning and improve service quality. This creates a shared understanding of the principles that guide the service and encourages continuous improvement in practice, policies and procedures.
Documenting quality improvement
Regulation 55 requires services to develop a document that includes an assessment conducted by the provider of their practices against the National Regulations and National Quality Standard (NQS). The document should identify services key practices, areas for improvement and include the service philosophy.
Services only need to have one continuous improvement document, such as the ACECQA Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) or the NSW Self-Assessment Working Document (PDF 2.9 MB). Services will soon be able to maintain their self-assessment information using the new Self-Assessment and Quality Improvement Planning Portal.
Currently being rolled out in a phased approach, the online portal enables services to maintain a live self-assessment and quality improvement plan, which can be shared with the NSW Regulatory Authority prior to a scheduled assessment and rating (A&R) visit. Like the Self-Assessment Working Document, which it is based on, the web-based system allows services to record their compliance, articulate key practices against each element within the NQS and identify key improvements to increase quality.
Whichever method you opt to use, we encourage you to recognise the important role your self-assessment record plays in identifying key areas for improvement, rather than being a document that’s simply prepared for the purposes of A&R.
Articulating key practices
Self-assessment involves examining what is happening at the service, deciding what is being done well and identifying what might need to be improved. Key practices are things you ‘do’ in your service and should be articulated in a way that captures the alignment with NQS rather than being regulatory in nature.
Use clear and simple language to document your key practices within the unique context of your service. This will help you clearly communicate and showcase the ‘what, why and how you do what you do’.
It’s important that current practice informs a service’s self-assessment, rather than making an assessment and looking for evidence to support a preferred outcome or rating.
- Become familiar with the Guide to the NQF. Section 3 outlines clear explanations along with examples of practice for each quality area, standard and element. Articulate what you do aligned to each element.
- Use keywords from the descriptor when documenting your key practices. There is no need to set the scene or explain what your key practice is about.
- Be specific. When a key practice is written as a general overarching statement it may not describe the actual practice, which can be confusing for stakeholders.
- Be honest and realistic.
- Make your practice visible. Consider how a visitor to your service can sight observe or discuss your practice.
Effective self-assessment builds awareness and confidence
Services who have engaged with self-assessment for quality improvement have shared that they:
- are more connected with their service quality improvement planning as an ongoing cycle
- have a better understanding of their service practice and how it aligns to the NQS
- feel more prepared for their A&R visit
- have an increased sense of confidence, understanding why they do what they do and areas for improvement
- see the process as an opportunity to showcase service unique features/aspects.
Self-assessment should be an open, transparent and honest process that clearly reflects the individual service and informs planning for ongoing improvement.
Make quality improvement a team effort
Both self-assessment and quality improvement benefit from being a shared and collaborative process. It should engage and capture the voices and perspectives of all members of the service community.
Educators, who are on the floor implementing service practice each and every day, are well placed to articulate key practices as part of the self-assessment process. Giving educators an opportunity to directly contribute to the process enhances their understanding of the NQS, National Law and Regulations. Sharing their own perspectives also supports their confidence during the A&R process.
Establishing and maintaining a culture of ongoing reflection and self-review offers challenge, inspires motivation and supports positive levels of staff satisfaction. This provides opportunities for all staff to improve their practice and programming, which contributes directly to improved learning outcomes for children.
- Use staff meetings as an opportunity to discuss a quality standard. Look at the elements and, together, reflect on the practices you implement that align with the concepts in each of the elements. For example, create a mind map on A3 paper. Write the concept in the middle of the page and have educators write practices around it.
- Delegate a quality area, standard or element to a small group of educators to review together. For example, each room could brainstorm what service practices align with different elements and how, and later share their reflections at a staff meeting. Rotate areas so all staff are familiar with every quality area.
- Select a quality area to review and discuss informally as a team. You might like to do this weekly, fortnightly or monthly. A service leader might then capture educator thoughts. This could be done incidentally throughout the day, with the aim of noting at least one response from each educator within the set timeframe.
- Use display space in your staff room to highlight a quality area for reflection and discussion. Share information such articles, new research or ideas on the notice board too.
More information and support
The Continuous Improvement Team (CIT) are experienced authorised officers who are available to support services engaging in self-assessment and quality improvement. To register to be an early adopter of the new Self-Assessment and Quality Improvement Planning Portal or schedule free support sessions to discuss your own improvement journey, reach out to the CIT by: