Tips to meet Quality Area 1 - Educational program and practice
In this article, we’re doing a deep dive into Element 1.3.2 Critical reflection.
17 August 2023
Element 1.3.2 Critical reflection is among the most frequently ‘not met’ elements of the National Quality Framework (NQF). Many educators struggle to understand and apply critical reflection. This article offers broader insights by exploring 4 approaches to critical reflection.
Critical reflection is more than simply asking: “What did I offer children?” and “Did the children like it?” True critical reflection examines all aspects of the teaching and learning cycle, as well as the context in which learning is taking place.
1. Where do I start? At the beginning!
When planning to introduce new concepts into the curriculum, the perfect place to begin is asking, “What do I know about this topic?” For example, if the concept is science and you are a subject matter expert, you may feel confident where to begin. However, if not, you may wish to do some research. You could read some practice examples such as StartingBlocks.gov.au’s What does early STEM education look like in real life? Your educational leader may be another source of guidance. Using your chosen approach, brainstorm with your team how you might begin.
The outcome of this approach will provide you with confidence in the curriculum topics and your practice.
2. How do children’s interests direct the program?
Being a subject matter expert is not a prerequisite for an educator. Consider the children in your service and their interests and abilities. You may take the opportunity to encourage a child or group of children to share their thinking and direct their learning. Sharing the power that adults hold and trusting that children are competent decision-makers will support children’s agency. Read ACECQA’s information sheet on supporting agency (PDF 1.12 MB) for more information.
You could reflect on what decisions children can make and the extent of those decisions (adapted from the National Approved Learning Frameworks: Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia V2.0 2022, p 23, and My Time, Our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia V2.0 2022, p 22).
Deep knowledge of children’s interests and abilities gained through this reflection will guide your program.
3. What is your intention?
Teaching practice impacts children’s learning outcomes. Intentionality ranges from passive, responsive, guided through to purposeful. Your practice intentions guide:
- what materials you provide for children
- how you position these materials in the play space
- whether you decide to offer a small group of children time to sit with you while demonstrating how to use a new artefact
- whether you decide to share a story or non-fiction book during a group time to generate new thinking.
Reflect on how children respond to your intentions and use this information to plan your next steps.
Understanding how and why you deliver content will support intentional teaching decision making.
4. Which theorists inspire you?
Using theories as a lens to reflect encourages you to consider different perspectives. The work of Howard Gardner and Loris Malaguzzi may inspire a wider provision of resources or educator questioning techniques. Thinking about Lev Vygotsky’s socio-cultural cognitive development theory may encourage you to scaffold learning or amend peer grouping for intentionally planned social collaboration. Stay up to date with new research – this may inspire you to see the situation differently.
Applying different theorists’ lense will reflect different views you may not have previously considered.
Critical reflection is a meaning-making process that involves a deeper level of thinking and evaluation. It requires engagement with diverse perspectives such as philosophy, theory, ethics and practice and then evaluating these in context, leading to pedagogical decisions and actions that are transformative.
– EYLF V2.0 p 18 (PDF 24.9 MB)
Reflective questions you may consider using or adapting
- How confident are the educators with curriculum concepts?
- What could the educational leader provide educators to deepen their knowledge and confidence?
- How do service policies, procedures and philosophy guide and inform best practice regarding the curriculum?
- What are children’s and their family’s interests, skills and abilities?
- How are resources and provocations provided to inspire engagement?
- What opportunities for reflection does the service provide? How can the service encourage a culture of learning through reflective practice? See ACECQA’s information sheet on developing a culture of learning (PDF 1.47 MB) for future guidance.
Tips for services and providers
- Listen to the Early Learning Matters podcast episode ‘STEM in the early years’ for inspiration.
- Be inspired by ACEQCA’s Connecting with practice videos and supporting resources, such as Discussing Butterflies’ Markings (PDF 427 KB).
- Identify educator strengths and encourage professional development and support growth through performance reviews.
- Seek inspiration from the Little Scientists Australia's free resource library.
- Encourage all educators to provide constructive feedback to one another to assist critical thinking.
- Utilise resources created for services that provide early childhood education and care to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children by the department and SNAICC, such as Unpacking Critical Reflection: Dilly Bag of Tools for Team Leaders (PDF 1.2 MB).
- Consider how theories guide teaching practice, educational leadership and service philosophy.
- Make use of the overarching questions to guide critical reflection in the EYLF V2.0, p 18.
The NSW Regulatory Authority for ECEC is spotlighting this topic and related information to ensure providers and their workforce of dedicated educators have access to the right information and guidance, especially where we see areas that the sector is experiencing challenges.