Q&A with Peak Sports and Learning
We asked Peak Sports and Learning, an OSHC provider with services along the south coast, for some examples of their experiences with self-assessment.
Could you describe the process of self-assessment in your service? And provide an example of how you’ve decided something is going well, and when something needs improvement?
The process is a cyclical process whereby we have purpose made and developed ‘Centre QIP Diaries’. The diaries address weekly centre evaluations, critical reflections and centre goals. Each week we focus on particular elements and shape questions and content around these elements. These questions encourage higher order thinking and really help us to assess ourselves using a range of perspectives.
It is important to mention that all educators contribute to the reflection and self-assessment diaries, we gather this input through meetings, brainstorms and intentional questioning. We have found that it is also very important to recognise that although you may be doing something ‘well’ in your service, that doesn’t mean it can now be put aside and forgotten about, it’s important to reflect and ask ‘Could we be doing more?’ ‘Could we change how we do this?’ ‘Have we asked our children and families if they also like this?’
In conjunction with assessing ourselves against each element. We also assess ourselves against our own centre goals. By assessing ourselves against our centre goals we are able to easily identify areas of strength and areas of improvement for the service. It is important to mention that all educators, children and families help set goals for the service and they also help assess how we are tracking in relation to those goals.
An example of this is at our service we have a centre goal to integrate the STEM approach within each of our programs. This goal was established through children’s interests, parent feedback and educator observations. We assess ourselves against this goal each week, to determine if continual improvement is required or are current practices excelling against this goal. Some questions we would ask in our team reflective meetings and ask the children (using mind maps, surveys, discussions) would be:
- Are the children enjoying it?
- Have we enough resources?
- Are the children being challenged?
- Is this hard or easy to implement?
From here we can determine if the STEM integration has been successful or still needs attention. Just as our self-assessment is a cyclical process, so too is our goal setting.
Setting goals is one way to constantly assess the service. Goals provide benchmarks in which you can place your service against and clearly see where you want your service to be. Goals can be related to the element or programming; it may just be something simple like ‘getting children better at packing away’. We then give our team (children, staff and families) a standard and work to achieve and hopefully move beyond that standard. Self-assessment is then used to determine if this has been successful or not. For example:
- Are the children better at understanding how to pack away?
- Can they do it without being asked?
- Did we provide enough feedback to reach expected outcomes?
If the children become really good at doing this task independently it then becomes a centre practice. This can be seen as a practice to inform your QIP - “children are independent in caring and respecting their resources and the centre resources and ensuring they are stowed and well maintained” – children are now contributing to element 3.1.2 within the service.
How do you ensure self-assessment is an ongoing, regular, and systematic process in your service?
We have the self-assessment process pre-thought and organised in advance. We set this up term by term. Our diaries provide a platform that ensures we are assessing our services practices and procedures weekly. It is impossible to cover every element of the NQS, centre practices and procedures every week so it is spanned out over a year, to ensure they are all covered. Therefore, making the process systematic, ongoing and regular.
We also ensure our self-assessment is RELEVANT which is important to mention as it is crucial that at various points in time you are assessing your service based on current trends, times of year, and all the things life throws our way. A perfect example is COVID-19. This area has seen far more review of late in the service where we are constantly reviewing our procedures and centre practices.
This is a process that should be done often and regularly. Looking back at past entries is important to see how far you have come and if you are setting and achieving your centre goals. Goals can be anything from changing a routine, to working on greeting families, to professional development. The goals set need to be achievable and relevant to what’s happening in your service at that particular time.
Are all educators in your service involved in the self-assessment process? If so, how are the views and suggestions of your educators used to support self-assessment and quality improvement?
They sure are, whether you are a full-time staff member or a casual regular or irregular you are provided with the opportunity to contribute to the services reflections and self-assessment. Different levels of educators provide different perspectives on centres practices. We recognise this and account for this when evaluating weekly. Educators are provided with purposeful questions to reflect upon which each week contribute to the self-assessment. By being purposeful in our questioning we have found we overcome challenges of trying to capture multiple insights, opinions, ideas and goals. Evaluating / reflecting or self-assessment of the service shouldn’t just lie with the Director or centre supervisor. To be purposeful and accurate in what the service needs requires input from all parties. How you capture this information can be in a million different ways, but it is so vital it is captured and used.
Could you tell us a bit about how your self-assessment and quality improvement practices have enhanced the learning environment in your service? What have the benefits been in terms of quality outcomes for children?
A major benefit we have found after changing our self-assessment processes is how our educators are so much more purposeful in their decision making surrounding centre practices, program implementation and intended outcomes for children. What is meant by this is educators have a greater forethought on what their goals are for the week ahead and what will be the best way to go about achieve them. This is the case in all aspects of how the centre is run from hazard checks to intentional teaching activities. It is set up in a way that allows for collaboration, not just educator to educator but between children and families.
Think of it this way… instead of reflecting on ‘what has happened’, we are reflecting on:
- What can we do?
- How will we do it?
- How was it done?
We are also extremely lucky we have a strong base of 15 centres that all collaborate between each other. Every day we are interacting and discussing centre practices against the same diary responses. This is so beneficial as every centre is so different it allows us to gain new ideas, perspectives and even things that didn’t work or weren’t as successful as planned so we can learn from each other.
What techniques and strategies have you used to make self-assessment and quality improvement a part of your service culture? Could you provide some examples?
Our Centre QIP diary > Self-assessment is the basis of our service culture. Every thought, idea, reflection, goal is stemmed from or recorded in here – we see it as our bible! As it is embedded in daily use not only does the ‘formal’ paperwork side become a daily habit it is a tool that provides the platform of everything that occurs in the service day in day out. An important part of having this as part of the service culture is ensuring all parties contribute. If all educators, families and children have the opportunity to have their say and feel their opinion is valued then it becomes far more meaningful, relevant and important. It is more likely to be something that is used and respected within the service and this is what we aim to achieve through our self-assessment process.
What are some of the resources that inform and assist your self-assessment practices? How are these resources used in your service?
The resources that inform the self-assessment are in abundance! They change weekly… literally. Everything from newspaper articles, to journal articles, brainstorms from children, parent input, social media, upcoming days such as R U OK day, all inform our weekly centre evaluations and reflections. These responses then inform our self-assessment. We assess our service in so many different ways and in different lights. It is crucial to do this, so you encapsulate all aspects of the service. It doesn’t just stop with regulations, elements and programming. It’s everything from playing, service philosophy, routines, resources in the centre, sector research. All of this needs to be considered and contribute. There is no limit of what can be considered a ‘resource’. Our Educational Leader does an amazing job assisting in placing all of these resources into our centre diary and self-assessment process. This is in diary form and ironically is the main ‘resource’ our centre uses for all aspects of what happened within the centre.
Here are some photos of activities that stemmed from our self-assessment cycle. Children inform the program and we intentionally program activities as a result on their input. The images below show mind mapping about cultural diversity within the centre. The program ‘Around the World we go’ was the result. The images reflect some of the activities and the wall displays.
1. The educators reflect and evaluate on the program which guides the self-assessment. This is one way that self-assessment is used in the service
2. Children brainstorm activities they would like to learn about.
3. Staff create an intentional teaching program using the children’s input and suggestions
4. Wall Display of the artworks and activities from the program.