Reflective Practice, Ongoing Learning and Critical Reflection

What does this all mean to the world of Early Childhood Education?

Each and every day Educators observe, plan, implement and review!

Amazing experiences and learning opportunities for children do not happen automatically. They require a strong commitment from Educators and whole centres to quality improvement as a whole. A key part of achieving this is through ongoing learning and reflective practice. When educators strive to analyse and understand the impact of their practice they are able to identify any potential issues and work to overcome them.

The EYLF and MTOP list “ongoing learning and reflective practice” as one of the principles that underpin effective early education and care. This aligns with Element 1.2.3 of the National Quality Standard, which requires that ‘critical reflection on children’s learning and development, both as individuals and in groups, is regularly used to implement the program’. Does this happen in your space? Who embeds these practices?

Thinking critically? What’s this all mean? Critical reflection or reflective practice is a form of personal learning and development that involves engaging with questions of philosophy, ethics and practice. As professionals, educators examine what happens within their settings and reflect on what they might change. 

To think critically, and with reflection involves:

  • reflecting on your own personal biases – what are they? Be honest!
  • examining and rethinking your perspectives – can you rethink? Can you be “honest” in your examination of self?
  • questioning whether your perspectives generalise- are you run of the mill, or think out of the box?
  • considering all aspects of experiences – not the overall – can you break it all down?
  • engaging in professional conversations with colleagues, families, professionals and community members – how often can these happen? Are they respectful spaces in which you can be honest and “share”?
  • using the reflective questions in the learning frameworks to prompt your thinking, for example ‘Who is advantaged when I work in this way? Who is disadvantaged?’ Could you focus on one of these per week to start with?

Constant reflection is needed when working with children – especially on how our practice is influenced by our own world views. If something happens in your world, can you identify a new bias that may have formed and develop a professional viewpoint for the benefit of the children you are educating and peers you are working with? Engaging in reflective practice allows us to examine our own practice and gain insights to inform future decision making.

As part of the professionalism that is embraced in the Early Childhood Sector – an educator who examines their interactions with children, assesses the quality of learning environments and experiences, and critiques their own practice is using critical reflection to strengthen their own professional practice. It allows them to develop deeper understandings, explore concerns, improve the program and raise the overall quality of education and care experiences for children.

Reflecting as a group is also important, the approved learning frameworks acknowledge the importance of establishing a culture of professional inquiry where service staff are all involved in a culture of ongoing review, where practices are examined, outcomes reviewed and new ideas generated.

A professional debate can spark immense thought processes and evoke new passions in Educators, and lead to overall improvement as a whole centre. In establishing a culture of professional inquiry, there however needs to be openness, trust and respect amongst colleagues, where everyone has a voice and is listened to. Educators need to be able to openly raise questions and concerns and know that their perspective will be valued, discussed and considered. 

How can you start with critical reflection?

  1. You do just need to start!
  2. Set a regular time to write down your thoughts, ask yourself questions and document your responses
  3. Share your ideas with peers and ask for feedback
  4. Set a plan for improvement in motion, test theories and ideas, and try try again! 

Reflective practice helps educators to find new ways of thinking about their work and paves the way towards new possibilities. The questions you ask will take you on a journey of investigation and inspire creativity about what changes can be made to enrich children’s daily experiences.