In my years working in a service and networking with other services, attending training, and gathering information I have found one big, dangerous hazard to the sanity of educators. That is hearing people suggest things as useful and then feeling the need to add these into your program. The more that you hear, the more that you add, until eventually your are crushed under the strain of all these things you “have” to do.
In my travels this year, presenting my “programming without the stress” workshop (which was my most popular by far), I aimed not to tell people what to add, but instead inform attendees about what is required. In doing so I aimed to free educators up to remove things that weren’t working for them and get back to the real reason we become educators, to work with the children and make a difference.
One of the slides in the presentation was about common myths. I thought I would do a post to share these myths with a wider audience and hopefully allow for some reflection as we head rapidly towards a new year.
DISCLAIMER: I am just alerting you to the fact that these are myths and are not actually requirements as designated by the NQS or Regulations. If any of these work for you and give your program meaning and purpose then by all means continue. However if they are one of those “things you do because you have too” then maybe this will give you some freedom to reflect on current practices in your service.
Set number of observations: The Regulations and NQS do not state a number. The regulations states:
Regulation 74(2): In preparing the documentation, the approved provider must—
(i) the period of time that the child is being educated and cared for by the service; and
(ii) how the documentation will be used by the educators at the service; and
(b) prepare the documentation in a way that is readily understandable by the educators at the service and the parents of the child.
This is the only time a number is mentioned. If you service management has a number of observations that they wish to be completed in a cycle then that is their decision, but this is not mentioned in the requirements of the NQF. It is also important to note that documentation can be observations, daily diary entries, projects, videos, photographs, children’s work. So long as it is assessed and planned from it meets the requirements of documentation.
Portfolios: These were originally created as a means to have all developmental documents for one child in the same spot. Then someone started doing them as scrapbooks and now it can take hours to file artwork and do borders and create pretty books (that may or may not get looked at by families). They are not a requirement of the NQF. In fact the regulations state that observations and assessed documentation (outlined in regulation 74) need only be made available on request.
Regulation 76 Information about educational program to be given to parents
The approved provider of an education and care service must ensure that a parent of a child being educated and cared for by the service is provided with the following information on request—
(c) a copy of the documents kept under regulation 74 in respect of the child.
Celebrations: Just because we are sent calendars of all the cultural celebrations that occur throughout the year does not mean we need to celebrate them all. If the celebration is reflective of any of the stakeholders of your service and can be celebrated in a meaningful, knowledgeable and authentic fashion that includes the children and develops their cultural competence then these are the celebrations you should be focusing on.
Intentional teaching: This is one of the 8 Practices in the EYLF. It is about having purpose and thought behind what you do. It does not have to be included as a box on the program. Every time you help a child, set up an inviting experience, follow up on a child’s interest, engage with children, ask for input from the family, and so on, this is all intentional teaching.
Group time is a requirement: It isn’t, in fact while groups are mentioned in both the regulations and the NQS is to suggest reflection on the level of learning and relationships that can occur in groups.
It is very difficult to understand what children are taking in when doing a large group experience or lesson. Some children may be focusing all of their energy on sitting still, others might be too afraid to speak up in front of large numbers, some may interrupt the group so others miss out while those children are responded to, and so many more challenges can occur. Also, if you look at the NQS, throughout the standards it refers to “each child”. It is near impossible to confidently state that each child got the intended learning out of a large group experience.
Regulation 156 Relationships in groups
(1) The approved provider of an education and care service must take reasonable steps to ensure that the service provides children being educated and cared for by the service with opportunities to interact and develop respectful and positive relationships with each other and with staff members of, and volunteers at, the service.
(2) For the purposes of subregulation (1), the approved provider must have regard to the size and the composition of the groups in which children are being educated and cared for by the service.
NQS Element 1.2.3 – Critical reflection on children’s learning and development, both as individuals and in groups, is regularly used to implement the program.
NQS Element 5.1.3 – Each child is supported to feel secure, confident and included.
Focus child system: For those of you who are new to this term this is where each educator has specific children that are their responsibility to observe and plan for. This system has a few flaws:
1) Educators tend to only build deeper relationships with those children who are their focus children because they spend more time with them
2) Documentation takes priority and interactions may only occur if your focus child needs and observation.
3) You may end up “stalking” your focus child with a clipboard and paper trying to get them to do something worth observing rather than creating meaningful moments of learning and not worrying about whether they need to be documented or not
4) Only 1 educator’s perspective of that child is the basis for all planning and documentation. If they do not get along, or the educator focuses on specific skills you can end up with a very biased collection of developmental documentation.
Linking to outcomes: Just because the Learning Outcomes are mentioned in both the Regulations (73) and the NQS (1.1.1) it does not mean that you need to link to them, you are however required to show that the program helps children develop across those areas. This can be done through so many different ways including wording in assessments on observations, policies, using pedagogical documentation. In fact, if we use codes and numbers in out documentation we do not train ourselves to fully understand the EYLF nor do we meet the requirement of regulations 74(2)(b) “prepare the documentation in a way that is readily understandable by the educators at the service and the parents of the child.”
Quoting theory in documentation: In Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework it suggests that educators draw on theory to guide their practice and challenge their current processes in a range of areas (p.11). Nowhere does it state in any NQF document that linking to theory needs to be a part of your documentation. There are loads of ways to draw on theory and reflect on how it shapes or challenges practice, including research, study, reflective questions, staff meeting discussion, newsletter etc. I would also question whether referencing Vygotsky in a child’s observation meant that it would be readily understandable by parents.
There are prescribed methods: The whole beauty of the NQF is that you can find something that works for your service, your educators, and your children. So long as you meet the few compliance requirements you can do something truly unique and meaningful. It even says ” There is no prescribed method in the National Law or National Regulations for documenting assessment of children’s learning.” in ACECQA’s Guide to the Education and Care Services National Law and the Education and Care Services National Regulations 2011 (p.54).
I hope this has helped clarify things for you and given you some things to reflect upon. Like I said, if things are working for you, fantastic! If they aren’t then hopefully this will help.
I always suggest to people when adding something in that seems useful and meaningful to take out something that wasn’t working to keep a balance, not just adding and adding and adding until everyone is overwhelmed.
There are a number of training opportunities, previous blog posts and resources that you might find helpful for each of these topics if you are interested. They can be found in the archives of this blog, or on the webiste www.rare.support either in the store or in the resources page (all of the items on the resources page of the website are free). Don’t forget if you would like a workshop or consultation for your service please contact me through the website.
If you would like to subscribe to my monthly newsletter for tips, ideas and upcoming events subscribe here http://eepurl.com/b7KQHT
RARE’s 2017 training calendar is available for download now from HERE