Questions for reflection, discussion and action
How do you organise time?
Are transitions from one part of the day to another smooth and relaxed?
How do you make sure you build in choices and have as few times as possible when all children have to do the same thing?
What are the challenging times of the day? Why do you think this is so?
Are there times when children are waiting, doing nothing? If so, what can you do to reduce or remove those times?
Are there some changes you could make to the way
you organise time and structure the day to create better learning experiences for the children you care for?
Assessing and recording children’s learning
Recording information about children’s learning and development is necessary for several reasons. It helps you:
• get to know children better – learn about their individual differences, development, interests, needs
• keep each child in mind
• provide experiences that cater for children’s interests, encourage new interests, build on strengths and address needs
• work with families and children to build a detailed picture of each child’s learning and development
• discuss children with your co-ordinator and other professionals
• be professional and accountable.
It is important to notice and record not only individual children’s learning but also interactions, conversations and children playing together.
Evidence of children’s play, work and learning can include:
• photos of children at work and play with some notes about why that’s worth recording
• children’s comments, questions and conversations
• paintings, drawings and other things they have made
• your observations of the child
• information from the children’s families.
Information provided by the family about the child at enrolment and ongoing (updated regularly) is very valuable. As you build a mutually respectful relationship with the family you will learn more about the child. It is good to get into the habit of talking daily, even if the conversation is brief, and updating each other about the child.
Getting information from families is important. Much of that happens through friendly informal conversations at the beginning and end of the day.
It can help to have a notebook or folder where parents can write anything they think you need to know that day and you can do the same. You can make jottings about something you want to tell the family or ask. This kind of ongoing sharing is very important.
Rup typically took at least 10 photos of each child in her family day care service each week.
She placed these in the child’s portfolio after showing them to the child’s family. Her co-ordinator said that while families love
photos of their children, and children like to see photos of themselves, these photos weren’t
by themselves saying much about children’s learning. Rather they were snapshots of what children were doing.
Rup uses the camera much less frequently now, and only to capture something
that she observes that is significant about a child’s learning and development. She combines the photo with some notes about what was happening
and why she thinks it is significant for this child.
She shows the photo
to the child and records their ideas about what they were learning and makes these records available to families.
You can make brief notes as you work – anything that you notice that tells you something about the child. It might be something he or she says or does, a milestone or even signs of progress in an area of learning. Even if you don’t know if it’s significant or what it means, if something a child says or does, or something about their behaviour, catches your attention, it’s worth jotting down. You can look for it again, and think later about what it might mean. You can also keep notes about things you want to discuss with a co-ordinator. [Standards 1.1, 1.2, 6.1 and 6.2]
Having a system of making notes ‘on the run’, as you work may mean having a notepad and pen (or an iPad) handy, or using post-it notes. These notes can be used later for critical reflection to build up knowledge of children and to inform program planning.
All the recorded information about children needs to help you get to know children better and contribute to decisions about the program. One of the most important things to ask yourself continually is ‘how is this information about this child (or these children) reflected in what I plan and offer to children every day?’ In other words, ‘how do I
use what I know about each child and the children as a group to plan my program?’ It is so important that all the information you record helps you plan the program and supports improvements. Your time is precious, so finding efficient ways to record information, which works well for you, is very important.
Remember that when it comes to records of children’s learning, more is not necessarily better! What makes a positive difference is your analysis of what you record – the meaning you make of it.
Questions for reflection, discussion and action
What are all the ways you find out about children’s learning and development?
How do you involve children and families in getting information about children’s learning and development?
How do you record information about children’s learning and development?
How do you use the information you have about children’s learning and development to plan your program?
Planning and recording the program
Educators make decisions about the program ahead of time and as they work. These decisions are necessary to make the parts of the program come together to create a good experience for children.
Reflecting on, discussing and recording plans can help you to:
• be more intentional – that is deliberate, thoughtful and purposeful in what you do
• enjoy your work more
• let families and children know what is going to happen and what you are thinking about
• build on earlier successful plans and alter those that haven’t worked so well
• improve the quality of the program you deliver.
Demonstrating that you plan ahead and are prepared for the work you do and having a record of that process is evidence that you are a professional educator.
Planning is making decisions about the program, thinking ahead of time about individual children, the children as
a group and the program you want to offer, and then preparing for it. Sometimes referred to as curriculum decision-making, planning needs to happen ahead of time and as you work with children. Educators are always
engaged in an ongoing cycle of planning, implementing the plan, reflecting and evaluating. Alongside this are ongoing efforts to get to know children better.
Having a planned program means being ready. It doesn’t mean that you have to or that you should follow it no matter what. There are many reasons that you would vary a program – for example the weather, an unexpected event (a bulldozer operating nearby or a child bringing in a bird’s nest), the number and ages of the children attending and their mood and energy level.
You can program for possibilities. After all, a program or plan developed ahead of time is really a best guess about what will work. Planning can support rather than interfere with flexibility and being responsive to children.
[Standards 1.1 and 1.2]
An important question is how you decide what you are going to do and decide what learning opportunities you are going to offer children. Things to take into consideration include the following:
• what you know about the children, their abilities and interests
• the concepts of belonging, being and becoming and the learning outcomes in the approved learning frameworks
• what families value and want for their child
• that the broad definition of curriculum or program planning and decision making can occur in relation to special activities, but also about the environment, the routines, interactions and relationships
• any external factors that will affect the children’s experiences – for example the weather, events occurring in the community, the presence in your home of additional people (for example during school holidays)
• everyday events that children can learn through and from
– for example, dropping a child off at school, going to a play session, the need to do shopping.
Planning needs to include not just what you are doing but why and how as well.
The decision making process and recording the program, although they are related, are not the same thing. The program decision-making process includes all the thinking and preparation you do.
Recording information about the program contributes to providing all children with a quality experience. It is essential for a number of reasons. It helps you:
• remember things you might otherwise forget
• make sure the program – what happens on a day-to-day basis – links to the service and/or your statement of philosophy
• provide experiences that cater for each child’s strengths, interests and needs
• plan together with families and children
• discuss your work with your co-ordinator
• demonstrate that you are working with purpose and intention
• be accountable.
Eileen uses the five Learning Outcomes to think about and plan for all areas of her
program. Each fortnight she reflects on the parts of the program
– the environment, routines, interactions and relationships. She looks carefully at the Learning Outcomes and sometimes chooses a particular topic within an Outcome to focus on. Because Eileen has two new children in family day care, she is currently focusing on belonging and helping children feel secure
and comfortable as members of the group in family day care. She often includes families as part of her plan and she consults regularly with them to get their input.
What matters is the reflection that you do about your plans, about what has and hasn’t worked in the past and what you can do better. [Element 1.2.3]
Educators who reflect critically on what they are doing plan at designated times – for example fortnightly – and they also plan and record thoughts about the plans on an ongoing basis. Educators make brief notes as things happen about what is working well and what is not. They watch, listen to and talk with children to learn about what to offer and how to offer it.
Writing up the program helps you to offer a better experience and also to let others know what’s happening.
The ‘working plan’ that you use can be different to the one you display for families and older children. In writing up the program for them you will need to think about what they want to know and write up the information so that it’s easy to understand and gives them a picture of what’s happening. Displaying a program for families and children gives a powerful message to them about their ‘place’ in the program – it tells them that you see them as important partners.
As suggested in the previous section, making brief notes as you work – including questions and things you are wondering about – about both children’s development and learning and the program – can be helpful when you refer to them later and have discussions with your co-ordinator.
There is no one best or right way to write up or document a program. Rather there are many good ways. As you gain experience you will no doubt change the way you
do it. It can be relatively brief or more detailed. It can include graphics and photos. The most effective programs come from you working collaboratively with children
and families and sharing ideas, insights, concerns and knowledge.
Criteria for assessing the ways you record your program include the following questions:
Does the way you record your program
• encourage reflection and evaluation?
• link closely to your assessment of children’s learning?
• reflect the importance of belonging, being and becoming and the five learning outcomes?
• take account of the practices and principles in the approved learning frameworks and the NQS?
for reflection, discussion and action
How satisfied are you with the way you make decisions about the program?
Does your program decision making cover all the curriculum or program areas?
How do you ensure that there are links between your documentation of children’s learning and your plan?
Might it be useful to ask families and children what information they would like to have