Reflective Practice

Strengthening reflective practice in a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program

What is Reflective Practice?

Reflective practice is the cycle of ongoing learning that occurs when early childhood professionals take the time to stop, think, challenge and change their practices in order to incorporate new understandings and advance children’s learning and development.

Reflective practice is one of the eight Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF) practice principles and should be applied to support critical thinking and changes in practice in a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program.

VEYLDF Practice Principle Guide: Reflective Practice (pdf - 2.12mb)

As funded Three-Year-Old Kindergarten is delivered for the first time in Victoria, reflective practice allows early childhood professionals to inquire into their own practice and reflect on how it could be adapted and enhanced to suit the needs of children attending Three-Year-Old Kindergarten.

Examining and understanding how three-year-old children learn will help you evaluate what changes can be made to existing programs as well as what teaching practices and approaches best meet the needs of this age group.

Both the VEYLDF and the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) identify reflective practice as an enabling strategy which supports and enhances teaching and learning.

For reflection and critical thinking to be most effective, it is recommended that it is undertaken both individually and with teaching teams or other early childhood professionals.

The effectiveness of reflective practice relies on an individual and a team’s ability to be open to change, to collect relevant evidence to challenge and inform decision making, and to identify opportunities for changes in practice. 

Reflective practice provides opportunities to think about and understand practices from different perspectives, consider future actions and responses, and refine them accordingly.

Early childhood professionals who engage in the process of reflection on their practice:

  • take time to think about the impact and effectiveness of their current practices and environment
  • are more likely to review their everyday practices and identify opportunities for growth
  • are open to engaging in the exchange of ideas, shared decision-making and positive partnerships (including partnerships with children and families)
  • are more likely to learn, develop and strengthen their capacity as a team.

Translating these opportunities for professional growth into actions is the next step in reflective practice. It is the ability to identify alternatives and to trial these, which translates the ‘thinking’ component of reflection into the ‘active’ component of reflection.

There are a range of evidence-based strategies that build a culture of reflection, including:

  • pedagogical conversations
  • reflective journals
  • professional inquiry
  • mentors or critical friends
  • professional learning programs.

Enabling reflective practice

Opportunities to reflect on practice arise as part of an early childhood professional’s everyday practice. These may include when change occurs – for example, the introduction of a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program – or as part of reviewing your service’s Quality Improvement Plan.

Reflective practice can be spontaneous and responsive to a situation, or can occur as part of a planned exercise where early childhood professionals are looking to investigate a specific component of their practice as part of a commitment to continuous improvement.

There are a number of models and approaches that early childhood professionals might consider using when they engage in reflective practice. The VEYLDF includes the Early Years Planning Cycle (EYPC) as one such approach. 

The EYPC is a reflective tool for early childhood professionals to systematically examine various aspects of their practice and build their teaching skills. The EYPC can be used individually or collectively, such as in a teaching team.

The five steps of the EYPC aim to support early childhood professionals to develop and deliver high quality education programs for young children.

  • Collect information – collect evidence and information of a child’s, or a group of children’s, learning and participation within the program. This information can be collected and documented in a range of ways over time. Further information is available on assessment for learning.
  • Question/Analyse – analyse the information collected and draw on evidence from a variety of sources - including the VEYLDF, early childhood theories and available resources including from the Box of Educational Resources to question and understand practice decisions.
  • Plan – develop an educational program to extend and support children’s learning and development. This includes planning specific learning goals for individual children as well as, or in addition to, goals for the group.
  • Act/Do – support and scaffold children’s learning through the implementation of the educational program. Use a range of teaching techniques that are best suited to achieve the planned outcomes for children’s learning and development.
  • Reflect/Review – engage in a process of reflection in order to evaluate children’s learning and development and identify the next stage of learning. Reflect on the effectiveness of the teaching techniques used. Consider how children’s learning might be made visible through documentation.

Characteristics of effective reflective practice

The aim of reflective practice is to support early childhood professionals to examine and improve aspects of their practice to advance the learning and development of children attending a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program.

Characteristics of effective reflective practice include:

  • an active focus on goals, including how these might be addressed and the potential consequences of these
  • a commitment to a continuous cycle of monitoring, evaluating and re-visiting practice
  • a focus on informed judgements about practice, based on evidence
  • open-minded, responsive and inclusive attitudes
  • the capacity to re-frame one’s own practice in light of evidence-based reflections and insights based on research
  • dialogue with other colleagues, including external networks
  • the capacity to mediate and adapt from externally developed frameworks, making informed judgements and defending or challenging existing practice (Pollard, 2002).

All aspects of practice can be strengthened through a process of reflection. Engaging in reflective practice invites early childhood professionals to view change as an opportunity for improvement. In doing so, it supports a lively culture of professional inquiry which involves learning from our practices and exploring specific aspects of our work in more depth.

Connections to the VEYLDF

The VEYLDF recognises reflective practice as a process that supports the critical evaluation of practice and enables a culture of learning. The VEYLDF’s EYPC outlines a process for early childhood professionals to use as part of their practice in order to question, analyse, act and reflect on evidence they have collected as part of their practice.

The implementation of a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program provides an opportunity for services to focus on and strengthen their culture of reflection. This supports children’s learning and development, as early childhood professionals assess children’s progress against the VEYLDF Learning and Development Outcomes.

Questions to support reflective practice

For many early childhood professionals working in kindergartens, the introduction of funded Three-Year-Old Kindergarten is an opportunity to reflect on similarities and differences between three-year-old children and four-year-old children, in order to best support all children’s learning and development.

The following questions support a culture of reflection:

  • what aspects of practice might be improved through a process of reflective practice?
  • what does it mean to provide a quality early childhood program to three-year-old children?
  • how might assessment practices advance children’s learning and development within a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program?
  • what are the key features of learning environments which maximise and support the learning and development of three-year-old children?

Connection to the Box of Educational Resources

A Box of Educational Resources has been provided to services funded to deliver Three-Year-Old Kindergarten in 2020 and 2021. It includes resources that specifically support early childhood professionals to engage in reflective practice. Some resources included in the box are also freely available online and these links are listed below, while a small number are only available in hard copy.

Resources available online

  • Tip sheet 2 - Learning in a larger group, teaching strategies to support engagement: This tip-sheet provides strategies on teaching and learning in larger group sizes.

Resources included in the box

  • Letters to Carla...about 3 year olds: This book is a series of letters from an experienced early childhood teacher sharing her knowledge of how three-year-old children think and learn. See Page 40, ‘Considering Celebrations’, which provides an opportunity to explore the role of celebrations and their applicability for three-year-old children. It explores important aspects of celebrations which often raise a range of opportunities for reflective practice within a kindergarten program.
  • Powerful Interactions – How to connect with children to extend their learning: This reflective guide supports understanding about what ‘powerful interactions’ are, how to make them happen, and why they are important in facilitating children’s learning.

Other resources

ACECQA, Critical reflection in practice : This video supports educators and leaders to better understand critical reflection and implement on an ongoing basis. The meaning of critical reflection and what it may look like in practice is explored.

ACECQA, Developing a culture of learning through reflective practice : This resource identifies links between reflective practice and the National Quality Standards, specifically with Quality Areas 1, 4 and 7. It defines reflective practice and highlights how educators can use reflective practice to support continuous improvement and draw on multiple perspectives, and suggests useful strategies for engaging in reflective practice.

DET, VEYLDF Practice Principle video series – Reflective Practice video : This video demonstrates the Practice Principle of reflective practice in action and provides guidance about how to engage in reflective practice, including a focus on using the EYPC. The video features early childhood professionals talking about how they engage in reflective practice. It is recommended that this video be used alongside the VEYLDF Practice Principle Guide – Reflective Practice.

DET, VEYLDF Practice Principle Guide – Reflective Practice (pdf - 490.02kb): This guide aims to support early childhood professionals to engage in reflective practice in their work. It will support educators to reflect independently or with a mentor, critical friend, with families, children and other professionals. The guide can also be used as part of a regular cycle of meetings that support learning communities.

VCAA, Early Years Planning Cycle for the VEYLDF : This resource demonstrates how the VEYLDF EYPC can be applied to observe, assess and respond to evidence of children’s learning, and provides an illustrative model for the teaching of specific concepts to children from birth to eight years within everyday learning environments.

Wheatley, Margaret J. Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2002, Willing to be Disturbed : This resource encourages educators to reflect on their willingness to have their beliefs and ideas challenged by others. It puts forward the idea that strong leaders cannot create change unless they are willing to be disturbed.

World views - Using Theories : This video features a series of conversations with educators, professionals and academics who share insights into the theories, worldviews and philosophies that shape their thinking and practice. It is the work of Communities@Work and Community Child Care Co-operative NSW.

References

Pollard, A., with Collins, J., Simco, N., Swaffield, S., Warin, J., and Warwick, P. (2002) Reflective Teaching: effective and evidence-informed professional practice. London: Continuum.