Exceeding NQS in Quality Area 1: Critical reflection (Element 1.3.2)

We’ve read over 1,000 pages of ACEQA guides, case studies and content (in September 2023) and have used this information to provide practical steps you can take to attempt to get a rating of Exceeding NQS for your service. We also provide an example weekly schedule for improvement, reflective questions and insights from ACEQA case studies.

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Practical Steps Towards an Exceeding NQS Rating in Quality Area 1: Element 1.3.2

Here’s an exhaustive list of practical steps to achieve an Exceeding NQS rating in Element 1.3.2 – Critical Reflection, based on the provided references and the content from the ACECQA website:

Theme 1: Embedded in Service Operations

  1. Consistent Reflection: Ensure that critical reflection on children’s learning and development is consistently practiced by all educators.
  2. Ongoing Learning: Engage in reflective practice as a form of ongoing learning, considering all aspects of the program, guiding principles, practices used, and learning outcomes for children.
  3. Support from Educational Leaders: Ensure that educational leaders support educators in becoming more thoughtful about their work, motivating them to reflect and explore new ideas and approaches daily.

Theme 2: Informed by Critical Reflection

  1. Deep Analysis: Engage in a deep level of regular and ongoing analysis, questioning, and thinking that goes beyond mere evaluation and review.
  2. Examine Practices: Regularly examine your practices and decision-making, identifying both improvements and successes.
  3. Consider Diversity: Reflect on whether all children and families are included in the program, focusing on equity, inclusion, and diversity.
  4. Analyze Actions: Analyze why educators respond in certain ways, what influences their actions, and which theoretical perspectives they draw upon.
  5. Use Approved Learning Frameworks: Familiarize yourself with the updated national approved learning frameworks and use them to aid reflection.

Theme 3: Shaped by Meaningful Engagement with Families and/or the Community

  1. Seek Input: Actively seek input, guidance, and feedback from children, families, and the community.
  2. Document Children’s Experiences: Work with children to document and reflect on their experiences and learning.
  3. Adapt Programs: Focus on adapting the program to include all children, ensuring inclusivity.
  4. Reflect Daily: Provide opportunities for educators to reflect on daily events, considering successes, areas for extension, and changes.
  5. Engage in Professional Enquiry: Promote a culture of professional enquiry where practices and outcomes are reviewed, and new ideas are generated.

Documentation and Evidence

  1. Maintain Reflection Journals: Keep reflection journals or diaries that show evidence of critical reflection.
  2. Document Program Aspects: Reflect on all aspects of the program, including interactions, responsiveness, relationships, transitions, routines, planned experiences, environment, intentional teaching strategies, and communication.
  3. Review Curriculum Content: Regularly review curriculum content, pedagogy, and the effectiveness of resources and equipment used.

Remember, to be rated Exceeding NQS overall, all Quality Areas must be at least Meeting NQS, and four or more Quality Areas must be Exceeding NQS, with at least two of these being Quality Areas 1, 5, 6, or 7. The higher level of quality is assessed against each of the 15 NQS Standards using the three Exceeding themes.

An Example Monthly Schedule

Ready to implement these practical steps in your service? Using the constraints of 4 hours per week to work on improvements, we’ve created an example schedule below.

Given the limited time of 4 hours per week, it’s crucial to prioritize tasks and spread them out over the month. Here’s an example monthly schedule for an educator to work on improving their service based on the practical steps for achieving an Exceeding NQS rating in Element 1.3.2 – Critical Reflection:

Week 1: Understanding and Planning

Total Hours: 4

  1. Hour 1: Review and understand the requirements of Element 1.3.2 – Critical Reflection.
  2. Hour 2: Familiarize oneself with the updated national approved learning frameworks.
  3. Hour 3: Set clear goals and objectives for the month based on the practical steps.
  4. Hour 4: Plan and schedule meetings or discussions with colleagues, families, and the community for feedback.

Week 2: Deep Dive into Critical Reflection

Total Hours: 4

  1. Hour 1: Engage in a deep level of analysis, questioning, and thinking about current practices.
  2. Hour 2: Reflect on the inclusivity of current practices, focusing on equity, inclusion, and diversity.
  3. Hour 3: Analyze recent actions, decisions, and responses in teaching scenarios.
  4. Hour 4: Document reflections, insights, and areas of improvement in a reflection journal.

Week 3: Engagement and Feedback

Total Hours: 4

  1. Hour 1: Seek feedback from colleagues on current practices and areas of improvement.
  2. Hour 2: Engage with families and the community for input and feedback on the program.
  3. Hour 3: Reflect on the feedback received and identify key areas of focus.
  4. Hour 4: Document feedback and plan actionable steps for implementation.

Week 4: Implementation and Review

Total Hours: 4

  1. Hour 1: Begin implementing changes and improvements based on reflections and feedback.
  2. Hour 2: Engage in professional enquiry by reviewing practices and outcomes and brainstorming new ideas.
  3. Hour 3: Reflect on the changes made and assess their impact on the program and children’s learning.
  4. Hour 4: Document the changes, outcomes, and plans for the next month in the reflection journal.

By the end of the month, the educator would have a deeper understanding of the requirements, engaged in critical reflection, sought feedback, and started implementing changes. This schedule ensures a structured approach to improvement while also allowing for flexibility based on the educator’s specific context and needs.

Reflective Questions

Reflective questions are essential in guiding educators to think deeply about their practices, decisions, and actions. Here’s an exhaustive list of reflective questions tailored for Element 1.3.2 – Critical Reflection:

Understanding and Planning

  1. What do I understand by the term “critical reflection” in the context of Element 1.3.2?
  2. How do I currently incorporate critical reflection into my daily practice?
  3. What are the key components of Element 1.3.2 that I need to focus on?

Deep Dive into Practices

  1. How do I ensure that my reflection on children’s learning and development is consistent and ongoing?
  2. In what ways do I consider all aspects of the program, guiding principles, and practices when reflecting?
  3. How do I ensure that all children and families, regardless of their background, are included in my reflections?

Analyzing Actions and Decisions

  1. Why did I respond in a particular way in a recent teaching scenario?
  2. What influenced my decisions and actions in that scenario?
  3. Which theoretical perspectives or frameworks did I draw upon, consciously or subconsciously, in my decision-making?

Feedback and Engagement

  1. How often do I seek feedback from colleagues, families, and the community?
  2. How do I incorporate the feedback received into my reflections and subsequent actions?
  3. In what ways do I ensure that my practice is shaped by meaningful engagement with families and the community?

Implementation and Outcomes

  1. What changes have I implemented based on my reflections and feedback?
  2. How have these changes impacted the children’s learning and the overall program?
  3. What were the successes and challenges faced after implementing these changes?

Continuous Improvement

  1. How do I ensure that my reflective practice is an ongoing and dynamic process?
  2. In what ways do I challenge my own beliefs, biases, and practices during reflection?
  3. How do I ensure that my reflections lead to actionable steps and continuous improvement?

Inclusivity and Diversity

  1. How do I ensure that my reflections consider implications for equity, inclusion, and diversity?
  2. Are there any children or families who might be advantaged or disadvantaged by my current practices?
  3. How do I address and rectify any biases or prejudices that might emerge during reflection?

Collaboration and Teamwork

  1. How often do I engage in collaborative reflections with my team?
  2. How do we ensure that all voices within the team are heard and respected during reflective discussions?
  3. What strategies do we employ to foster a culture of professional inquiry and collaborative reflection?

Future Planning

  1. Based on my reflections, what are my goals and objectives for the next month or quarter?
  2. How do I plan to address any challenges or barriers identified during reflection?
  3. What resources or support do I need to enhance my reflective practice further?

These questions are designed to guide educators in critically examining their practices, making informed decisions, and continuously improving their approach in line with Element 1.3.2. Regularly revisiting these questions can help educators stay aligned with the requirements of the National Quality Standard.

Learning from ACEQA case studies

Let’s break down the practical steps taken by services in both case studies to achieve Exceeding NQS standards in Element 1.3.2:

Case Study 1

At this inner city before and after school care program, educators wanted to improve their educational program planning process to ensure it reflected children’s strengths, interests and abilities. As a starting point they set up a working group, which included children and educators, to review the service’s enrolment form. This was to ensure it captured key information from children and families, to strengthen knowledge of and relationships with children and to inform their program decision-making.

  1. Working Group Involvement:
    • Reason: Engaging children and educators in a working group to review the service’s enrolment form ensures that the service captures key information from children and families, strengthening relationships and informing program decision-making.
    • Tips: Form a diverse working group with representatives from different age groups and backgrounds. Regularly meet and review feedback.
    • Estimated Time: 2-3 weeks for initial setup and review, then monthly meetings.
  2. Documentation & Sharing:
    • Reason: Documenting the work of the working group and sharing it with other children, families, and educators keeps everyone informed and provides opportunities for feedback.
    • Tips: Use visual aids, charts, and regular newsletters or bulletins to share updates.
    • Estimated Time: 1-2 hours weekly for documentation and sharing.
  3. Ongoing Feedback Mechanisms:
    • Reason: Establishing mechanisms like an ‘ideas’ book or wall allows continuous input from children and families, fostering a sense of ownership and involvement.
    • Tips: Place these mechanisms in easily accessible areas and encourage contributions through prompts or themes.
    • Estimated Time: 1 hour for setup, then 10-15 minutes daily for review.
  4. Collaboration with Local Schools:
    • Reason: Collaborating with local schools at enrolment ensures children are supported during transitions between environments.
    • Tips: Regularly meet with school leaders to discuss collaboration opportunities and share resources.
    • Estimated Time: 2-3 hours monthly for meetings and collaboration efforts.
  5. Critical Reflection Discussions:
    • Reason: Engaging educators in discussions about critical reflection ensures a deeper understanding and consistent application of reflection in practice.
    • Tips: Use models like the “What? So what? Now what?” framework to guide reflections and encourage open dialogue.
    • Estimated Time: 1-2 hours for bi-weekly or monthly reflection sessions.

Case Study 2

This family day care service is situated in a coastal city. The service’s philosophy prioritises building strong and respectful relationships as the foundation for getting to know each child and their family. The service team believe that getting to know the children and families well, right from the start, is the key to developing and implementing educational programs for all children.

  1. Comprehensive Enrolment & Orientation:
    • Reason: A thorough enrolment process that gathers detailed information ensures a deep understanding of each child’s background, strengths, and needs.
    • Tips: Use detailed forms, interviews, and orientation sessions to gather information and set expectations.
    • Estimated Time: 2-3 hours per new enrolment.
  2. Regular Communication with Families:
    • Reason: Regularly sharing updates and seeking feedback from families ensures a two-way communication channel and fosters trust.
    • Tips: Use communication apps, emails, and face-to-face conversations to maintain regular contact.
    • Estimated Time: 1 hour weekly for updates and feedback collection.
  3. Professional Development & Networking:
    • Reason: Providing educators with professional learning opportunities and networking sessions ensures continuous growth and a culture of inquiry.
    • Tips: Organize workshops, training sessions, and networking events for educators.
    • Estimated Time: 2-3 hours monthly for training and networking.
  4. Critical Reflection on Planning Cycle:
    • Reason: Encouraging educators to reflect on each step of the planning cycle ensures a comprehensive and effective approach to child development.
    • Tips: Use reflective questions and discussions to explore each phase of the planning cycle.
    • Estimated Time: 1-2 hours bi-weekly for reflection sessions.
  5. Engaging Children in Analysis & Planning:
    • Reason: Involving children in the analysis of their learning and planning for future experiences ensures a child-centric approach.
    • Tips: Use visual aids, discussions, and feedback sessions to engage children in the planning process.
    • Estimated Time: 1 hour weekly for child engagement sessions.

Implementing these steps requires a commitment to continuous improvement, collaboration, and reflection. While the estimated times provide a guideline, the actual time may vary based on the specific needs and context of each service.



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