Exceeding NQS in Quality Area 3: Resources support play-based learning (Element 3.2.2)

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 3: Element 3.2.2

Here’s an exhaustive list of practical steps you can take to achieve an Exceeding NQS rating in Element 3.2.2 (Resources support play-based learning) according to the National Quality Standard set by ACECQA:

Embedded in service operations (Theme 1):

  1. Ensure resources, materials, and equipment are available in sufficient numbers and variety.
  2. Make sure these resources allow for multiple uses and can be accessed freely by children.
  3. Regularly update and rearrange the environment to provide additional interest, variety, and challenge.
  4. Ensure resources reflect the breadth of ages, interests, and capabilities of children sharing the environment.
  5. Provide resources that stimulate children’s curiosity, encourage exploration, discovery, and experimentation.
  6. Offer resources that are challenging and encourage children to take appropriate risks.
  7. Ensure educators enhance child-initiated experiences by providing additional resources and, where appropriate, participating in and extending children’s play.
  8. Educators should demonstrate the potential of resources to children and suggest new and different ways to use them.
  9. Structure the environment flexibly to allow children to move resources and equipment to extend learning opportunities.

Informed by critical reflection (Theme 2):

  1. Reflect on the current resources and materials available and assess their effectiveness in supporting play-based learning.
  2. Engage in regular discussions with educators about the selection and organization of materials, equipment, and resources.
  3. Document and review learning programs that demonstrate links between the arrangement and choice of resources and learning outcomes for children.
  4. Reflect on how children’s ideas have influenced the arrangement of indoor and outdoor spaces.

Shaped by meaningful engagement with families and/or the community (Theme 3):

  1. Actively seek input, guidance, and feedback from children, families, and the community regarding the selection and organization of resources.
  2. Ensure resources and materials in the educational program reflect children and adults with a range of abilities as active participants in the community.
  3. Engage children in the process of purchasing resources, allowing them to express their preferences to support group and individual play-based learning.
  4. Document strategies used to engage with families and children to ensure their views are considered in the selection and organization of materials, equipment, and resources.

By implementing these steps and ensuring that they are consistently practiced across all aspects of the program, you’ll be well on your way to achieving an Exceeding NQS rating in Element 3.2.2. Remember, it’s essential to maintain a continuous process of reflection and engagement with families and the community to ensure ongoing quality improvement.

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 essential to prioritize tasks and break them down into manageable chunks. 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 3.2.2:

Week 1: Assessment and Planning

  • Hour 1: Conduct a thorough assessment of the current resources, materials, and equipment available in the service.
  • Hour 2: Reflect on the effectiveness of these resources in supporting play-based learning. Make a list of potential improvements.
  • Hour 3: Engage in a discussion with fellow educators about the selection and organization of materials, equipment, and resources.
  • Hour 4: Begin drafting a plan based on the feedback and reflections, focusing on immediate areas of improvement.

Week 2: Engagement and Feedback

  • Hour 1: Prepare a feedback form or survey for families and the community to understand their views on the current resources and what they’d like to see.
  • Hour 2: Distribute the feedback form or survey and engage in one-on-one discussions with families during drop-off or pick-up times.
  • Hour 3: Begin collating the feedback received.
  • Hour 4: Reflect on the feedback and identify common themes or suggestions.

Week 3: Implementation

  • Hour 1: Based on feedback and reflections, start implementing changes. This could involve rearranging the environment or introducing new resources.
  • Hour 2: Engage children in the process, allowing them to express their preferences and be involved in the selection of new resources.
  • Hour 3: Document the changes made and how they link to improved learning outcomes for children.
  • Hour 4: Reflect on the effectiveness of the changes made. Are children more engaged? Is there a noticeable improvement in play-based learning?

Week 4: Review and Future Planning

  • Hour 1: Review the changes made over the past three weeks. What has worked well? What needs further improvement?
  • Hour 2: Engage in another discussion with fellow educators. Share insights, challenges, and seek feedback.
  • Hour 3: Plan for the next month. What are the next steps? Are there any additional resources or changes needed?
  • Hour 4: Prepare for ongoing engagement with families and the community. Consider setting up regular feedback sessions or creating a feedback box where families can drop suggestions.

Remember, the key is consistency and continuous reflection. Even with limited time, by focusing on the most impactful tasks and regularly seeking feedback, an educator can make significant improvements in their service.

Reflective Questions

Reflective questions are instrumental in guiding educators to think deeply about their practices and the impact of their decisions. Here’s an exhaustive list of reflective questions tailored for Element 3.2.2 (Resources support play-based learning):

Resources and Materials

  1. Are the current resources, materials, and equipment diverse and inclusive, catering to all children’s needs and interests?
  2. How often are resources updated or rotated to maintain children’s interest and engagement?
  3. Are there resources that are underutilized or not effective in supporting play-based learning? Why might this be the case?
  4. How do the resources promote creativity, exploration, and experimentation among children?
  5. In what ways do the resources support children in taking appropriate risks and challenges?

Environment and Setup

  1. How is the environment arranged to promote play-based learning?
  2. Are resources easily accessible to all children, regardless of their age or ability?
  3. How often is the environment rearranged or adjusted to introduce variety and challenge?
  4. How do the indoor and outdoor environments complement each other in supporting play-based learning?

Engagement and Feedback

  1. How often do I seek feedback from children about the resources and materials they prefer or enjoy?
  2. In what ways do I engage families and the community in discussions about resources and play-based learning?
  3. How are children’s voices and choices incorporated into the selection and organization of resources?

Educator’s Role

  1. How do I enhance child-initiated experiences by introducing or suggesting new resources?
  2. In what ways do I demonstrate the potential of resources to children, offering new ways to use them?
  3. How do I ensure that I provide sufficient time and resources for children to initiate and engage deeply in experiences?
  4. How do I use outdoor environments for exploration, problem-solving, and creative expression, beyond just physical activity?

Continuous Improvement

  1. What strategies have been most effective in improving play-based learning in the past?
  2. Are there any barriers or challenges that hinder the effective use of resources for play-based learning?
  3. How do I plan for continuous improvement in this element, and what are the next steps?
  4. How do documentation and learning programs showcase the link between resources and children’s learning outcomes?

Community and Inclusivity

  1. How do the resources reflect the diverse backgrounds, cultures, and abilities of the children and families in the service?
  2. Are there resources that help children understand and appreciate differences and diversity?
  3. How do I ensure that resources promote a sense of belonging and inclusivity for all children?

Future Planning

  1. Are there upcoming trends or research in play-based learning that I should be aware of and incorporate into the service?
  2. How can I better collaborate with fellow educators to share insights, resources, and best practices related to play-based learning?

By regularly reflecting on these questions, educators can gain deeper insights into their practices, identify areas of improvement, and ensure that they are providing the best possible environment and resources for play-based learning.

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 3.2.2:

Case Study 1

Family day care educators working in the outer suburbs of the city provide diverse home environments, including the indoor and outdoor play spaces, to enhance the learning and development of the children in their care. The service’s coordination unit offers guidance and support for educators to consider theorists and alternative approaches to creating welcoming and inclusive play-based learning spaces. The unit also hosts a regular play session where educators share ideas, resources and engage in professional conversations.

  1. Diverse Home Environments for Play-Based Learning
    • Reason: The service provided diverse indoor and outdoor play spaces to enhance children’s learning and development.
    • Tips: Collaborate with fellow educators to share and implement diverse play-based learning environments. Regularly rotate and update resources to maintain children’s interest.
    • Estimated Time: 2-3 weeks for initial setup and regular monthly reviews.
  2. Regular Play Sessions for Professional Development
    • Reason: The coordination unit hosted play sessions where educators shared ideas, resources, and engaged in professional conversations.
    • Tips: Organize monthly or bi-monthly play sessions or workshops. Encourage educators to share their experiences and learn from each other.
    • Estimated Time: 2-3 hours per session.
  3. Reflective Conversations and Networking Meetings
    • Reason: Coordinators engaged educators in reflective conversations about the use of spaces and facilitated networking meetings for professional growth.
    • Tips: Schedule regular meetings to discuss improvements, strengths, and areas of focus. Encourage open dialogue and feedback.
    • Estimated Time: 1-2 hours per meeting.
  4. Incorporating Children’s Interests and Ideas
    • Reason: Educators alternated materials based on children’s interests and ideas, ensuring a dynamic and responsive environment.
    • Tips: Regularly seek feedback from children about their interests. Update and rotate materials accordingly.
    • Estimated Time: 1-2 hours weekly.
  5. Collaboration with Specialists for Inclusive Practices
    • Reason: The service collaborated with early intervention teachers and other specialists to support children with additional needs.
    • Tips: Establish connections with local specialists. Seek their guidance for creating inclusive environments and addressing specific needs.
    • Estimated Time: Varies based on the need, but initial consultations can take 2-3 hours.

Case Study 2

This purpose-built, community managed preschool / kindergarten is located in a regional town. The service team is committed to caring for the environment and to sustainable practice and this is reflected in their service philosophy, the educational program and daily practice. The service was built to face north, to take advantage of sunlight for heat and light. It uses solar panels and an Envirocycle system for the management of waste water.

  1. Commitment to Sustainability and Environmental Responsibility
    • Reason: The service integrated sustainable practices into their philosophy, educational program, and daily operations.
    • Tips: Implement sustainable practices like recycling, composting, and using solar energy. Educate both staff and children about their importance.
    • Estimated Time: Ongoing, with initial setup taking a few weeks.
  2. Community Engagement and Projects
    • Reason: The service actively participated in community projects, fostering a sense of community responsibility and environmental awareness.
    • Tips: Collaborate with local community groups or councils on environmental projects. Encourage children’s participation and learning.
    • Estimated Time: Varies based on the project, but initial planning and collaboration can take several hours.
  3. Zero Waste Policy and Recycling Initiatives
    • Reason: The service developed a comprehensive waste management policy, emphasizing recycling and reducing waste.
    • Tips: Conduct waste audits to understand the type and amount of waste produced. Implement recycling bins and educate children about proper waste disposal.
    • Estimated Time: 1-2 weeks for initial setup and regular monthly reviews.
  4. Use of Open-Ended, Natural, and Recycled Materials
    • Reason: The service promoted creativity and exploration by providing open-ended materials for children’s play and learning.
    • Tips: Source and introduce natural and recycled materials into the play environment. Encourage children to use them in diverse ways.
    • Estimated Time: Ongoing, with initial sourcing taking a few days.
  5. Continuous Reflection and Improvement
    • Reason: The service engaged in ongoing professional learning, critical conversations, and documentation to continuously improve their practices.
    • Tips: Document children’s interactions and use them for reflection. Engage in regular team meetings to discuss observations and potential improvements.
    • Estimated Time: Ongoing, with weekly or bi-weekly reflection sessions lasting 1-2 hours.

Implementing these steps requires dedication, collaboration, and a commitment to continuous improvement. By integrating these practices, services can work towards achieving an Exceeding NQS rating in Element 3.2.2.



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