Exceeding NQS in Quality Area 5: Collaborative learning (Element 5.2.1)

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.

Want to use a user-friendly QIP template? See the templates we’ve created in Notion & Google Docs.

See QIP Template →

Practical Steps Towards an Exceeding NQS Rating in Quality Area 5: Element 5.2.1

To achieve an Exceeding NQS rating in the National Quality Standard 5.2, specifically for ELEMENT 5.2.1 COLLABORATIVE LEARNING, you can consider the following practical steps:

Element 5.2.1: Collaborative Learning

Objective: Children are supported to collaborate, learn from, and help each other.

  1. Provide Opportunities for Collaboration: Offer a range of opportunities for children to learn how to work with others collaboratively and effectively, including through play experiences.
  2. Model Cooperative Behavior: Educators should model cooperative behavior and acknowledge cooperation when it occurs.
  3. Provide Time and Space: As children develop their social skills, ensure they have time and space to engage in collaborative experiences.
  4. Nurture Respectful Relationships: By nurturing respectful and reciprocal relationships among children, educators can support children to value collaboration and teamwork.
  5. Encourage Active Involvement: Encourage children’s active involvement in learning experiences, allowing them to explore, solve problems, and develop a greater capacity for independence and collaboration.
  6. Promote Collaboration in Older Children: Older children should be encouraged to challenge and extend their own thinking, and that of others, in collaborative interactions and negotiations with peers.
  7. Stay Updated with Learning Frameworks: Familiarize with the updated national approved learning frameworks to ensure alignment with current standards.

Assessment Guide for Meeting Element 5.2.1:

  1. Observe Children’s Behavior: Look for signs of children participating in play, developing friendships, engaging in enjoyable interactions with peers, and showing kindness and compassion towards their peers.
  2. Educator’s Role: Educators should support children’s progress through different stages of play, model collaborative behavior, engage in children’s group play, support children to understand or communicate with each other, and promote a sense of community in the service.
  3. Discussion Points: Discuss how staffing and grouping arrangements support positive relationships between children, how educators support inclusion of children from diverse backgrounds, and how educators learn about children’s shared interests.

Exceeding NQS Guidance for Standard 5.2:

  1. Embedded Practice in Service Operations: Ensure that all educators are confidently facilitating cooperative and collaborative learning opportunities and demonstrating a consistent approach to behavior guidance.
  2. Informed by Critical Reflection: Reflect on the service’s approach to supporting children in building and maintaining sensitive and responsive relationships. Engage in robust debate and discussion to identify and implement opportunities to strengthen practice.
  3. Engagement with Families and Community: Reflect the unique geographical, cultural, and community context of the service. Encourage all children to challenge stereotypes and biases and develop an understanding of cultural diversity.

By following these steps and ensuring that the practices are embedded in service operations, informed by critical reflection, and shaped by meaningful engagement with families and the community, your service can work towards achieving an Exceeding NQS rating in the National Quality Standard 5.2.

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 a suggested monthly schedule for an educator aiming to improve their service based on the steps provided:

Week 1: Understanding and Planning

Total Hours: 4

  1. Hour 1: Research and familiarize with the National Quality Standard 5.2, specifically ELEMENT 5.2.1 COLLABORATIVE LEARNING. Understand the objectives and requirements.
  2. Hour 2: Reflect on the current state of the service. Identify areas of strength and areas that need improvement.
  3. Hour 3: Set clear goals for the month. Prioritize tasks based on their impact and feasibility.
  4. Hour 4: Plan and prepare resources needed for the upcoming weeks. This could include gathering materials for collaborative play or setting up meetings with colleagues for discussions.

Week 2: Collaboration and Modeling

Total Hours: 4

  1. Hour 1: Introduce new collaborative play opportunities. Observe children’s responses and interactions.
  2. Hour 2: Model cooperative behavior during these play sessions. Actively participate and guide children in their interactions.
  3. Hour 3: Reflect on the effectiveness of the introduced collaborative play opportunities. Make notes on what worked and what didn’t.
  4. Hour 4: Plan for adjustments based on observations. Consider introducing new activities or tweaking current ones.

Week 3: Engagement and Reflection

Total Hours: 4

  1. Hour 1: Engage in group discussions with colleagues. Share observations, gather feedback, and brainstorm ways to enhance collaborative learning.
  2. Hour 2: Dedicate time for critical reflection. Consider how the service’s approach can be improved and aligned with the NQS guidelines.
  3. Hour 3: Start planning for meaningful engagement with families. Draft a survey or a feedback form to gather insights from parents.
  4. Hour 4: Review and familiarize with the updated national approved learning frameworks. Make notes on any changes or updates that need to be incorporated.

Week 4: Community Engagement and Review

Total Hours: 4

  1. Hour 1: Distribute the survey or feedback form to families. Encourage them to provide feedback on the service’s approach to collaborative learning.
  2. Hour 2: Engage with the community. This could be through attending local events, workshops, or seminars related to early childhood education.
  3. Hour 3: Review feedback from families. Identify common themes or suggestions.
  4. Hour 4: Reflect on the month’s activities. Assess the progress made towards achieving the Exceeding NQS rating. Plan for the next month based on feedback and reflections.

By following this schedule, the educator can systematically work towards improving their service in alignment with the NQS guidelines. The key is to remain flexible, adapt based on observations and feedback, and continuously strive for improvement.

Reflective Questions

Reflective questions are crucial in guiding educators to think deeply about their practices, identify areas of improvement, and ensure alignment with the standards set by the National Quality Standard (NQS). Here’s an exhaustive list of reflective questions specifically tailored for Element 5.2.1, which focuses on collaborative learning:

Understanding and Implementation:

  1. How do I currently support children in collaborative learning experiences?
  2. What strategies have been most effective in promoting collaboration among children?
  3. Are there any barriers in the current environment that might hinder collaborative learning? How can these be addressed?
  4. How do I ensure that every child, regardless of their background or abilities, has equal opportunities to engage in collaborative activities?

Observations and Interactions:

  1. What types of collaborative interactions have I observed among the children recently?
  2. How do I respond when children face challenges in their collaborative efforts?
  3. How do I model collaborative behavior in my interactions with children and colleagues?
  4. Are there specific children who seem hesitant to engage in collaborative activities? What strategies can be employed to support them?

Resources and Materials:

  1. Are the materials and resources available in the service conducive to promoting collaborative learning?
  2. How often do I introduce new collaborative play opportunities or activities?
  3. Are there any resources or tools that might enhance the collaborative experiences of children?

Feedback and Communication:

  1. How do I gather feedback from children about their collaborative experiences?
  2. What feedback have I received from families about their child’s collaborative learning experiences?
  3. How do I communicate the importance of collaborative learning to families and seek their input?

Continuous Improvement:

  1. Based on my observations and reflections, what changes or improvements can be made to strengthen collaborative learning?
  2. How do I stay updated with the latest research and best practices related to collaborative learning?
  3. How do I incorporate feedback from colleagues, families, and children to enhance collaborative learning experiences?

Broader Context:

  1. How does collaborative learning align with the broader goals and philosophy of our service?
  2. How do collaborative learning experiences prepare children for future learning and social interactions?
  3. How do I ensure that collaborative learning experiences respect and celebrate the diverse backgrounds of all children?

Personal Growth and Development:

  1. How do I feel about my current abilities and knowledge in promoting collaborative learning?
  2. What professional development opportunities can I seek to enhance my understanding and skills related to collaborative learning?
  3. How do I handle conflicts or challenges that arise during collaborative activities among children?

Community and Cultural Considerations:

  1. How do I ensure that collaborative learning experiences are culturally inclusive and respectful of all children’s backgrounds?
  2. Are there community resources or partnerships that can be leveraged to enhance collaborative learning experiences?

By regularly reflecting on these questions, educators can gain deeper insights into their practices, make informed decisions, and continuously strive to enhance the collaborative learning experiences they provide to children.

Learning from ACEQA case studies

Based on these case studies, here are the 5 most important practical steps that services have taken to achieve Exceeding NQS standards in Element 5.2.1, along with reasons, tips, and estimated implementation times:

Case Study 1

Educators from this preschool / kindergarten service situated in an outer city suburb dedicate time during their regular staff meetings to critically reflect on their practice. As a starting point in reviewing their practice in relation to Standard 5.2, staff reflected on the overarching questions contained within the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). This caused them to think more deeply about their current practice in supporting children’s relationships. This included what theories, philosophies and understandings shape and assist their work, as well as considering whether some children might be advantaged or disadvantaged when educators work in particular ways.

  1. Critical Reflection on Practice
    • Reason: Regular staff meetings dedicated to critically reflecting on their practice ensures continuous improvement and alignment with NQS standards.
    • Tips: Schedule regular staff meetings specifically for reflection. Use guiding questions from the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) to structure discussions.
    • Estimated Time: 2 hours per week for staff meetings.
  2. Engaging with Families
    • Reason: Informal discussions with families provide insights into their desires and concerns, helping educators tailor their approach.
    • Tips: Create open channels of communication with families, such as feedback forms, regular parent-educator meetings, or casual conversations.
    • Estimated Time: 1 hour per week for family engagement.
  3. Professional Development
    • Reason: Attending training sessions and sharing findings helps educators stay updated with best practices and enhances their skills.
    • Tips: Encourage educators to attend different training sessions and allocate time for them to share their learnings with the team.
    • Estimated Time: Varies depending on the training, but allocate 1 hour per week for sharing and discussion.
  4. Adjusting the Physical Environment
    • Reason: A conducive environment promotes pro-social behavior and collaborative learning.
    • Tips: Regularly review and adjust the layout of playrooms and outdoor areas. Consider factors like movement, space, and color.
    • Estimated Time: Initial setup might take 5-6 hours, with periodic reviews taking 1-2 hours monthly.
  5. Monitoring and Intervening in Conflicts
    • Reason: Proactive monitoring helps preempt conflicts, and timely interventions teach children conflict resolution skills.
    • Tips: Train educators to recognize potential conflict triggers and equip them with strategies to guide children in resolving disagreements.
    • Estimated Time: Ongoing, but allocate 1 hour per week for training and discussions.

Case Study 2

This outside school hours care service (OSHC) located in the outer suburbs of a large metropolitan city offers before and after school care and vacation care. The service is located on school grounds and has a strong, long standing relationship with the school’s leadership team and teaching staff. The OSHC service and school have shared values, which include respect, empathy, responsibility and collaboration. These values underpin their vision to provide a safe, nurturing and inclusive environment and sense of belonging for everyone.

  1. Promotion of Shared Values
    • Reason: Shared values between the service and school create a consistent environment for children, promoting sensitive and responsive relationships.
    • Tips: Collaborate with the school to identify and promote shared values. Engage children in discussions and activities related to these values.
    • Estimated Time: 1 hour per week for discussions and activities.
  2. Children’s Leadership Program
    • Reason: Empowering children to take on leadership roles boosts their confidence and promotes collaboration.
    • Tips: Identify potential student leaders and provide them with opportunities to lead activities or mentor younger children.
    • Estimated Time: 2 hours per week for leadership activities and mentoring.
  3. Action Research with Families and Children
    • Reason: Engaging in action research helps understand cultural differences and promotes inclusivity.
    • Tips: Choose relevant topics, involve children and families in the research process, and implement findings in the service’s practices.
    • Estimated Time: 2-3 hours per week for research activities.
  4. Feedback Mechanisms
    • Reason: Regular feedback from families and children provides insights into the effectiveness of the service’s practices.
    • Tips: Implement surveys, feedback forms, and debrief sessions. Act on the feedback received for continuous improvement.
    • Estimated Time: 1 hour per week for feedback collection and review.
  5. Exploration of Leadership Qualities
    • Reason: Understanding children’s perspectives on leadership ensures that the leadership program is inclusive and effective.
    • Tips: Engage children in discussions about leadership qualities. Use visual aids like a “wall of strengths” to capture and display their insights.
    • Estimated Time: 1-2 hours per week for leadership discussions and activities.

Incorporating these steps into your service will require dedication and commitment, but with consistent effort, achieving an Exceeding NQS rating in Element 5.2.1 is attainable.



Category: Tag: