Reflective Practice

Posted on: 29/06/2016

As Educators we all work really hard to make sure the children in our care are getting quality experiences. But how do we know we are getting it right?

This is where reflective practice and ongoing learning come into play.

What is reflective practice?

Reflective practice is the ongoing process of thinking about and observing what you say and do in your role as an Educator and how this compares to what you actually say and do. Questioning what you could do differently, what could be improved upon and then implementing improved changes is also essential to reflective practice.

Reflective practice provides us with a self-assessment tool, where you’re able to identify your challenges, what needs to be learned and how you might make this learning possible.

The Early Childhood Australia’s Code of Ethics clearly states reflective practice as a requirement of Educators and says that we should regard ourselves as ‘learners who undertake reflection, critical self-study, continuing professional development and engage with contemporary theory and practice’.

How do I know if I’m a reflective educator?

As a reflective Educator, you’re not only aware of your own strengths and skills but also your limitations and any areas of your practice that you could perhaps improve upon.

Reflection comes quite easily – you may not even realise you are doing it. Every day we think about what the children have done and what we’ve done - this is the first step. All you have to do now is reflect in a more conscious way.

How do I reflect?

The children’s daily diaries, chats with parents, your planning and interaction with children during play are all ways in which you already reflect. You may even ask yourself, ‘what more can I do? How do I make reflective practice a part of everyday so that it becomes habit and forms part of our overall good practice?

Start by questioning the way you do something:

  • Why did I do it that way?
  • Was it appropriate?
  • Where did the idea come from?

Then look at alternative options as to how it might have been done, would this have been any better?

What about the consequences? Would there have been any? What would they be?

Then implement one of your alternative strategies to see if it works any better. It might take a few turns and a bit of tweaking, but you will be surprised at how a simple change of perspective can be a real eye-opener.

Remember it’s important to keep an open mind!

Example questions for reflection:    

Not sure where to start?

Here are a few sample questions and ideas to get you started: 

  • How do I see my role as an educator?
  • What are my key skills and strengths?
  • In what areas of my practice do I feel less confident?
  • What has worked and what hasn’t worked so well this past week?

Consider your relationship and experiences with the children in your care.

Answer the following questions: 

  • What are their main interests?
  • How much time do I spend talking and listening to each child?
  • How do I use this information to help them learn?
  • Are all children included?
  • Do all children have the opportunity to participate?

Now comes the fun part.

Put yourself in the shoes of one of the children in your care and think about the following questions from their point of view: 

  • Do I feel welcome?
  • Am I happy to be here rather than wanting to leave?
  • Do I feel listened to and taken seriously rather than just a face in the crowd?
  • Do I feel accepted, understood and protected?
  • Are the activities engaging, captivating and challenging and not just fun?
  • Do I find the experiences meaningful to me rather than boring?

Should I reflect on something in particular?

No! Reflection should be about anything and everything. You might look at internal and outdoor environments, how you support the children’s emotional well-being or even what happens at lunchtime and the end of the day.

  • Do you have set routines for lunchtime or when parents arrive?
  • What happens if the parent is late? How do you support the child in this?

Reflective practice can happen in a number of ways:

  • It might take place in your head.
  • Chat with other educators, friends, family and share your ideas to get their insight and perspective.
  • You might like to keep a journal. Recording processes. Having a clear action plan provides guidance in what might be an overwhelming process to start with.

Reflective practice can take some getting used to but the process will become easier the more you practice.

What are the benefits of reflective practice?

As Educators our ultimate aim is to provide the best possible practice to the children in our care, and their families. We all aspire to be the best we can be and provide the best opportunities and experiences for the children. By undertaking reflective practice we increase our knowledge and understanding of what works or doesn’t work for each child and therefore impacts on the children’s learning and development.

Benefits to you, the Educator:

  • More motivation to do your best
  • Development of additional skills (training can also support this)
  • Greater job satisfaction
  • More confident in your knowledge, skills and role as an Educator
  • Increased sense of making a difference
  • Achieving greater outcomes for your children.

Key benefits to children in the care of reflective Educators:

  • Individual needs are more likely to be met
  • Increased development
  • Greater sense of well-being in a safe and secure setting.

Even though the act of reflection is an individual one, it is not necessarily a solitary one. In fact, positive change is more likely when reflective practice is done collaboratively. By drawing on the diverse knowledge, experiences and views of other Educators you can add significantly to your own reflective practice process.

 So pick up the phone and chat to one of your fellow Educators or your Educational Program Coordinator for support and ideas on how to move forward. After all, it’s all about making a positive difference to the learning of the children in our care.

What to know more?

If you’d like to learn more about reflective practice and how it might benefit you, you may be interested in the following references.

  • Commonwealth of Australia. (2009) Belonging, Being and Becoming: an Early Years Learning Framework for Australia.  
  • Department Education and Early childhood Development (2009) Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework: For all Children from Birth to Eight Years. Melbourne, Victoria: Author
  • Early Childhood Australia (2006). Early Childhood Australia’s Code of Ethics.
  • Raban, B., Nolan, A., Waniganayake, M., Ure, C., Brown,R., Deans, J (2007). Building Capacity. Strategic professional development for early childhood practitioners (pp. 28-34). Australia: Thompson
  • Rinaldi, C. (2006). ‘Teachers as researchers. Formation and professional development in a school of education.’ In G. Dahlberg & P. Moss (Eds.) In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia. Listening, researching and learning. (pp.137-142). London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group
  • MacNaughton, G. and Williams, G. (2009) Techniques for teaching young children: Choices for theory and practice. 3rd Ed. French Forest, NSW: Pearson Education Australia.