Reflective practice is one of the tools which can be used by Early Years Professionals to fulfil their role as ‘change agent’, which is at the heart of the Early Years Professional Status (CWDC, 2008). By structured reflection on current practice the EYP can identify what change is valuable, worthwhile and improving.
Methods vary from setting to setting. Practitioners may have personal reflective log books which are then reviewed regularly. Reflection can be done as a team in staff meetings. Documents such as the Self Evaluation Form (SEF) and the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) are valuable starting points.
Each of the EYFS Principles into Practice cards has a very constructive section on the back entitled ‘Reflecting on Practice’ which gives the sort of questions and issues practitioners should be considering.
In the practice guidance, reflecting on children’s play is identified as ‘crucial’ (EYFS, Practice Guidance, page 7). The guidance goes on to say that in a continuously improving setting the leader will lead and encourage a culture of reflective practice, self evaluation and informed discussion (page 9).
I recently had the pleasure of meeting an EYP from Bolton in the North West of England, who has thoroughly embraced the philosophy of reflective practice. During the visit to her setting I saw firsthand how she has influenced her setting since gaining the Status and created an ethos of reflective practice.
When she first started her initial priority was training staff and getting the environment right for the children. She did this by personally reflecting on every aspect of the setting, from the implementation of the EYFS to risk assessments. She felt it was important that the team were fully involved with the process and the practitioners had ownership of the ideas, so there was a period when staff met after work every week to discuss practice and ideas. From this a number of good ideas emerged.
Once such idea was the ‘jungle room’ where the conservatory area of the setting was converted into a jungle. Natural, open-ended resource such as logs, tubes, dried rice and pasta were introduced into the area. Children can easily access these and play with them in any way. The play is totally child initiated and child led. Whilst observing the children’s play and reflecting on the activities going on in the room, resources are added to extend their play. This is a constant process. The EYP believes that “constant, reflective practice results in continuous, improving practice”.
Twelve months on and she is planning on removing all the doors of the rooms to allow free flow play, for all ages of children, throughout the setting. This will have many advantages:
- one excellent sand area instead of several sand areas of lesser quality in each room
- easier transitions as the children will already be familiar with all the practitioners
- peer learning through vertical integration within the setting
- independent learning as children make their own choices.
This is going to require teamwork and commitment, both of which the EYP and the setting staff strongly support.
Reflective practice is enshrined in the EYFS and can be achieved in a number of ways. The essential element is that the reflection results in improvements in practice.
Whilst studying for the EYPS, candidates have to reflect on every aspect of their work. This is excellent preparation for being an EYP when being an effective change agent means continually reflecting and leading the team onto better practice. The benefits, though not always felt immediately, are immensely worthwhile.
CWDC (2008) Guidance to the Standards for the award of Early Years Professional Status, Leeds
A longer version of this article originally appeared in Early Years Educator (EYE). You can access EYE at http://www.earlyyearseducator.co.uk/, either to subscribe or download articles.