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Developing as a Reflective Early Years Professional – Book Review

Developing as a reflective EY profI’m thoroughly enjoying the new series from Critical Publishing books. The latest one, Developing as a Reflective Early Years Professional, deals with the highly elusive and complicated concepts of reflective practice and reflection.

Chapter 1 is by Carol Hayes and is all about reflective practice. There are some great examples of a range a reflective models and how these link to early years. One of Carol’s thoughts struck me particularly – the use of the word practitioner suggest ‘doing’. We all know settings (whether Nursery, childminder, nanny or teacher) are all about doing, but maybe there should be times when we consider ourselves thinkers, reflectors or researchers.

Ruth Gill tackles ‘Writing for Reflection’ in chapter 2. The RAIN framework on page 28, which stands for Reflects, Analysis, Interpret, Next steps, is very useful and would be a good framework for practitioners new to reflection. This chapter also highlights many of the fears and frustrations of writing for reflection. This is particularly useful in the section on writing a reflective journal – something a lot of students dread – but here it is explained clearly, with some interesting examples.

In chapter 3 Ann Whitehouse deals with the complex, and sometimes contradictory nature, of a critical friend by illustrating her points with Conversations between Debbie and Michelle. This cleverly gives the chapter an immediacy and personal feeling that actually underpins being a critical friend.

Making the transition from practice to HE is often a life changing, and usually, positive experience for practitioners. However, being persuaded of this can sometimes be difficult! The fourth chapter, written by Jayne Daly, explains the process well, and  should be required reading for anyone still not sure about taking the plunge. The only improvement I would add is that of the male practitioners voice, although Daly does acknowledge that all the issues are equally applicable to men. However, I feel that the experience of being the only male in a class would’ve been worth further investigation.

The chapter on Reflection informed by observation and assessment by Carol Hayes, has a good mix between practice and theory. The strengths and challenges of observations table on page 75 is both practical and useful as a reflective audit tool for practitioners – where are your strengths are and what do you find a challenge? This is not a ‘how to do…’ chapter, but a true critical reflection of the rationale underpinning observations, far beyond the basic legal requirements.

In chapter 6, Ruth Gill unpacks what it actually is to be a key “person” not a key worker. This chapter highlights the much talked about proposal of professional love, as popularised by Dr Jools Page.

The following chapter is a change of direction. Mandy Duncan tackles the sensitive and complex issues around racism thoughtfully and without flinching from the critical analysis that is needed here. ‘We may need to discriminate between people in order to ensure we do not discriminate against them’ (page 117).

In the second of her chapters, Mandy Duncan deals with global childhood poverty, critically exploring what poverty means to children around the world. She asks some very uncomfortable self reflective questions about practitioners view on poverty and how this can vary according to your own circumstances. There’s a very interesting analysis on the question “Can aid end poverty?”

In Jayne Daly’s chapter on being a reflective leader, the much debated “difference between leader and manager” question is handled very well, drawing on all the seminal texts for the area, including Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence (an essential tool for all Early Years Practitioners, I feel). This chapter brings us right up to date with a discussion about the new Early Years Teacher Status (which has replaced the Early Years Professional Status, EYPS).

The chapter on the multi professional team has, very aptly, been written as a collaboration between Carol Hayes, Mandy Duncan and Ann Whitehouse. This is an absolutely captivating chapter. I had expected the usual rundown of who is in the team, how they work etc. But the authors have chosen to concentrate on the less tangible aspects of team work, such as trust, relationships and ethics. The moral dilemmas of information sharing (underpinned by theory from Kant and Bentham) is analysed clearly and encourages the reader to really consider their own position. Similarly, the section on surveillance and control (including the ideas behind the Panopticon) raise some profound questions.

Fittingly, the final chapter is reflection and change by Carol Hayes and includes action research, and a reflective research buddy. Trustworthiness is analysed, which is an aspect that is deserving of reflection. The thread of professionalism that runs through all the discussions in this chapter resonate strongly with my own convictions.

The sheer range of perspectives makes this a book to be commended. With the inclusion of reflective journals, the critical treatment observations, professional love, racism, global child poverty, multiagency team theory, change management, theory and practical case studies, this book has every base covered.

This would be an ideal companion for a degree course, or a great read on a sunny afternoon.

You can get a copy of this book from independent book sellers or Amazon 

I was lucky enough to get an advance review copy from Critical Publishing. Thank you!

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  • Jeanette steinbeck Jun 18,2014 at 10:08 pm

    Ohhh this brings back memories of my educational experience from newer having tried to reflect to finishing my BA in Social Education and reflective practice being one of my tools I use every day…..

    • Kathy Jun 18,2014 at 10:29 pm

      Hi Jeanette,
      I know, as I was reading the book, it all came flooding back!

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