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Reflective Practice in Early Childhood Education

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Reflective practice in early childhood education – growing as educators and learners

Reflective practice in early childhood education has been described as a process of turning experience into learning. That is, of exploring experience in order to learn new things from it. Reflection involves taking the unprocessed, raw material of experience and engaging with it to make sense of what has occurred (Boud, D. 2001).

What is Reflective Practice?

Reflective practice supports you in making sense of a situation. It enables childcare professionals and teachers to grow and develop their own working theories, philosophy and pedagogy. For any educator, your reflections, both individual and team, provide valuable data and evidence of your developing pedagogy and professional growth.

male teacher engaging in reflective practice

As a teacher, manager, mentor and early childhood education facilitator, I believe we often use reflective practice throughout our working day. These daily reflections include anticipation of, during and after events. Reflections, or more importantly recording regular reflections is often an action that is overlooked due to the many demands placed on busy early childhood professionals.

Getting to the crux of true reflective practice – it’s more than just looking back! It’s about taking the time to think about values, assumptions and beliefs. It’s all very well to reflect by saying: “Well, we tried … and it didn’t work!”. What I have observed to be good reflective practice, is for early childhood educators to make time to work through these questions:

  • What role have you played in this?
  • What you did and why?
  • How does this reflect the principles, and goals of our curriculum and our philosophy?
  • What would you do differently to support a better outcome?
  • What does this say about your teaching strategies and our role as educators?

Some educators may need support to strengthen their skills for deep reflective practice. This will allow them to truly unpack the inconsistencies between espoused beliefs and practices (what we think we do) versus actions in practice (what we really do). Reflective practice in early childhood education can support a greater understanding of who we are as teachers and how our own values and beliefs impact what we do and why.

Reflective Practice in Storypark

Using a reflection plan with goals within the Storypark planning area is ideal for assisting teachers in clarifying their ideas, musings, and evidence and can support deeper reflection. Sharing these reflections with fellow educators, colleagues and/or someone who is removed from the situation can provide external perspectives. It can be helpful as there is little benefit from being too insular and relying on just your own interpretations. The role of a “provocateur” can be a valuable one. A plan can be completely private or you can invite a mentor, manager or colleague from within your early childhood centre.

The evidence we gather in a plan or teacher story can provide a rich source for reflection. Yes, we have the stories we craft and create but we also have the data found within the reports area of your early childhood centre’s Storypark account and within your portfolio area. The learning tags you use provide learning trends that can highlight the learning you have focused on and recorded over any period of time. If you have used the learning tags to highlight the MAIN learning, then you will be able to create a picture of your own pedagogical focus .  Also highlighting your lens on learning – what does it illuminate for you?

Reflection Models

Some examples of reflection models to support the creation of your own reflective practices:

Want to know more about using :

Learning Tags: https://intercom.help/storypark/general/learning-tags-and-sets/what-are-learning-tags-and-sets

Learning Trends Reports: https://intercom.help/storypark/for-teachers/reports/what-are-learning-trends

My Portfolio Report: https://intercom.help/storypark/for-teachers/teacher-portfolios/teacher-profile-reports

Planning: https://intercom.help/storypark/for-teachers/planning/create-a-plan

OʼConnor, A. & Diggins, C. (2002). On reflection: reflective practice for early childhood educators . Lower Hutt: Open Mind Publishing.

Campbell, Melenyzer, Nettles, & Wyman (2000). Portfolio and Performance Assessment in Teacher Education. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Brookfield, S. D. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Peters, J. (1991). Strategies for reflective practice. Professional development for Educators of Adults . New directions for Adult and Continuing Education . R. Brockett (ed). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Boud, D. (2001). Using journal writing to enhance reflective practice. In English, L. M. and Gillen, M. A. (Eds.) Promoting Journal Writing in Adult Education . New Directions in Adult and Continuing Education No. 90. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 9-18.

Sharon Carlson, Professional Learning and Development Manager at Storypark

  • Posted in: Educator Professional Development , Inspiration
  • Tagged in: Educator Professional Learning

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Posted by Sharon Carlson

Sharon's early years were supported at home by her Mum in Taranaki. She later became an ECE ICT facilitator for CORE Education, and then Storypark. Sharon has successfully supported the implementation of a diverse range of ICT products and services around the country and is helping make sure Storypark is awesome for teachers and children's development.

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[…] Reflective practice supports you in making sense of a situation and can enable you to grow and develop your own working theories, philosophy and pedagogy. Your reflections, both individual and team, provide valuable data and evidence of your developing pedagogy and professional growth. This article looks at reflective practice (both as an educator and a learner) and looks at a few reflection models to help you develop your own action plan. Get started here. […]

[…] thing. As educators, we belong to a profession that believes in the idea of lifelong learners. Self-reflection and professional goals help us achieve that. Not all learning needs to be a training course or a […]

[…] The mirror stands for reflective practice; […]

[…] will be considerably different from those who work with preschool-age children. Through the art of reflective practice, the simple notion of inquiring with the educators in your room may be enough to get the ball […]

[…] also helps to allow time for reflection, as well as the time needed to develop skills in a range of approaches to reflective practice – an example for this could be journal writing, critical conversation, and focus groups. The […]

[…] curricula and frameworks that place an importance on partnerships with parents and community, reflective practice, collaborative inquiry, educators as co-learners, pedagogical documentation, responsive […]

[…] process means we can sweep over what was occurring for children. It means we leave little room for reflection and can miss the deeper learning happening for […]

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Reflection helps in making sense of the situation and understanding where one went wrong or did well and what we can do better. Reflection helps us learn new ways of solving and supporting children in development.

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The lens model can be very helpful for children with special needs because if we are only looking from our perspective, we won’t realize that we could potentially be leaving children behind

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early childhood education reflection

Library Home

Reflective Practice in Early Years Education

(3 reviews)

early childhood education reflection

Sheryl Third, Fanshawe College

Copyright Year: 2022

Publisher: Fanshawe College Pressboks

Language: English

Formats Available

Conditions of use.


Learn more about reviews.

Reviewed by Mindi Schryer, Full-time Instructor, Northeastern Illinois University on 3/20/24

The text defines reflection and gives many examples of the meaning of it. It aligns theories to the topic as it specifies various reflective models. The text provides resources including self-assessment tools. As this book is geared toward early... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

The text defines reflection and gives many examples of the meaning of it. It aligns theories to the topic as it specifies various reflective models. The text provides resources including self-assessment tools. As this book is geared toward early childhood professionals, it would have been helpful to see more resources specific to ECE throughout the text. I am referring to having more videos of young children and teachers. The text provides many links to ECE and other resources. Some of the resources such as "The Thinking Lens" could have been more explicitly used in the text.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

The text and content are accurate. I appreciate the alignment to NAEYC Standards. There are many resources such as articles and videos. They fit in well with the topic. It appears to be unbiased.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

The text provides a practical application to making reflection a regular part of one’s teaching. There are tools for self-assessment and logical sequential steps for this process. It is geared toward education. I would have liked to see some more explicit examples of reflecting in early childhood education. The resources are all relevant. It would be helpful for the authors to review some older materials and update the text with new ones. Connections to child development theories would make the relevance even stronger.

Clarity rating: 5

It was clear and easy to follow. The text began with defining reflection, describing the benefits, and aligning reflection with theories. It progressed from the why to what and how to become a reflective practitioner. Objectives were concise and each chapter followed a logical progression.

Consistency rating: 5

The format and design of the text was consistent throughout.

Modularity rating: 5

The text can be easily modularized to fit in-person, online and hybrid courses. Each chapter ends with a self-assessment which is a great way for students to reflect on and articulate their learning. Much of the text was devoted to discussing the benefits of reflection and theories that serve as models for reflection. Depending on the needs of students, I may choose to eliminate some of this material from my course and move on to implementation and practice.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

The text was organized well with a consistent format for each chapter. The resources are excellent. I would prefer to see some of the resources explicitly embedded in some of the chapters as opposed to simply providing a link.

Interface rating: 5

The text is set up for students to be active participants in their learning. There is an online module, various videos, and other resources for students. Navigating each topic or chapter can be done easily.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

The text was written simply and at a college level. It would be beneficial for teacher candidates and teachers.

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

There was a link for anti-bias resources. I would recommend that instructors supplement the text with more information about an anti-bias curriculum as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion. I additionally recommend that the authors embed this topic throughout the text as it applies to adults as well as children. The text was not insensitive or offensive. It would be helpful to recognize different cultures, implicit and explicit biases, and other DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) topics. Educators need to check their own biases when reflecting on their teaching and the children's learning.

The text is a great roadmap for learning about reflective practice and taking steps to make reflection a regular part of one’s routine. I would follow the sequence of the text and supplement it with more early childhood education videos of children so that students can practice reflecting on what they are teaching and what children are learning. I would also supplement the topic with protocols so that students can practice in a group with a clear focus. With that said, the text covers the why and the what of reflective practice. I would include more of the “how,” again with a focus on teaching young children.

Reviewed by Tiffiny Hilge, Adjunct instructor, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College on 12/15/22

Self-reflection can lead to the development and improvement of professional skills. This textbook examines the role of reflective practice in the education field. The text begins by defining reflective practice and identifying the benefits the... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

Self-reflection can lead to the development and improvement of professional skills. This textbook examines the role of reflective practice in the education field. The text begins by defining reflective practice and identifying the benefits the practice can bring to your professional competence. The different theories and reflective models are examined in the text. A range of methods by which you can incorporate reflection, whether it is in writing, with a professional group, or in social media formats, are also explored. There is a self-reflection assignment at the end of each chapter. This enables the student to reflect on their newly acquired knowledge in real-time.

No errors were found.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

I found the written content to be relevant. Each chapter contains linked video and article resources. Those resources help to explain the topic and broaden the student's understanding. They are currently engaging and relevant. There is a concern that the resources could get outdated if not monitored by the publisher.

The text is an easy read and holds the reader's attention. Each chapter is broken into three parts: objective, lesson(s), and reflective practice. The first section identifies the learning objective. In the second section, you will find the lesson or lessons. Every lesson has a video link or "Dig Deeper"(or both) component that enables students to deepen their understanding of the lesson. The chapter concludes with a reflective practice activity.

The format is consistent.

Each chapter provides ample information but is also concise and to the point. There is no extra fluff.

The organization is easy to follow.

No problems found.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

None noted.

Self-reflection can be beneficial to your professional growth. It is often a skill taught indirectly without much explanation as to why. There is often very little formal training or practice. This text can help bridge that gap between the concept of self-reflection and practicing the skills.

Reviewed by Bonnie Yoder, Instructor, James Madison University on 9/12/22

Set up in ten interactive modules, this textbook provides both theory and practice in becoming a reflective educator. Each chapter contains a brief reading passage followed by a discussion question that could serve as a springboard for class... read more

Set up in ten interactive modules, this textbook provides both theory and practice in becoming a reflective educator. Each chapter contains a brief reading passage followed by a discussion question that could serve as a springboard for class discussion or an individual writing assignment.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

The text appears to be accurate, error-free, and unbiased.

Becoming a reflective teacher is a key dispositional skill for beginning teachers.

The text is easy to navigate and set up in a way that the reader can choose certain chapters or the entire text.

The organization of each chapter is consistent and user-friendly.

The organization of this text allows instructors to pick and choose relevant topics for their course. Set up in modules, this text could easily be adapted into an online, set-paced course.

The text is set up in an organized fashion with a logical progression of topics and content.

Interface rating: 4

I did not notice any technical errors or issues.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

I noticed one minor grammatical error where a period was missing at the end of a sentence.

The author worked to include culturally sensitive examples. This is an area that can always be a work in progress.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Land Acknowledgements
  • Chapter 1: Introduction to Reflective Practice
  • Chapter 2: Reflective Practice
  • Chapter 3: Models and Theories of Practice
  • Chapter 4: Am I a reflective practitioner?
  • Chapter 5: Writing for reflection
  • Chapter 6 - Everyday Reflection
  • Chapter 7: Reclaiming Reflective Practice
  • Chapter 8: The disposition, values, principles, and ethics of a reflective practitioner
  • Chapter 9: Communities of Practice and the Reflective Process
  • Chapter 10: Professional Practice and the Critical Reflective Process
  • Versioning History

Ancillary Material

About the book.

This resource will provide a context that will allow the reader to consider their obligation to reflect from their own perspective and will explore how to create a practice that best suits their professional setting. This book will bring together in one place the history, the values, the skills and disposition required to be a reflective practitioner. It is a textbook with elements of a workbook, embedded are opportunities to watch, to think, to write, and to listen allowing the reader to become a purposeful and intentional reflective practitioner.

About the Contributors

Sheryl Third , Fanshawe College

Contribute to this Page

early childhood education reflection

Reflection & Reflective Practice in Young Children

It has been thought for a long time that young children are not capable of self reflection yet how many times do we see parents or educators saying “You think about what you have done.” Are young children even capable of reflecting on situations and circumstances and are they cognitively able to incite change through those self reflections?

Reflection is a vital part of learning. Think about your journey when learning a new skill or concept. It takes observation, practice and reflection to move from a point of no skill to skill. We know children can observe and they use that in learning all the time. They imitate adults and their peers and then manipulate those things they have learned through play, in order to learn more.

For example, when learning to speak, a child observes and copies what they see and hear. They practice the words and sounds over and over until they have mastered them. At first it is just straight mimicking, but as they grow slightly older (around 3 years), they start to play with those words, forming nonsense words, rhyming words and playing with the language in all sorts of ways which teaches new skills. But do they reflect on what they are learning? Is reflection part of their learning process?

Historically, it has always been believed that young children (under 11 years) do not have the capacity for self-reflection ( Flavell, 1977 ). Later research, as late as 2016 backed up this same view ( Robson, 2016 ). Although Robson agrees that observation and reflection go hand in hand, the thought was still that children under the age of 11 years did not have the capacity for self reflection.

“Movement allows children to connect concepts to action and to learn through trial and error. Young children explore their world through movement, using all the senses so it is only logical to use what they already know to promote further skills such as reflective practice” DIANA F CAMERON

The research of Mario Biggeri (2007) showed that “Children from the age of 11 have been shown to have conceptualising abilities that enable them to reflect on their experiences”. But it wasn’t until research in 2010 when the concept that children’s opinions and perspectives were important and they were able to reflect on experience and have a subtle understanding of them that more research opened the possibility that self-reflection was possible in younger children ( Buhler-Neiderberger, 2010 ).

Robson agreed that children who are given the opportunity to self reflect become better at it over time. There is also something else that is developed simultaneously when having the opportunity for self-reflection and that is the ability to develop symbolic thought and to be able to represent ideas.

First Things First

In order for a child to be able to reflect on an event, they must first be self-aware. There are many ways to help a child with self awareness, and although they are still learning, we know that young children (younger than 11 years) are self aware. So doesn’t it stand to reason that we could use the ability of self awareness to engage and develop reflection abilities?

So What is Reflection?

First, we need to qualify what we mean by reflection. Similar to critical thinking, it can’t be learned or practiced in isolation but needs to be in taught in context. It needs to be conscious and it needs to happen in relation to an experience.

By reflecting on experiences, children are able to implement change by looking at things differently and then changing how they react to a similar experience. Developmental research suggests that “there are age related increases in the highest degree of self-reflection” ( Zelazo, 2004 ). There are factors, however that directly influence a child’s ability for self-reflection and those are their developmental age, and their language ability ( Zelazo, 2004 ).

Why is Self-Reflection Important?

When play is accompaniment by self reflection, it leads to deeper learning and understanding. Improving a child’s ability to self-reflect directly impacts on:

  • Self regulation – The ability to respond to circumstances and demands with a range of emotions that are in keeping with appropriate social expectations and flexible enough to allow spontaneous reactions as needed. In other words, knowing cognitively which coping strategy to implement so their reaction is in keeping with the circumstance.
  • Mindfulness – being present in activities and aware of themselves at every moment.
  • Metacognition – thinking about thinking
  • Learning – the ability to reflect and instigate change is an essential part of learning

How Do We Assist Self-Reflection in Young Children?

As mentioned before, for young children to be able to self-reflect, they first need to be self-aware. Movement is one of the best ways I know of implementing this with young children. As a Kindermusik educator, I know the importance of movement and musical experiences for young children and the many benefits of moving. We do exercises with children where they learn to isolate individual body parts and coordinate others, building on self-awareness with every move.

early childhood education reflection

We are running the risk with our increasingly passive learning environments in preschools, of inhibiting the opportunities for children to learn self-awareness and reflection. It is important for them to be allowed to move freely, choosing their own activities and participating in self-directed learning. This is how we lead children through self-awareness to the skill of reflection.

Movement allows  children to connect concepts to action  and to learn through trial and error. Young children explore their world through movement, using all the senses so it is only logical to use what they already know to promote further skills such as reflective practice.

Memory and movement are linked. Memory is also a part of the reflective process; without memory of the situation, a child can’t reflect on it. Children need opportunities to move, even school aged children . Their body is a tool for learning and must be utilized as much as possible. The more senses that are engaged, the deeper the learning.

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What Types of Movement Should I Be Using?

Different types of movement are a great way to increase self-awareness and can lead to opportunities to teach self-reflection. You could try the following:

  • Free movement to music
  • Movement isolating 1 body part at a time. “Jazz hands” or moving just a shoulder, or do the hokey pokey
  • Movement using a variety of props – balls, scarves, streamers, stuffed animals or keeping a balloon in the air
  • Mirror Dancing. Dance like I am dancing, now I will dance like you are dancing
  • Cross Lateral Movements – where the opposite arm and leg are moving at the same time or anything where the arms cross the body
  • Use extremes of movement – very high, to very low. All the way from one side to the other side etc
  • Move while balancing on one leg
  • Only use 1 side of your body at the one time when you move
  • Stop and go movement – for children 3+ years, when you stop get them to make a shape with their bodies (like a statue) which adds another layer of complexity to the activity
  • Different types of moving – upside down, crawling, hopping, dancing, jumping – using the body in various ways

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So What is the Research Telling Us?

Putting it all together, it is possible for young children to reflect and in fact, it is important to teach them those skills by allowing them the opportunity to practice. This is what we can learn from the latest research about young children:

  • Self awareness is best practiced through movement.
  • Children must first be self aware before they can develop self reflection.
  • Self awareness leads to better self regulation.
  • Self regulation happens in the body through movement. Intentional movement, such as yoga or moving to music has profound effects on a child’s ability to focus and calm themselves.
  • Reflection is a vital part of learning.
  • Memory and movement are linked. Memory is needed to develop reflective practices.
  • Young children are capable of self reflection and instigating change but it is directly dependent on their developmental age and their language abilities.
  • Self reflection develops symbolic thought and the ability to represent ideas through symbols.

Diana Cameron

Diana has over 32 years in the early childhood industry and has been a guest lecturer and workshop facilitator both nationally and internationally for the past 20 years. She has a passion for inspiring educators to use creativity and imagination in their teaching.

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Reflective Practice in Early Childhood Education (Template Inside)

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Reflective Practice is Housman Institute’s adaptation of Reflective Supervision. It is a process that focuses on self-reflection of one’s experiences, interactions, feelings, reactions, and areas of growth to promote emotional awareness, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Reflective Practice creates an environment that promotes self-reflection, empathy, understanding, support, and both personal and professional growth.

This comprehensive overview of Reflective Practice includes its definition, benefits, steps, strategies, and implementation tips, plus free downloadable resources .  

Table of Contents  

  • Definition  
  • Who Is Involved?   

Importance in Early Childhood Education  

Enhancing self-awareness  .

  • Improving Teaching Practices  
  • Strengthening Relationships  

Fostering Continuous Professional Growth  

  • Reflective Practice Steps (Template included)
  • Creating a Supportive Culture   
  • Observation and Documentation  
  • Establishing Regular Reflective Opportunities   

Active Listening Without Judgment  

Adjusting your approach  , engaging in collaborative reflection  , providing professional development and training   , incorporating reflective practice into training programs  .

  • Mentoring and Coaching Opportunities   
  • Networking and Collaboration  

Individualizing Instruction  

  • Promoting Positive Behavioral Guidance  

Supporting Social-Emotional Development  

Books, journals, and research articles   .

  • Online Communities and Forums  
  • Professional Organizations and Conferences  

What is Reflective Practice?   

Defining reflective practice  .

Reflective Practice is Housman Institute’s adaptation of Reflective Supervision. It is a process that focuses on promoting self-reflection, emotional awareness, critical thinking, and problem-solving to identify areas of growth, find more beneficial strategies, come to one’s own conclusion about a challenging experience, and meet professional goals. Reflective Practice creates an environment with reflection, empathy, understanding, support, and personal and professional growth at the center.    

Who Is Involved?  

Reflective Supervision typically occurs in structured sessions between a trusted mentor, coach, or supervisor and a mentee, but the Reflective Practice process can also take place between any members of the community. This includes Directors, Principals, Mentors, Coaches, Lead Teachers, Teachers, Teaching Assistants, SLP, Counselors, children, and families. While more structured Reflective Practice sessions between a mentor and mentee should take place one-on-one in a safe environment, it can also take place less formally between other members of the community.

To find out more about how this may look, see The Power of Reflective Practice blog series:   

Reflective Practice plays a vital role in early childhood settings. It provides continuous professional development, support, and feedback for all members involved and gives staff a safe space to discuss challenging experiences and related feelings . It lays the groundwork for ongoing professional development through consistent self-reflection, community support, and emotional awareness.   

Reflective Practice allows individuals to become more aware of their emotional triggers and learn how to effectively manage them with guidance from a trusted mentor. Children are emotional detectives who pick up on everything, including the verbal and non-verbal responses and reaction s of the important adults in their world.

If we as children’s trusted caregivers do not have awareness of our own emotions, the skills to understand and manage them, or a means to actively practice self-reflection, we are unable to support children’s development of these same skills . Additionally, being an early childhood educator, while rewarding, comes with a great deal of stress. It’s critical that educators are able to manage the feelings that come with stress in order to support children’s development, communicate effectively with co-workers and families, and find job satisfaction.  

The Benefits of Reflective Practice  

Consistent self-reflection paves the way for emotional awareness and self-awareness. Whether it’s reflecting on children’s needs, the different communication preferences of families, or how you reacted in a disagreement with a co-worker, being aware of your tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, feelings, and reactions ensures that you are able to take a step back, manage your feelings in the heat of the moment, adjust your approach, and respond appropriately. Reflective Practice encourages early childhood educators to develop a deeper understanding of their own beliefs, biases, and values. By examining one’s own assumptions and reflecting on one’s actions and interactions, educators become better equipped to respond to the diverse needs of children , families, and co-workers.   

Improving Teaching Practices

Through reflection, educators can identify strengths and areas of growth that help improve their teaching practices. When we are able to take a step back and realize, “this isn’t working,” we end up giving ourselves space to consider what could work better . Whether it’s how we engage with children, how we support their emotions and behaviors, how we plan curriculum activities, how we communicate with families, or how we collaborate with co-workers, Reflective Practice allows us to refine our approach to better support children’s individual and developmental needs.   

Strengthening Communication and Relationships  

Reflective Practice helps educators use empathy and perspective-taking with others – reflecting not just on how we feel, but how others might feel as well to actively improve communication. It helps promote authentic relationships with children and families , and with co-workers. Tuning into the emotional responses of others helps us act with compassion and empathy during challenging conversations, creating respectful partnerships rather than confrontations.   

Reflective Practice allows all educators to truly tap into their best selves personally and professionally, which strengthens the entire early childhood education community. Through continuous reflection, educators are able to enhance their emotionality, understand their reactions to stress, find better stress-management techniques, explore their communication and interactions with others, and identify their goals and areas of improvement. Through proactive problem-solving, educators expand their knowledge and skills, and find strategies to help them meet their goals. Reflective Practice ensures that all members in the community get the opportunity to explore how their work, role, actions, and words impact others – and how they, in turn, are impacted by their work.  

Reflective Practice Steps:

Reflective Practice sessions have six key steps that follow the Gibbs Reflective Cycle . During sessions, mentors support mentees in self-reflection by asking open-ended questions to prompt critical thinking, and actively listening to mentees’ responses. The Reflective Practice steps can also be applied during daily routines with children, co-workers, families, or other members of the community.   

⏬Download: Reflective Practice Set

Step 1: description  .

The mentor prompts the mentee to describe a challenging experience or interaction by asking, “What happened?” and participating in active listening. This gives the mentee a safe space to reflect on the experience and describe the details of what happened in their own words.   

Step 2: Feelings  

The mentor prompts the mentee to connect the challenging experience to their feelings by asking, “What did that make you feel?” and continuing to actively listen. Connecting emotions to a cause not only helps mentees better understand their feelings but can also help bring light to any emotional triggers, which mentors can then support with managing and navigating.   

S tep 3: Evaluation  

The mentor guides the mentee to evaluate how the experience went by asking, “What went well? What didn’t? How did you contribute?” This is an important step, as it takes any judgment away from what happened and allows the mentee to examine their experience through a critical and empathetic lens. It also helps mentees explore how they contributed to an experience, both positively and negatively.   

Step 4: Analysis  

The mentor supports the mentee in understanding the meaning of the experience by asking, “Why do you think that went well? Why do you think that didn’t go as well?” and actively listening before providing their own insight. This step helps mentees explore why their contributions to certain parts of the challenging experience were successful or not, paving the way towards problem-solving and brainstorming more beneficial strategies.   

Step 5: Conclusion  

The mentor supports the mentee in coming to a conclusion about the challenging experience based on their reflections by asking, “What could you have done differently?” This step helps mentees think critically and come to their own conclusion about what could have made the challenging experience more successful.   

Step 6: Action Plan  

The mentor guides the mentee to think about what they would do differently by asking, “What will you do differently if a similar situation arises in the future? What support do you need to accomplish this?” This important final step ensures that mentees are able to follow through with their plan accountability and support.  

Reflective Practice Strategies  

Creating a supportive culture  .

Establishing a supportive culture within Reflective Practice settings is key to successful implementation. Leaders, administrators, and mentors play a pivotal role in fostering an environment that encourages open dialogue, respectful communication, diverse perspectives, and values continuous improvement.   

Observations and Documentation  

Regular classroom observations can help mentors gain valuable insight into what teachers discuss during Reflective Practice sessions. Documenting observations and taking notes during and after sessions helps mentors follow up with action plans. It also helps mentors keep track of what different solutions have been implemented, allowing for adjustment and continued problem-solving. 

Establishing Regular Reflective Opportunities  

Within Reflective Practice relationships, trust and consistency are key . Put a schedule in place for observations, regularly scheduled Reflective Practice sessions, and follow up. This helps mentors gain insight into what is happening in classrooms in order to provide the appropriate support. Not every solution is found right away! Regular Reflective Practice sessions create an environment where all individuals gain confidence in the act of self-reflecting, and the relationship becomes one of trust where individuals feel comfortable speaking openly and freely in mutual pursuit of a solution. It also helps staff feel reassured that they have a dedicated time to address challenges and seek support from their trusted mentor.   

Opening up and revealing one’s challenges and emotions can make us feel vulnerable. This makes the mentor’s job all the more valuable and important. Not all sessions will feel positive and uplifting. Reflective Practice can bring up difficult conversations, such as concerns about a child’s behavior, uncomfortable interactions with parents or co-workers, and stressful situations. Mentors need to be active and thoughtful listeners who are understanding, accepting, and non-judgmental. Creating and maintaining an open and honest relationship is key to Reflective Practice. When this partnership is established and worked on, all members gain comfort in speaking openly without fear of judgment.   

It is important for mentors to be aware of how mentees prefer to communicate, take in new information, respond, react, and problem-solve so you can adjust your approach, language, tone, and techniques to provide the best level of support. Reflective Practice requires using open-ended questions and statements to prompt self-reflection, but for some this may mean providing more context, guidance, and modeling. Adjust your approach to help scaffold the reflection process by using more specific questions or bringing up observations in a sensitive way. This ensures that all individual needs are met in order to see beneficial outcomes.   

Reflective Practice doesn’t just need to take place one-on-one! It can also be the perfect setting for co-teachers or coworkers to reflect together. Collaborative reflection involves coming together to discuss and analyze their teaching practices, discuss challenges, share ideas and solutions, and engage in team-reflection.   

Offering professional development opportunities and training focused on Reflective Practice equips early childhood educators with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively implement the process and see benefits community-wide. Providing guidance on different reflective strategies and offering resources helps enhance educators’ ability to engage in Reflective Practice.   

Integrating Reflective Practice into Professional Development  

Reflective Practice should be integrated into early childhood education training programs, especially those focused on mental health, well-being, and social-emotional health. When training programs place self-reflection, self-awareness, communication, problem-solving, and professional growth at the center, educators are set up for support and success.   

Mentoring and Coaching  

When Reflective Practice is incorporated into programs with mentoring and coaching, it provides valuable support for educators. Experienced mentors and coaches can guide and support teachers through the Reflective Practice process, offering feedback, encouragement, and guidance for professional growth.   

Networking and Collaboration   

Engaging in professional networks, online communities, or attending conferences based in Reflective Practice and collaboration can expand educators’ perspectives and expose them to different approaches to Reflective Practice. Collaborating with colleagues from different settings and backgrounds encourages the exchange of experiences, ideas, and opinions, which can help provide insight and strategies that can be implemented into your teaching practices.  

  Related: Learn more about the begin to ECSEL Professional Development Program  

The Role of Reflective Practice in Child-Centered Education  

Reflective Practice helps educators tailor their teaching approach to meet each child's individual needs and interests . By working to enhance one’s own emotionality, learn stress-management strategies, and find solutions from self-reflecting, educators become more self-aware and more attuned to children. This allows educators to observe the responses of children and reflect on their needs, helping with making informed decisions about adjusting teaching, materials, and learning experiences to optimize learning outcomes for all children.   

Going Beyond Just Positive Behavior Guidance  

Reflective Practice can also help educators find effective ways to manage children’s behaviors and support their understanding of emotions, what caused them, and related behaviors. By analyzing challenging situations, educators can explore the underlying factors and identify proactive strategies to support children’s social-emotional development. By using Reflective Practice strategies in developmentally appropriate ways, educators can support children in explaining why a behavior isn’t okay before providing an example of something that they can do instead . This helps children understand the impact of their behaviors on others, constructively express their emotions, and gain confidence with the knowledge that all emotions are okay, but it’s what we do with them that matters most .   

Reflective Practice helps educators develop critical emotional competencies themselves first so they can foster these same skills in children – the skills of emotional intelligence. By self-reflecting, educators learn how to practice effective emotional identification, understanding, expression, and regulation in order to model for and guide children in these strategies. Reflecting on one’s own interactions, responses, and reactions to challenging classroom experiences also helps educators adjust their approach to model empathy, prosocial behaviors, inclusion, self-regulation, communication, and relationship skills that children internalize and make their own . This promotes children’s healthy social-emotional development, mental health, well-being, and learning.  

Promoting Problem-Solving and Executive Function Skills  

The dysregulated brain cannot learn . When children (and adults) are dealing with an unmanaged emotion, it hijacks the brain’s ability to listen, think, focus, learn new information – key executive function skills necessary for learning. Through regular implementation of Reflective Practice and Emotional, Cognitive, and Social Early Learning (ECSEL) language, tools, and techniques, children between the ages of 0-8 learn to manage their emotions so they can learn, succeed, and thrive emotionally, cognitively, and socially.   

R eflective Practice Resources  

Books, journals, and research articles provide valuable information about Reflective Practice and its connection to social-emotional learning and Emotional, Cognitive, and Social Early Learning (ECSEL).  

Online Communities and Forums:  

Online communities and forums dedicated to early childhood education help educators connect, share their experiences, collaborate, and engage in reflective conversations. Platforms such as social media groups, blogs, and discussion forums connect educators worldwide. In Housman Institute’s flagship begin to ECSEL Educator Training Program , all staff enrolled are invited to an online community focused on promoting self-reflection, Reflective Practice, and emotional intelligence. 

Professional Organizations and Conferences:  

Joining professional organizations and attending conferences or webinars focused on Reflective Practice connects early childhood educators to resources, workshops, and networking with others pursuing a mutual goal. Learn more about upcoming learning opportunities here .   

Key Takeaways  

Reflective Practice is a powerful approach that empowers early childhood educators to continuously improve their teaching practices and meet their personal and professional goals. By engaging in self-reflection, educators develop a deeper understanding of their own feelings, beliefs, values, and biases, leading to increased self-awareness, emotional intelligence, job satisfaction, and well-being. Implementing Reflective Practice in early childhood settings creates a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement, contributing to high-quality learning experiences for children and positive outcomes for the entire community.   

Emily Stone begin to ECSEL educator

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early childhood education reflection

Reflective practice

  • January 5, 2022

by Cathy Gunning

What is reflective practice?

Reading a book by Donald Schon early on in my career as a teacher opened my eyes to the world of reflective practice. I think that I had always been a reflective person – self critical, questioning, re-thinking things about my teaching day. But this practice modelled and mentored during my Masters study. It opened my world to journalling, to thinking and questioning things, applying theory to what I had experienced and learning about how to become better. 

It is an approach that I have used ever since, personally and inspiring others to reflect. Reflecting on our practice makes us richer in understanding and more confident in our practice. 

what is reflective practice?

Why reflective is practice important

Reflecting on our practice is important as a tool to self improve and develop. We can become better practitioners when we learn from our reflections and gain insight.

Teaching is a skill where pedagogy is gained and built through processing and reflecting. 

Writing about your experiences will help you to make sense of them, so that your undersatnding lasts and contributes to your lifelong learning. (Howatson-Jones: Reflective practice in Nursing, 2010:120)

How do you reflect?

It is helpful to process and reflect about our lives and work. Our personal pedagogy benefits from reflection and time to think and talk around issues, things we might be grappling with, things we would like to be more confident about or generally what has happened in our day or week.

Processing with the help of a trustworthy, listening ear is helpful to our professional development. Collaborative conversations and communities of practice faciliate and enable this listening and talking. We can use coaching techniques and questions to help our reflections and conversations to help us develop in our practice and support our journeys.

Time to talk

How often do you wish that you had  time to talk  about your day, reflect, process and talk with like minded colleagues in early years?

Do you long to meet like-minded professionals, have challenge and input, or be part of supportive collaborative conversations?  If you’re looking for opportunities to do this locally, find an  Early Education local branch near you .

A reflective journal or a reflective conversation

Some people use a reflective journal to process the answers to these questions and process. Others like to have reflective conversations about these areas. We’ll look at ways we can reflect and things that will help us in this process and learning.

A useful processfor reflective writing is to describe – then reflect – then think about what now?

Some powerful questions for reflection

  • What does your practice look like at your best?
  • What is distinctive about your practice?
  • What helps you to learn best?
  • What would it be like to be taught by you?

Further reading and links

  • Daniel J Ayres’ (senior lecturer in education at UEL) blogs on  reflective writing exercises  and  reflective practice
  • Gillie Bolton’s PhD by publication  Explorative and expressive writing for personal and professional development  is a fascinating read
  • Harvard Business Review  Want to be an outstanding leader? Keep a journal  by Nancy Adler.
  • Nancy Kline’s  thinking environment  and its  ten components
  • 10 reasons to get a coach in 2017
  • A time to reflect  Sue Cowley in Nursery World
  • Reflective practice  (part 2) by Melanie Pilcher in Teach Early Years
  • Reflective thinking and writing  Solent online learning
  • Donald Schon: learning, reflection and change
  • Gibbs’ reflective cycle  University of Cumbria

Further reading

Thinking together with children: conversations that generate, amplify and sustain children’s learning.

Early Education Associate, Debi Keyte-Hartland reflects on a recent commission by Balcarras Teaching School Hub In Gloucestershire to deliver a four-day course on Sustained Shared

Researchful practice: a “breath of fresh air” for early educators in challenging times

Guest blog by Frances Giampapa and Claire Lee Introduction A wealth of evidence demonstrates the fundamental role played by early years (EY) education in shaping

How the Reception Year can be more inclusive for children with SEND

by Katherine Gulliver Introduction Early Education was recently asked to review the special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) provision in the early years within one

Physical development in early childhood

Clare Devlin, Early Education Associate What aspects of physical development should we focus on within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and other early years

Children’s creativity with digital technology and media

By Debi Keyte-Hartland, Early Education Associate This article is based on one included in the Early Education Journal no 100. To access the full article

The benefits of sustained CPD

In this article, Kate Irvine from Bristol Early Years discusses the impact of practitioners engaging in a sustained process of CPD through cluster groups and

Resisting intensified accountability: is now the time for inspection reform?  

by Dr Jo Albin-Clark, Edge Hill University and Dr Nathan Archer, Leeds Beckett University Inspection in the news Being involved in education in England involves

Fundamental British Values in early years

What are “Fundamental British Values”? by Vicky Hutchin The so-called “Fundamental British Values” form a part of the Prevent Duty, introduced in 2015 and last

Open letter to HMCI Amanda Spielman regarding the Early Years Curriculum Review

The open letter below was sent to Ofsted in November 2023. Download Ofsted’s response We the undersigned are writing to you about the recently published

Pioneers of early childhood education

Early childhood education today has been influenced by key figures such as Froebel, Montessori, Isaacs and MacMillan.  Much recent research has supported their ideas although

Sustained shared thinking (SST)

Sustained shared thinking: An episode in which two or more individuals “work together” in an intellectual way to solve a problem, clarify a concept, evaluate

Research on early years pedagogy

Early years pedagogy is the theory that informs the practice of teaching children in the early years. The pedagogical research has been carried out by

Early Career Teachers: core resources

The Early Career Framework has been designed by the Department for Education in England to support newly qualified teachers in England with a structured package of support

Pedagogic pointers for reflection and dialogue

The following extracts from past early years teaching newsletters have a feature which supports your team dialogue around pedagogy and practice dilemmas and reflective practice. 

Reggio Emilia

Last updated Spring 2018. The preschools of the Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy inspire us with their pedagogy and practice in giving children rich encounters

Early years principles into practice

In most cases, sound early years principles and practices are already in place in settings.  The EYPP funding allows settings to review and refine what

Friedrich Froebel

Who was Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) Born on 21 April 1782 Friedrich Froebel was a German educator who invented the kindergarten. He believed that “play is

Cultural capital

This article by Early Education Associate Anni McTavish explores the term “cultural capital”, and what it might mean for early years practitioners and their settings.

Child-Centred Competences for Early Childhood Education and Care

Welcome to the e-book Child-Centred Competences for Early Childhood Education and Care. The book brings together four years of research undertaken by early childhood academics

Ofsted’s thinking on Cultural Capital – some concerns and questions, by Helen Moylett

Raymond Williams maintained, after years of examining constructs of culture and society that  “Culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in

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  • Reflective practice at Little Scholars: what it is, examples, and why it’s important

Reflective practice in early learning: what it is, examples, and why it’s important

  • Little Scholars
  • September 13, 2023


As early childhood educators, we encounter a variety of situations on a daily basis, ranging from ordinary to interesting (to say the least!). Reflective practice in early learning is about taking a step back and critically examining these experiences to better understand what happened and why. By reflecting on our practice, we can learn from our experiences, improve our approach, and ultimately provide better care for the children in our campuses.

Little Scholars provides an attractive and safe environment to children on the Gold Coast while giving you total peace of mind while your children are in our care. Learning areas include well-equipped playrooms and landscaped outdoor spaces for maximum learning opportunities. Book a tour today if you are looking for an early learning campus in South East Queensland.

What is reflective practice in early learning?

Reflective practice is a process of critical examination and evaluation of experiences, situations, and decisions to learn from them and improve future practice. It involves actively seeking out information, analysing and interpreting it, and using it to guide decision-making and improve outcomes. Reflective practice is not just about what happened, but also about why it happened and how it can be improved.

We apply reflective practice to various aspects of our work, such as planning, teaching, assessing, and communicating with children and families. It helps us identify the rationale behind our practices and evaluate whether they are consistent with our beliefs, values, and  core philosophy .

Little Scholars School of Early Learning’s  The Collective  is a service-wide, multi-faceted educational initiative, designed to enhance each child’s learning and development and best support educators’ time spent with children.

The models of reflective practice in childcare

There are different types of reflective practice, including reflection-in-action, reflection-on-action, and reflection-for-action.

Reflection-in-action  occurs spontaneously as we make decisions in response to what is happening in the moment.

Reflection-on-action  involves thinking about experiences after the event and questioning how and why a specific practice contributed to or detracted from a child’s learning or relationships with families.

Reflection-for-action  is a proactive way of thinking about future action and involves considering different approaches and refining inclusive practices and communication strategies to improve outcomes.

We view reflective practice as an essential component of developing a culture of learning that drives continuous improvement and focuses attention on quality outcomes for children and families. It helps us to enrich children’s learning, build our own knowledge and skills, and affirm and challenge our colleagues.

How to engage in reflective practice

To engage in reflective practice, we take time to observe children closely, foster relationships and gain insights into their thinking and learning. Here are some strategies we employ to engage in reflective practice in early learning:

  • Review staffing arrangements and routines: We create an environment that is conducive to reflective practice by reviewing staffing arrangements and routines. This might include providing extended periods of uninterrupted time for educators to interact with small groups of children, foster closer relationships, and gain greater insight into children’s thinking and learning.
  • Establish routines that allow for reflection: We regularly set aside time during scheduled programming or at the end of the day to record our reflections. Similarly, a similar amount of time can be allocated during a regularly scheduled meeting to reflect on practice across the service. These meetings can also provide a forum for team members to talk about their personal experiences.
  • Work closely with experienced colleagues: We encourage our team to work closely with more experienced colleagues to provide opportunities to observe, critique, and learn from each other. They can describe what they noticed about a child’s response to an experience and ask questions about why their colleague used a particular strategy.
  • Network with other services: Networking with other services can provide insights into the way the service is perceived by others. We meet with other people regularly in the wider community as we believe this provides opportunities to explore ways the service can become more responsive to the interests and needs of families and children in the local community.

Why is reflective practice important in early learning?

Reflective practice in early childhood education is important as it ensures educators regularly reflect on what they do, why they do it, and how this knowledge can improve their practice.

Studies show  that high-quality early childhood settings positively affect children’s development, and reflective practice is a feature of such environments. This practice allows early childhood professionals to develop a critical understanding of our own practice and continually develop the necessary skills, knowledge and approaches to achieve the best outcomes for children.

Reflective practice also helps us create real opportunities for children to express their own thoughts and feelings and actively influence what happens in their lives. In addition, reflective practice helps professionals to develop a deeper awareness of their own prejudices, beliefs, and values, and advance learning for vulnerable children.

We value reflective practice at Little Scholars

At Little Scholars, we recognise the importance of reflective practice in providing high-quality early education to the children in our care. Our educators engage in regular reflection and are encouraged to share their insights and experiences with their colleagues.

We believe that by reflecting on our practice, we can continually improve and adapt to better meet the needs of the children and families we serve. The Collective allows for educators to have autonomy in how they document and plan for children. This supports a strength-based approach with our team.

If you live in South East Queensland, book a tour today to enrol your child in the best early learning campuses in the community.

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  • Early childhood education

Critical Reflection

A presentation from the 2022 ECEC Roadshow on critical reflection and how it should drive your practice.

- Great. Thanks very much for that, Kate. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the New South Wales Department of Education's webinar on critical reflection. My name's Belinda Wakeford and I'm one of the state operations managers in our quality assurance and regulatory services, which sits within the early childhood education. You may also know us as the reg authority. As we begin this morning, we have a video we'd like to share with some children acknowledging country.

- We place our hands on the ground to acknowledge Aboriginal land. We place our hands in the sky that covers Aboriginal land. We place our hands on our heart to care for Aboriginal land. We promise.

- Great. Thank you. Thanks for that, Kate, and I'd like to acknowledge that I'm meeting you today from the beautiful Dharawal land on the south coast and I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the various lands on which you're all joining us from today and pay my respects to elders past and present. I extend that respect to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants and colleagues that are joining us today. So to get us started, a few housekeeping bits. As Kate mentioned, your microphone and video and chat functions have been disabled for the webinar today. During the registration process, you were invited to send through some of your questions, and we had a huge response to this and received well over 300 questions from the group, which is fantastic. For that reason, we deliberately made a decision to close off the Q&A function just for today. What we have done though is use some of those common themes from your questions to inform what we've included in today's session, and we'll talk directly to a few of those popular questions towards the end. Please do note though, the Q&A function will remain in place for the remaining Roadshows. We acknowledge some of you would like to know how do we document to get exceeding. I have that question frequently when during A&R, and we've been asked directly, what do the department want to see? What are the officers looking for? And I just want to start by saying the purpose of critical reflection is to support your continuous improvement journey to enhance your service quality and practice, leading to improved outcomes for children, and that's what we're going to be focusing on today. This is not about us as a reg authority. It's about you and your service. If by the end of this morning's session we haven't been able to address your question, there will be further opportunities for you to connect with our team, and we'll share details about how to make contact later in the session. For any questions that you might have relating to your service operation, you can also contact our information and inquiries team who are able to support you. I'm just going to get lovely Kate to pop the details into the chat for you now. We're also going to be using a few interactive features during today's session, including Menti. Hopefully you're familiar with that if you've been to some of the other Roadshows this week. So can I please ask you to have your phone or another device to scan and have that ready? The code will pop on the screen so that you can interact with us, and finally, as you would've been informed when you came in, this session is being recorded and you'll be provided with information about how you can revisit the session once our Roadshows have completed. So today, we will look at reflection versus critical reflection, and our focus is to understand the difference between reflective practice and critical reflection in order to support your continuous improvement journey. So what is critical reflection, when is reflection more of an evaluation, and how does critical reflection drive your practice and quality improvement journey? This morning, we'll hear from Alison, who's one of our experienced authorized officers, as well as a service leader from the sector who has kindly joined us this morning to share with you their critical reflection journey, and we're hoping after today's session that you'll walk away with a deeper understanding of critical reflection, and importantly, how this might drive your quality practices. We know critical reflection is part of the National Quality Standard. If we look within Quality Area 1, Element 1.3.2 speaks directly to critical reflection of children's learning and development. Critical reflection is also one of the three themes that services need to demonstrate at the standard level to be rated exceeding the NQS. Some of the participants online with us today submitted questions around what's the difference between critical reflection in relation to 1.3.2 at the element level and critical reflection as one of the exceeding themes, and we weren't surprised to see this question come through commonly, as we know that this causes, broadly, some confusion across the sector. We acknowledge it can be confusing with the same terminology that's used for both. So I guess to look at what the difference is, I think I need to start by noting what's the same, and that is they both require critical reflection which involves closely examining all aspects of events and experiences from different perspectives. Critical reflection outlined in Element 1.3.2 is about how educators critically reflect specifically on children's learning and development, both as individuals and in groups, to drive the program and their practice. Some examples of how we focus on children's learning and development is through reflection in action, such as altering experiences where they're not, our children not engaging, or adapting the program to include all children, rather than adapting a child's routine or requirements to fit the program. We may also document critical reflection of the program and our practices by analysing our teaching strategies to determine if they're supporting our learning goals that we've created for individual children, or analysing if group experiences and learning goals are being achieved. So as you can see, critical reflection in this capacity has a focus on how children's learning is being evaluated and analysed and what changes are made to support their learning and development within the program. Exceeding theme two, practices informed by critical reflection, involves a deep level of regular and ongoing analysis, questioning, and thinking that goes beyond evaluation and review. Critical reflection informs practice when the continuous reflection of all educators individually and together informs decision making and drives continuous quality improvement. It's about the how and the why we do what we do and it's a universal theme that can be applied across all standards of the NQS, and it's not specific to children's learning and development per se. I'm now going to introduce you to Alison Hendry. Alison is one of our amazing authorised officers in the continuous improvement team, and Alison came to the department with extensive industry experience. She has a clear passion for critical reflection and quality improvement practices that are informed by theoretical and philosophical research in this area. Welcome, Alison. Thanks for joining me this morning.

- Okay. Hi, everyone. Great to see so many of you participants are online with us this morning. Before we deep dive into critical reflection and what that actually means, I'd like to hear from you all. I'd like to hear, what do you think critical reflection involves? So we're all going to use Menti now, if you could. Could you tell me in a few words what you think is involved in critical reflection? You can use the QR code on your screen or go to menti.com and enter the code that is on the top of your screen there. Then type in a few words, and I'll give you a few minutes. We'd love to see your thoughts and it is anonymous, so please feel free to join in. Great. I can see some of our words coming in and they are fabulous. A lot of people are saying analysing, which is exactly right. Thinking. Oh, I think a lot of you are really on the right track there. Look at all these responses. Fabulous. Thank you so much, everybody, for providing these responses. That's great. I can see that analysing is clearly something that's at the heart of what a lot of people believe is involved in critical reflection. Fabulous. Okay. So now we're at a point where we're going to look at what is the difference between reflection and critical reflection. What we want to understand is what is reflection and when does reflection transform into that critical reflection space. So theorists tell us that reflection is deliberate. It's conscious. It's a way of making sense of what we've been doing, and realistically, it's a way that we learn from the experience. John Dewey, who I have affectionately named the grandfather of critical reflection in education, most famously said, "We don't learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience." So if reflection is about meaning making, then what's critical reflection? Again, theorists tell us that critical reflection is the relationship between theory and practice or theory and experience. ACECQA reminds us that critical reflection really is multifaceted. It's multilayered. So it's no wonder we all, at times, find it hard to break this down and have a really good understanding of what's involved and then how we engage in the process. This is not easy. So if you find critical reflection smooth sailing, you might not be examining deeply enough. Critical reflection involves critical thinking and multiple perspectives. There's purpose in it and it's used to support enhancements or change or refining practice. Critical reflection is the link between thinking and doing, and my favourite part of these theorists' quotes is that "critical reflection can truly be transformative." This is where we see it come alive. Maybe potentially Freire sums it up best when he notes that "Critical reflection on practice is a requirement of the relationship between theory and practice. Otherwise theory simply becomes 'blah, blah, blah,' and practice is pure activism," but I'm sure you all want to know what the grandfather of critical reflection will tell us. Well, he tells us that critical reflection requires active, persistent and careful consideration of the conclusions that we draw and the knowledge base that we've relied upon to come to those conclusions. So if we now know what reflection is and what critical reflection is, let's see what it looks like when we put them side by side and try to identify what is the difference. We know that reflection is a very practical, in a very practical everyday sense is looking back on an experience to learn from it. Therefore, we know that reflection is a means of building knowledge. However, we know that there's a change to reflection to make it critical. The Australian Institute of Radiography has actually given us a very simple way of looking at when that change from reflection to critical reflection occurs. We know that critical reflection is a process of analysing, considering and questioning experiences within a broad context. Critical reflection can therefore be broken down into a continuous cycle involving the process of practice, reflection, viewing these two elements through a lens of theory, and then reflection or analysis on what we've discovered in that process. From a pictorial view, this ongoing and continuous cycle looks like this. If we start at practice, this is all about the things that we are mostly doing on a daily basis. We're noticing. We're observing what we're feeling. We're thinking about what we're doing. It's really about evaluating. For example, did the environment set up support the learning outcomes? Were the children engaged? Did the new routine work for the morning session, or are families able to understand and access the rostering structure? The next step is also probably something that many of us are doing in terms of that reflection step. We're recording. We're examining. We're confronting the situation we're experiencing and challenging why we're doing what we're doing. We may be writing in a journal or discussing at team meetings why something isn't working and collectively decide to make a change. For example, does the environment allow for children's agency? Collectively, we decide that it doesn't, as children are unable to access resources independently, so we decide to add an open bookshelf so that they can house resources that children can independently obtain. The element that needs to be added to this cycle in order for this to become critical reflection is theoretical influences. The reason why it's important that theory or philosophical influences become part of this ongoing continuous cycle of critical reflection is because these perspectives will underpin the why of what we're doing. It will guide the change. It informs the practice or informs the shaping of a new practice through research or exploring theoretical perspectives. We might read various articles or guiding documentation, such as recognised publications or other sources sharing best practice. We might meet and talk with some subject matter experts or attend professional workshops to learn more about the area that we're critically reflecting on. When we put together our original practice or evaluation and reflection with theory, we're able then to make an informed analysis. This informed analysis is another form of reflection whereby we could rewrite or re-evaluate or critique or challenge those original beliefs that we held or the original way that we did things in order to close the loop and inform our ongoing practice. Realistically, the process of critical reflection needs to take the first two steps of practice and reflection and review those through a framework of theory or philosophical influences in order to analyse critically what we're doing now and what we might do in the future. As I said, the magic happens when we close the loop and use our critical reflection or analysis based on theory to inform, improve or change our practice. As such, the outcome of our critical reflection, or simply the results, might include an uplift of practice or a creation of a new practice, creation of a new policy, a change to the environment, or a refining or affirmation of current practices. It's only when we close this loop that the process of critical reflection has been completed. These outcomes are important and they are examples that demonstrate how your service practice has been informed by critical reflection, which aligns to the exceeding theme two under the NQS. I would just like to give you some additional examples from published research and also recognised bodies who have tried to clarify the difference between reflection and critical reflection. So Dr. Jan Fook, who is an internationally renowned scholar widely recognised for her work on critical social work, practice research and critical reflection, tells us that the difference between reflection and critical reflection lies in that analysis step that we've been talking about, as this brings together the theory with our original reflection, and together, there is likely to be some transformative change, change in our behaviour or change in our practice. Effectively, this is an informed change of practice. Similarly, ACECQA reminds us that critical reflection occurs when educators consider, question, analyse, research, utilize recognised guiding documentation, and re-evaluate planning and decision making that informs practice and process. ACECQA also reminds us that the concept or culture of ongoing self-assessment and continuous improvement, as we've just viewed on the previous slides, the continuous nature of the cycle of critical reflection, all of which ultimately aims to lead to improved outcomes for children, families, educators and service leaders.

- Oh, thanks very much, Alison. That was really great. I think that summarises that really well, and really key for me is that connection of theoretical influences, or simply put, who and what's guiding our practice on our reflection or evaluations and then challenging these. So that's great. Thank you very much for that insight, Alison. I'm now going to introduce Bernice Mathie-Morris, who is the director of early learning at Bomaderry Community Preschool. Good morning, Bernice, and thank you for joining us. It's really lovely to have you today.

- Morning. It's lovely to be present and to be able to have the chance to share some of our practices that we engage with at Bomaderry Community Preschool. Before I start, I'd like to acknowledge that I'm meeting with you today on the lands of the Dharawal people on the beautiful south coast of New South Wales. So yes, I'd just like to start by saying at Bomaderry Community Preschool, we love to engage in critical reflection. I think that comes back to, and reflection, it comes back to our love of learning. So we always say that it's important to involve children and impassion children to have that love of learning, but as adults too, it's really, really important. So that practice of reflection and critical reflection for adults is something that continues to drive us and to want us to learn more, which then helps us, as in a practice, to drive that critical reflection and also those outcomes and that best practice. So at Bomaderry Community Preschool, we reflect every day, but we do choose, you can't possibly choose everything that you reflect on to critically reflect on. As Alison has said, and Belinda, there is so many things in that process, so you can't engage deeply with every single little thing that you want to reflect on but choose something that you think will have the greatest engagement with your staff, but also something that's going to create those quality outcomes for your children and your families and your whole centre. So we too have a great connection, I guess, with John Dewey and his work. So we always say we just don't learn from doing, from that experience. We learn from reflecting deeply on those experiences that we engage with every single day. So today, I'm just going to share with you two questions that we have recently used to deeply critically reflect on and to walk you through the steps of how we have done that, and every centre, every program will look very different. This is just something that we find works for us and it guides us through in a very, well, I guess, a very organized space to get to the outcomes that we want to get to. So if we could have the next slide, so two of the questions that we've recently engaged with in with critical reflection was, why is it important to understand the conceptual mathematics development as educators and teachers in the early years program, and how do aesthetics and relationships within an early education program impact on the cognitive, relational functioning of educators, children and families? So we also, we always start with practice. What does that look like for us in our service? So that is educators noticing, so noticing what's going on with the children, the families, our environments, our interactions with each other. The feelings. How is everyone feeling? That is a really big part, so making sure we're taking note of that as well. How are the children feeling? How are the families feeling? As educators, what are we feeling? How do we approach that? Then questions, lots of questions. We always encourage everybody to question each other, and it's not seen as a negative in our service. It's a positive. So I will often walk through our rooms and be with the children and the other educators and say, "Tell me more about this," and we really encourage that with all educators to be able to do that. Our wonderings, share our wonderings, and they are really valid in this process as well, and we also ask educators to reflect on their own teaching strategies, the resources and the environment. Conversations that we have are really important in the process as well, and then our intentional and spontaneous programming. So there's so much that goes into our days that helps us inform and to be able to critically reflect as we move through. So you wonder what, you say, "Well, how do we document all of this?" And you can't possibly be able to document every single thing, but we do, the next step for us is that reflection step. So we have something called a reflective document and it is a Google Doc that we just use and everyone can have access to that, and we all have different colours and everyone writes in that and we make comments on each other. So that's where we document our noticing, our feelings, our questions, our wonderings. We also then bring them to a team meeting and then to our whole team meeting and discuss every single one of those. Everyone has a voice, and then we also use, obviously, those conversations with families and children, and we document that in there. So it's not a formal document. It's just something that we add to. We might think of something and just quickly write, type it in there, and the beauty of a Google Doc is that everyone can see that and have access to it. So we're constantly thinking about that. I encourage also in that reflection process is evaluations and critiquing on our planning and our documentation as well. So anything that we're thinking about within that reflection evaluation, we pop into that Google Doc as well. Educator meetings is a great time to have great, robust conversations around what we have written, what we have thought, and what we have been discussing in that critical reflection document, and robust conversation sometimes can be really challenging. I will acknowledge that this process is not an easy process, but if you look at it as a point of being able to move forward and I always get so inspired because I know I'm going to learn more. So that's why it is something that's very passionate for me and for our team. Can we have the next slide, please? Thank you. So then, as Alison and Belinda have talked about before, we move on to that next step of theory. This is where a lot of people go, "Oh, this is a little bit too hard. This is really challenging," but it's not. It's inspiring, and as Alison and Belinda has said before, there's so many things within this theory section that we can tap into and learn so much from. So we use lots of different readings, academic journals, sector publications, Department of Education, Bedrock, Pedagogy+, Rattler, textbooks. We have a lot of university students that come to us, so we also tap into lots of resources like that. So what we often do is, as educational leader, we will choose something and it might be three or four documents and we share that with the whole team and they reflect on that and then bring that to a staff meeting. Another great way is to connect with your colleagues at conferences, at webinars, in-house presentations, from sector leaders, other colleagues that have a passion in a space. So it could be as simple as when we talked about aesthetics in our space, we got someone to come in and talk to us about the importance of that. Engaging within our community. Not all of us live close to a university, but the use of webinars and connection through the internet has created a whole other world for us. So we engage as much as we possibly can with universities in projects. So we did a mass project with Wollongong University. So put yourself out there. Make connection with those universities, and they're always doing beautiful projects and really engaging projects that I think your teams will learn so much from, and then once we've taken that, all of that theory, then we link it to our reflections, previous reflections, and our wonder, that first stage of reflection and practice. Then we put it all together. So that analysis, how do we do that? So we come together, as I said, at that team meeting and we discuss the most important questions . What did we learn and what did we get from all of those readings, from those engagements with other professionals? Is there anything that we need to change? If so, how and how are we going to do that? Is there any policies that need to change as a space in there as well? Environment changes. Is there anything that links to our environment that we need to change? And then we make some decisions around what we're going to do to move forward as a result of that whole reflection process and our practice and then engaging with theory, because often when we engage with that theory, there's so many things that come up that we have not been, we did not know, and so many people have very different opinions and thoughts. I think the most important thing with that is to make sure that you're reading some great, reputable documents that are something that you can rely on. So that's another just important little tip. So then we make those decisions, and some of the easy ways to document that in terms of having that, I guess, that documentation so that you can share that with the department when it comes to assessment and rating, we always record on audio, on iPods, and we keep that critical reflection document. We always save all the readings that we've done and just annotate them. It doesn't have to be any formal documentation, but just annotate. Keep all your staff meeting records, all of those types of things and all of that is just then available. It becomes part of your everyday practice and then it's available for anyone to see when they come in and you can share that with them. I would say it doesn't, sometimes it takes a long time. It doesn't mean you have to critically reflect in two weeks. Sometimes it might be months, so enjoy the journey. That's what I would say. Enjoy the journey of critical reflection, because it is something, once you really start getting into it, you become very passionate about it. It challenges you, but you get to the space where you just keep wanting to go because you keep learning so much more. So thank you. I hope that I have been able to shed a little bit of light on how that critical reflection can become an integral part of your journey and that it can be something that you can easily achieve.

- That's wonderful, Bernice. Thank you so much for sharing with us really great examples of how your service engages with critical reflection, and I'm sure that many of our colleagues joining us online have found this really beneficial. I think it's really interesting to see in your practice and reflection subject areas some of the practical things that your educators, some of the educators online would be able to recognise and relate to. So you've mentioned about observations and evaluations and looking at your teaching strategies and interactions, but also the use of the collaborative documentation used to support your critical reflection. It sounds like that Google Doc work is working really well for your team.

- It certainly does. It's something that was a little bit of a adjustment for some people that had never used a Google Doc before, but it's very easy to use. It's just very versatile, so everyone can have access to it. Everyone can see in current time as people write in it and it's not a critical thing that we go, oh, that, you don't have to worry about spelling and grammar. It's just writing it. So it just takes that pressure off everybody.

- Beautiful, I love it, and you made really clear how theory is recognized as an important part of the process together what the end result or action, and I really loved hearing about your overall approach. I can see the excitement and passion that you've shown us would be inspiring for your team. I literally think I could listen to you all day, Bernice. So thanks so much for joining us. That was really, really informative.

- Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity to share.

- Lovely. Okay, so we've covered a lot of things this morning. We're just going to move on now. It's time to get a bit of a pulse check to see what we now know about the difference between reflection and critical reflection. If I can just have the next slide, please. Thank you. So you won't need, oh, I'm going to give you three scenarios. So I'll share these with you and I'm going to ask you to use the poll that's on your screen. It'll just appear. You won't need to use your device for this one. I'm going to give you the scenarios and ask you to identify and think about each example to tell us whether you feel that it's an example of reflection or critical reflection. So we'll have that pop up. The poll will just appear on the screen. Thanks so much to the lovely support team who are doing an amazing job in the background there today for me, So the first scenario is during Assessment and Rating, a service shares their daily critical reflection sheet, which includes evaluations of the daily program, such as routine times and placement of furniture and layout of experiences. The sheet is also used to inform where experiences may be set out the next day, where additional supervision may be needed, or what the experiences are that are not being utilised. So I'm just going to get that poll up for you. So if you can use that to let us know whether you think this is an example of reflection or critical reflection. Great. Thanks so much. Just give everyone a moment to have a little look at that. Gosh, we've had a good, big group on today, which is great to see. Okay. How did we go with this one, Alison?

- Okay. So Belinda, this is an example which highlights evaluated reflection, where the daily happenings are noticed and observed. While the program is evaluated and used to guide future learning opportunities, placement of both resources and supervision and engagement of children, it does not include any theory-based analysis that's being used to change, shape or uplift practice. Something to think about, if you're using a form or document with the term critical reflection in the title, it doesn't necessarily ensure that critical reflection is occurring. This scenario is a scenario demonstrating reflection.

- Excellent, thank you, and we'll move on to our second poll question. Wonderful. Thank you. So during an Assessment and Rating visit, an authorised officer asks to see evidence that supports a stated key practice, that is, that indicates that critical reflection has been completed on changing the service programming template. So the ed leader at the service explained that the educators decided the programming template was no longer working for them and they've chosen to move to using an online programming application. The authorised officer asked what process was undertaken in changing that template, and the ed leader advised that one of the educators who'd been on a prac placement saw the online programming application and that service was awarded exceeding in Quality Area 1, so the team decided to change over to the application as well. I'm just going to get the poll to pop up for you. If you could let us know, do you think this is an example of reflection or has it moved to critical reflection? And that will just pop up for you in a moment. Wonderful. Thank you. Yeah. Where are we at? Excellent. Our poll's being quite tricky and putting all three up at once this morning, and that's okay, showing our flexibility and adaptability.

- That's right.

- So how did we go with this one, Alison? Where are we landing with this?

- There's some good results here, and I've got to say, I think people are starting to, are understanding what is involved with reflection and critical reflection. However, scenario number two or poll question two highlights reflection where a change of practice has occurred, although that change of practice appears to come purely from an operational decision and it's not driven by any theory-based reflection or discussion on practice and there's no evidence of any analysis occurring. So whilst a change did occur in practice, it wasn't driven through that theory and analysis, so this is an example of reflection.

- Excellent. Thank you, Alison, and our last one, I think some of you might have already completed this one, but I'm going to go through it anyway for those playing along in order. During the Assessment and Rating visit, a service explained that they're on a journey to embed inclusive practice, which was instigated when a child enrolled with mobility restrictions. So the educators hired and trialled specialised equipment that the child would need to assess their accessibility and barriers and identify barriers to learning. They met with the child's family and their specialists to develop strategies for inclusion, and the educators attended a workshop and consulted current research to expand their knowledge on inclusive practice, and they reviewed and updated the inclusive practice policy. Through the journey, a broader understanding of inclusive practice developed and a case study was completed on how the service and families understood inclusive practice and how this is demonstrated at their service daily. The case study was reviewed at quarterly interview intervals to ensure it's relevant, robust, and ongoing changes of practice were analysed. So I'll just get the last poll up there, final question for you. What are we all thinking? Looks like we're nailing it there, Alison.

- I completely agree. That's some really clear results there from the audience, from who's listening in. That's great. Yeah.

- Okay, great. So what are your thoughts on this, Alison, reflection or critical reflection?

- Well, first of all, I'm going to say excellent job for everybody. Thank you for participating in the polls, and this is our last scenario question. A lot of you actually answered that correctly. So scenario three is an example of critical reflection. This example highlights critical reflection through the approach of practice reflection, theory reflection and analysis. This critical reflection also has the component of being ongoing, with a review of the change of process practice undertaken, a review of policy and procedure, furthering educators' understanding, and supporting the inclusion of every child. Your critical reflections may not all be this long or they might not all look like this, but it's about what is relevant and reflects the practices in your service. You may notice this scenario refers to a case study which was relevant to this particular scenario. That's not always the case as each critical reflection will be unique to the topic.

- Great, thanks, Alison, and for those of you who may be still a little unsure, I think you'll find this next part of the session will be really helpful. We're now going to address some of those really popular questions I mentioned earlier that came through with your registrations, and I absolutely know that we're not going to be able to get to all of them due to the sheer volume that we received. However, as mentioned earlier, you can reach out to our team following today's session to talk about your own service and experience, and I will get their details popped up in the chat for you in a moment. So Alison, are you ready for me to run through some of our top three popular questions?

- Yes, I'm ready. Let's go. Thanks, Belinda.

- So multiple services have asked, where do we start and how long does it take to complete the critical reflection process?

- Yes, this is a great question actually and one we get often. So critical reflection will often start organically or it may require a conscious decision to identify opportunities. It may derive from highlighting something in your practice or your reflections. It may be something you choose to complete in response to a critical incident or to address feedback provided. Most commonly, critical reflection is undertaken by services to inform better practice or to uplift practice or to make a change to the environment. Additionally, services may choose to complete critical reflection to align their practices against the National Quality Framework. As we discussed earlier, critical reflection often starts in the noticing or observing of a practice or a situation. It may be about paying attention to what you're feeling and what you're doing. Often it's evaluative and this may lead to deeper questioning about the practice or situation. This is often how the critical reflection process starts in a service. Because critical reflection is unique to each service and each service context, how long it takes will be dependent on the processes the service undertakes. So some critical reflections may take less time than others as everyone's aligned to the outcomes of the critical reflection and in the analysis and a change or an enhancement in practice is adopted and understood quickly. Other critical reflections may take on a life of their own and require a case study or research paper to document the depth of the analysis and reflection. Again, it will be unique to your service and what your critical reflection involves. In terms of how long this takes to complete, it's important to remember that critical reflection is a continuous cycle. So in that sense, have a natural endpoint.

- Excellent, thanks, Alison, and one of the other frequently asked questions was, how do we get people involved and on board to support that critical reflection journey?

- Yes, so, one way is that we need to create a safe and positive work culture that allows for educators to be able to be honest and open and vulnerable when unpacking reflections on practice or feedback. Unless you have this underlying culture of safety, you'll find it's difficult to get to an authentic place where true critical reflection occurs. We need to be really clear and be able to communicate easily to each other what are the benefits of the process. Think about how you get the buy-in and what's in it for the educators. Ultimately, you'll see an uplift in your own practice and you'll be part of the fabric that underpins the practices that demonstrate quality at your service. Now, we're all different and you need to find what sparks the interest in your educators in the same way you reflect on what sparks the interest in your children. Acknowledge that your team will all have different learning and communication styles and how we gel these together to support an inclusive process. For some, this will be quite structured, but for other educators, it may be more informal. Services may find the process of critical reflection runs smoother when there's someone who takes responsibility within your service or organisation to ensure that the service community is working through this critical reflection cycle. As service leaders, it's important that we role model behaviours we want to see reflected. When I was at a service recently, they talked to me about how critical reflection has underpinned the journey of transformative change that they've been on for the last few years. This service shared with me that the initial seed of the transformation occurred through honest and open reflection on where each educator's strengths lie. Through this reflection, different educators started to discover a passion or a curiosity about different areas of the service delivery. These educators were then provided space and time to lead the critical reflection and were supported through the process of critical reflection because it was new to them. The process was broken down into small parts initially with supported individual reflections taking place, and these individual reflections then were used to influence that broader and more collaborative critical reflection that was instigated across the service, and ultimately, this led to a more empowered workforce that facilitated themselves this transformative change. I think I'd also like to say it's important that we are deliberate and purposeful and it's essential to provide time for our teams to connect with each other and with this process.

- Absolutely, I completely agree, and it's really difficult beause we are time for, but I like that you call out that it's really important to plan for that and to provide time for our teams to connect with each other in this process. So one last question that we'll have time for, and I think this will be one that people want to hear about, is how should we document critical reflection?

- Okay, so Belinda, you'll know this. This is actually one of our most asked questions, and truthfully, we can't give you a template or an example sheet on how to document your service's critical reflections. The honest answer is how you document will be unique to your service. In addition to how unique the critical reflection subject or topic potentially is, some services will start at the beginning stages of critical reflection in staff meetings or room meetings and therefore start the journey. The start of that journey may documented in meeting minutes, the agenda or summary notes. There may be evidence of the theoretical or philosophical documentation that's being used to further unpack the evaluative practice and reflection. However, this is more often than not going to be an online document or a professional development session or a conversation that's been held with a subject matter expert, and it may only be documented in the analysis notes of the critical reflection summary. Finally, the critical reflection's initial findings and changes or enhancements that have been identified may be noted in a summary document, and you heard about that earlier, but that works for Bernice and her service having a summary document. That summary document can be used as a reference point to come back to later and reassess if further changes or enhancements are needed. This reference document can then be used to support a continuous cycle of critical reflection. I'd also like to acknowledge that parts of the critical reflection process may be through conversation, and many educators ask, "How do we provide evidence that this has actually occurred?" Well, firstly, I acknowledge that may well be the case, and often is, however, this may be part of the initial reflection or evaluative practice stage of critical reflection and that critical reflection process. These conversations will lead to something and have further depth involved to them to allow for an informed change or enhancement. The conversations then become the spark that may well be noted simply in the summary of the critical reflection that's used as the reference point and may recorded as the initial seed that started that particular critical reflection journey. In regards to different methods of actually recording critical reflection, some of the ways you might consider documenting your critical reflection is in journals or mapped out and documented in services' online applications, maybe in services' unique template forms with specific probing questions to guide the reflection. Maybe it's in important improvement planning documents or even potentially through a whiteboard mind map that's been photographed to reflect back on later. There is no one way to document your journey. These are just some suggested variations. Be creative. Get others involved to ensure it's relevant to your service context. If you network with other services, have a chat and see what they use and what they find helpful. As Bernice said, enjoy the journey. What I would say is your critical reflection journey is your own. It's really important to document it in a way that's meaningful and useful to you. Ensure it's user friendly, accessible, and understood by those who are involved and those who'll be guided by it.

- Fantastic, Alison. That's great, and I think, you know, we can't give you a magic template that's going to solve it, but I love the examples that you have provided, and we heard from Bernice what works well for them for that service, and I think, as you said, be creative. Have a chat to others. Find out what works well for you and your educators at your service. So thank you for that. I think you've given those online some food for thought here, Alison.

- Thanks, Belinda.

- Okay, so let's move on. If we look at some of the words we've used today, active, analysis, research, thinking, examining, ongoing, cycle, you can see that there's not one way of describing or engaging with critical reflection. We can't give you a template, as we've just mentioned. It's not that simple. It is relevant to the individual context of your service, and we recognise, as Alison mentioned earlier, it's not an easy process, so take heart. You're not alone if you're finding critical reflection challenging, and as Alison mentioned earlier, if you are finding it easy, then perhaps you're not digging deep enough. This is not about ticking a box and I acknowledge we certainly have not answered the common question I get often is, how do I get exceeding? What this is about is supporting continuous improvement and identifying areas or opportunities for change and inform change in your service program and practice to ultimately improve the outcomes for children. We do though hope today has given you some insights in the differences between reflection, that may be more evaluative in nature, and critical reflection, and also given you some information about the continuous cycle of critical reflection and how each of these aspects of the process are important to consider and use to inform your practice. I'd like to thank you all for joining us today and for all of the questions that you provided and sent in. As I mentioned, if you'd like to make contact with our team, the details are in the chat. The information inquiries team is also available to talk to you about anything to do with your service operation, and following today's session, you will receive a link to a short survey and I'd really encourage everyone to complete this. The feedback that you share with us really does help us to provide purposeful and relevant Roadshow sessions in the future. In our last slide, as we're going, as people are leaving the session today, I'm just going to leave this up so you can see the sources of the references we've used in today's presentation and some suggested further reading. So thank you all again for joining us. I hope everyone has a wonderful day. Thank you.

  • Frameworks and standards
  • Learning and development

Business Unit:

  • NSW ECEC Regulatory Authority

early childhood education reflection

Meaningful and Engaging Learning Experiences in Early Childhood Special Education Preparation Programs

  • Andrea Laser University of Colorado Denver
  • Katherine B. Green University of West Georgia
  • Lauren Hart Rollins University of Alabama
  • Monica Gonzalez East Carolina University
  • Marisa Macy University of Nebraska Kearney

The personnel preparation of early intervention/early childhood special educator (EI/ECSE) candidates is a pivotal stage in supporting the development of professionals who can effectively work with young children with and at-risk of developmental disabilities, their families, and other service providers. This process encompasses a multifaceted approach to equip candidates with knowledge, skills, and attitudes/dispositions to successfully work within the field. This compilation article includes multiple authors of each section who share strategies, assignments, tools, and experiences to center the Initial Practice-Based Standards for Early Interventionists/Early Childhood Special Educators (Division for Early Childhood [DEC] of the Council for Exceptional Children [CEC], 2020; hereafter referred to as the EI/ECSE Standards) and DEC’s Recommended Practices (RPs). These strategies are shared through a “spiraling curriculum” framework, and progress from an awareness level to reflection of candidates’ own practice. In addition, this article shares related resources to consider in planning for innovative coursework and practicum/student teaching opportunities. Specific examples of spiraling experiences to deepen learning through opportunities to introduce content aligned to RPs and EI/ECSE Standards are included.

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Copyright (c) 2024 Andrea Laser, Serra Acar, Karen H. Brown, Katherine B. Green, Lindsey A. Chapman, Chelsea T. Morris, Lauren Hart Rollins, Annie George-Puskar, Monica Gonzalez, Alesia Mickle Moldavan, Kathy R. Doody, Katrina Fulcher-Rood, Pamela Schuetze, Kaitlin Jackson, Bradley Mills, Lindsay R. Dennis, Tai Cole, Kelly Farquharson, Marisa Macy

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License .

The Journal of Special Education Preparation ( JOSEP ) is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal that features research-to-practice information and materials for special education faculty in higher education settings. JOSEP brings its readers the latest on evidence-based instructional strategies, technologies, procedures, and techniques to prepare special education teachers and leaders. The focus of its practical content is on immediate application.

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early childhood education reflection

  • How Internships Enhance Your Early Childhood Education Degree

Posted On May 8, 2024

In the ever-changing world of education, where theory and practice come together, internships are essential for aspiring educators. For those pursuing a degree in early childhood education , internships offer invaluable hands-on experience that enriches academic learning and prepares individuals for the multifaceted role of shaping young minds. In this article, we’ll look at the significance of internships in enhancing your journey toward earning a degree in early childhood education.

Preschool students learning in a computer lab at school.

Bridging Theory with Practice

Beginning on the path to becoming an early childhood educator is not merely about mastering theories and pedagogical approaches. It's about understanding how these concepts translate into real-world settings and interactions with children. Internships bridge the classroom and the field, allowing students to apply their theoretical knowledge in practical scenarios.

By immersing themselves in internship experiences, students gain insights into effective teaching strategies, classroom management techniques, and child development principles. They witness firsthand the impact of their actions on children's learning and socio-emotional development, fostering a deeper understanding of the nuances of early childhood education.

Hands-On Learning Opportunities

Traditional classroom settings can only offer a limited perspective on the realities of working with young children. On the other hand, internships provide hands-on learning opportunities that are indispensable for aspiring educators. Whether it's assisting in lesson planning, facilitating activities, or observing children's behavior, interns are actively involved in the day-to-day operations of early childhood education settings.

Through these immersive experiences, students develop essential skills such as communication, problem-solving, and adaptability. They learn to navigate diverse classroom environments, collaborate with colleagues, and forge meaningful connections with children and families. Such practical experiences not only reinforce academic concepts but also instill confidence in students as they prepare to embark on their teaching careers.

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Professional Development and Networking

Internships are fertile grounds for professional development and networking within the early childhood education community. By working alongside experienced educators and mentors, students gain valuable insights into the profession and receive constructive feedback on their performance. These mentorship opportunities help students refine their teaching practices, identify their strengths and areas for growth, and cultivate a professional identity as educators.

Additionally, internships provide avenues for networking with professionals in the field, including potential employers. Building relationships with colleagues, supervisors, and mentors can open doors to future job opportunities and career advancement. Additionally, internships offer a glimpse into the diverse career pathways within early childhood education, from classroom teaching to administration, advocacy, and research.

Personal Growth and Reflection

Beyond acquiring academic knowledge and professional skills, internships facilitate personal growth and reflection for aspiring educators . Working closely with young children and families exposes interns to diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences, fostering empathy, cultural competence, and inclusivity. It challenges them to reflect on their beliefs, biases, and practices critically and strive for continuous improvement in their teaching approaches.

Internships also provide opportunities for self-discovery and exploration of teaching philosophies and methodologies. Students have the freedom to experiment with different instructional strategies, assess their effectiveness, and refine their approach based on reflective practice. This process of self-discovery and reflection is integral to developing authentic and effective educators committed to lifelong learning and professional growth.

Internships play a pivotal role in enhancing the journey toward earning a degree in early childhood education. By bridging theory with practice, providing hands-on learning opportunities, fostering professional development and networking, and facilitating personal growth and reflection, internships prepare aspiring educators for the challenges and rewards of working with young children.  

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Are you ready to take the next step toward a fulfilling career in early childhood education? Athena Career Academy is your gateway to unlocking a world of opportunities in the exciting and rewarding field of early childhood education. Our comprehensive programs are designed to equip you with the knowledge, skills, and hands-on experience needed to succeed as an early childhood educator.

At Athena Career Academy, we understand that traditional full-time study may not always be feasible due to work and lifestyle commitments. That's why we offer flexible learning options, including part-time and evening classes, allowing you to pursue your passion for teaching without compromising your existing responsibilities.

By enrolling in our Early Childhood Education degree program, you'll gain access to internship opportunities that complement your academic learning and prepare you for the realities of working in diverse classroom settings. Our experienced instructors will guide you through a curriculum that covers essential topics such as child development, curriculum planning, classroom management, and family engagement.

But our commitment to your success goes beyond the classroom. At Athena Career Academy, we prioritize your professional development and networking opportunities, connecting you with industry professionals and potential employers to jumpstart your career in early childhood education.

Join us at Athena Career Academy and begin a journey of personal and professional growth as you prepare to make a difference in the lives of young children and families. Together, we'll shape the future of education one student at a time.

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When Saint-Saëns’ Elephant Becomes a Child’s Raindrops: Korean Young Children’s Appreciation of Music through Drawings

  • Published: 29 April 2024

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early childhood education reflection

  • Jung-Yoon Chang 1 ,
  • Jinyoung Kim   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-4448-0862 2 &
  • Seung Yeon Lee 3  

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The aim of this study was to investigate the understanding and reactions of Korean young children to music through analysis of their drawings and the accompanying explanations they present while listening to a musical piece ‘The Elephant’ from ‘The Carnival of the Animals’ by Saint-Saëns. Drawings and explanations from 36 six-year-olds were analyzed, revealing three distinct categories: a) expression of emotions evoked by the music, b) representation of music focusing on musical elements such as tempo, dynamics, rhythm, and timbre, and c) depiction of musical changes through storytelling. These findings underscore young children’s capacity for diverse musical interpretations and responses, independent of prior knowledge, prompting reflection among early childhood educators on the purpose and delivery of music education for young children.

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The Imperative of an Arts-Led Curriculum

early childhood education reflection

Music Uses in Preschool Classrooms in the U.S.: A Multiple-Methods Study

Moving to the beat: using music, rhythm, and movement to enhance self-regulation in early childhood classrooms.

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Chang, JY., Kim, J. & Lee, S.Y. When Saint-Saëns’ Elephant Becomes a Child’s Raindrops: Korean Young Children’s Appreciation of Music through Drawings. Early Childhood Educ J (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-024-01672-2

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early childhood education reflection

The Importance of Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education advantages.

E arly childhood education plays a fundamental role in laying the foundation for a child's future success. During the first few years of life, a child's brain undergoes significant development, and this period is crucial for the acquisition of various skills and knowledge. Here are some key advantages of early childhood education:

  • Cognitive and Academic Development: Early childhood education enhances cognitive abilities, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making. It provides a stimulating environment that encourages curiosity and exploration, leading to better academic performance in later years.
  • Social and Emotional Development: Through early childhood education, children learn essential social and emotional skills, such as sharing, taking turns, and expressing their feelings. It promotes empathy, self-confidence, and healthy relationships with peers and adults.
  • Language and Communication Skills: Exposing children to early childhood education programs promotes language development and improves communication skills. It helps children build vocabulary, express thoughts, and articulate ideas effectively.
  • Physical Development: Early childhood education includes activities that encourage physical development, such as fine and gross motor skills. It promotes coordination, balance, and overall physical well-being.
  • Preparation for Formal Education: Early childhood education prepares children for the transition to formal schooling. It introduces them to basic concepts, promotes a love for learning, and helps develop a positive attitude towards education.

Early Childhood Education Best Practices

For early childhood education to be effective, it must follow certain best practices. Educators and caregivers must create a nurturing and stimulating environment that supports children's development. Here are some best practices in early childhood education:

  • Play-Based Learning: Incorporating play into lesson plans allows children to learn through exploration and hands-on experiences. Play stimulates imagination, creativity, and problem-solving skills.
  • Individualized Instruction: Recognizing that each child is unique, early childhood education should provide individualized instruction tailored to the needs and interests of each child.
  • Collaborative Learning: Encouraging collaboration among children promotes social skills, teamwork, and respect for others' ideas and perspectives.
  • Parental Involvement: Involving parents in their child's early education fosters a strong parent-teacher partnership and ensures continuous support for the child's development.
  • Hands-on and Experiential Learning: Engaging children in hands-on activities and real-life experiences deepens their understanding of concepts and encourages active participation in the learning process.
  • Qualified and Trained Educators: Early childhood educators should possess the necessary qualifications, knowledge, and skills to provide quality education and create a nurturing environment for children.

Early Childhood Education Programs

There are various early childhood education programs available that cater to the diverse needs of children. These programs focus on holistic development by encompassing various aspects of a child's growth. Some popular early childhood education programs include:

  • Montessori Method: The Montessori method follows a child-centered approach and emphasizes hands-on learning and individualized instruction.
  • Reggio Emilia Approach: The Reggio Emilia approach encourages child-led exploration, creativity, and the use of expressive arts.
  • HighScope: The HighScope approach promotes active learning, problem-solving, and decision-making through hands-on activities and a carefully designed curriculum.
  • Head Start: Head Start is a comprehensive early childhood education program that targets low-income families and provides support in various areas, including education, health, and nutrition.
  • Bank Street: The Bank Street approach focuses on child development in the context of their social environment. It emphasizes experiential learning and the importance of play.

Early Childhood Education Impact

The impact of early childhood education extends far beyond the early years. Research consistently shows a positive correlation between early childhood education and various long-term outcomes. Here are some key impacts of early childhood education:

  • Academic Achievement: Children who participate in early childhood education programs are more likely to excel academically throughout their educational journey.
  • Social and Emotional Well-being: Early childhood education helps develop important social and emotional skills, leading to improved mental health and overall well-being.
  • Reduced Achievement Gap: Access to quality early childhood education helps reduce the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their more privileged peers.
  • Higher Rates of Graduation: Research suggests that children who receive a strong foundation through early childhood education are more likely to graduate from high school and pursue higher education.
  • Positive Societal Impact: Early childhood education contributes to creating a more equitable and prosperous society by nurturing capable and responsible citizens.
  • Economic Benefits: Investing in early childhood education yields substantial economic benefits by reducing the need for remedial education, improving workforce readiness, and lowering societal costs associated with crime and welfare dependency.

Early childhood education plays a pivotal role in shaping a child's future. By providing a strong educational foundation and fostering holistic development, it sets the stage for a lifetime of learning and success. It is essential for policymakers, educators, and parents to prioritize early childhood education to ensure the best possible outcomes for every child.

The post The Importance of Early Childhood Education appeared first on Things That Make People Go Aww .

Early Childhood Education Advantages Early childhood education plays a fundamental role in laying the foundation for a child's future success. During the first few years of life, a child's brain undergoes significant development, and this period is crucial for the acquisition of various skills and knowledge. Here are some key advantages of early childhood education:...

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The Power of Playful Learning in the Early Childhood Setting

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Play versus learning represents a false dichotomy in education (e.g., Hirsh-Pasek & Golinkoff 2008). In part, the persistent belief that learning must be rigid and teacher directed—the opposite of play—is motivated by the lack of a clear definition of what constitutes playful learning (Zosh et al. 2018). And, in part, it is motivated by older perceptions of play and learning. Newer research, however, allows us to reframe the debate as learning via play—as playful learning.

This piece, which is an excerpt from Chapter 5 in  Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth Through Age 8, Fourth Edition (NAEYC 2022), suggests that defining play on a spectrum (Zosh et al. 2018, an idea first introduced by Bergen 1988) helps to resolve old divisions and provides a powerful framework that puts  playful learning —rich curriculum coupled with a playful pedagogy—front and center as a model for all early childhood educators. ( See below for a discussion of play on a spectrum.)

This excerpt also illustrates the ways in which play and learning mutually support one another and how teachers connect learning goals to children’s play. Whether solitary, dramatic, parallel, social, cooperative, onlooker, object, fantasy, physical, constructive, or games with rules, play, in all of its forms, is a teaching practice that optimally facilitates young children’s development and learning. By maximizing children’s choice, promoting wonder and enthusiasm for learning, and leveraging joy, playful learning pedagogies support development across domains and content areas and increase learning relative to more didactic methods (Alfieri et al. 2011; Bonawitz et al. 2011; Sim & Xu 2015).

Playful Learning: A Powerful Teaching Tool

early childhood education reflection

This narrowing of the curriculum and high-stakes assessment practices (such as paper-and-pencil tests for kindergartners) increased stress on educators, children, and families but failed to deliver on the promise of narrowing—let alone closing—the gap.  All  children need well-thought-out curricula, including reading and STEM experiences and an emphasis on executive function skills such as attention, impulse control, and memory (Duncan et al. 2007). But to promote happy, successful, lifelong learners, children must be immersed in developmentally appropriate practice and rich curricular learning that is culturally relevant (NAEYC 2020). Playful learning is a vehicle for achieving this. Schools must also address the inequitable access to play afforded to children (see “Both/And: Early Childhood Education Needs Both Play and Equity,” by Ijumaa Jordan.) All children should be afforded opportunities to play, regardless of their racial group, socioeconomic class, and disability if they have been diagnosed with one. We second the call of Maria Souto-Manning (2017): “Although play has traditionally been positioned as a privilege, it must be (re)positioned as a right, as outlined by the  United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 31” (785).

What Is Playful Learning?

Playful learning describes a learning context in which children learn content while playing freely (free play or self-directed play), with teacher guidance (guided play), or in a structured game. By harnessing children’s natural curiosity and their proclivities to experiment, explore, problem solve, and stay engaged in meaningful activities—especially when doing so with others—teachers maximize learning while individualizing learning goals. Central to this concept is the idea that teachers act more as the Socratic “guide at the side” than a “sage on the stage” (e.g., King 1993, 30; Smith 1993, 35). Rather than view children as empty vessels receiving information, teachers see children as active explorers and discoverers who bring their prior knowledge into the learning experience and construct an understanding of, for example, words such as  forecast  and  low pressure  as they explore weather patterns and the science behind them. In other words, teachers support children as active learners.

Importantly, playful learning pedagogies naturally align with the characteristics that research in the science of learning suggests help humans learn. Playful learning leverages the power of active (minds-on), engaging (not distracting), meaningful, socially interactive, and iterative thinking and learning (Zosh et al. 2018) in powerful ways that lead to increased learning.

Free play lets children explore and express themselves—to be the captains of their own ship. While free play is important, if a teacher has a learning goal, guided play and games are the road to successful outcomes for children (see Weisberg, Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinkoff 2013 for a review). Playful learning in the form of guided play, in which the teacher builds in the learning as part of a fun context such as a weather report, keeps the child’s agency but adds an intentional component to the play that helps children learn more from the experience. In fact, when researchers compared children’s skill development during free play in comparison to guided play, they found that children learned more vocabulary (Toub et al. 2018) and spatial skills (Fisher et al. 2013) in guided play than in free play.

Self-Directed Play, Free Play

NAEYC’s 2020 position statement on developmentally appropriate practice uses the term  self-directed play  to refer to play that is initiated and directed by children. Such play is termed  free play  in the larger works of the authors of this excerpt; therefore, free play is the primary term used in this article, with occasional references to self-directed play, the term used in the rest of the DAP book.

Imagine an everyday block corner. The children are immersed in play with each other—some trying to build high towers and others creating a tunnel for the small toy cars on the nearby shelves. But what if there were a few model pictures on the wall of what children could strive to make as they collaborated in that block corner? Might they rotate certain pieces purposely? Might they communicate with one another that the rectangle needs to go on top of the square? Again, a simple insertion of a design that children can try to copy turns a play situation into one ripe with spatial learning. Play is a particularly effective way to engage children with specific content learning when there is a learning goal.

Why Playful Learning Is Critical

Teachers play a crucial role in creating places and spaces where they can introduce playful learning to help all children master not only content but also the skills they will need for future success. The science of learning literature (e.g., Fisher et al. 2013; Weisberg, Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinkoff 2013; Zosh et al. 2018) suggests that playful learning can change the “old equation” for learning, which posited that direct, teacher-led instruction, such as lectures and worksheets, was the way to achieve rich content learning. This “new equation” moves beyond a sole focus on content and instead views playful learning as a way to support a breadth of skills while embracing developmentally appropriate practice guidelines (see Hirsh-Pasek et al. 2020).

Using a playful learning pedagogical approach leverages the skill sets of today’s educators and enhances their ability to help children attain curricular goals. It engages what has been termed active learning that is also developmentally appropriate and offers a more equitable way of engaging children by increasing access to participation. When topics are important and culturally relevant to children, they can better identify with the subject and the learning becomes more seamless.

While educators of younger children are already well versed in creating playful and joyful experiences to support social goals (e.g., taking turns and resolving conflicts), they can use this same skill set to support more content-focused curricular goals (e.g., mathematics and literacy). Similarly, while teachers of older children have plenty of experience determining concrete content-based learning goals (e.g., attaining Common Core Standards), they can build upon this set of skills and use playful learning as a pedagogy to meet those goals.

Learning Through Play: A Play Spectrum

As noted previously, play can be thought of as lying on a spectrum that includes free play (or self-directed play), guided play, games, playful instruction, and direct instruction (Bergen 1988; Zosh et al. 2018). For the purposes of this piece, we use a spectrum that includes the first three of these aspects of playful learning, as illustrated in “Play Spectrum Showing Three Types of Playful Learning Situations” below.

The following variables determine the degree to which an activity can be considered playful learning:

  • level of adult involvement
  • extent to which the child is directing the learning
  • presence of a learning goal

Toward the left end of the spectrum are activities with more child agency, less adult involvement, and loosely defined or no particular learning goals. Further to the right, adults are more involved, but children still direct the activity or interaction.

Developmentally appropriate practice does not mean primarily that children play without a planned learning environment or learn mostly through direct instruction (NAEYC 2020). Educators in high-quality early childhood programs offer a range of learning experiences that fall all along this spectrum. By thinking of play as a spectrum, educators can more easily assess where their learning activities and lessons fall on this spectrum by considering the components and intentions of the lesson. Using their professional knowledge of how children develop and learn, their knowledge of individual children, and their understanding of social and cultural contexts, educators can then begin to think strategically about how to target playful learning (especially guided play and games) to leverage how children naturally learn. This more nuanced view of play and playful learning can be used to both meet age-appropriate learning objectives and support engaged, meaningful learning.   

early childhood education reflection

In the kindergarten classroom in the following vignette, children have ample time for play and exploration in centers, where they decide what to play with and what they want to create. These play centers are the focus of the room and the main tool for developing social and emotional as well as academic skills; they reflect and support what the children are learning through whole-group discussions, lessons, and skills-focused stations. In the vignette, the teacher embeds guided play opportunities within the children’s free play.

Studying Bears: Self-Directed Play that Extends What Kindergartners Are Learning

While studying the habits of animals in winter, the class is taking a deeper dive into the lives of American black bears, animals that make their homes in their region. In the block center, one small group of children uses short lengths and cross-sections of real tree branches as blocks along with construction paper to create a forest habitat for black bear figurines. They enlist their friends in the art center to assist in making trees and bushes. Two children are in the writing center. Hearing that their friends are looking for help to create a habitat, they look around and decide a hole punch and blue paper are the perfect tools for making blueberries—a snack black bears love to eat! Now multiple centers and groups of children are involved in making the block center become a black bear habitat.

In the dramatic play center, some of the children pretend to be bear biologists, using stethoscopes, scales, and magnifying glasses to study the health of a couple of plush black bears. When these checkups are complete, the teacher suggests the children could describe the bears’ health in a written “report,” thus embedding guided play within their free play. A few children at the easels in the art center are painting pictures of black bears.

Contributed by Amy Blessing

Free play, or self-directed play, is often heralded as the gold standard of play. It encourages children’s initiative, independence, and problem solving and has been linked to benefits in social and emotional development (e.g., Singer & Singer 1990; Pagani et al. 2010; Romano et al. 2010; Gray 2013) and language and literacy (e.g., Neuman & Roskos 1992). Through play, children explore and make sense of their world, develop imaginative and symbolic thinking, and develop physical competence. The kindergarten children in the example above were developing their fine motor and collaboration skills, displaying their understanding of science concepts (such as the needs of animals and living things), and exercising their literacy and writing skills. Such benefits are precisely why free play has an important role in developmentally appropriate practice. To maximize learning, teachers also provide guided play experiences.

Guided Play

While free play has great value for children, empirical evidence suggests that it is not always sufficient  when there is a pedagogical goal at stake  (Smith & Pellegrini 2008; Alfieri et al. 2011; Fisher et al. 2013; Lillard 2013; Weisberg, Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinkoff 2013; Toub et al. 2018). This is where guided play comes in.

Guided play allows teachers to focus children’s play around specific learning goals (e.g., standards-based goals), which can be applied to a variety of topics, from learning place value in math to identifying rhyming words in literacy activities. Note, however, that the teacher does not take over the play activity or even direct it. Instead, she asks probing questions that guide the next level of child-directed exploration. This is a perfect example of how a teacher can initiate a context for learning while still leaving the child in charge. In the previous kindergarten vignette, the teacher guided the children in developing their literacy skills as she embedded writing activities within the free play at the centers.

Facilitating Guided Play

Skilled teachers set up environments and facilitate development and learning throughout the early childhood years, such as in the following:

  • Ms. Taglieri notices what 4-month-old Anthony looks at and shows interest in. Following his interest and attention, she plays Peekaboo, adjusting her actions (where she places the blanket and peeks out at him) to maintain engagement.
  • Ms. Eberhard notices that 22-month-old Abe knows the color yellow. She prepares her environment based on this observation, placing a few yellow objects along with a few red ones on a small table. Abe immediately goes to the table, picking up each yellow item and verbally labeling them (“Lellow!”).
  • Mr. Gorga creates intrigue and participation by inviting his preschool class to “be shape detectives” and to “discover the secret of shapes.” As the children explore the shapes, Mr. Gorga offers questions and prompts to guide children to answer the question “What makes them the same kind of shapes?”

An analogy for facilitating guided play is bumper bowling. If bumpers are in place, most children are more likely than not to knock down some pins when they throw the ball down the lane. That is different than teaching children exactly how to throw it (although some children, such as those who have disabilities or who become frustrated if they feel a challenge is too great, may require that level of support or instruction). Guided play is not a one-size-fits-all prescriptive pedagogical technique. Instead, teachers match the level of support they give in guided play to the children in front of them.

Critically, many teachers already implement these kinds of playful activities. When the children are excited by the birds they have seen outside of their window for the past couple of days, the teachers may capitalize on this interest and provide children with materials for a set of playful activities about bird names, diets, habitats, and songs. Asking children to use their hands to mimic an elephant’s trunk when learning vocabulary can promote learning through playful instruction that involves movement. Similarly, embedding vocabulary in stories that are culturally relevant promotes language and early literacy development (García-Alvarado, Arreguín, & Ruiz-Escalante 2020). For example, a teacher who has several children in his class with Mexican heritage decides to read aloud  Too Many Tamales  (by Gary Soto, illus. Ed Martinez) and have the children reenact scenes from it, learning about different literary themes and concepts through play. The children learn more vocabulary, have a better comprehension of the text, and see themselves and their experiences reflected. The teacher also adds some of the ingredients and props for making tamales into the sociodramatic play center (Salinas-González, Arreguín-Anderson, & Alanís 2018) and invites families to share stories about family  tamaladas  (tamale-making parties).

Evidence Supporting Guided Play as a Powerful Pedagogical Tool

Evidence from the science of learning suggests that discovery-based guided play actually results in increased learning for all children relative to both free play and direct instruction (see Alferi et al. 2011). These effects hold across content areas including spatial learning (Fisher et al. 2013), literacy (Han et al. 2010; Nicolopoulou et al. 2015; Hassinger-Das et al. 2016; Cavanaugh et al. 2017; Toub et al. 2018; Moedt & Holmes 2020), and mathematics (Zosh et al. 2016).

There are several possible reasons for guided play’s effectiveness. First, it harnesses the joy that is critical to creativity and learning (e.g., Isen, Daubman, & Nowicki 1987; Resnick 2007). Second, during guided play, the adults help “set the stage for thought and action” by essentially limiting the number of possible outcomes for the children so that the learning goal is discoverable, but children still direct the activity (Weisberg et al. 2014, 276). Teachers work to provide high-quality materials, eliminate distractions, and prepare the space, but then, critically, they let the child play the active role of construction. Third, in guided play, the teacher points the way toward a positive outcome and hence lessens the ambiguity (the degrees of freedom) without directing children to an answer or limiting children to a single discovery (e.g., Bonawitz et al. 2011). And finally, guided play provides the opportunity for new information to be integrated with existing knowledge and updated as children explore.

Reinforcing Numeracy with a Game

The children in Mr. Cohen’s preschool class are at varying levels of understanding in early numeracy skills (e.g., cardinality, one-to-one correspondence, order irrelevance). He knows that his children need some practice with these skills but wants to make the experience joyful while also building these foundational skills. One day, he brings out a new game for them to play—The Great Race. Carla and Michael look up expectantly, and their faces light up when they realize they will be playing a game instead of completing a worksheet. The two quickly pull out the box, setting up the board and choosing their game pieces. Michael begins by flicking the spinner with his finger, landing on 2. “Nice!” Carla exclaims, as Michael moves his game piece, counting “One, two.” Carla takes a turn next, spinning a 1 and promptly counting “one” as she moves her piece one space ahead. “My turn!” Michael says, eager to win the race. As he spins a 2, he pauses. “One . . . two,” he says, hesitating, as he moves his piece to space 4 on the board. Carla corrects him, “I think you mean ‘three, four,’ right? You have to count up from where you are on the board.” Michael nods, remembering the rules Mr. Cohen taught him earlier that day. “Right,” he says, “three, four.”

Similar to guided play, games can be designed in ways that help support learning goals (Hassinger-Das et al. 2017). In this case, instead of adults playing the role of curating the activity, the games themselves provide this type of external scaffolding. The example with Michael and Carla shows how children can learn through games, which is supported by research. In one well-known study, playing a board game (i.e., The Great Race) in which children navigated through a linear, numerical-based game board (i.e., the game board had equally spaced game spaces that go from left to right) resulted in increased numerical development as compared to playing the same game where the numbers were replaced by colors (Siegler & Ramani 2008) or with numbers organized in a circular fashion (Siegler & Ramani 2009). Structuring experiences so that the learning goal is intertwined naturally with children’s play supports their learning. A critical point with both guided play and games is that children are provided with support but still lead their own learning.

Digital educational games have become enormously popular, with tens of thousands of apps marketed as “educational,” although there is no independent review of these apps. Apps and digital games may have educational value when they inspire active, engaged, meaningful, and socially interactive experiences (Hirsh-Pasek et al. 2015), but recent research suggests that many of the most downloaded educational apps do not actually align with these characteristics that lead to learning (Meyer et al. 2021). Teachers should exercise caution and evaluate any activity—digital or not—to see how well it harnesses the power of playful learning.

Next Steps for Educators

Educators are uniquely positioned to prepare today’s children for achievement today and success tomorrow. Further, the evidence is mounting that playful pedagogies appear to be an accessible, powerful tool that harnesses the pillars of learning. This approach can be used across ages and is effective in learning across domains.

By leveraging children’s own interests and mindfully creating activities that let children play their way to new understanding and skills, educators can start using this powerful approach today. By harnessing the children’s interests at different ages and engaging them in playful learning activities, educators can help children learn while having fun. And, importantly, educators will have more fun too when they see children happy and engaged.

As the tide begins to change in individual classrooms, educators need to acknowledge that vast inequalities (e.g., socioeconomic achievement gaps) continue to exist (Kearney & Levine 2016). The larger challenge remains in propelling a cultural shift so that administrators, families, and policymakers understand the way in which educators can support the success of all children through high-quality, playful learning experiences.

Consider the following reflection questions as you reflect how to support equitable playful learning experiences for each and every child:

  • One of the best places to start is by thinking about your teaching strengths. Perhaps you are great at sparking joy and engagement. Or maybe you are able to frequently leverage children’s home lives in your lessons. How can you expand practices you already use as an educator or are learning about in your courses to incorporate the playful learning described in this article?
  • How can you share the information in this chapter with families, administrators, and other educators? How can you help them understand how play can engage children in deep, joyful learning?

This piece is excerpted from NAEYC’s recently published book  Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth Through Age 8,  Fourth Edition. For more information about the book, visit  NAEYC.org/resources/pubs/books/dap-fourth-edition .

Teaching Play Skills

Pamela Brillante

While many young children with autism spectrum disorder enjoy playing, they can have difficulty engaging in traditional play activities. They may engage in activities that do not look like ordinary play, including playing with only a few specific toys or playing in a specific, repetitive way.

Even though most children learn play skills naturally, sometimes families and teachers have to teach children how to play. Learning how to play will help develop many other skills young children need for the future, including

  • social skills:  taking turns, sharing, and working cooperatively
  • cognitive skills:  problem-solving skills, early academic skills
  • communication skills:  responding to others, asking questions
  • physical skills:  body awareness, fine and gross motor coordination

Several evidence-based therapeutic approaches to teaching young children with autism focus on teaching play skills, including

  • The Play Project:  https://playproject.org
  • The Greenspan Floortime approach: https://stanleygreenspan.com
  • Integrated Play Group (IPG) Model: www.wolfberg.com

While many children with autism have professionals and therapists working with them, teachers and families should work collaboratively and provide multiple opportunities for children to practice new skills and engage in play at their own level. For example, focus on simple activities that promote engagement between the adult and the child as well as the child and their peers without disabilities, including playing with things such as bubbles, cause-and-effect toys, and interactive books. You can also use the child’s preferred toy in the play, like having the Spider-Man figure be the one popping the bubbles.

Pamela Brillante , EdD, has spent 30 years working as a special education teacher, administrator, consultant, and professor. In addition to her full-time faculty position in the Department of Special Education, Professional Counseling and Disability Studies at William Paterson University of New Jersey, Dr. Brillante continues to consult with school districts and present to teachers and families on the topic of high-quality, inclusive early childhood practices.  

Photographs: © Getty Images Copyright © 2022 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. See Permissions and Reprints online at  NAEYC.org/resources/permissions .

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Zosh, J.M., B. Hassinger-Das, T.S. Toub, K. Hirsh-Pasek, & R. Golinkoff. 2016. “Playing with Mathematics: How Play Supports Learning and the Common Core State Standards.” Journal of Mathematics Education at Teachers College 7 (1): 45–49. https://doi.org/10.7916/jmetc.v7i1.787 . 

Zosh, J.M., K. Hirsh-Pasek, E.J. Hopkins, H. Jensen, C. Liu, D. Neale, S.L. Solis, & D. Whitebread. 2018. “Accessing the Inaccessible: Redefining Play as a Spectrum.” Frontiers in Psychology 9: 1–12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01124 . 

Jennifer M. Zosh, PhD, is professor of human development and family studies at Penn State Brandywine. Most recently, her work has focused on technology and its impact on children as well as playful learning as a powerful pedagogy. She publishes journal articles, book chapters, blogs, and white papers and focuses on the dissemination of developmental research.

Caroline Gaudreau, PhD, is a research professional at the TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health at the University of Chicago. She received her PhD from the University of Delaware, where she studied how children learn to ask questions and interact with screen media. She is passionate about disseminating research and interventions to families across the country.

Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, PhD, conducts research on language development, the benefits of play, spatial learning, and the effects of media on children. A member of the National Academy of Education, she is a cofounder of Playful Learning Landscapes, Learning Science Exchange, and the Ultimate Playbook for Reimagining Education. Her last book, Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children (American Psychological Association, 2016), reached the New York Times bestseller list.

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD, is the Lefkowitz Faculty Fellow in the Psychology and Neuroscience department at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  She is also a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Her research examines the development of early language and literacy, the role of play in learning, and learning and technology. [email protected]

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  1. Early Childhood Education: Reflections

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  2. Reflective Practice in Early Childhood Education (Template Inside)

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  3. Reflection

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  4. Critical Reflection in Early Childhood

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    early childhood education reflection

  6. (PDF) A Teacher’s Reflection on Effective Learning in Early Childhood

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  5. Engaging with Critical Reflection in Early Childhood

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    This article examines the use of an observational approach in the form of Learning Stories, a narrative-based formative assessment created by New Zealand early childhood education leaders. By encouraging teachers to recognize children as competent explorers and learners at any given moment, Learning Stories provide a way to document children ...

  2. Learning Stories: Observation, Reflection, and Narrative in Early

    This narrative tool is a record of a child's life in the classroom and school community based on teachers' observations of the child at play and work. It tells a story written to the child that is meant to be shared with the family. Learning Stories serve as a meaningful tool to assess children's strengths and help educators reflect on ...

  3. Reflective Practice in Early Childhood Education

    Reflective practice in early childhood education - growing as educators and learners. Reflective practice in early childhood education has been described as a process of turning experience into learning. That is, of exploring experience in order to learn new things from it. Reflection involves taking the unprocessed, raw material of ...

  4. Transforming Early Childhood Education through Critical Reflection

    Through critical reflection, educators come to new understandings. According to Freire, this 'critical reflection on practice is a requirement of the relationship between theory and practice' (1998, p. 30). Using a critical lens, our existing values and beliefs, theories, and epistemologies about early childhood education can be transformed.

  5. 'When we sat together, it just worked': Supporting individual and

    Reflective practice is a key component of the quality provision of Early Childhood Education, yet confusion surrounds the practice, and accounts of experienced early childhood educators' reflective practice are under-represented in the research. This study sought to support early childhood educators in effective individual and team reflection.

  6. Reflective Practice in Early Years Education

    The text provides a practical application to making reflection a regular part of one's teaching. There are tools for self-assessment and logical sequential steps for this process. It is geared toward education. I would have liked to see some more explicit examples of reflecting in early childhood education. The resources are all relevant.

  7. Promoting reflective practice in an infant and early childhood training

    Faculty meet biweekly to discuss responsibilities and to engage in program planning. In these meetings, reflection is a core value that unites us. We have ourselves worked as teachers, special education and early childhood mental health professionals, and developmental and early childhood prevention researchers.

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  9. Reflection & Reflective Practice in Young Children

    Reflection is a vital part of learning. Think about your journey when learning a new skill or concept. It takes observation, practice and reflection to move from a point of no skill to skill. We know children can observe and they use that in learning all the time. They imitate adults and their peers and then manipulate those things they have ...

  10. Reflective Practice in Early Childhood Education (Template Inside)

    Reflective Practice should be integrated into early childhood education training programs, especially those focused on mental health, well-being, and social-emotional health. When training programs place self-reflection, self-awareness, communication, problem-solving, and professional growth at the center, educators are set up for support and ...

  11. PDF Unpacking Critical Reflection

    strengthen their critical reflection skills and their ability to talk about and document how they critically reflect on their practice. Please note team leaders could be the responsible person, the nominated supervisor or the educational leader. Critical reflection is a central skill for early childhood educators and staff.

  12. PDF Quality Area 1 Developing a Learning Through Reflective Practice

    Department of Education and Early Childhood Development(2008). Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework Evidence Paper Practice Principle 8: Reflective Practice at www.education.vic.gov.au For another perspective on critical reflection and collaboration, as well as a more detailed approach to Quality Area 4, see our

  13. Reflective practice

    Why reflective is practice important. Reflecting on our practice is important as a tool to self improve and develop. We can become better practitioners when we learn from our reflections and gain insight. Teaching is a skill where pedagogy is gained and built through processing and reflecting. Writing about your experiences will help you to ...

  14. Reflective practice in early learning: what it is, examples, and why it

    Reflective practice in early childhood education is important as it ensures educators regularly reflect on what they do, why they do it, and how this knowledge can improve their practice. Studies show that high-quality early childhood settings positively affect children's development, and reflective practice is a feature of such environments ...

  15. Critical Reflection

    Welcome to the New South Wales Department of Education's webinar on critical reflection. My name's Belinda Wakeford and I'm one of the state operations managers in our quality assurance and regulatory services, which sits within the early childhood education. You may also know us as the reg authority. As we begin this morning, we have a video ...

  16. PDF What is critical reflection?

    What is critical reflection? 2018 NQS Element 1.3.2: Critical reflection: Critical reflection on children's learning and development, both as individuals and in groups, drives program planning and implementation. In education and care services, critical reflection means 'Closely examining all aspects of events and

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    The personnel preparation of early intervention/early childhood special educator (EI/ECSE) candidates is a pivotal stage in supporting the development of professionals who can effectively work with young children with and at-risk of developmental disabilities, their families, and other service providers. This process encompasses a multifaceted approach to equip candidates with knowledge ...

  18. Enhancing Early Childhood Education: Reflection on Full

    View Assignment - Full Responsibility Reflection.docx from BUSINESS 123 at City School. RUNNING HEADER: Full Responsibility Reflection Full Responsibility Reflection Student Name 4/13/2024 1 RUNNING ... physical education and science. ... Introducing technology into early childhood teaching for example using educational apps together with ...

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    These findings underscore young children's capacity for diverse musical interpretations and responses, independent of prior knowledge, prompting reflection among early childhood educators on the purpose and delivery of music education for young children.

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    Early Childhood Education Advantages. E arly childhood education plays a fundamental role in laying the foundation for a child's future success. During the first few years of life, a child's brain ...

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    Resources / Publications / Young Children / Summer 2022 / The Power of Playful Learning in the Early Childhood Setting. Jennifer M. Zosh, Caroline Gaudreau, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek. Play versus learning represents a false dichotomy in education (e.g., Hirsh-Pasek & Golinkoff 2008). In part, the persistent belief that ...

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    2006. Background paper prepared for th Education for All Global Monitoring Rep Strong foundations: early childhood care Early childhood care and edu Russian Federation Maria S. Taratukhina, Marina N. Poly Tatyana A. Berezina, Nina A. Notk Roza M. Sheraizina, Mihail I. Borov 2006 This paper was commissioned by the Education for All Global M ...

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