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In 2021, we partnered with Early Childhood (ECA) to deliver a series of free online professional learning programs.
Guiding children’s behaviour – regulation, respect and relationships
This session introduces educators to current Australian research on self-regulation and children’s behaviour, and the impact of self-regulation on children’s learning, adjustment, and wellbeing, as well as viewing behaviour and self-regulation through developmental and socio-ecological lenses.
(gentle upbeat music) –
Hello everyone, and welcome. My name is Catharine Hydon. And I'd like to welcome you to the Guiding Children's Behaviour regulation, respect and relationships webinar series. This series is brought to you by the Department of Education and Training Victoria in partnership with Early Childhood Australia. Before we start, and of course, as many of you know, it is important that we pause for a moment and acknowledge the traditional owners on whose country we're all collectively on. I'm here on the lands of the Kulin Nation and I know many of you are in that space. And thinking about the traditional owners as you join us today. I'd like to particularly reference the work of, the ideas and the words of Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, in the opening statements in the Victorian Department of Education and Training's Marrung; Aboriginal Education Plan. Where she invites us to hold the doors wide open for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children and their families. I know that many of you are doing that as we speak and thinking about the ways that you can welcome Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children to your services and how we can restore justice and equality to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children particularly in this Reconciliation Week. And I'd also like to take a moment to say a big shout out to all of the people who are joining us today. I'd like to thank you for the work you do and for looking after the wellbeing of children and their families.
I'm really pleased to be part of this series on guiding behaviour. I think it's something that educators are thinking a lot about. It's a great series of online conversations that will be part of, where we're going to hear from experts. And we're also going to hear from panellists who are practitioners, teachers over the series of these four events. We hope that these webinars will be an opportunity for you to build your knowledge as you support children in your services to learn and grow. So just before I start to welcome our special guests to this conversation, I want to tell you a little bit about how this webinar is going to work. So, we want you to think of this webinar as an opportunity for a conversation, a professional dialogue, if you like. So Cathrine, who I'll introduce you to in a minute, and I will be in conversation today. Cathrine is sharing her extensive research expertise and I'll also have a go at making a connection between the everyday practices and some of the ideas that Cathrine will be sharing with us. Particularly, as they relate to the practice expectations of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. So, as I said, we're going to be focusing on guiding behaviour, regulation, respect, and relationships. And this is the first of a four session series that we're really pleased that you're already a part of.
So, as Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett is coming up and we're going to turn on her camera in just a moment, I'd like to run through really super quick, some housekeeping matters. Some of which I've already mentioned to you. We're going to have certificates for those people who attended the live session, at the end of the series. And as I've said before, the recordings of the session are going to be made available on the website. So it's now my absolute pleasure to introduce Associate Professor, Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett. I had the very fine pleasure of talking to Cathrine in preparation for today, and I'm really excited about some of the ideas that we get to investigate here. And I know some of these will spark other conversations that you can have with your colleagues. Perhaps, you go and revisit some of the things that you can see on the video as we share these ideas further. So let me tell you a little bit about Cathrine before we start our conversation. Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett, has been a lecturer and researcher in child development for over 25 years and is currently the Director of the Early Years and Director of Pedagogical Leadership, Early Start at the University of Wollongong. Cathrine, has delivered workshops and has been invited to address parents and corporations and government bodies both here and overseas. And her expertise, which is particularly relevant for our conversation, includes child development, self-regulation and childhood socialization, professional development and the promotion of quality early childhood education and care. Today, Cathrine, is going to be presenting some of her research at the University of Wollongong. And I'll be jumping in from time to time to think about the connections in the Victorian context particularly as I said, about the way in which it relates to the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. Good afternoon, Cathrine.
Hi, Catharine. It's lovely to be here. I'm really, really excited to be able to kind of do a deep dive into some of these issues around challenging behaviour. But I too, just before I begin, I would like to just acknowledge the traditional owners on the land in which I'm sitting on. I'm here in Dharawal country, so I'd like to pay my respects to the Wadi Wadi people and Dharawal nation and pay my respects to elders past, present, and emerging. So, let's get started. So I think Catharine's really kind of highlighted the significance of what this four-part webinar series does. And I think it's really important that we have time to really engage with some of the really deep rich evidence base that underpins guiding children's behaviour. And so, we're going to talk a lot about that today but we'll also be examining throughout the series, what some of the pedagogies and practices that are important in terms of underpinning effective approaches to supporting children. But in terms of behaviour, anyone who's been working in the sector and working with children and families we all know, we really know that children's behaviour is really complex, it's contextual, and it's communicative. So through children's behaviour, it provides us really with a window into how children are thinking and how they're feeling or how they're not thinking as we'll find in terms of what emotions can really do to children's brains and how that is really translated into their practices. But in terms of behaviour being complex we know that the routes to behaviour are equally complex. And in this first webinar, I really want us to focus on the why. Like why do children behave the way that they do? And I think, the what is often our call to action. So as educators, it's when children behave in a way that we need to step in. So when they're behaving in a way, Catharine, that really results in them placing themselves at risk, placing other children at risk, or they behave in a way that compromises their learning or engagement in social relationships. Then we feel the need to step in as educators. And that's important. But if we're thinking about how do we support children's behaviour? How do we guide their behaviour? Then it's the why that really underpins effective practices. So if we're going to provide effective support for children and families, then we need to really develop a really comprehensive understanding of what those routes are to challenging behaviours. So, why does a child find it difficult to share? Why is a child unwilling to pack up their toys? Why do we see children have emotional meltdowns when something goes wrong in the play context? And so, this is really what I wanted us to think about today in terms of the why behind children's behaviours and how that influences our practices.
And Cathrine, just right from the get-go, I think you're really reminding us to take heed one of the really important messages in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework that invites us to reflect, really think deeply about what's going on. And I think reminding us of that right from the get-go it's a really important way to start this conversation because I can see lots of people go into the what and not wanting to spend time in the why. So, a really good reminder.
And I think when we're in a heightened situation and when we're faced with challenging or what I often refer to as big behaviours, we are heightened. And so, we're often reactionary. And so, we need to really step back and think about, think about children's behaviours and the pathways. And we know the best way to deal with challenging behaviours is to ensure that they don't happen in the first place. So, I want us to really think about that. So this slide, Cathrine, really looks at some of the key components or concepts that underpin the why. And it talks about regulation, relationships and respect and they're reflected in the title of the webinar. And they're fundamental to our understanding of these components and are fundamental to our understanding of children's behaviours. But they're also fundamental to the vision and practice principles of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. And so, when we're talking about regulation I'm really speaking to the role of children's self-regulation in shaping their behaviours. So, and how that underpins their effective engagement within the learning environment and their engagement with other individuals within that environment. And it also speaks, and we'll talk much more about this in webinar three, it also speaks to the specific skills children need in order to be able to regulate their behaviours, and their emotions, and their thinking. Relationships are critical to children's development. It doesn't belong just in terms of children's behaviour. And so, this really speaks to the significance and the importance of strong, responsive, and healthy relationships. But even more than that, it really highlights the need for children to experience relationships that are characterized by safety and security and reciprocity and how that underpins their behaviours. And the respect component really speaks to the need to create respectful environments that respect diversity, that respect the cultural context of children and families, but also create a climate where children feel safe to feel big feelings. Which is different from enacting big feelings. And so, I really love this idea of the three Rs. And anyone who's worked with me over time will know I love a good acronym. And I like anything that really helps us as educators to kind of make very complex information really accessible. And so, with a bit of poetic license I decided that I wanted to add two extra Rs to the regulation, respect, and relationships. And the two extra Rs that I want us to talk about is this notion of routes and responses. So when we're talking about routes, we're talking about the common pathways to challenging behaviours. And routes also capture the context of influence. So what happens within the family? What happens within the neighbourhood? And what happens within our broader social context that really shapes children's behaviour? And also, I want to speak to aspects of the early childhood education and care environment that increase the risk of big behaviours occurring within learning environments. And the last one is their responses. And this really refers to those rich and responsive learning environments that we create within the early childhood context and our pedagogies and practices that enhance children's ability to regulate and to self-regulate and to behave according to the demands of the environment. But the flip side is sometimes those responses actually increase children's risk. So there's another R, for you. And of course, Catharine, not only do these Rs kind of help us better understand the why. So each of these, we really need to understand in terms of how they connect with one another. They're cyclical, they're contextual, they change as we can see in the current COVID context. There's really strong synergies with the practice principles of the Victorian Early Learning Framework in terms of our expectations for children and respect for relationships. And I mean, add to that, Catharine.
And I think the thing you're reminding us to do is to go back into some of those documents that support our thinking. So for us in Victoria, the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework is a document that people know well, but it's really important to go back into them and re-investigate those big ideas because relationships and responsiveness, respectful reciprocal relationships, equity and diversity, reflective practice all of those are in the context of those practice principles. But you also remind us to make sure we're aware of the outcomes for children in terms of what are we trying to teach. Integrated teaching and learning processes really ask educators to examine some of those things as we make decisions to act. I think, sometimes I think we can skip over a little bit because we think we know them, but I think what you're doing is helping us to re-open those practice principles, re-investigate them, go back in and find out what do we mean by those things. And even when you mentioned the routes idea, I feel like I'm thinking about all the different ways that the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework ask us to think a lot about the teaching and learning opportunities that we would present to children. So, I think there's lots in there to remind educators to go back into those documents and re-investigate them.
And also, that real commitment around that integrated learning, around assessment for learning. And when I talked about assessment for learning I really mean, and this is so important when it comes to children's behaviours, is understanding where children are at and what their needs are and how we can support them effectively. So that commitment to a differentiated, individualized response is so critical.
Yeah, and we can't talk highly enough of that. I think Cathrine, it's one of those things that we want to really remind people. And of course, people will know that the Victoria framework really helps us to know children, their whole context. And I know that you're going to talk a bit more about that as we go. You know, referencing some of the work that we've done in that term, in that space to really understand the context of children's learning.
So before I do a really deep dive, Catharine, I really want to do a bit of a deep dive into the research and the evidence-based practices in this first webinar. And I think our next three webinars are really going to be have a much stronger kind of contextualize and practical lens. But evidence-based practices are important in everything that we do. But when it comes to children's behaviour we really need to understand what practices are effective and how we can ensure that the practices we're engaging in are in the best interest of the children and the families that we're supporting. But before that, I really would like to invite the participants online. If you can just share with us what some of your biggest challenges have been in respect to guiding children's behaviour. And we might not get to them today Catharine, my understanding is, but I think you and I will certainly look at these more deeply and we'll revisit them during webinar two and webinar three. So we're really interested in your lens, your experiences, your challenges. So we can really contextualize this learning for you.
And so take up, Catharine's offer there and find the chat function down the bottom of the page and open up the chat box. You'll see that there's quite a lot of people posting ideas already in there. It's going off a little bit. So keep those ideas coming. As Cathrine said, we will try and weave them into the thinking that we're doing about the subsequent webinars. But we can see them here as well. So keep sharing your thoughts as we go. I think we're getting quite a few coming through there, Cathrine, so it'll help us no end.
And absolutely, and it will help me in webinar three where I can really map out the responses to your experiences and how we can really contextualize that for you in the best way. So, what I'd like to move on to now, Catharine, is one of our first Rs. And that's that notion of regulation. And when I'm talking about regulation, I'm really talking about children's ability to control their emotions and their behaviours in response to situational demands. Now, there's lots of, those of you... I'm sure many of you online have done a lot of reading around self-regulation. We know that it is critical in terms of underpinning children's wellbeing and learning. And there are lots of different definitions. But I kind of prioritize the social and behavioural components or the emotional behavioural components of regulation and the cognitive components and how they work together. So in terms of the behaviour and emotional components of regulation, I'm really talking about children's ability to control their impulses, both by stopping doing something that they want to keep doing or doing something that they don't want to do. So stopping playing, even though I want to keep playing or packing up, even though I don't really want to pack up. And I think that's supported. So when we're talking about self-regulation it's behaviour that is intentional and it's active. So, Catharine, I don't want to hit you, in my head that's intentional. And my active process is I'm going to walk away so I'm not near you and I can't hit you. So it's very purposeful. And it's not to be confused with obedience or compliance. So, children who are truly self-regulated behave the same way, regardless of the presence of an adult. So children who are what I would call other-regulated or co-regulated stage may behave appropriately when there's an adult present but in non-structured or unstructured environments they might be quite aggressive with their peers. So we'll say contextual variations in terms of regulation. The behavioural components of self-regulation is also about children's ability to delay gratification or suppress their impulses long enough to think about the possible consequences of their behaviour. So Cathrine, you have a toy that I really want to play with. I'm going to grab it off of you because I want to play with it and I want to play with it now. But a child who's regulated will be able to pause long enough and suppress that impulse to grab that toy to think about what the consequences of my actions might be. Now, if I grab that toy from you, you're going to get upset. You're going to cry. Cate, our teacher, is going to notice that you're crying and she's going to come over and say, "Cathrine, I need to take that toy back and give it back to Catharine." So in my head I'm then going to say, "Actually, Catharine, when you're finished with the toy can I have a turn?" And this is what we see in terms of that ability to self-regulate. So that kind of the emotional behavioural components of self-regulation have often been likened to a thermostat. So the idea is we have this ideal functionality or a preset threshold of a temperature often, I think I set my car at about 21 degrees. And the idea is if it gets it a little bit too cold outside, which is pretty cold at the moment, it'll kick in and it'll warm my car up and it'll get me back to that ideal temperature. Likewise, if it gets too hot the air conditioning kicks in and it brings it down. And that is exactly what regulation is for children around that emotional or behavioural regulation. We have this ideal level of functionality and our regulation keeps us within that so that we are able to engage with people and function effectively in our environment. Now that's the emotional behavioural component and that's often our call to action when we see those big behaviours. But there's another part of self-regulation that is actually critical to children's challenging behaviours and critical to our engagement and learning. And that's the cognitive component of self-regulation. So it's often referred to as that higher order or executive functioning aspect. And it really kind of reflects on children's ability to remember, their ability to plan and problem solve, their ability to pay attention, and also their motivation. But they're not independent. So we know thinking influences emotions and behaviours and emotions and behaviours also influence thinking. So children who get highly anxious or highly emotional when they're faced with a challenging task tend to walk away from that task rather than to persist. Children who are able to control their emotions are much more likely to stay in this task and go, "This is really difficult, but I'm going to keep trying." And so learning to persist in the face of complexity is probably one of the most important outcomes of children's self-regulation. Because that is when we learn, when we're faced with challenging environments. Part of that, and we're going to talk about that a little bit more, is how do we create an environment where children feel safe to take risks and feel safe to try out and persist in the face of challenge. So while the emotional components are a little bit like the thermostat, the cognitive component of children's self-regulation is a little bit like how air traffic control system. So the idea is that, there's all this kind of information that's coming in and children have to manage all these multiple strings of information that's playing over there. I need this, teachers need that, the children are playing over there, mom, might've been upset with me this morning. There's a whole lot of things that they're trying to juggle and what they need to do at the same time is they need to monitor their errors when they're making mistakes, they need to reassess their play experiences, they need to make decisions, and they also need to resist the urge to make hasty decisions. That level of frustration that we will feel as adults that can result in a really hasty decision. And so, while they're juggling all that, all the planes stay in the air. The minute we take our eyes off one plane or two planes, they crash, right? And so, I think it was about five years ago our air traffic control system went and the whole airport had to close. So it is the functional component of children's behaviour. –
And I think, there's a whole lot of people online now going absolutely, that's exactly what I see. And I guess Cathrine, it reminds me too of the importance of assessment for learning strategies and reflective practice that educators are engaging with. Again, practice principles in Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework that remind you to really know what's happening, to sort of notice that. Cause I think there'd be people here going, that's exactly what's going on. I wonder whether you've recorded some of that so you can see how things might change over time. But those two ideas, I think, are really helpful for educators to go back and have further conversations with their colleagues, but also do their own noticing and observations of what they see with young children that they work with.
Yeah, I often say and I think that's so true, Catharine. I often talk about never underestimate the power of the pause as an educator it's just really stopping and refining. It's a beautiful segue, although it'll be at the end of the discussion, but I'm actually going to ask participants to do a little bit of pausing and a little bit of observation around children and really get a sense before we move into our next webinar. But thinking about self-regulation children who are truly regulated and I'm talking about, this is not something that we see amongst three-year-olds, children who are regulated at five and six are those children who can wait their turn, they can sustain their attention, they can follow instructions, they can resist the temptation to grab something off another child, they consider the consequences of their actions, and they persist in the face of challenging activities. And from a kind of a dispositional perspective these are the children that are often more independent, they're more creative, they're curious, they show real initiative and perseverance. And it makes sense, everyone's sitting here and thinking about the child who can't wait their turn, who can't pay their attention. And it might be the Thursday group. You know, that group when you're going to work that morning you think, I just need to stop for my second coffee. Cause we know that self-regulation or children's self-regulatory abilities can really impact the climate of the learning environment. And we know, and this is why webinars such as this are so important and so popular, because children's behaviour is probably the most often cited cause of educator burnout. So it's really about how do we understand this better and how do we support children to behave in a way that makes them feel safe and secure but more importantly creates a platform for them to learn and engage. –
And I think you're also reminding us there too, Cathrine, of the importance of our collaborative work with our colleagues to think and plan about this. So often in some of my conversations with educators it's about putting more attention to this space rather than less and investigating in more detail so that you can make sure that your future decisions are going to take you to better outcomes for children and their families and indeed for educators as you remind us.
Absolutely, and the significance of self-regulation if you pick up the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, we see that across so many of the practice commitments and the frameworks. And we see here where within the context of respectful relationships and responsive engagement it talks about the importance of attachment relationships as a self-regulation. It talks about the importance of adults in those relationships in supporting children's wellbeing and their ability to regulate. But also having those kinds of secure, respectful relationships that support children's risk-taking which is important for their development. –
And I guess the other thing we'd want to remind people about too is that, is the way that the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework works, is a very interconnected relationship between all of those practice principles. So it's not one practice principle alone that makes the connections but it's the interweaving that delivers the outcomes to children that we're really looking for. And again, those outcomes people know them very well. I'm sure, if you go into those outcomes you'll see aspects of self-regulation in all of the outcomes across that space. And indeed we want to be talking to families about how we undertake that process. But using evidence-based approaches like Cathrine you're identifying, is something that will help to enhance the way we use the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework in our everyday practice. So really good reminders of going back into those documents, like we said at the beginning. But also using them to plan your future work which I'm sure you're going to tell us more about as we keep going.
Absolutely, and so we see that notion of empathy and children developing and emerging autonomy and that independence and resilience. This notion of community, and can I say that the idea of the early childhood context as a community is so integral to self-regulation. Because in order to self-regulate, children need to be able to pack their own needs and wants and to think about the needs of the broader community. And you can't do that as a toddler. Like in terms of there's an age, and I'll talk about this in a moment. There's a developmental underpinning to self-regulation. And as we move through the I of the toddler years to the we of that kind of preschool years that is when we start to see the emergence of those self-regulatory abilities. When they can start empathising with others, understanding others needs and wants. And the idea that sometimes I actually need to stop packing up because it's better for the group as a whole. So a lot of that is captured. And in terms of those learning aspects, Catharine, we'll really talk about how we foster these dispositions for learning and also how we create these kind of really rich learning contexts that have such an impact on children's behaviour.
And perhaps, it's also about us prioritising some of those and saying, actually some of the children that we work with they know some things already. So perhaps we ought to be spending more time in this focus and there'll be people in line here who are accessing school funding and a whole range of other sort of resources within their own organizations that can help them really focus their attention on some of this which is something that perhaps in your service hasn't got the attention it deserves. And the other thing is to of course, remind families about the outcomes that we were concentrating on in our practice that are indeed evidence-based. So we're again, referencing some of these strategies but paying attention to them and planning for them in an integrated way is a really positive way forward. And I think some of the educators here might be making mental notes about what else they might be having conversations with their colleagues. Perhaps over two years, as we have two years of funded kindergarten programs rolling out across Victoria. There'll be more opportunities for us to think about a trajectory over a period of time.
Absolutely, and I guess what we always ask our question to ourselves as educated, as researchers, is this even important? Like how important is this for children's wellbeing? How important is this for their trajectories? And I think when we asked the question about the importance of children's self-regulation, we know that it's critical. In fact, researchers and psychologists often referred to as self-regulation as being the biological underpinnings of learning and engagement. And in terms of focusing, like we know in terms of really ensuring that children are ready for life. We know that children who are able to negotiate they can make friends, they can engage in the learning environment. Yeah, they're ready for learning but they're ready for life. And we know that there's been research looking at the short-term impact of self-regulation. And we know there's research from Kate Williams who suggest that about 30% of children, so almost one in three children, start school with self-regulatory challenges. And that really places them at risk both in terms of their social emotional adjustment and trajectories but also their academic adjustment. The children who can't control their impulses, can't delay gratification, and they're fostering like after their own needs and wants and desires, then those children tend to be less popular with their friends. They also are more likely do we see higher rates of aggressive behaviour amongst these children. So it places them at risk of really maladaptive relationships. And the flip side is children who can't plan, who can't remember, who can't attend, o the cognitive components of self-regulation. We see that they do less well academically. So we see poor performance in terms of literacy and numeracy outcomes. So it is so critical to their success and wellbeing in the short term. But long-term, I'm not sure Catharine, if you're familiar with the Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study that was situated in Dunedin. So it's the longest running longitudinal study in the world. It started back in 1972. So it's kind of like our birth cohort and they followed a birth cohort, so just over a thousand babies that were born in Dunedin back in 1972, and they could still following them now. I think it's still got 96% of the original population in this study. And they did lots of measures. So there were health and other well-being measures. But one of the measures that they took was a measure of self control. And they found that children's self-control at three and five were predictive of variations in health, wealth, and criminality at age 32 . So children who experience poor self-control which is like a measure of self-regulation and we can see how that relates to behaviour, children who experienced poor self control tended to have more adult health problems, they were more likely to have drug and alcohol issues that were less financially planful. And when they looked at the population, 24% of the population of that cohort had committed a crime and had been convicted of a crime. When they looked at that sub-sample they were the children who scored very poor on self-control. And that was after controlling for things like IQ and socioeconomic status. So it's critical.
And I think Cathrine, you're reminding us too, that the research around this is substantial. And I think it's really important that we pay attention to evidence-based practice and evidence-based research that's coming through as well as being more informed. I think, when we have our conversations with our colleagues in primary education when children are transitioning, and of course, you all know here online that we've got a commitment to transitions to school that see children as ready to go whenever they end up in school and that schools are ready for them. But educators who are capturing some of the learning and supporting children's learning in the years before they go to school can really emphasize some of the work here so that children have smoother transitions into more formalized school settings. And we can have conversations with our colleagues in the early years of school about some of the strategies we're using to support children's regulation. And we can perhaps share those strategies across early childhood into school. And I guess we've got a better and stronger understanding of what we mean by children's self-regulation. And also, the strategies we adopt in early childhood can be shared with colleagues as they move into the early years of school.
Absolutely. And I mean, I'm a strong advocate for the first 2000 days. They lay the foundation for children's life trajectories and life successes. And I'm an advocate for our life readiness rather than, necessarily getting ready for the next phase. But I think, really, I cannot speak more highly of the importance of the early childhood educator in creating that rich trajectory for children particularly across all learning domains but particularly when it comes to children's self-regulation. - And feeling more confident about what we know and understand about self-regulation so that we can make the decisions in early childhood that support children and then feel like they can move in a really positive way into their early years of school. I think that sort of changes the conversation.
Yeah, absolutely. And can I say you're all going to feel really confident about this by the end of this webinar.
Indeed, indeed. So, keep going, Cathrine. –
You'll be on the screen instead of Cathrine and I. But in terms of, if self-regulation is so important then how to children learn to regulate their emotions and thoughts and behaviours? And I guess the one thing that is critical is children aren't born with the capacity to inhibit responses, to direct their attention, to problem solve. They're born with the capacity or the potential to do that. And whether or not they reach that potential really depends on the relationships and the context in which they're kind of exposed to. And learning to control our impulses, to pay attention, to retain information is something that happens gradually.. And it starts in those early years, those first 2000 days. So I want to talk a little bit around, when I talked about the evidence-base, when we're talking about children's behaviour, Catharine, there's a number of different research realms that we need to draw on. So we need to look at psychology. We need to look at neuroscience. We need to look at pedagogy and practice research. And we also need to look at areas around child development.
All in 20 minutes, Cathrine. So, here we go, let's get going.
All in 20 minutes. So this is like, buckle up people we're going to go through a quick journey through the first five years. But I do really want to really talk about brain development for a moment because I think this is critical when it comes to children's behaviour and self-regulation. And nowhere do we see the debate around nature and nurture play out more effectively than in the realm of self-regulation. And we know that our genes when we're born kind of create a blueprint for how we're going to turn out. But it's our relationships and the quality of the relationships within our environments to which we're exposed that literally sculpt our brain. When we think about how self-regulation develops and this is kind of a little bit of a directional response. The idea is that, when we're born parts of our brain are yet to develop. So there's these growth principles that we refer to as proximodistal cephalocaudal. So the idea is that we develop in-out, and top-down. So the idea is that we're really influenced by the environments that we're exposed to. And so we really need to think about the thinking part of our brain, that cortex, is really influenced by our environment. So if children are exposed to rich and responsive environments then we see rich brain growth and development and they're primed for engaging with their environment and governing their behaviours. The flip side is if they're exposed to what I would refer to as socially toxic environments, it actually places them risk in terms of their engagement and development. So I want us to think a little bit about that and also consider the multiple contexts in which children operate. So the idea is, if we think about children they're influenced by their family, their environment, the broader context and the genes. Children do well when there's a sense of consensus and connection across the multiple contexts in which children operate. So the idea is if there's clear expectations and consensus between what's happening in the family and what's happening in the early childhood environment, then we say that they behaviours are more engaged, they're positive, and they do well. But when there's a mismatch between these expectations and children are placed at risk. So everyone here I'm sure everyone's familiar with the Marshmallow Experiment. So it was an experiment that was designed by Walter Mischel, back in the 1960's that looked at children's ability to kind of delay gratification. So the idea behind the experiment, Catharine, is that the children were presented with a marshmallow. And they were said, "If you can wait 20 minutes and don't eat the marshmallow, you'll get two marshmallows." And so, and it was a measure of whether children could delay their gratification and wait for the two marshmallows. So about a third of children can wait and about two thirds can't. And the children who can wait, predicts all kinds of really positive outcomes in terms of behaviour and development and learning. I'm using that as an example, because I want you to think about how our reaction shapes children's expectations and behaviours. So I want you to imagine the child who was promised the second marshmallow, and they wait and they wait and they wait the 20 minutes and then they never get it. So the child who's brought up in a context where they say, "If you're quiet and leave me alone, I'll play with you later." "If you do that, I'll buy you something." And it never happens. What does that do to that child's behaviour and expectations of adults and the environment? For me, I'm going to say, "I'm going to eat that first marshmallow straightaway because the second marshmallow is never happening and never coming." And so that's the child in your environment who doesn't know how to share, who fights for resources, he's competitive because they've learned through interactions, that they need to look out for themselves. And that is their expectations. So when we're thinking about social, emotional, learning and it's quite unique to other domains of learning it requires, I'm learning, as well as the learning of new skills. So we need to shift children's expectations so they know they can trust you as an adult. And that, that second marshmallow will come if they wait.
And Cathrine, there's a couple of comments here about people with large group sizes and there's a whole lot of complexity around there. The structures they have in their own services and people are keen to hear practical strategies. I guess what we're doing here is to really contextualize those practical strategies that we're going to talk about in subsequent webinars. And I think what we're doing here is providing the platform the underpinning thinking space. So indeed, a practical suggestion about some of the things you're talking about, is to take some of these big ideas into a staff meeting where you can talk about what you understand about some of these things. Do you really understand what self-regulation is? Do you understand what some of the expectations of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, mean in this context? So it's really a very important beginning step as you start to investigate particular practical strategies which we will get to.
Absolutely, and this really is the why and the rest of the webinars are the what we do. But we actually need to understand what are the needs of the different children and how do we respond to them accordingly. I just want to talk a little very very briefly and quickly about the notion of the self-regulatory brain. And I want you to think about the notion of the ship. So the idea is we had two components of our brain. We have our downstairs brain which is kind of like our primitive brain. And that's the brain that's about survival. So it controls our breathing, it controls our response to kind of critical things around fear. And then we have our upstairs brain which is really a thinking brain. And that's the brain that helps us make decisions, it's around our problem solving, and our empathy, and our rational thinking. It helps us kind of decide what we're going to problem solve and our flexibility. Now, the idea is that, if we are going to behave appropriately, we need both parts of the brain. We need the downstairs brain and the upstairs brain. And they work together beautifully. Like a ship, we need the hull not to have holes in it but we want the captain on the deck. So when we're talking about kind of big emotions and problems, often when we see children kind of experiencing really big emotions they're actually sitting in the downstairs brain. They're in their emotional brain. When we're working with children, and I want you to really think about this is because all of the practices that we focus on assume children are thinking, that they're there on the deck of their ship. And so, we're giving them problem solving strategies, we're discussing their behaviour, but if they are in their emotional brain, their fight or flight brain, then they're actually not able to think effectively. So when you're seeing a child who's having a big emotional meltdown, you're trying to kind of settle them and they're not able to settle, they are in their downstairs brain. So I want us to think a little bit about that because we're going to revisit that. And the ladder is critical. And I want to say the ladder because we want both sides. We want movement across. But you as the educator are the ladder. You help children move from their survival brain to their thinking brain. And a lot of the practices that we're going to engage with in the other webinars is around how do you move children from their heightened emotions up to the thinking brain? And how do we support them to do that?
And maybe, Cathrine, that's a very good practical suggestion. It's to use that analogy and have a conversation about the children that you work with to see how that works in your space. So that would really lead to some great reflective practice thinking.
Absolutely. Now, as well as thinking about the neuroscience we also need to borrow from child development. So from a developmental perspective in terms of self-regulation, and this is the complexity, this is why challenging behaviours are so challenging Catharine, because they they're complex. In terms of self-regulation, children move from a phase of other-regulated when you're an infant. When parents decide, when will we try to decide, when they're going to sleep, and eat and change nappies. And then we move into this phase of what we call co-regulation. And this is a much more, like this is an interactive process of self-regulatory support where children are supported by adults. And then we move to one of self-regulation which is much more independent. But I do want to say that where previously it was believed that we needed to end at this point of self-regulation where children were independent and could able to regulate their own emotions and thoughts. What we know now, is that they move between self-regulation and co-regulation. And at times of stress, like what's happening at the moment around COVID, children need support from close supportive relationships from adults. And they move around that co-regulation. We also know that there's domain specific. So children move from being able to regulate their behaviours and their physical behaviours, then able to move and control their emotional behaviours. And the last component of self-regulatory development is what we call the cognitive component. And this continues to develop until we're around 20-23, . But just as they're sensitive to the periods for things like attachment. So we know the first 12 months of a child's life is particularly sensitive for developing attachment relationships. When it comes to self-regulation, the period from three to five is the most sensitive period for the development of these skills. And that means early childhood educators play a critical role in fostering children development.
And of course, the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, has an emphasis on children's development so that we do know that space. So again, really knowing children well, knowing what we mean by healthy development over time is a really important part of educators engaging with these big ideas.
So I just want to finish this session really just kind of thinking a little bit around how do we support children to self-regulate? And this is just getting us to stop thinking about those big behaviours. And there's really three broad categories that we really need to think about in supporting or fostering children's behaviour and self-regulatory development. And it's really thinking about adult influences. So how do we create warm and responsive relationships? Do we display affection for children? Do we model self-regulation in terms of our behaviours? Do we support children at times of stress? The environments around how do we structure our environments so that it makes self-regulation manageable for children? Are they emotionally and physically safe? Are there clear expectations? Are there goals? Do children have a voice? And these will be unpacked really deeply in our next webinars.
And I think also Cathrine, you're reminding us of the elements of Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework which are that triple helix. And when I'm talking about this there'll be a lot of people who are nodding now that their connection between that adults in that space the educator in that space, really supporting children in really clear ways as well as of course responding to children's ideas, their curiosities, as well as having that really strong connection between adults and children making some of those decisions. So it's worth reminding us about the fact that is a really important part of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework.
And they're interconnected. So what does the child bring to the environment? How does that environment interact with adult influences? And so it's really dynamic and it's complex. And we need to wear multiple lenses if we're going to... We can't just focus on child skills. We can't just think about the environment. And we need to think about what we bring to that environment, but also that past history of experiences that children have had with key adults in their lives.
Obviously, the enrolment process is really important, doesn't it? The process that you engage with families right at the very beginning. And again, you could think very practically about how you do some of that work and also how you continue to think about some of those strategies in that diagram that you've given us. Because I think that's a really helpful conversation to have with colleagues. Keep going, Cathrine, we're nearly at the end.
We got a little bit more to go. I want you to just think about self-regulation as a muscle. So in much the same way that when we use our muscles if we use them a lot, and I'm putting this like I'm raising my arms with an invisible bar, but they become weakened and they become challenged. So they'd become overused. And so what we know, is that there are certain aspects of our environment and there's certain qualities of adult relationships and connections with children that tire our muscles and make it more difficult for children to regulate. Like it's not a surprise that we often see children have tantrums at the end of the day when they're overtired and overwrought. Or often at birthday parties, we see children get particularly challenging in terms of those behaviours. And that's just because I've been behaving myself all day and I just can't do it anymore. And so when we look at the timings and the fluctuations of the day, this is something that I want you to think about. Are there times during the day that actually place children at risk of engaging in these big behaviours? So in terms of the routes to behaviours, and this is our other R, there are a number of factors that can kind of place children at risk of experiencing challenging behaviours. And not surprisingly, we're seeing a kind of an increase in challenging behaviours at the moment as a result of global things like COVID. We've experienced significant issues around the bush fires. So children experienced this directly and it increases their stress, but they also experience it indirectly through the disruption that it has on their relationships with key, like with educators and with parents and families. So I want us to think about that. We also know that there's very strong social determinants that influence children's behaviours. There's this very strong relationship between children who are brought up in very low socioeconomic areas or poverty and heightened behaviours. And again, it's not the low SES that's the problem, it's the stresses that surround being brought up in a challenging environment in terms of those experiences and the risk that it plays. So I want to talk just a little briefly about some of these in relation to stress. And I just want to touch on this very briefly because I think this is something a lot of people are talking about trauma. I talk about stress. And certainly there's some stress that's traumatic but there's also normal stress. And I want to make that really important, kind of emphasize the importance of allowing children to experience some level of stress because tolerable stress builds resilience in terms of the children's behaviour. They need to learn that there are challenges that they don't always get things right. And that provides a platform for problem solving, which we're really going to talk about in our webinar on those practices. What we need to protect children from, however, is this notion of traumatic stress or chronic stress. And traumatic stress are things like COVID and those kinds of experiences that happen in violence or hospitalization. Chronic stress is probably our most concern for those of you who are seeing big behaviours with children. We know things like being exposed to abuse and neglect or chronic poverty really impacts children's brains. And they kind of get rewired in a way that it's not about learning, and we're naturally born to learn. But what we find is children who experience chronic and constant and ongoing and pervasive levels of stress, it rewires their brain for survival. So what happens is they functioning constantly in the hull of the boat. So the idea is that the bottom part of our brain which is we call it our amygdala and hippocampus. So our amygdala or Amy as we like to call her. Her job is to protect us. Protect us from things. She's primitive. We're born with Amy. So the idea is that, you put your hand on a hot stove, Catharine, and you pull your hand off before you even have time to think that's hot, it's burning. So that's Amy, she's looking after us. And the hippocampus, which is like the memory around that. So that idea is all of us we'll have memories where we smell something and we get this response and (indistinct) our brainstem.
And Cathrine, if people are really concerned about individual children, would we be recommending that they make connections with other professionals and they seek out partnerships with child health nurses, other professionals and therapists? Because at some point we might go actually, I'm a bit outside my depth here I need to actually speak to other professionals.
Yeah, absolutely. And in terms of the continuum of challenging behaviours there's behaviours that we can do something about in the learning environment and then there's behaviours where children require additional support. And we'll certainly be talking about those in our webinars as well. We're going to have a psychologist come to talk to us and we'll talk about some of those practices. But what I want you to think about, and this is some of the frustrations that we're faced with as parents and as educators, this idea, I call it the amygdala hijack. So it's this idea is that the information... So we're faced with a stressful experience and it goes into Amy and Amy goes, "This is a scary experience I need to deal with it straight away." And she stops any information getting through to our thinking brain. And our thinking brain is the one who problem solves, reflects, and learns. But what happens with the amygdala hijack, it's like we're in that bottom part of the brain, it's like there's been a mutiny and they've taken the captain and dragged the captain downstairs down that ladder, getting downstairs, the ladder is gone, we can't see the ships coming the other way, we can't see the big waves, we can't see the turbulence. And that's where we're sitting in terms of that high levels of stress. Children who experience chronic and pervasive stress are in that bottom half of their brain. So their whole life, Catharine, is like a red hot stove and they become sensitive to stress. And these are the children, these are the big behaviours that we're talking about and how do we support? So in our webinar three, we're going to talk about how we make that ladder strong enough to bring them back up on the deck.
And Cathrine, we're right at the end of our first webinar, is there any last sort of minute things you'd like to share with us as we farewell our people who have joined us today?
I do, and I just want to jump forward. I'm going to ask for a little bit of... We're going to do some homework, if that's okay with everyone.
Yes, take home reflection, I think is what we're going to call it, Cathrine.
Dan Siegel talks about this notion of "Windows of Tolerance". So the idea is that we all have a window where we feel calm, where we feel connected, where we feel regulated, and we can confront challenge. So when children are outside that window of tolerance, where we're seeing really aggressive and big behaviours or where we're seeing that they've kind of frozen, then they can't function. So what I want us to think about and all of you here and all of you have a child in your mind straightaway, I'm sure they do.Because this is the child that we're going to think about in terms of guiding the behaviours. Because if we can get it right for this child we can get it right for all the other children. So I want you to think about this child and between now and when we see each other again, I'm going to really get you to observe and look at when those big behaviours occur. And I want you to look at when those big behaviours occur and what takes them outside their window of tolerance. So as a parent, what might take you out of a window of tolerance? Might be when your two-year-old has a tantrum. So you'll know that there are triggers. But you actually need, and you talked about that observation previously, Catharine, that's so critical. I want you to really step back and observe. Are there times in the day when it happens? Is it when they're with particular children? Is it when they have to fight for resources? Is it first thing in the morning because something's happened on the way to the service?
It's a very practical invitation that you're giving us there. I think is really asking us, and it's a practical strategy. It's going and observing more deeply, looking really closely, coming back with a really informed sense of what's happening with the with the group that you work with. And we know that there are some groups of 33 here. So you might want to share that task with your colleagues and say, let's all look really deeply. As we prepare to come back and have some further conversations.
And can I encourage you to actually really focus on the same child because the different kind of lenses that you bring. So, maybe don't focus on 30 different children have actually a system where you do your observations independently but then you come back. Cause what we're trying to do is we're trying to find out what is the size of a child's window. So children who are pretty stressed have a pretty small window. I mean, some of us might have a pretty small window at the moment with everything that we've juggled over the last 18 months. So we want to find out what's the size of their window but also what are the factors or the triggers that take us outside the window and map it across the day. So look at those experiences and come back with that because then we're going to think about how do we get him back into that window? And then what do we do afterwards to support them in terms of developing these self-regulatory skills that will set them up.
Thank you so much, Cathrine. I think there's so much food for thought here. Remember that there will be a recording so you can go back and have a look and share it with some colleagues. And also you can start to consider some of the things that really resonate with you. Things that you've probably already tried and you think actually that's really reminds me of that's a really good important strategy. Go back into the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, re-investigate those ideas in the sense that they inform and shape some of the thinking that we're doing here today. And as Cathrine reminds us, there will be opportunities for us to take all of these underpinning whys into a what space which is a much more practical. Thank you very much, Cathrine, for joining us. And thank you very much to everybody who's taken the time to join us online. Thank you very much, everybody. And see you next time, see ya. (upbeat music)
This session is a Q&A event, hosted by Catharine Hydon, with two experienced Victorian early childhood teachers and a clinical psychologist. The panel discusses successful behaviour guidance strategies, the role and impact of the learning environment, and the importance of working in partnership with families.
Good afternoon everybody and welcome to the second in the 'Guiding Children's Behaviour, regulation respect and relationships webinar series' brought to you by the Department of Education and Training in partnership with Early Childhood Australia. Before we start it's important that we pause for a moment and acknowledge the traditional owners on whose country we're all on. I acknowledge that we're here on the lands of the Kulin nation across Victoria and I want to particularly pay respects to elders past, present and the elders who are emerging in our early childhood education and care settings and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and educators that you work with. I particularly want to draw our attention to the words of Auntie Geraldine Atkinson, in the introduction to the Marrung Education Plan, that encourages us all, to embed reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into our daily work and make sure that the doors are held wide open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families. My name is Catharine Hydon and I would particularly like to welcome you to this second event. Thank you for those people who joined us last time and welcome back for you who've joined us the second time around and also welcome to people who haven't been here the first time. Remember the recordings are available, so you'd be able to go and check out what we talked about last week. I want to also particularly shout out to all of the educators across Victoria, who are really working very hard to support the wellbeing of children and families as we navigate these really fluid times. So thank you very much for the work that you do and thank you for taking the time to join us. We know that it's a busy time, it's a busy time any time of the day but thank you for making the time to be with us and great if you are joining with your colleagues and hopefully some of these ideas will spark further conversations and discussions in your own settings. As I said, my name is Catharine and I'll be your host today, we're going to be joined by an amazing panel of people who are going to share some very practical examples. And this is the opportunity for us to build on the why of the conversation we heard last time with Cathrine and think a little bit more about some of the practical applications as we navigate this space of supporting children's behaviour and thinking about their self-regulation. We know that there's a great need for this conversation, so hopefully there you're getting ideas that you can share with your colleagues. There's also going to be a series of online events that you can participate in. So as I said this is number two of a series of four, so there'll be other opportunities, we'll be joined next time by Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett again and some other practitioners as we navigate all these four events. So today's session is a panel discussion and soon we'll be joined by a panel of early childhood professionals, experienced professionals so we can dive further into guiding children's behaviour and as I said get some very practical suggestions. So the focus here is about guiding behaviour and regulation and respect and relationships for all children. So we're thinking very broadly about the ways in which we support all children in our program. We do know that you are working with children who have specific diagnoses, and you might be working with early intervention professionals. But our focus today is thinking very broadly about all the children who are in your services and that you work with on a regular basis to support their behaviour and support their regulation and the way they interact with other children in the program and indeed other adults. And this is the second as we said of the four sessions and last time you remember that Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett explored some of the underlying influences and factors in us understanding children's behaviour. And we're going to build on that with our panel conversation because that's going to be focusing on everyday practice, so some of the questions that you raised last time we're going to see if we can weave into the panel conversations as we go. We'll certainly do our best to incorporate some of the questions you have but if not, if we don't get a chance to do that today we're going to weave them into our conversations as we keep going. We'll make sure that we reference the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework because that's an essential part of the thinking that we're doing in terms of practical applications. And I note I'm sure that many of you are thinking about how these connects to your practice experiences. So make sure you keep a few notes and you can share those with your colleagues as you're making different decisions as you move forward. And of course we are wanting to make sure that this is a space that we as early childhood professionals can think about strength based approaches and how we can honour the rights and best interests of the children that we work with. And now we want to just recap a few of the ideas that we talked about last time. So just to refresh your memory I know lots of you are online, so you know about these but just for those of you who weren't here or for those of you who had a very busy week, and you want to refocus. You remember that we talked about three big ideas and Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett shaped that around for us in connection to the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. Thinking particularly about regulation, the role of self regulation is a key component of children's behaviour and engagement with the learning environment. And we'll hear more about the learning environment from Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett next time. And we also talked about respect, so again really strongly connecting to practice principles in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework about respectful relationships and the way we build partnerships with families. The important notion of respect for children, respect for children's culture and their family context, thinking about the amazing image that's in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework that focuses really strongly on the context for children and thinking about their relationships that they have, thinking about the ways in which we draw on what children already know can do and understand the context of our decisions. And of course the relationships that we have respectful relationships again a very prominent feature of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and a need for a strong connection and strong relationships that help us understand where children are at and then build the decisions that we will craft the decisions that we're going to make into an order to support children's self-regulation and to guide their behaviour. So some of these ideas will be picked up further from our panelists, who'll talk about the practical application of some of these in their everyday work with children. There's also an opportunity here and the next slide takes us to the way we built on those ideas. So we added a couple of really strong concepts that again connect with the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework that help us to expand our understanding of the why around behaviour and the why around self-regulation. And again we'll come back to some of those ideas in more detail when we speak to Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett next time. So one of those extra ones that we talked about was roots the idea again of common pathways to challenging behaviour, context of influence, the ways in which we can connect with the neighbourhood, the broader social context, families and help those big behaviours find a way to be navigated by the children that we work with. And the last one responses, so really thinking about the ways that we use assessment for learning and development and integrated teaching and learning approaches, good practices within the practice principles within the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework to create responsive environments, responsive pedagogical practices that really support children's needs and their behaviour and help children to be able to make some really strong decisions in their learning, in the context that they're working in. And again we're going to hear from our panelists who will help us understand what that might look like and I'm sure they're going to give some very practical ideas and advice about some of the things that have worked for them. And hopefully some of these will resonate with you and some of the ideas will be very new, so we'll look forward to hearing from them in just a moment. And the next slide is a particular image that resonated with lots of people. I've had lots of chats with educators in all sorts of different parts of Victoria, who, for whom this boat image really worked for them, that there was quite a number of educators who were really could connect with the idea of children being in that bottom downstairs brain and then wanting to support children through that ladder that scaffolding support to get to the upper deck, their upper upstairs brain. So lots of great conversations I'm sure that it had in your setting that gave you a sense of where children were up to and what your role was in terms of that scaffolding ladder of supporting children to be on their own deck, so to speak. So great analogy there that I'm sure would have worked with lots of you. So we're really keen to continue to hear from you about your ideas. So I also want to share with you a couple of things that came out of the conversations we had last time. So we've done a really good thing here of like drawing together some of your ideas. So thank you very much for those who shared them and continue to do so if you would like to share those again, if you find the chat distracting, please turn it off. But in the next slide we can show you a collection of really strong ideas that have helped us formulate what you think. So in that previous question we invited you once again to share your thoughts but in this word cloud you gave us a whole range of different challenges and thinking that you were doing around the work of supporting children's behaviour and also helping to support their self regulation. So those stories and ideas are really powerful and we thank you for that. I guess we want to just draw those together and get a sense of what we might take from that. I think we recognise that for some of you this is at times a bit of a stressful space and we know that you drawing on your professionalism to understand how you might shape the program to best meet the needs and interests of the children and that we're thinking about strength based approaches in our responses to children and their families. We also know that it's actually a really, a lot of the work that you're doing does work, it supports children, they change over time and some children make really big gains in the work that they do with you. And I also understand so I think it's worth noting that we hold a particular professional responsibility to do some of the heavy lifting in the thinking here so that we can start to share those ideas with families as we make decisions about how to shape programs that best meet children's needs. So some of the conversations we'll have with the panelists today might provide us with a bit more insight around that. We also know that educators make a range of decisions that make sometimes make it easier or more difficult for children to regulate. And some of you raise the group time conversation and we could probably talk for a week about group time but it's interesting to think about group time as an example. I mean how long are we asking children to sit together in a large group? Perhaps we might replace those with smaller group opportunities or go outside for example or indeed really rethink how group times can work effectively for the children that you work with. You all of you raise the issue of consistency, as you can say that's the biggest word in our word cloud and making sure that you're having conversations with educators, educator colleagues to make sure that the ideas you're thinking about align with the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, practise principles that they're focused on outcomes for children, they referenced children's contexts and that you have a plan about what you're going to do on a daily basis. Some of you raise the issue of inconsistency and how that really challenged the ways you were approaching your strategy. So again if that's something that you need to talk about with your colleagues I'd definitely put it on the agenda for your reflective practice meetings. And of course you talked to lots of, about different strategies in your pedagogical practice. And I think they're going to be lots more ideas that come from our panelists. So speaking of which we should get on to our panelist conversations. So we're going to bring up our panelists now and they're going to join us. And let me just introduce who we've got an our panel today. I'm going to ask them a couple of questions and we're going to have a bit of a conversation. I'd really like you to feel like you're joining us at the staff room table and that you can be part of the conversation by either putting things in the chat questions that you would like to share with us or indeed strategies that have worked for you and perhaps connections to some of the ideas that Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett talked about last time. So it's my absolute pleasure to welcome three panelists to our panel discussion today, Leanne Mits who's at Pope Road Kindergarten in Blackburn. She was the early childhood teacher of the year in 2019 and she's got about 30 plus years experience, she hasn't told us what the plus means in early childhood education and care. And she's taught in rural Victoria in Melbourne in a range of different settings. And she works in a community run standalone kindergarten and she's got multiple roles as many of you do nominated supervisor educational leader and the teacher of the three to five-year-old program. So thank you very much Leanne for joining us, we do have Sally. And Sally Quantrelle is from Central Kindergarten in Warrnambool roll all the way down in Warrnambool, so great that you can join us from Warrnambool Sally. Sally is also a very experienced early childhood teacher and the director and she leads a team of people at Central Kindergarten in Warrnambool. And she's very passionate about early childhood education and she's again 35 plus years working in Australia and internationally, so thank you very much for joining us Sally. And Teigan Leonard is a clinical psychologist, so we're broadening our horizons here and having people from different, with different disciplines and it's great and really reflective of what the Victorian Early Learning and Development Framework talks about in terms of our partnerships with other professionals, so fantastic to have you here Teigan. Teigan has a passion about helping people be the very best they can be and that's led you to become a psychologist and you're now someone who helps that work on a daily basis and you love seeing the work that happens with children and families to achieve things that they didn't think were possible, so you're a graduate of Monash University with a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Psychology and a Master's of Developmental Psychology, so thank you very much for being part of our conversation today. So maybe I will just start right off and say I'm interested in all three of your perspectives on why self-regulation and guiding children's behaviour is an important part of the work we do every day in early childhood education and care. So maybe Leanne I can start with you, why does this matter for us? Why is it important for children?
Thank you Catharine, I'm really thrilled to be here so thanks for the opportunity. I think there's a whole host of responses I could offer that and could I just start by saying that I think we have an amazing privileged role, you know, in early childhood education that has so much potential and we can bring so much creativity and so much of ourself to that work. And so to answer your question in relation to that first response it's because I think who we are as humans and who we are as citizens makes a difference to who we bring to the classroom and to the groups of children that we work with. And I think one of the opportunities but also the responsibilities that we have as professionals in the early childhood space is as we all know through our studies at university and or diplomas or whatever it is that we're doing, that we're looking at the child holistically. This is not, the Early Years Learning and Development Framework isn't a curriculum that has a content that needs to be delivered. And so as early childhood educators, we, I believe are looking at children holistically so that we're supporting children for lifelong learning and life trajectories. And that's amazingly exciting but also full of a huge responsibility.
So in thinking about what to chat with us with the group today I looked up another analogy, I love your boat one, but another analogy is like a car and the work of Dr. Stewart Shanker talks about if you're trying to stick to 25 kilometers an hour on a car to drive a car at that same speed, you need to regulate your gears, you need to regulate your driving according to the wind and the road and all the other drivers on the road. And some of us can do that better than others and that takes a long time to learn the knack of that to achieve that outcome if that's the goal. And I think self-regulation, if I think of it like the boat or I think of it like the car analogy, it takes time and it's really complex. And, you know, I think if we're really honest I think there's a lot of primary school children, secondary school children, adolescents and let's face it adults that maybe don't always have the self-regulation that we wish we had. And I'll be really honest in this space, I was on my lower deck today at work, me as the adult. When I looked at your screen just then I had a moment this afternoon with 25 four to five year olds. And I was the only person with the majority of the group we were outside because my other two colleagues were inside doing other things that needed their absolute attention in one in the bathroom and one somewhere else. And I actually had to put a few things into place that I've actually never before today done before to make sure I got myself on the top deck so that I could support children to be on the top deck. And I think I'm just giving you this sharing because the reality is, I think from the time children are born they're learning how the child, the world works and how they work within it. And so this space of early childhood that we have the privilege and the pleasure and the responsibility of working in is the space where so much from a neurological perspective that learning and growing and sorting out and understanding it happens. And I feel like I just want to touch quickly on that word self-regulation in terms of it's not in my view it's not managing children's behaviour it's guiding children's behaviour and I know you haven't said managing in this space but I think it's just worth pointing out that when I went to uni a long time ago, I don't feel like that was pointed out to me well enough and that's something that I've had to grow to come to understand. Well I guess just in finishing this little part for me is that I tell you this scenario about today that was really tricky. I put a strategy into place that I pulled out of my back pocket, I've never done before I had to get myself onto the top deck of the boat 'cause I wasn't doing well today in this little moment of time. And I had to say, that's okay, I'm a human being and that's what happens to children too. And so it's a great thing and an important thing for us to aim for but always remember the complexity of it. It's not linear, it goes up and down and go backwards like a dance all the time. I think it's an interesting space.
Yeah thank you Leanne and thank you for sharing that because I think there's probably a lot of people online who think oh, actually self-regulation doesn't just, we don't get to a point and we go we're all done, it's something that we work on over time and we also know that for some of you, you're seeing children for one year. One year in the time that they are learning in these really substantial things. So I'd love to come back and talk a little bit more about the ideas you had in your back pocket, so hold that thought. Sally what about you? Why is self-regulation and guiding children's behaviour an important part of the work you've done over many, many years and important for children?
Look I think Leanne touched on a few of those points, what I was thinking when I reflected on this was the point that when children are in their preschool year, the four to five-year-old year, this might be the first time they've really had to consider in any great extent the impact of their behaviour on anyone else around them. They might be in a small group, might be in the large group, it might just be on their one person they're hoping to develop a friendship with. So they're actually really starting to think about what I'm doing and how I'm behaving and how I'm looking and how I'm sounding impacts on the person that's near them or a large group. It could be the adults, it could be the children but they're often making their first real friends. So it really has quite an impact on how they feel about themselves, how they look to other children. So that starting to understand how you affect other people in a group setting then builds into how you develop relationships, developing relationships with the educators, with the children around you and I feel in the way we learn together in a group setting like this, a lot of it's based on relationships. And so you have to have those understandings about each other and that ability to monitor the way you affect other people to then be able to establish that which in turn leads to that engagement with learning. And that safe engagement, in a safe space that we can all be comfortable and engaged in learning together.
And I love the way you're connecting it with relationships because that's such an important part of navigating the rest of your life, really trying to figure out how to be connected to other people how to drive that car, how to get to the upper deck, how to figure out, you know, who that person is in relation to me, it's quite a sophisticated process. And I guess that's one of the reasons why Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett took us into that why space, you know, why is this important? And I think you've reminded us of some of those things. Teigan, what about you? What would you say about the importance of self regulation and guidance for children's behaviour? All children not just children who might be diagnosed with something, etc but you know the whole of the group that we're working with.
Yeah and I think Leanne and Sally covered it so beautifully that it's not just about self-regulation itself, but it allows so much more learning to occur when, whether it's a child or an adult is feeling regulated. I guess extending on some of the things Leanne in particular was talking about one of my passions in supporting children to regulate and that guidance and support is that it allows us as the adults in the room to also feel more regulated ourselves which means we can provide better quality programs and learning opportunities and relationship development with the children that we're supporting. So by supporting different levels of regulation within the classroom we're allowing not just children to be in a space where they can learn and engage but we're allowing ourselves to be in a space where we can get a lot of satisfaction from the role and support children to learn and engage in other things as well.
It's a deeply satisfying space, I guess you know, we're going to hear from our practitioners here to say, what ideas actually work. And when you see children figuring out some of those things, as you say that they're quite complex, there is a deep satisfaction as a professional, you think actually really supported children to be able to learn new things and indeed their families to learn new things about children. And indeed when we learn new strategies like Leanne reflecting on then we get the opportunity to add that to our repertoire. And I guess you're hearing today from experienced professionals who have had lots of practice which is one of the reason why they asked them to be here. And I guess we want to be kind on ourselves too and know that there's a learning process over time that we're acquiring new skills over time. And we also want to have these conversations back and forth with other professionals so we can build our repertoire, so I know many people are undertaking that work as we speak. So let me go back around and see whether we can identify some particular practice principles, I think we're going to draw from the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework here particularly that might really resonate with you about, that help you identify strategies. So as of course, you all know we have a suite of practice principles in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework partnerships with professionals partnerships with families, assessment for learning. We have integrated approaches, we have reflective practice a whole suite of different ideas here. But I'm wondering whether we can hear, maybe start with you Sally, is there a particular, one of those practice principles that you think is really important as you start to make practical decisions around supporting children's behaviour and supporting their self-regulation? Do you have a reference point that you'd go to in that conversation?
Oh that's an interesting point when you asked me to think about that because I looked through all the principles and I found things that I could hang a hook on and nearly all of them and I said, okay go back and really think about which one covers what you want most. I almost went with integrated approaches, I almost went with partnership with parents but then I actually went back and looked at reflective practice and how that actually is part of the whole learning cycle. And in fact, all of those other things that came up to me fell into that because it's about gathering that information. You might be making a set of observations or a chart to find out when certain behaviours are happening, what the trigger is, who's there, what time of day it is. And then you gather that information from what you observed as a child, you gather information from the families. You might gather observations from the other staff, have a chat to them about whether they've been seeing, any specialists, any PDs, you draw in strategies that you might have used before with another child that might've worked who had similar behaviours. So you then look at your pedagogy, you look at what's happening in the room. How have you run the schedule? What experience have you got out? Are you doing enough indoor outdoor time? So you're really pulling all of those things together and reflecting on how they fit together in the context of this child's behaviour or self-regulation that you're working with. So for me, I think the reflective practice seemed to be the one that resonated most to me when I was thinking about it because it draws all of those things together. Then you okay, let's have a go let's try that new strategy. Let's pull out of the back pocket and have a go and see with all of those things in place that we know, is this going to be the thing that works? Yeah it worked, oh no it didn't. Let's go back through the cycle again and look back again and see whether we've got something else that we might've gone to, oh that PD we had the other day, oh that webinar we went to with Catharine. Remember she mentioned that works. So I think reflective practice for me as the one that resonated most, it draws everything together.
And you've helped us out no end there Sally, we didn't even prepare this in advance is that actually Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett at the in our first webinar invited all of the people who were present to go and do some observations and getting more information. And I think there's a real important message there as sometimes that we're trying to, we quickly go to want to fix something, but maybe we need to step back and engage really strongly with the planning cycle. And I know of course there are situations that you need to immediately respond to, I absolutely understand that. But maybe we can go and find out more information and use that planning cycle, use that reflective practice process to try to.
Really important if it's, a particular challenging behaviour and I've had a recent conversation with a parent and I said, let's just pick one, let's just work on that one thing 'cause there were several things and yeah we worked hand in hand with just the one thing and that little boy has actually moved on really quite quickly from that behaviour because we're working together with a similar strategy and supporting each other. The other thing that I came across accidentally, a piece of spare paper that I sort of quickly moved was a chart that I made up about some challenging behaviour a couple of years ago. And it was basically a chart and it was the different behaviours, it was hitting, it was biting, it was kicking and it was, had dates, had times. And I did that for a couple of weeks to actually really hone down to what was going on.
What was going on.
and then we worked with it, yeah.
Knowledge is power, isn't it Sally? So if we actually have data, our own data created by us, sometimes the situation, sometimes it's going to warrant some further conversations and perhaps Teigan you can help us to know when would we need to get further information and when we would need to ask some other professionals. But sometimes when we collect our own data we realise, oh hold on a second, the situation is not as bad as I thought or it doesn't happen as much as I've thought. And I love the idea Sally that you're engaging your other colleagues in that process. So a bit more about that, why do you get your colleagues to be part of that thinking process?
Because probably part of one of the most powerful things and I'm very fortunate in the centre in that I'm at at the moment I have two very experienced colleagues two educators who work with me and they will see things that I don't see, I can't be there 100% of the time for 100% of the children. So I really value their input and we talk as I'm sure everyone does, we talk every single day about the children in particular things we've noted, today we had a bit of a chat and noted a few things at the end of the day, but I encouraged them to also make those notes, it's not just to me to do, they have a lot of important information. They will have chats to the children or parents that I don't hear, that they fill me in on things that I would have missed out, so we put the puzzle together.
Yeah great, thank you so much for that really thinking about the way you use reflective practice. And so again, some of you might be sitting here thinking actually I really do need to generate a bit more of an engagement around that process so that we've got a bit of a rigorous process around gathering information. So Teigan, do you want to take us through a practice principle that particularly resonates for you as we navigate this space?
I think the main one that's obvious to me as the educator on the panel is the partnership with professionals. I have, whilst I am not an educator, I have experience working in the early education space both working alongside and building partnerships with early educators, but also as an early education and care manager for a short stint across some long day care centres. So I have seen it from both sides, and I think one of my big passions and learning within that is looking at how that partnership is established and what the goals of it are and defining clear roles within it. And the, I think our comfort zone when we're looking at a challenging situation is what we know really well and what we would try in. And so as a psychologist I will often come at it from quite a clinical way of thinking and we'll have the education approach and the language between the two doesn't always align even if we're meaning the same things. And the way that I might say something might really be triggering for someone else and very much not how we talk in this space and vice versa. So the way that I've seen some beautiful partnerships and the most effective partnerships be built is in what we call the transdisciplinary model. So we've got multidisciplinary with these different disciplines who do their own thing. So you've got a psychologist who looks at it from a psychology perspective. Speech pathologist who looks from the speech pathology perspective the educator from the educational perspective. And you bring all that to the table and that's great. I think that's our comfort zone. But what the research shows us is most effective is that transdisciplinary approach where we start to get some role release. So we genuinely work together to, as the psychologist I release some of my role and provide the appropriate training and support, for you to be able to be competent to do that as an educator or as another therapist. But it also has to happen the other way, I needed to educator that I'm working in partnership with to release some of their roles into me so I can build up that shared language. I can understand what their goals are and where they're at in their planning cycle. And so bringing I guess that transdisciplinary model to be a true partnership. So when you walk into a room if there's a professional in the room, my ideal scenario and I've seen it work beautifully is that you don't know who the psych, you don't know who the teacher is because everyone's on the same page.
And you want to be generating that sense in your service to on a daily basis. Because for example some children might find arrival to the early childhood program a little bit stressful, some of us all find coming into a new space a little bit stressful, some children, you know don't mind it at all. But you can imagine if say you're a person at the front desk at an early childhood service and you have an administrative role. Your role in welcoming the children and saying, hello and you know giving that really fantastic welcome right at the front door, I know some of you don't have services that have that sort of shape to them, but some of you do. That there's a way that we can involve people in administration, the cook. You know, all these different people who are part of it, people who might regularly visit you from your approved provider or from your early years manager, a whole range of different people, as well as clinicians as you say, maternal and child health nurses, we're all working together. And I think that's the, we know that happens for children who have particular diagnoses, but we want to make sure that partnership works also for all children. So that helps to build your capacity to understand children in more detail.
Yeah and I think having the, there's always that risk for that role release that we go too far and we assume we can do everything, I will never be a great educator. I know some of the principals, I can talk the talk but I'm never going to be as good as someone who specialises in that. And so knowing those boundaries and knowing when to refer on and bring in that additional support. So you mentioned before when to refer on children when things are getting too much.
Tricky yeah and maybe we'll come back to that Teigan in terms of practical strategies because I think that is helpful to say when is it that I need to do that? Because of course, for many children as both Sally and Leanne had suggested that this is just the normal part of navigating your day, but there might be a time when you might need to go, okay what do I need to do next? So we might come back to that in terms of practical strategies. Leanne how about you? What of the practice principles in the Victorian Early Years and Development Framework particularly stands out to you? I'm sure you will be fierce agreement with some of the things that we've said already but what's your thoughts?
Do you mind if I just respond to something that Teigan said?
Before I respond to that Catharine please. Teigan when you were talking then I was thinking about being an 18 year old at uni which was some time ago and what my image of an educator or teacher was at that point of my training. And then when I'd finished uni and I was one year, two year, five years, 10 years, 15, 20 years out of uni, my image of the teacher kept shifting and changing because I began, I feel like I began to come to know myself in a different way in this space and I was re-defining and re-imagining what my image of a teacher is of an educator. And I feel like what you've just described is exactly what happens in our practice and probably everyone that's here today all have connections with all of those other professionals the way we need to work together. I can tell you with my hand on my heart, when I went to uni I had no idea that that would probably be the work that I was doing. And so I think I, Catharine I just wanted to take a moment to say that, I know I transgress a bit but I think our image of children is really important and if we see children as capable and competent, it will and we go into moments with children and moments of learning and living with children. I always say to families that we live at kindergarten together.
Yeah we do.
We don't just learn at kindergarten together we live here all day, all week, all year. And so we enter this space with children with an image of a strong, capable, competent, curious child. But I think we have to also say, well what is my image of myself, ourselves? Then I asked myself what is my image of the environment and the impact that that has, what is my image of education, what is education for? And then to get to your point, what is image of families? And so I am fiercely agreeing with what Sally said, And I think reflective practice just covers all things, It's like this umbrella for all things, but in relation to families, I think the thing that I've learned and it took some time to learn this is that I think listening just, it just cannot be emphasised enough. And you know, in the space of reconciliation if we go there for a quick moment, it really is predominantly about listening, it's about relationships, it's about respect. And so if we're talking about children and self-regulation is that not about listening? Is that not about relationships and respect? And so I think I've come to understand Carla Rinaldi form Reggio Emilia talks a lot about the pedagogy of listening and I would really encourage people to look into that more deeply, if that is something you'd like to do. And she talks about listening for information and understanding rather than listening to have a reply.
This is good advice, isn't it?
Yeah that practice principle about engaging with families and the participation in families, just those words, engagement with families, participating with families, I see them to be much deeper than families being involved. And I think we need to maybe unpack some of the words that we use sometimes maybe without just thinking about them with intent. And so some of our reflective practice could be about well is participation of families the same as families being involved? Is the engagement of families the same? I don't think they are, but I think we all need to work out what that is for ourselves.
So for us they're different. And so for me, the practice principle about the engagement with families is really critical and could I just tell a quick story, maybe that gives an example of that.
We're currently meeting with families about whether children moving on to school next year or having a second funded year of kinder might be in the best interest for their children. So we're having some really challenging conversations with some families and the responses that we're getting back from families couldn't be more different. So some families nearly wrapped their arms around you. One father had his hands like this and he wasn't being religious but he was being very spiritual in saying thank you for bringing this to our attention. And because of my and our relationship with his family, we could have that hard conversation. But then other families, some were very rude in fact and some were very hurtful and I left in tears to be honest at one meeting last week. And it doesn't get easier sometimes, but I have to keep telling myself I need the family as much as they need me, we are a partner, we are, we have to be.
A partnership yes.
Exactly and so I had to find another way to be with that family that they left upset and I left upset because yeah there would be many reasons for it.
And I guess Leanne what you're reminding us of there is the importance of ethical relationships with families, those partnerships that we create to give the context around who children are and how they navigate that space. Because you know, for some families a conversation around children's self-regulation and their behaviour is going to be something that, you know that sounds okay, that's something that I might've been talking about at home with my family, etc, but for potentially for other families it's a difficult conversation. So we can just talk practically for a second, do you talk about children's behaviour and self regulation with all families? Do you talk about that?
We do it in different ways at different times of the year and through different examples.
But the bottom line is yes. And we do it in different ways that that looks different, there's a small bit of it in our philosophy, there's a small bit of it on our website, there's a bit of a parent handbook. We unpack it at the parent night in February when families are first being welcomed in some of the exchanges that go home with families with documentation of children's learning, we link it into some of the learning that's going on, very much especially in those early days where we're talking about children developing a sense of identity, place and belonging at kindergarten and why this is part of all of that. Look, another quick story is that this week we just got some most beautiful knitted little dolls, they're called identity dolls of each of the children. So each of the children were interviewed to see what they would like their doll to look like, a friend has knitted them all. And so this was an opportunity to talk to the families about why we've got the dolls, what it means in relation to identity, but what it means in relation to children learning more about themselves to learn more about their identity.
And their self-regulation and who they are in relation to other children. You can see that sort of strategy being really practical.
Yeah and not assuming that just because I use the word as an educator identity, that I know that every family is going to know what I mean by that. So I need to unpack that through storytelling and through narrative with our families. And we have a lot of families with English as a second or third language. And so photographs work really, very helpful for that space and making sure every day we go out and talk to three, four, five people each.
So we can unpack something with them.
Well and I think you're helping us hit in the direction of practicalities. Because I know that there are people here who want to hear from you about your tips, you know, what actually works in terms of supporting children to understand their own selves, to move to their top deck. So if you like it with thinking about that car analogy, as you said or the boat analogy it's what's on that ladder, you know, like what are the rungs on that ladder? So Sally do you want to share some of the strategies that have worked for you in terms of supporting, we've heard from Leanne in terms of multiple conversations with families over many, many ways. But what some of things that have worked for you in terms of supporting children's behaviour and self-regulation?
Look there's a variety of things that of course it, it depends where the self-regulation issues are coming from, but I sort of, I brainstorm a whole heap of things and I thought, well we're going to look at a few good ones.
Yeah good ones are the top ones .
Well something that I always have in my program all the time is a retreat space. And it's, so that children have a place where they can go, at the moment the last two terms we've got a box for one which is a large box.
For one and it's got a number one, and the one person on the front so it shows it's the one. And some years I need to put a line on the floor, this year I had the line on floor that you can't go past that line because there's one person having some time in there to themselves. And it's got cushions, it's got a little, it's got a mesh curtain on the front so you can, we can see that someone's in there. Some years it becomes black, the children the last two weeks have been grabbing the blanket from inside and putting it on the outside, so it's really dark in there. So we always have that, I also have another sort of a retreat space. It's I don't know if anyone's heard of sand tray therapy. We have a, it's a constant and it's a sand tray, it's in a blue, painted blue wooden box. It has a variety of characters and materials that you can use in it. And I add to this across the year, I start with some basics then you never take anything away you only add. And it's surrounded by, again, a sort of a sparkly blue curtain that you can see through, it's a space. Sometimes for one this year, it's been for two from the start of the year again it's got a two picture on it and it's positioned so the children have their back to the room and they go in there and they can play in any way they want.
So really a safe space.
A space that you can see, you know, you can take them safe but a space where they can retreat away from other children and presumably you've set that up and taught children quite clearly, an adult led way about what it's for and why go in there.
That's right. So some children go there are suggested to go there, some children go here on their own. So it's an open way to use that resource but it's a constant, it's always there. And another thing that's constant in my room is I always have some sensory material of some sort, I try and have a tub of something that flows. At the moment it's just become either large gigantos red tub filled with rice, it's got glitter, it's got little stars in it, lots of pouring filling containers, it's actually positioned below the front window, so they can actually watch their parents coming and going from the window. So if they are having a separation problem, it's a really nice place for them just to be in that way with that flowing material while they're watching their mum or dad.
Why the flowing material Sally? What's the thing about the flowingness, the water, the?
It's a soothing relaxing sensory material. So we've had rice, we've had wet sand, we've had dry sand, we've had slime, but I always have something that flows in the room always have available water outside too. But seasonally sometimes it's a bit cold to have water inside.
So that. Would you still have those sensory experiences out for children even if it's a cold day?
Oh yeah, all the time.
Yeah and usually we have clay or Play-Doh available at some point during the day. Most times I have that occasionally I don't, but mostly I have one or the other.
Of course you do. Okay and one more for us?
One other thing really important is catch them being good, that's my catch phrase. And reminding the staff all the time and when I have these parent conversations too, don't forget to tell them what they are doing well, we are very good at the things that they're not doing well and you can do this. And it's great to see that, I've got a couple of little girls who've been having some really difficult friendship times that was like, love, hate relationships. And we've been reminding ourselves to say, hey so-and-so, I can see that you're playing really well with so-and-so that's great to see, I'm going to make sure your mum knows about that too, because that was great to see that it makes us feel good, it makes you feel good.
Yeah and it takes that consistency idea really strongly into the space too to say let's be consistent with that and let's everybody work in that space to ensure that we're giving those consistent messages. Thank you very much Sally, I'm conscious of time. So let's go to you Teigan, Teigan some practical strategies. And I've got a question in here about an inclusion plan and a behaviour plan. And maybe you can help us just out with, you know, when things, some practical things about developing plans, can you give us a sense of some of those practical strategies?
Yeah I think the, in terms of developing any type of plan there, looking at the why things are occurring is really important because I find one of the things that's often missing from plans, whether it's written by an educator or a therapist, kind of a universal missing thing is what is the replacement behaviour or skills that a child would benefit from. So if it's rushing to the front of the line, we want, might want to teach them to wait. And so we often think around what do we want them to, scaffold them to calm? But that replacement behaviour is often missing.
So what else needs to happen? Not just where were to stop, what we want to help children to learn.
I might take that proactive approach and I love Sally when you were talking around proactively teaching children to use those spaces because that's teaching them how to regulate their body and calm their body and all those physiological things. And then once the body's calm, that behaviour was occurring for a reason, whether it was to escape something or to gain something, so what can they do instead? What's that missing link for them. So I think inclusion and behaviour plans, the terms are often used interchangeably. I think a good behaviour plan will have that, what else to do. A good inclusion plan is going to look at how to support the child to meaningfully participate in daily life. And that's what the behaviour plan is going to help them do as well.
And I guess also we're going to, we want to point people in the direction of some of the other resources that are available on the Department of Education and Training's Website. So we've got, there's KIS funding. People know about some of those things already and we'll put some of those links into the chat function too. So and there's some suggestions on the screen here, preschool field officers, we want to encourage our colleagues to connect with that. And of course, a whole range of modules that are online as well that are freely available for people to have a look at in more detail. So could gives some guidance in that space. So thank you for reminding us about those sorts of things Teigan. Teigan if you've got any other just another quick tip for people to practically implement.
Yeah, look one of my pet hates is teaching children to take big breaths because we often do it, not great.
So it can be done really, really, really well. And I've seen it come up in the chat a few times, so kind of to want to put my hat on and say often when we ask children to take big breaths we say, let me show you there you go So that actually mimics the physiological reaction of hyperventilating and that anxious kind of yellow zone, heart beating fast promotes that heart rate to actually increase rather than decrease. So when we're teaching children proactively to take deep breaths when they're calm, so they can do it when they're feeling fine and calm
Okay good tip there.
Down low and whether it's putting stuff down and putting something on their belly and having a belly up and down or even putting their hands on their stomach and pulling forward and feeling it fall into their stomach. But also keeping in mind with that, that children who have experienced a lot of trauma in particular or quite a challenging upbringing, will naturally have a higher heart rate because they live in that fight or flight zone. So something like deep breathing might actually be more dis-regulating for them because it's not their comfort zone.
And again you're reminding us I think there to, make sure you access the resources and materials that are there in specialist spaces like trauma informed practice. We know that there's lots of options for people to do that have conversations with your preschool field officer, have conversations with your inclusion support professionals that you might be engaging with using school readiness funding etc, that that will help you to navigate some of that space. But I guess if, when in doubt, we want to have conversations with people like you Teigan to say what do we need to do, is this the right strategy? And I love the idea of maybe teaching children, some of that deep breathing when everything is fine and calm so that they can use it in some of those other circumstances. I'm really conscious of time and I know we want to keep people just at the exactly the right hour that we've got. So Leanne can you take us quickly into a couple of key suggestions from you, very practical before we conclude?
We use puppets a lot.
I think that's really important to have them available, it's works really well for us. A range of different types, finger puppets, hand puppets, marionettes etc for children in their own play, but we as educators use puppets a lot at group time. So if there has been some things that have been challenging let's say in the block space, it could be anywhere. And we want to have a conversation with that, with the group we bring the problem back to the group and we don't talk about people's names, we obviously don't identify people, but we do have two resident puppets, a dog and a crow another story for another day about why that is. But the dog and the crow have names, they've got personalities, they're part of the group. So we named them when we're talking about who's here today like, they really belong. And so the problem in the blocks becomes a problem between the two puppets and then we say to the children this happened with this one, this happened with this, what could they do tomorrow? What else could Squeaky have said to Claude? You know and so it depersonalises it. And if you glance to the children that we know did actually have the problem in the blocks. They are so in tune, they are watching closely and there's no need to say who it is, we would never ethically nor respectfully ever do that. But we, they know.
They know. So puppets are really helpful for us and I guess sometimes we find another tip for us is that why sometimes, I guess we call it we loan children language until we feel that they've got an ability to develop that and use that in their own way. And so for some children saying to somebody else, I was really disappointed that you didn't mind my scooter, you said you were going to. That's hard, that's a really a hard thing.
It's a hard thing.
Even though that is what happened and that probably is what they're feeling. So we feel it's okay for us, we talk about loaning children words or loaning children phrases or.
Rather than expecting them to say it.
Some can and then, but for those that either emotionally in that moment they can't, or they just developmentally for their language skills yet haven't reached that space. And then at some point you think hmm, that's a long time since I loaned that child language like they're onto it.
I think they've got the ladder is being formed for them, they are doing some of that climbing themselves because you've scaffolded and supported children to be able to get to that top deck. I'm really conscious of time, Sally are you going to add one thing before we finish?
What would you like me to add?
Well no it's all right, I just thought you might have a, you were thinking of saying something extra thing but we really right on the end of our session today and I'm really conscious of people needing to get away and do other things in their lives, so can I thank you all for your participation today. I think our colleagues online here really have valued hearing the practical ways that you think about this. I really recognise the deep thinking that all of you have brought to this. You know, it really reminds us how important that thinking process is as we start to make the curriculum decisions that we make on a daily basis, how are we going to use the puppets? What are we going to do when we set up a space for children to retreat to? So I really appreciate your sharing with us those ideas. I know that there's many educators online who've got their ideas and tips themselves and some of them have shared those already, so thank you very much for doing that. We will weave some of those into the conversations we'll have with Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett next time and we'll also pick that up again on our next panel. So thank you very much everybody for being a part of it, thank you very much for our panelists for being a part of our conversation. Thank you very much everyone and good evening.
This session explores the role of the learning environment and strategies that professionals can use to support the development of self-regulation in children. Catharine Hydon and Cathrine Nielsen-Hewitt discuss the 'window of tolerance', responding to individual children, and examples of learning experiences that can promote self-regulation.
Good afternoon everybody and welcome. Fantastic to see you all here at the third webinar in our series, Guiding Children's Behaviour: regulation, respect and relationships, brought to you by the Department of Education and Training in partnership with Early Childhood Australia. My name is Catharine Hydon and I'm your host for this event today. Before we get going let's take a moment to pause and acknowledge the traditional owners on whose country we're all on. I know we're all on the lands of the Kulin Nation and we particularly pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders who every day support us to think about what it means to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, to learn about their culture and to connect with other children and of course non-Indigenous children to understand what it means to play and learn on Aboriginal land. We also acknowledge the words of Marrung, the Department of Education and Trainings Education Plan and the words particularly of Aunty Geraldine Atkinson who reminds us to hold the door wide open in the work that we do every day so we can support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children's access and participation in early childhood programs. So continue to find work you do in that area and stretch and grow in that space as well. Thank you so much everybody for joining us, we understand that this is still a very fluid time, lots of things going on. We understand that you would have got some recent correspondence from the Department of Education and Training just in the last little while. So I'm sure that some of you are navigating the expectations of those changing spaces. But we know that you're really good at it because you've been doing it for a long time now. So thank you so much for all of that work. And thank you for taking the time to think about what it means to engage with behavior and how you might support children and continue to support them in their self-regulation. So I'm pleased also to be hosting the next webinar series which we'll have an opportunity for a panel discussion. So look out for that. We heard last week, you remember that, we had heard some great conversations from Sally and Leanne who shared some ideas with us about their practice experiences. And Teigan also shared some particular insights about her clinical background and some of the ways that we can weave some of those ideas into our practice decisions. So lots of different opportunities there. Now, before I welcome Cathrine Nielsen-Hewitt to rejoin us a second time, we can dive into some of the content. And I know some of you have been thinking and talking to each other using that reflective practice opportunity, that's a practice principle in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework to think and talk with your colleagues and I think we're going to revisit some of those ideas today too. So it's my absolute pleasure now to invite Catherine Nielsen-Hewitt back to share some more insights. Now, of course, those of you who were here with us on the first webinar will remember that I introduced Cathrine Nielsen-Hewitt as lecturer and researcher in child development with over 25 years experience in this space, exploring child development. And she's currently the Director of the Early Years and Director of Pedagogical Leadership at Early Start at the University of Wollongong. And she's delivered lots of workshops and insights into child development. Worked with lots of different organisations and she's going to share with us some more details about self-regulation and childhood socialisation and exploring some of the ways that we can support children and help them and guide them in their behaviour. So, hello, Cathrine. Before I get you to kick us off I just should remind everybody that you and I will be in a little bit of a conversation. You're going to share some big ideas and from time to time I'm going suggest how that might look in practice, make some links between some of the things that our practitioner colleagues who are joining us today daily encounter, but also the ways in which it connects with the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. Great to have you back Cathrine, over to you.
Thanks so much, Catharine. And it's wonderful to be back as well. I'm really, really excited. And before I begin I too would just like to acknowledge, I'm here at the University of Wollongong. So I too would just like to acknowledge the traditional owners on the land in which I am sitting which is the Wadi Wadi people of the Dharawal Nation. And I'd like to pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. I'm really excited to be able to continue this journey. And in the first webinar we really took you through the why and so we really thought about what is the why behind children's behavior and together we examined the significant role that relationships play, respecting regulation. And we also really took a kind of a deep dive into some of those common routes to those big behaviours that we often see within the early childhood education and care context. And today I kind of want to shift gears a little bit and really kind of do a deeper dive into our responses and how our responses kind of shape children's behavior, but more importantly, how our responses also empower children to be capable and confident within their learning environment. So we're really going to explore the significance of respectful and responsive environments. And we're also going to consider our own role in terms of how we support children in terms of their self-regulatory skills. But I do before I kind of explore this a little more deeply with you Catharine. I really want to acknowledge the great session of last week and I really want to thank the panel again for sharing their invaluable insights and really exploring some really important examples and practical examples. And I really hope to draw on these more as we're going through this process and kind of continue to further our journey and to really how do we effectively support and guide children's behavior. But before we start, I thought, I'd just like us to kind of reflect for a moment. And I'd like to invite you to share your ideas around this in the chat if you feel comfortable or like Catharine said, if you'd kind of prefer to turn your chat off, that's okay as well. But I'm really interested in getting you to kind of think for a moment or reflect on what are some of the strategies you currently use to support children's regulation and perhaps consider how these are integrated within your broader approach to learning and teaching. So we can ask ourselves the question, how have we developed high expectations for every child that we work with? How would we develop on our partnerships with professionals, like the work that you talked about with Leanne and Sally and Teigan around those connections across between early childhood educators and other allied health. So how have we fostered those relationships and importantly how have we fostered really strong and responsive and reciprocal relationships with families so that we can support children's regulation and how have we included this and integrated within our teaching and learning methods. And so I really want to invite you to kind of share that throughout our webinar today and in very much like Catharine shared with you a wonderful kind of word cloud in our webinar two, we really want to hear your voices and we'd like to feed that back to you.
And we'll pick up that again in webinar four, we'll really draw on what people are saying. One thing that reminds me of too is Cathrine is that we're not suggesting here that we throw out old ideas, but we revisit them and think deeply about them and hearing them from your colleagues in the panel and in the chat, talking with your colleagues in your own site too, just reminds you of how powerful some of those strategies are and how we might connect them with contemporary research or revisit them and rethink about them. And I think that's where you're going to help us to think very practically about strategies which is going to be really helpful for people I think.
And that's so important Catharine, it's about celebrating what we do well and building on that. And that's really what we want to see how this fits within your current structures. So I'd really like to just kick off today, is thinking about our focus on responses, but I want us to first reflect upon aspects of our environment that seem to be particularly important in supporting children's behaviours. And then I'm going to move on to some specific skills that we'd like to focus on to kind of really set children up for success. And I guess Cathrine, when I'm thinking about responsive learning environments, we're really talking about environments that prioritise both relational and intentional pedagogy. So when we're setting children up for success in terms of their behaviour and learning we're looking at environments where we really achieve a strong balance between child initiated and I know, adult extended experiences, but also adult initiated and planned learning experiences. So in these environments we don't only see the intentional pedagogue but we also see the creation of space for the intentional learner. So children are really supported with the educators within these services that kind of foster these environments. They're present, they're purposeful, they're deliberate, they're planned for and they scaffold children's learning and engagement and they do that through encouragement rather than praise. We model, we question, we challenge and we support children through our assessment and our planning. And we actively support children to collaborate, to persevere, to concentrate, to problem solve and we encourage memory and attention and empathy and reflection. And these environments also really prioritise the importance of sustained shared thinking and opportunities for children to engage in problem solving. And I noticed in webinar two, Catharine that you touched a little bit around grouping. And when we're thinking about sustained shared thinking and when we're thinking about creating platforms or environments that foster children's self-regulation, grouping matters. So very rarely do we see that children are able to engage in deep in problem solving and sustained shared thinking in large group settings and assignments when they're really acquiring self-regulatory. So when we're moving from that other to core to self-regulation, we want to create opportunities where children engage in small group. So we're talking about groups of four and five children. So grouping matters, the length of a group experience matters and also the makeup of that group. So which children are in that group and how we support that. So it's really that deliberate and very intentional process. We also know that supportive and responsive environments are those that create opportunities for children to explore, to experiment and to make choices. Choice is such an important component of children's self-regulation and behaviour. And when we're looking at this, it's underpinned by assessment because when we look at children and some children find it really difficult or might be overwhelmed by choice. And so in those instances, we provide what I would say is limited choice. So as a parent, we might say, we give children a choice out of two, two outfits to wear that day rather than go and pick something from the wardrobe. So it's really around responding to the developmental capacities of the children that we're supporting and responding accordingly. We also know that these are environments that kind of reflect the cultural diversity of the children and the families and the communities in which we're embedded with and we challenge stereotypes and we do that through really rich play-based experiences. So we might ask children what they want to play, what materials that's like and with who, excuse me, and with whom and we really scaffold and support. I do want to say that none of this exists in the absence of high quality and responsive relationships and that is critical, that relational pedagogy piece. But I'm also talking about relationships amongst staff as well as the quality of the relationships between children and staff and it's creating that kind of responsive. And Sally really talked about that in webinar two, the significance of responsive, secure relationships within the early childhood education and care setting. And we know it is through these meaningful interactions and experiences that are purposeful and they're enjoyable, that children become increasingly able to really manage the demands of their environments. And so that piece that kind of the intentional and relational pieces is so critical and it's reflective of high-quality practice as a whole.
Indeed, I think Cathrine too that, you're really pointing us in the direction of utilising all of our commitments to the practice principles in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework in an interconnected way. There's not just one thing you're doing there's multiple things. And by saying we have high expectations for children and then we think about the integrated teaching and learning approaches we build on relationships, it comes across to me, the way you're talking there is that the practitioner is drawing on many facets in order to make a decision about what they will do. It's not just one thing, it is multiple parts, which of course is why you need reflective practice processes.
To think through what you will do. It can be in the absence of some of those big ideas and that underpinning theory.
And it takes a skilled pedagogue to be all able to differentiate the environment that responds to the individual needs of children. And that's so important when we're talking about learning and development as a whole, but particularly important when we're talking about children's behaviours. And it's knowing when to step in and to scaffold for children, but also knowing when to challenge children and extend their learning and engagement.
And we can learn how to do that, can't we Catherine? In opportunities like this when we're joining together with our colleagues learning new skills, you don't have to know about all of this instantaneously. You learn it over time. You become a skilled pedagogue over time and in collaboration with your colleagues which is one of the reasons we're here today.
Absolutely, it's a journey and I think that was captured very much by what Leanne talked about. This is an ongoing commitment that we need to make. And she really highlighted the very significant role that early childhood educators play in children's life and children's learning trajectories, we see this plays out very much in terms of the behavioural domain as well. And like I said, it's really around supporting children's emotional awareness, so helping them to label. Leanne talked about using puppets, it's around understanding our own emotions but also understanding others. And one thing that I really want to highlight here is this notion of predictability. And I think in the current context, I think this is very salient, that we know children who struggle with their emotional regulation benefit greatly from predictability. They take great comfort Catharine from the familiar. So it's around having very clear expectations for children within those environments and ensuring that those expectations are clearly communicated. And like you said, none of this occurs in the absence of critical reflection and it underpins everything that we do. Sally, kind of talked about how she observes the triggers of children, how she looks at the room, she looks at the schedules of what's happening. She talks to families, she talks to professionals. She tries out different strategies that she's tried out with different children and all of that is underpinned by that active, critical reflection. And like you said it's very much captured within the practice principles of the Victorian Early Years Learning Development Framework. This is really capturing good practice, regardless of whether we're talking about children's literacy and language experiences on numeracy or behaviour. It's a description of an effective learning environment for children. So what I'd like is to kind of move on and this is the Venn diagram that I introduced in webinar one. And I really want us to focus on the child's skills now about what can we do. So we've set up our environment. We know what the sensitive and responsive environments look like. Now, what skills should I be focusing on? And if we are going to empower children, then we really need to reflect very deeply on the sorts of skills that they need in order to navigate the complexity of our social environments. So I want to talk a little bit about that and of course, we're going to revisit the ship metaphor Catharine. And like you said, it's really resonated with a lot of people.
Very powerful analogy.
And so I want us to think a little bit about this and a lot of the strategies we're going to look at together first assume children are on the deck. So where they're in their thinking brain and a lot of what we do kind of assumes that children can kind of reflect on what we're sharing. I will, after we talk about this, Catharine, I do want to then think about when children are not on the deck and how do we get them on the deck, but let's think a little bit first around how do we teach these skills once they're on the deck and they're thinking, how do we teach them the types of self-regulatory skills that are important, that sets them up for success in terms of navigating their environments. And you remember in webinar one that I really got us to think about what is self-regulation. And when we're thinking about how we support children what we really need to reflect on is what are the skills that we're trying to foster. How are we supporting children's learning and development and you know that, we remember that self-regulation, has both a behavioural and emotional component as well as a cognitive component. So when we're thinking about the skills that we're trying to encourage we're talking about children's ability to kind of control their behaviours, to resist distractions, to recognise their own feelings and emotions but also to be aware of others. And then it's really kind of negotiating that behaviour and social environment. Being able to take turns, having an understanding of other people's views and perspectives, but also managing our frustrations when things don't go according to plan. And then the cognitive part is really around children's ability to plan, to organise, to remember, to multitask, to problem solve. I mean, this is tricky for adults, right?
I was going to say, yes, it's a lot going on there, isn't there?
And so it's how we kind of scaffold those emerging skills and support children but it's also around that cognitive flexibility. So children having the understanding that there's inside voices and there's outside voices and we shift our behaviours and our thoughts and our ideas in response to different situational demands. So I think I really want us to think about, what are the skills that we're trying to support and how are we going to foster these behaviours. And I want to just touch on a comment from Leanne because I thought it was very meaningful where she talked about that notion, Catharine about managing behaviours. And this was kind of the lens that was presented when she studied at university to be a teacher and I think that's really important because our approach to guiding children's behaviour is really underpinned by a view of children as capable and competent and intentional learners.
Having high expectations. So what we are actually doing is guiding and empowering children. So if we know the skills that we want to foster that then underpins the decisions that we make around the kinds of practices that we foster and support with children.
And then the types of experiences that we offer to. You go back to your comment about group sizes and how many children you can see that some of these skills that you're talking about will be more readily practised by children, practise with an S, practised by children when they have places and spaces that are conducive to those practising of those skills. Whereas if you've got a group of a lot of children altogether for a period of time you can see that some of these things are quite challenging.
That's right. And I think, I also just want to make the comment around the learning context and a lot of this learning is incidental. So it arises naturally during play and other kind of everyday experiences, but many of these skills also depend on intentional and planned experiences and we really need a balance. And it kind of reminds me of that triple helix model.
Page 15 of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development, very powerful, and it's a great way of thinking about it, isn't it?
-And that's the lens I want us all to wear, that there are some experiences that we can really, that they're initiated by children. There are other experiences that are initiated and extended by the intentional pedagogue, but there are moments when we actually have to have very planned experiences, but they're still the present. It's not like this adult directed explicit instruction but we're still creating room for the intentional learner within these contexts.
And helpful to remind people to go back and use that triple helix image on page 15. So just in case you haven't got there yet, go back and have a look at it and use it in reflective practise because that will actually help you to analyze where you're at up to now and then incorporate some of the ideas that we're hearing here from Catherine. I think it's a very important tool to think through your decisions as you're supporting children's and guiding children's behaviour and their self-regulation.
For me it's such a valuable and powerful framework. And so if we think about within those prior to school years children need adults who support them to be able to reflect on their experience that provide them opportunities to talk about what they're doing and why, but also to help them to consider the next steps. And when things go wrong, we also need to help children to unpack and to consider the potential solutions for next time. So on this slide, Catharine, I wanted to include some examples of possible learning experiences, and these are certainly potentially more planned experiences. So we're seeing on that kind of continuum of adult planning, these are probably more adult initiated experiences.
They coincide with what people are putting in the chat too. 'Cause actually some of these are exactly what people are sharing as strategies that work. So you might be infused agreement with lots of people who are chatting on that.
Can I say, I love attending a professional learning that's reaffirming of what I'm doing. And so what's kind of common around these experiences is they all really foster and allow opportunities for practice of skills that are important for self-regulation. So for instance, the treasure hunt is a wonderful treasure hunt experience that I've done with an educator at a preschool down here in Kiama, where the children had a treasure box. And then I went outside and they had to draw a map of their outdoor environment. And then each of them took turns deciding where they would hide the treasure box and then they had to give clues to the rest of the groups, so the rest of group had to close their eyes Catharine, they went to look where it was hidden, they came back, the person who was hiding it couldn't open the treasure box, they didn't know what was in there and so there was all this anticipation. So these kinds of games and including the movement and song games where children have to move to specific rhythms or synchronize words to music or musical statues where they have to stop when the music stops and that's when the music plays, they all require children to pay attention. They require children to remember, they require children to inhibit impulses their behaviours, children have to follow rules and instruction. They need to take turns and sometimes they need to persist in the face of challenge. And all of these skills are skills that are essential and necessary for children's self-regulation. And when it comes to young children's learning and particularly around self-regulation dosage matters. So if we think about self-regulation as being a muscle and we're building muscles, we need lots of practice. We need to go to.
It's not enough to go to the gym once a month.
We need to go to that gym at least three times a week.
Educators might start here and think, actually I need to plan. So using your assessment for learning practises you might want to start to plan when these happen, in a really meaningful way. We go back to that triple helix thing. So there is an opportunity for educators to make decisions about how can I practice these skills. So know that you're planning for them. If it helps put a section in your plan to make sure that you remind yourself to do that on a regular basis and of course, it's something that Sally reminded us, make sure your team know why you're doing it.
That's right, and can I say, I think for me, the most important thing to recognise is, this doesn't require a whole new curriculum approach or a whole new idea. These are activities and experiences that are already happening within our services. And we just might be doing ourselves regulatory lens, but we're still keeping on our language and numeracy lens and our numeracy experience lens. And so it's really around thinking about the multiple opportunities that these experiences afford us as educators to really support children in terms of their development- And highly enjoyable for children too. The way you talk about the treasure hunt and music and movement and all of these amazing opportunities that some of it you've put on here and also some of which are in the chat. Thank you very much everybody for putting your great practise ideas, we know that are deeply engaging with children. So you won't have to cajole children to be a participant member of a treasure hunt who's not up for that. And in the same time you know that you are being intentional and deliberate in those thinking processes and your team can help support that as well as of course sharing some of these ideas with families of course, is something that you could also do as you promote some of that skill development.
And this next slide shows that and this is really important because a lot of the way that we support children and engage with children depends on our understanding of children's abilities and capacities around their ability to kind of self-regulate. So this actually comes from some work that I've done with some colleagues, Steven Howard, Marc de Rosnay & Edward Melhuish, who is from Oxford and we've been doing a lot of work around assessments and really around the development of formative assessments to put in the hands of educators. So we have a deeper understanding of children's capacities. But this is a wonderful game that many of you would've played, when I was growing up it's like a memory matching game, Catharine, we used to call it concentration.
So did we. I did too.
I call it concentration and so the idea behind this game is that you put all the cards down and you've got to find matching pairs. And these children that you see on the screen are only three, so we did matching images. But when you get harder, it might be numbers. So we can use it as a wonderful numeracy activity but it's such a brilliant, and I used to play this with children and I then turned it into an assessment because it gave us such a window into children's capacities to self-regulate both in terms of their behaviour and emotional regulation but also their cognitive regulation. So here children first have to pay attention to the rules and they need to follow the rules. So you need to wait your turn, wait till it comes around to you. You've got to pay attention and look what's happening when the other children are having a go. Because if you don't see what they're turning over then you're not going to be able to turn over your pairs. You need to be planful, you need to be purposeful. Are you going to keep turning in some of these children do, keep turning over the same two cards every time it comes around to their turn or you kind of making decisions. Are you planning ahead? Are you problem solving? Are you flexible? So I've spotted two cards. I know they are a pair, I'm going to turn them over, but the person in front of me turns them over first, and they get them? How am I going to cope with the disappointment? Am I actually going to be able to regulate my emotions long enough to stay engaged in the game or am I going to leave the game? So how am I going to cope with disappointment? How am I going to cope with being a good winner? How am I going to cope with being a good loser and responding to those? So we can see there's lots of opportunities around these kinds of games that not only provide opportunities for practice for children in terms of their skills, but they give us a window into understanding where children's strengths are and where the potentialities are for growth and how we can support and foster an environment that kind of creates those opportunities for children.
And lots of people are saying, yes, I play those games. We do those games, there's lots of different people agree that they are something that children really enjoy. And I think for some of you it's about making the connection between those things that children are really enjoying. It's a practice skill that you have and your team has and making sure that there's a connection to some of those things with self-regulation and guiding children's behaviour, I like the proactive nature of this, Catherine. I think it's about being on the front foot. I feel like some of the conversations we have around behaviour guidance is very reactive. Whereas this feels very proactive and I want to be supporting children before situations arise that are challenging.
That's right and I think we said that in webinar one, Catharine, when we were talking, we said that often our call to action is children's behaviour. But if we can really step back and think about what those responsive environments look like it's no surprise that high quality early childhood education and care environments often have fewer behavioural challenges amongst children, because we've already created these rich and responsive environments for children to flourish. So we've been also doing some work and I have a source here if people would like to explore this further. We've been doing a lot of work here with some colleagues at the University of Wollongong about really doing a deep dive into children self-regulation and more importantly we're trying to think of activities and practises and pedagogies that kind of respond to the different behaviours that we want to foster and support with children. And some of these, we try to tap into everyday experiences that you see within the early childhood environment and then some of them are quite specific activities. So the top one that I talked about is called holding fast and this is something that parents can do. Like let's continue to think at that piece about how do we support children across the multiple contexts in which they operate. Holding fast is where we get children. We sit down at lunch and let's say, they're in a long day care environment, there's a cook. We bring their food out, the children are all served and we say to the children, no one is to start eating until everyone has their food on their plate. We're going to thank the cook. We're going to thank each other and then we're going to start. We've also done this in kindergarten environments where children bring their own lunch. And so again, or the children sit down they unwrap what they've brought and then we talk about what we have before anyone starts. So it's really about delayed gratification, right? So you don't need it straightaway. You can do that at home at the dinner table. Secret Shadow is a little bit different. So it's a little bit like the musical statues, but with a twist, so it's a little bit harder. The Secret Shadow is where we get children to actually close their eyes. Now, you might have some three-year-olds and that might be really tricky. So we might say to them, actually just turn your back on so you don't have to close your eyes. And we give them descriptions of what we're doing. We describe our body. So I might say to you, Catharine, close your eyes and while your eyes are closed, we're going to put our hand on our head, just one hand on our head and we put it there. Then we add to that complexity. So while our hands are on our head, we're going to put our finger on our nose. And we keep doing this watch children's eyes are closed, but again, it's really around attention. It's around language. It's about being able to close our eyes and keep them closed and not opening them and see if everyone's doing the right thing. When their eyes are open, it's around, have I done the right thing? Am I coping with disappointment? Have I got it right? So it's really around encouraging risk taking among children in terms of trying out these experiences.
Cathrine, can I pause you there for a second and there's a couple of questions in here about, are we talking a particular age when children are able to manage these things or is there a magic age when it comes or is it and also managing disappointment? Is there a particular age or is it on a continuum?
It is certainly on a continuum and it's a developmental continuum. So in webinar one, we talked about the idea that children move from other to co, to self-regulation and really from a developmental perspective, children don't have the skills necessary until about three years of age to start moving into that self-regulation. So a lot of these experiences and that's a really great question, it's around looking at children's capacities. And so you may know that there'll be some children who find that really difficult to do that. So we do something, we might just do musical statutes. So it's around really designing your learning experiences Catharine, that respond to the developmental capacities of the children that we're with, and this goes back to grouping. So if you've got a three-year-old, it'd be very difficult to do this with a group of 20 but much easier to do it with a group of three where you have the scaffolded approach and like any of these rich experiences, the value that comes from these experiences comes from the intentional pedagogue and how we support and how we scaffold children to take measured risks and to engage. But really, I mean, I guess the magic age is three, but some children if they experience high levels of stress, say then, they're going to be in that co-regulation phase for a lot longer and we might need to continue to support them at five and six.
And we all need to go back to some of those fundamentals of our practice, picked up in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework under the ideas around integrated teaching and learning but also assessment for learning where we make sure we collect really rich information about the experiences that we're offering when children are engaged in them. So if you are going to do something and a couple of people have said, yes, we do that. Waiting for our friends to be seated at lunchtime, we do a bit of waiting, if it doesn't work and you think, actually this is not going according to plan, it's not actually achieving my objective. We're not getting that skill development. Then it's time to come back into the reflective practice space with your colleagues and say, what also are we're going to do? What else have we got in our repertoire and perhaps we need to go back a step and make sure that we've developed some other fundamental skills before we do that next bit.
And we know that, so we know the children when it's time for transition to washing our hands from group time, that we know particular children that we probably don't want to leave until last, because they will find that really challenging. So we might pick that particular child, second or third, but in six weeks' time where there's been more practice we might be able to leave that child as seventh or eighth. So again, it's really kind of shifting our expectations and withdrawing our scaffolded support. But it's also around having high expectations but not setting children up for failure either at the same time. So I do want to talk about, so there's some of the experiences that certainly have a stronger adult initiated lens but I also want to talk about the importance of play for children's self-regulation. And we know play is probably one of our most powerful contexts for supporting children's learning and development and it's a central concept of integrated learning and teaching approaches within the Victorian Early Years Learning Development Framework. Play is particularly important in fostering children's self-regulatory skills. But again, when I talk about play I'm really wanting us to think about play-based learning and the difference between free play and play-based learning is the presence of the intentional pedagogue and how do we create a rich experience. So when we're talking about play that's important for self-regulation, I'm really talking about imaginative play or dramatic play. And it's significant for a number of reasons and again, thinking back to those skills that we want to foster in children, it involves planning. So are we planning, are we playing travel agencies, are we designing an airport, are we developing an ice cream shop, are we playing mums and dads? What do we need for that play? Who's going to be part of that play. And then we plan for explicit roles and rules. So Susie might be the mother. Jenny might be the father. David will be the baby. Catharine, you can be the dog.
I was going to say, if there is going to be a dog, I'd like to be the dog.
But if you're going to be the dog you don't get to stand up and walk around. You have to stay down on your foot. So there's rules and expectations in roles. And often imaginative play happens over an extended timeframe. So this is wonderful. I use the example of airport place 'cause I saw this rich play where children went from interesting things that fly. They did a whole thing in the experience around exploring cockpits. They made their own cockpit. Then I made the plane and then there was hostesses on the plane and there was food and this went over weeks of time. So it creates memory, it's persistence and engagement. And also we see that it kind of really deeper and expanded use of language.
And slowing down the program, Cathrine, you slow down the program so that you can offer that and those people who are offering longer hours in their kindergarten programs will be testifying to the time that they can spend with children on really getting deep into play based experiences that really support children to develop other skills you're talking about.
And when you become part of that co-construction and that's like that kind of scaffolded, co-regulation phase, you can really take that play very deeply, in terms of engaging children. And we can support children. Then there's times that play requires negotiation and understanding of other's emotions. Sometimes we need to prioritise others, especially when everyone wants to be the mum, like no one wants to be the visitor. And so educators really need to think about how we can support children, particularly for those children who may be more challenged with their self-regulatory abilities or they're younger and those skills are just emerging. And so for some children, they may need assistance in generating themes, they may need assistance in designing a plan or negotiating with their peers or resolving conflicts in the context of play. And it's not surprising that we often see children who might be challenged with their self-regulatory skills are often the ones who were pushed out of the play or they're always the visitor or often the play breaks down more easily and so we really, that's when we're stepping in and thinking about how do we support these children to be engaged?
Cathrine there's a couple of people who've reminded us how important it is of the role of the educator and those people who are in lead educator roles, educational leadership roles. That's a really fantastic thing to support educators to make decisions about entering the play and what my role is when I enter the play, how am I going to support children and infact if you are aware of some of these skills that you're trying to develop in children then entering into the play becomes as we've said, intentional, purposeful, thoughtful, deliberate and we're picking up great opportunities there.
I mean it really highlights the importance of being a good observer, because how often do we think that we've been invited into the play but we actually haven't and then the play gets shut down. The notion of planning and I'm going to continue with our boat thing, but this is a play boat theme. Now, Catharine this is, I just want to credit the beautiful children and educators at Warragamba Preschool who I have been doing some work with. But one of the key components of dramatic play is the opportunity that affords children to plan. And planning is really important for children's self-regulation because it helps them to focus their attention. It supports persistence and follow through but it also encourages choice and problem solving. So these boys wanted to do a boat play, but the educator rather than just providing the resources she actually invited the children to plan. So they decided what they needed. They needed a boat and a fishing rod, an eski, a speed go sign, they wanted some bait and they wanted a bar crusher so they spent an hour and a half planning. They sent a really kind of rich language and interactions and then the next day they resourced it. So here you can see the wonderful computer cause they decided that they needed a computer, 'cause to drive a boat you need a license. So it's really around getting them to think about like using their working memory, transferring their knowledge, what do they know about boats and really kind of supporting them in those experiences. And again, this happened within the context of rich numeracy and literacy experiences with a self-regulatory lens.
And always out comes, oh my goodness, Cathrine, is just that the whole thing is full of outcomes.
And then they played. And can I say, play really provides us with this wonderful platform and opportunity for supporting children to engage in conflict resolution. Because often we see conflict emerging in the context of play. I mean, one of the boys wanted to go to New York city. The other one wanted to go to Tokyo. They decided where they were actually going and then who was going to be the driver of the boat or the captain of the boat. And so there's lots of opportunities for really kind of negotiating it within the context of rich play-based experiences. So there's some of the ideas, but I do want to just touch on this idea going back to the boat in our brain. And many of the practices that I've just shared with us so far Catharine, really assume that children are in their thinking brain. So they're in a prefrontal cortex, they're on the deck. Many of the games and many of the strategies do not work when children are under high levels of stress. So when children are sitting in the hull we really need to think of different approaches. And for me, it's really around, when children are experiencing ongoing stress and significant stress, there's been a hijack. So there's been a mutiny and the captain is being dragged down to that hull and that's where we're sitting. So what I want to just finish today's webinar is really thinking about and drawing on some of the work that we really asked you or invited you to do is thinking about, if these are the skills that we really want to foster and these are some of the activities that we already do and how we can use play, but the effectiveness of these pedagogies and practices depend on children being on the deck. So let's think about then when children are sitting in the hull and that happens, and some children are sitting there more than others, then what do we do? How can we bring them back? And so in the first webinar we really invited you to conduct some deep observations and really observe some of the children in your service that experience big behaviours. And what we asked you to do is we really wanted you to think about when do they step outside their window. So when did they go down to the hull and are there patterns to this? Does it happen at a certain time of the day? Does it seem to happen when they arrive in the morning and so something's happened before they've got there. Are there particular precursors? Does it happen when particular children are there together or a particular space within the play environment. So it's really thinking about what happens and also what is it within our environment. So our ability, Catharine, to bring children up to the deck and help them to sit within that kind of window of tolerance or window of functionality really hinges on our ability to develop a deep understanding of what takes children outside that window, but importantly, what brings children back in. And how we respond to that really like hinges on developing that and I think both Leanne and Sally really spoke to the complexity of this and they really talked about that this takes time. And so this is a journey that many of you started on. Some of you may already get a sense of this for some children and for others this will be changing. But we know there are things that kind of push children out of that window or will bring them down to their deck and these are things like stress. So when children experience overwhelming stress, when they're unsure or they're insecure or they're fearful, it takes them down to the hull. If they're overstimulated within the environment, if there's too many demands placed and this is where we talk about the importance of assessment, understanding children's capacity, are we asking them something that's, good old Vygotsky's zone of proximal development, are we stretching them just outside what they can achieve or are we asking too much of them? So that question about when children are in is such an important question to ask ourselves as a collective when we're supporting children. I mean, our children, often will see children step out their window, like might have eaten that day or they might've done anything. Are they overtired, is it too noisy? It's not surprising that when we look at quality of our learning environments, often those that are just too noisy, kind of impacts children's learning.
And Cathrine, I think your reminders there that some of the most simple things like thirst, is actually a really good place to start. I've seen practitioners just check in with children and say, do you think you need a glass of water? And to drink a glass of water and then do the next bit because actually re-hydrating yourself, get that water flowing through your brain is really helpful. It seems very simple but incredibly powerful. And for those of you who weren't with us for the first webinar, you can still do this actually. You could take the challenge that Cathrine's issued to you and go and do some deep observations of a particular part of the program, particular cohort of children, a child and see whether you can find out a bit more through that process and of course, bring it back into a reflective practice conversation with your colleagues where you can examine the planning cycle and what you might do about that. But I think these will definitely resonate with the people who are with us today.
So I just want to add a couple more 'r's to our relationships and responsiveness and regulation. And these 'r's are really very specific to children who are sitting in a hull. And it draws on the work of Dr Bruce Perry, who really does a lot of work with children who have experienced significant traumas. I like to think about stress, like high levels of chronic stress. And when we're thinking about moving children into their windows, so once they're outside that window and they might be overshooting it or undershooting it as Dan Siegel talks about, we need to think about practices that are relevant. So they need to be matched to the needs of that child. So if they're kind of in the fight or flight or whether they're immobilised, they need to be repetitive and patterned. So they need to be consistent in the way that we support children. They need to be rewarding in the sense that they need to be pleasurable for their child and they need bring back a sense of security and stability and they also need to be rhythmic. And this notion of arrhythmic responses differs for each child and that's something I just want to say. That windows, our windows, just as our adult windows and I'm going to land on that at the end Catharine, but windows can fluctuate. And we know that adverse experiences and these are things like COVID can shrink our window. So for some children, their windows are shrunk and it doesn't take much to get outside that. It doesn't take much to fall back down to the hull. But we also know that emotional regulation abilities and those things that we're teaching children, not only empower children, but they can widen our windows of tolerance and make it more likely that we're going to stay on the deck in terms of engaging in our environments. But we need to know that our regulation strategies can change and they can fluctuate between children but within the child as well and there's different things. And Sally has really shared some wonderful experiences around bringing children to their window. She talked about those soothing and relaxing materials that she used. She talked about engaging children in things that flow and her retreat space. So that idea of really kind of shutting down that over stimulation and for some children, it is about mindfulness. It's around breathing. We get to them to do things like drink through a straw just to slow down. For some children a hug will bring them back in, but for other children the hug we'll take them out of that window because that hug is associated with something that's not a positive experience for them in terms of their memory. Some children respond to calming music kind of that rhythmical music, but other children need to jump on the trampoline. So they need that rhythm around. So it's really, again, it's unique to the child, it's knowing what takes them out but also knowing what brings them back in and how we support that emotional regulation.
And the more we know this about children, of course, and there are people who are chatting in our chat box are reminding us that, of course this is true for human beings, true for all children. So not just children with a particular diagnosis but all children who are trying to figure out what brings me back into, what takes me to the upper deck. And of course, if we can actually support children to know this about themselves, then they walk into the rest of their educational life equipped to know what works for them and to be able to articulate that and of course, how great is this for the support that we might offer to families as they are partners with us in supporting children to develop these skills.
Just revisiting what Leanne had to say about the significant role that we play as early childhood educators. That we're creating this armour of success for children, we're building resilience, we're building resourcefulness and we're really developing capable and competent young people who can navigate the complexities that the social environment has to follow. I guess I just want to land back in that notion of relationships, we started that notion at the beginning in webinar one and it's around creating an emotional climate and creating a responsive environment that keeps children in that window. And that's built upon relationships of trust and respect. It's about being respectful of the child and the family and the culture. It's about having clear and consistent and clearly communicated routines, it's around having high expectations and seeing children as capable and competent. And of course this all sits within that context of safe and secure and responsive environments. So I just want to land on that notion of relationships because we know that young children experience, well, we all do really, we all experience our world as an environment of relationships and these relationships particularly with young children really affect all aspects of their development. And we know that relationships are critical in helping children to regulate stress and adult's emotional availability and our own empathic responses to children are really important in helping children to be able to self-regulate. And we know that children benefit the most from a caring community, and that's educators, it's family members, it's other professionals like Teigan who contribute to children's wellbeing. And I think that's what I want to land. I want to thank Leanne for being so honest and sharing that idea of her experience of sitting in the hull. And often we've all sat in the hull. And we can't make the kinds of decisions that children need when we're in the hull. We can't provide them with the level of support required. And so when we're thinking about children's self-regulation it requires strong adult self-regulation first and recognising our own triggers that take us outside our windows. The size of our windows I would say there was there's many wonderful educators who are online today in Victoria, whose windows shrunk significantly over the last period of time. And so I think one of the strengths of the early childhood education care environment is that we work in a team. And I think it's important to be kind to ourselves as educators and give ourselves time to pause, because children benefit the most when we look after ourselves as educators and adults. And I think I just like to finish it there, Catharine because I think that's something that's important.
And it reminds me of the times that I've worked in amazing teams where it's sort of like we have borrowed a bit of somebody else's window and helped us to develop our own and broadened it. In fact, bizarrely I have met some educators in recent times who've developed stronger windows because they've worked in a collaborative environment where they've got a strong sense of collegiality and support and they have navigated these really fluid times. I think it's been a really interesting conversation and we've got lots of different ideas here. So just by way of reconnecting you to that really important idea that Cathrine shared with us right at the beginning which is coming back into that reflective practice space, taking the ideas that we've talked about today, which are multiple, which is one of the reasons why this is recorded so that you can go back and look at particular parts and perhaps play them to your colleagues and just say, can we have a conversation about some of these ideas, coming back into this space, re-examining what you know, drawing on the skills and strengths that you've actually had in practice over a long period of time. There's probably thousands of people sitting there going, actually hold on a second, card games are great. children love playing UNO. Where are these ideas and how can I connect some of the things that are really helpful? Some of the things that are perhaps in your storeroom that you'd never thought about in terms of self-regulation and bring them back into this space and rethink about them and make sure that those connections with your colleagues are really strong so that you can actually build that shared repertoire, that shared consistent practice. Cathrine, you look like you've got to add something there.
I just wanted to add that idea of, I remembered that one of the big words in the word cloud was this notion of consistency. And I think that's the other thing that many of these practises can really be extended to the family environment. And I go back to that notion of dosage matters for children. So if we're seeing the repetition of these messages and their reinforcement for children I think that's really important. It also gives parents something tangible to work with and with the knowledge that many of these parents are probably experiencing significant stress themselves, so they're looking for a scaffold from us as educators to support them in that journey.
So lots of opportunities there to share some of the things that work for you in your early childhood education and care setting with families in whatever platform you're doing that with. And I think it's also about building your confidence over time. So, thank you very much everybody for once again joining us and thank you for all of the methods that you've been doing in recent time to support children and families in their learning and engagement with early childhood education and care in Victoria. Thank you so much, Cathrine Nielsen-Hewitt for once again, sharing some fantastic ideas and thank you so much everybody and have a good evening.
This final session in the Guiding Children's Behaviour series is a panel, hosted by Catharine Hydon. The panel discusses strategies that have worked in practice to support children's self-regulation, reflect on how to plan and implement experiences that support self-regulation, and how they work as a team to develop and use consistent behaviour guidance approaches.
Hello everybody, and welcome to the Guiding Children's Behaviour regulation respect and relationships webinar series brought to you by the Department of Education and Training in Victoria and in partnership with Early Childhood Australia. My name is Catharine Hydon and I'll be your host and the facilitator of our last webinar conversation together. Before we get started, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the traditional owners on whose country you are all on and I am on here today. We acknowledge particularly the lands of the Kulin nation across Victoria and particularly pay attention to the ways in which we assist children to connect with country and to understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing and being in our early childhood education and care settings. Big shout out to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are here with us today. And an acknowledgement that of course teaching and learning has been taking place on these lands forever. And I draw your attention particularly to the Marrung Aboriginal Education statement made by the Education Department. And the words of Aunty Geraldine Atkinson that reminds us to hold the doors wide open as we welcome Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children into our programmes. It's fantastic to you've all made a time to be here. I understand that it's a very busy time. You are navigating the end of term two. I know how extraordinary that it wouldn't be at this time of the year already. I know that for lots of you you're still navigating many movable parts currently. So, thank you very much for making the time to be here. Hopefully you've taken some time to talk to your colleagues about some of the ideas that were covered in the first three webinars. And I know that lots of you have been talking to different people as we've progressed and already, you're sharing ideas and strategies and thoughts in the chat. So please keep doing those things and we'd love to hear your positive stories or things that you think are particularly great ideas that you've managed to retrieve from your own practise but also some of the ideas that we've covered in the webinar series so far. I know that for some of you the chat function can be a little bit distracting. So please feel free to turn that off and concentrate on our conversation today. We do want this to be a conversation. So, we want you to feel like you're part of a professional dialogue between us as we explore the ideas of self-regulation and guiding children's behaviour. So as of course you know this is our fourth and last online event in this series on guiding behaviour. We hope that you found the opportunities really insightful, and it's helped to reinforce the practises that you're already undertaking that you know are positive. Also, to think about new ideas. Today's session is a panel discussion another panel discussion but this time we're inviting Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett back to our panel discussion to have a bit more of a practise-oriented conversation. But also, Alexandra who will introduce in a moment has also joined us as an early childhood teacher who's practising these ideas on a daily basis to help explore what it looks like guiding children's behaviour and also supporting children's self-regulation. So, we're going to now do a quick recap of the three webinars that we've had so far, and Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett is going to just give us a bit of a sense of the big takeaway messages that we heard from those three webinars. We hope that for some of you this is a quick reminder of some of the big ideas that will support your ongoing thinking. So welcome back Cathrine fantastic that you're able to be here again with us today at the last webinar.
Thanks Catharine I'm thrilled to be here and really excited to kind of reflect on some of those key messages and we covered a lot. We did. All right and so it's kind of it's really challenging really to think the take homes that before I begin Catharine, I do want to just pay my respects to the traditional owners on the land in which I'm sitting which is the Wadi Wadi people of the Dharawal nation and pay my respects to elders past present and emerging. And for me, if I think about probably the three main take-homes that I really want to leave with educators, I guess the first one is around how the webinars really supported our deeper understanding of the complexity of children's behaviour. And throughout the webinar series we've really adopted a lens that positions children's behaviour is communicative and contextual. So, in webinar one and we see here on the slide we introduced educators to our five Rs. And so, you see the first three. So, we explored the significance of responsive relationships and respect and that's respect in the context of relationships as well as the importance of respectful and responsive environments. And we also talked about children's own self-regulatory capacities. And we talked about the importance of viewing children as competent and capable and contributing to their own learning and the environment. And if we look at the next slide, we'll see that we added another two Rs. And so, we really took a deep dive into the why. And in doing this we explored the many and really varied routes to challenging behaviour as well as the developmental nature of stress and the significant impact. And I think this is very present and significant now around children's experiences of chronic and episodic stress and how that shapes their behaviour. And we also discussed the role of our responses and the need to really reflect and draw in a deeper understanding of the different pedagogies needed to support children's behaviour. But also, we really talked about the need to match or align these with children's needs and capacities. And of course, and it was very much captured in that word cloud that we talked about the importance of connections and the importance of consistency. And I guess for me the value of that five R lens really lies in how it underpins our approach to supporting children and families. So, we want to build children's capacity rather than control how they behave. And I think what I really want to highlight here is that these are not independent of one another. So, you can't focus on skill acquisition without ensuring our learning environments are responsive and structured so that children feel safe and secure and that they're willing to take risks. And we also need to be intentional in how we differentiate our support for children. And that really depends on us developing a deeper appreciation and understanding of each child why. And each why is different. And that's why we invited participants to conduct those deep observations of children in their services because this gives us the understanding well it contributes let's say contributes to our understanding of the why. So, our focus then it's no really, it's no longer on children how are they behaving or what are they doing? But it's more about asking the questions what happened to you? What are you trying to tell me? And how can I best support you? So that would be my first take-home. And I think if we look at the next slide, I think our next really big take-home and we know how much it really resonated with everyone
Deeper appreciation for the role of children's brains in shaping their learning and their behaviour. And this was really reinforced in this boat analogy. And I think it resonated with so many of us because it really helps us to understand why it is so difficult for us to engage children in learning when they're in a heightened emotional state when they're under stress. So, it really kind of helped us understand why they seem to act without regard for others or regard for their environment. And they're doing this simply because I just can't see they can't navigate the complexities of their social world when they're sitting in the hull. And the boat analogy not only helps us understand where children are at but for me it helps us to align our pedagogies and our practises with children's needs and emotional states. So, a number of the pedagogies that we examined in webinar three like the memory game and the musical statutes and the imaginative play-based pedagogies really build on the assumption that children are on the deck. And therefore, they're primed for learning and acquiring new skills and competencies. And for many children that is the case. But in webinar three we also touched on pedagogies that are really designed to respond to and support children when they're in the hull. And Sally talked to some of these in webinars two as well around those sensory experiences. So, if we draw on the boat analogy again Catharine these pedagogies are really our ladder. And then they are designed to bring children back into that state of functionality or back into their window of tolerance. And we know when we learned that the effectiveness of the pedagogies really depends on their developmental relevance to the child that we're supporting. Again, going back to those deep observations that we really asked people to engage in. We know that they need to be repetitive because we've learnt dosage matters. When it comes to supporting young children, we know that they need to be rewarding and make children feel good. And they also tap into the rhythmic needs of children. So, we included lots of ideas like playing with slime or sensory experiences or rhythmic work like dancing and jumping. But we also talked about calming experience and that's something we really need to build on and understand what works for what child and my last take home sorry is really around the significance of intentional pedagogue both in terms of what they teach how we teach but also our own wellbeing. So, for me these webinars have really put a spotlight on the integrated nature of teaching and learning and many approaches that we talked about will be familiar to educators and they align perfectly with the practise commitment deployed in the Development Framework and perhaps their experiences that educators have previously engaged with maybe they haven't donned their self-regulatory lens when we've engaged in those experiences. And I guess the other part of that intentional pedagogue is the emotional availability of that adult. So, Leanne and webinar two really on her own experiences and her own self-regulatory capacities and how they shaped the climate of the learning environment and planted in that moment of self-reflection at the end of webinar three and that focus on the emotional environment of the classroom. And we know emotions are contagious and that's among children in between staff. So, it means that children are sensitive to our emotions. So, at times of stress, we need to check in and we really need to look after ourselves first before we're positioned to really support children. So, they would be my take homes.
Well, that's fantastic. And I think that the boat analogies are a very powerful one I've had numerous conversations with people over the last little while who really understood behaviour in a different way. And just simply not being able to see what's going on around you because you're in your hull is a really good way of thinking about children as they navigate their daily experiences in their early childhood education and care settings. And of course, you can hear in what Cathrine is talking about here the deep connection between the practise principles in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and some of the ideas there's evidence-based ideas that Catharine's sharing with us. So, one of the things that you might want to do because of these conversations is go back into the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and find where those ideas come to life. So that integrated teaching and learning opportunities the need for reflection. And we'll talk a little bit more about the use of reflective practise particularly the planning cycle to think a little bit about this when make a mixed panellists Alexandra but there are lots of different opportunities for you to connect those ideas with your existing practise but also stretch those ideas a bit further and go back into the document that key documents that inform our work for us the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and see how there might be new opportunities and new possibilities. So, thank you so much Cathrine. I think it's been a fantastic way to really shed some more light in this space to help people feel a little bit more like they can manage some of the decisions they're making and think about how I can be responsive to the needs and best interests of the children that they're working with. So, one thing though has come up a couple of times and I'm interested in you talk about this. And then we might ask Alexandra our next panellist what her take is it because I understand she's been doing some talking to families today but what about our relationship with families? How do we pursue a conversation around behaviour guidance and self-regulation with families we know of course that the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework has a key component about the relationships we have with family's partnership we have with families? So maybe you can share a few thoughts about that but maybe before I do that, I should just say hello Alex very lovely that you're here.
Alex we're going to hear from Cathrine and then I'll introduce you. So, Cathrine what's you're thinking around the relationship that we have with families in this area? Yeah, I mean this is such a challenging area because it is so emotionally charged. So, I think just going back to that planning cycle that you talked about Catharine I think any conversation that we have needs to be planned and it needs to be thoughtful. And so, I think there's a few things that kind of guide and I'm really interested in Alex's insights here. But I think from my perspective there's a few things that I think about when I'm talking to families. And first is the timing we really need to think about when we speak to them so often, we connect with parents and pickup time but for parents this might beat the end of a long and potentially today and these kinds of conversations because they are so emotionally charged can easily push parents into their own hull if they weren't already there. And more than that I think it also sets the tone for the conversations in the car ride home with children. And that car ride needs to be a time for reconnection and sharing and the richness of those relationships. So, I think the first things to think about the timing and when do we have those conversations with parents, and you will know your parents and what works for the different parents that you support. So, for some it may be at pickup time that is the best time because when they go home things are chaotic for others, they actually might need a little bit of warning and time. I think the other thing is to think about when we're discussing children's behaviour, we really need to focus on what we want to see rather than what we don't want to see. And so, we talk about the importance of adopting strengths-based approach when talking with children and I think same applies to families. And it's important that we don't put parents in a position where they feel that they must defend children's behaviour in any way. So, it's really thinking about how we can together create opportunities for children to develop the skills that we know will set them up for success. I guess the other thing is if we're talking about what they need then be ready with strategies that you can share with parents. So, let's say you're wanting to foster children's attentional and problem-solving capacities. Then we might talk to parents about the importance of giving children an opportunity to plan and make choices when they're at home. So, choosing what they're going to play choosing what they're going to wear if the child that you're supporting is having difficulty in terms of their behaviour inhibition then so they're not sharing they're not waiting the turn that we might suggest games that parents can play at home like musical statues or holding fast at dinner time. And so, for me that's around giving them the supports but also the importance of consistency across contexts and dosage. So, children like most kind of practise. I think we also need to remember the roots to behaviours, and we need to be really sensitive cause sometimes children's behaviours may reflect parents stress or parenting challenges. So, we need to ask ourselves how well positioned are parents to be able to support what children need. We need to ask our question ourselves what is happening for that child and support the parent to ask those questions and how can we then create a platform for success together. And I think finally I think it's important as educators to be aware of our own expertise and our own capacities and our own knowledge and this means knowing as a team when someone else might be better placed to support children. So, knowing what professional supports are available in your area the importance of those integrated service platforms is so important for supporting children. And that is why again we really invited you to conduct those deep observations because this will really strengthen the conversations that you have with professionals and provide allied health teams with the kind of contextual knowledge they need, and you have that as educators that they don't necessarily get in terms of watching children navigate the complexity. So, I guess there's some of the things that I would think about Catharine when engaging families.
Fantastic. Engaging families. Thank you so much for that Cathrine. I think that is always a complex area. I think and people feel little bit nervous from time to time, but I love the idea of a planned approach. Speaking of people who might plan some of their approaches hello Alexandra and I'm going to call you Alex because I think that's what people do call you. So that's good. So, Alex it's a pleasure to introduce you and invite you to be part of our panel conversation today. And we know how powerful itis for our gathered audience to hear from practitioner's early childhood teachers like yourself. So, let me tell you a little bit about Alex before we get started. And I might ask Alex about some of the conversations that she might be having today in fact we families. So, Alex is from Echuca South Community Kindergarten in sunny Echuca maybe not so sunny but it's fantastic that you are able to join us from Regional Victoria. Alex is in his sixth year of teaching at the Echuca South Community Kindergarten which is an exceeding service it's fantastic so congratulations and while completing your degree at LaTrobe University. She went to Sweden and was part of an international exchange which if we have another day, we'd love to hear all about that but there we go that sounds fantastic. And you are clearly, and you've told us you're very strong believer in connecting to culture and connecting to families to deliver successful outcomes to children. And I understand that Alex you also did a placement at an Echuca South Community Kindergarten is that correct in your as you? Is that correct? Yeah, there you go. So, they obviously recognised a fantastic asset there and got you to comeback which is fantastic. So, Alex perhaps if you can share a couple of insights with us about some of the things that Cathrine said because I understand today you have been in fact talking to families and sharing the progress that children have been making. So, did behaviour guidance and self-regulation come up in your conversations today?
It did many of times. And I just want to say thank you so much for having me and I feel a bit nervous following you Cathrine. (laughs)
Okay bring the lived experience Alex and I say that is the most significant narrative.
Well, I've learnt so much and have definitely taken part and listened to the previous webinar videos and I have really learned so much and it sort of triggered some points that I'd really love to touch base with. I did I have had parent conversations all day today since this morning. And I still feel fresh believe it or not. So, look the parent conversations today are part of what we call learning review days. And they take place every term they've only probably been in place for the last three years, but they have been a major turning point in terms of relationships with families. So, it's really a moment that we can stop reflect and set some goals for their children and moving forward. A lot of the discussions I had today all of them in fact were positive. And one was around in particular self-regulation and this particular child I actually had the pleasure of teaching for two years now. So, it was an early start enrolment, and this is the child's second year. And it was a beautiful moment of aha. This child has just come so far. And I guess I'm in my sixth year of teaching so I'm still fresh and don't have all the answers. I don't know if what I'm doing is correct or I'm always going is that should I don't know. But today was probably a moment where I thought "Hey this child in particular has really come a long way." And the self-regulation for this child they're now doing on their own. And they weren't at the start when they first arrived for me. So just in terms of their progress and their self-regulation it's been a journey for the child and for me yeah. And maybe Alex she can tell us a little bit more about what strategies you put in place for this child. So, there was obviously it wasn't through luck. It was probably through planning.
And so, were there some of the things that you can identify that you think were particularly helpful for this child and did you talk to the families about those sorts of things today?
Yeah definitely. So basically, when this child came to kindergarten, they had no resilience and not aware of how to self-regulate what if things would go wrong in play for this child. And they did not have any skill or knowledge of what to do with the feelings that they were experiencing. So, in terms for this child specifically we trialled a lot of things for them. We trialled giving them their own space which didn't work for this child. This child physically needed us to support the regulation. And what do you mean by that? What did you have to do? Well, whether it meant offering them a hug. Yes. The language that we used. So, I can see that you are not okay. I can say that you are really upset. So, in terms of yeah, the specific strategies it was either physical touch that would support them and obviously we're respectful in that in regards to the child Yes. The language that we would use. So really talking them through and labelling the emotion that they were experiencing. And then obviously a quiet space. So, they were the strategies that we would use in place back then. And only the other day this child still has moments. I still have moments. I still need to self-regulate, this child had a moment stormed off and I looked at my co-educator and I said just wait. And I waited. And this child stood at the bathroom door and went (sighs) and walked back in.
So, the conversation with the mother or the family today was your child self-regulated and was able to bring their body back to themselves and move on. So that was a really bright moment for us today.
And I think you've reminded us all to maybe share some success stories sometimes with families you know that, and I think Cathrine you mentioned this before. If our only conversations with families is when there's a problem or when there is something that you're not sure how to navigate that we might forget sometimes to say Hey look what I noticed today. And look at the skill that your child is demonstrating and look how well, and we could potentially use the boat analogy with families too. I think that's an interesting one. Look how well your child climbed that ladder and got themselves back into that space. Cathrine do you want to comment about some of those things I guess the nature of our conversation today is to bridge the theory to the practise?
Absolutely I think Alex thank you so much for sharing. That's so generous. And I think what really rang true to me when I was thinking about that was your ability to provide effective support for that child really hinged on your understanding of what took him out sides window of tolerance, but you also learnt through trying different things and seeing how he responded what brought him back in. And I think that's once you were able to do that effectively and engage then you're actually able to respond in other ways. And give him the kind of skills that we know are important for him to actually like you said Cathrine climb that ladder on his own because that's what we're really focusing on is that ability to kind of support to engage. But I think the other thing that you talked about was his progression and I think that's important. And that was a question that someone asked in webinar three right Catharine? And really understanding children's developmental capacities and when they're ready to move from that other to code self-regulation and how we scaffold the way that we support children but also how we scaffold the environment to ensure that they experienced some success. And I think that that really highlights to me the importance of understanding children's needs having that differentiated approach that taps into children's developmental capacities but also those clear intentions. So, understanding what does that mean? What do emotions look like? What does self-regulation look like? So, for instance Alex when she gets a little bit upset she might stamp her foot sometimes Catharine she does that when she's little bit upset. So, it's about giving clear and concrete examples to children. So, they understand what behaviours look like and how they're tied to children's emotions and feelings.
That's right. And I think that's important about you talk about me stamping my feet. I think I'm on a journey at the moment really reflective journey of me professionally. I feel like I'm in a mid-employment crisis, no I'm not. (laughs)
A reflection moment Alex. Where you're going, who am I and how can I progress?
Yeah, and I think in terms of emotion I've always believed that you should leave your emotions at the door when you walk into work and we've done some reflective practise within our team about well we need to model to children behaviour, and we model language why don't we model emotions? So that's been a big thing and I've spoken to the children. And if I've had a horrible sleep, I can say I'm feeling really tired today. Or my heart is feeling really tired and that's okay because it's normal and it's human and we all feel it. So, we really believe about modelling emotional behaviour and emotions with children is super important.
And Alex have you done sort of lots of thinking with your team about that I'd love you to share some of the processes and being really practical until it's exactly what you've done because I think there's a lot of people that are going so how do you do that? So, be really specific but with your team how have you brought them together to think about your strategies like that one like the way that you support your children in terms of self-regulation how do you bring team together?
Oh, how do we well I work with a beautiful co-educator we're very I guess emotionally in tune with each other. I think I'm very lucky to have her and not everyone does but I think it's really important to be able to be honest with the team that you work with. I spend a lot of time with my work family rather than at home. Yes. So, they need to know how I'm feeling. And they've probably read me a bit better than some of my own family. I think just being honest about I guess how we are feeling and being honest about what we can bring to the team to the group emotionally. And I think when I talk about self-regulation and in the past I've had some real challenging moments in my teaching. And I think within your team it's actually really important that you're able to tag in and tag out and be able to say Hey I'm not coping, or I need a moment so I'm very lucky to have that relationship within my team, but I don't think it's something that just happens. I think it's something that continues to build. And you must work on it. You do you do. And is that through meetings and talking to each other so you actually have time together it to reflect? I think well in my position and with my co-educator we constantly reflect whether it's written verbal at the end of day on chat if we didn't get to catch up it's important to be able to have those moments and be able to communicate with your team. So yeah, no it's been a process and it's been a journey just like a kindergarten journey.
Yes, and I guess it's a timely reminder to everybody to make time for those reflective conversations and to be consistent consistency came up very strongly. It's difficult to be consistent if you don't have time to talk to each other about being consistent. So, let's not make assumptions that Alex you know what I mean? So, make sure that we all talk together about this is what we mean when this situation occurs. This is what we're going to do. And as you say to be honest and upfront about that process. Cathrine can you talk a little bit about the way that educators work together in that collaborative space to try and make decisions around self-regulation and guiding children's behaviour?
Teah, I think it's really around getting back to just what we talk about with children. It's about consistency clarity and clear expectations and empowering everyone to have a very clear voice. So, I think when we support educators and with the work that we're doing it's really around we do a lot about the why. And I think it's really important for educators to understand their role in the why of children's behaviour and how we contribute to that. And I think understanding and engaging deeply in the evidence base that sits around children's self-regulation and behaviour is so empowering in terms of the decisions that we make. But I think there's certainly importance for us to prioritise that and to have those rich discussions around what are some of the key priorities around self-regulation and children's behaviour but also making sure that we're on the same page. I think one of the biggest challenges that many educators have shared with me is around approaches to conflict resolution. So, I think a conflict within the early childhood environment is really challenging even conflict amongst staff I think their real challenges in terms of looking at the emotional climate. So little things like that about thinking about how we support conflict resolution with children in the service again it's about being consistent. So, whether we're using the High Scope's six steps to conflict resolution or whatever approach you do it's important to be consistent. And to share that with parents as well because consistency is not just about what's happening within the early childhood education environment but also what's happening across what's happening in the home context and the educational context. And I think Alex I was reading some of the comments as you were talking around emotion and it really resonated with so many people online and there's lots of different approaches and in the same way Catharine with our approach to conflict resolution and it doesn't matter as much what approach you take but that it's consistent for the system it's not confusing.
And one of the key aspects around kind of supporting children around emotions is really around the difference between feeling emotions versus the way we express that. And I think it's important that children know that this is a safe place to feel big emotions. We're not suppressing the feeling of emotions. What we're doing is giving children's strategies to express the way they are feeling in a way that is supportive of other children in the environment. And of course, children are learning how to do this it's a learning process. So, and this is one of the reasons why the reflection component of the Victorian Early Years Development Framework that asks us to plan effectively for behaviour guidance strategies for self-regulation strategies is so critical. So, Alex can you take us a little bit into your planning process? Do you collect observations about children's self-regulation and behaviour and how do you use those to make decisions? And so, tell us a little bit through your planning approaches.
I guess something that and it's come up today with our parent conversations is we use a document that is an individualised planning document for each child. And what I love about the document is it has the voice of the child the voice of family and the voice of myself and my team. It also has the child's interests the child's goals of what we achieve and the parents' goals. So, this document is so well developed because it starts at the very start of their journey.
So you do that right at beginning you have this conversation at the beginning.
Yeah so, we have an interview day where they come in, we can talk about what to packing your lunch box and bag, but we can also talk about "Hey what are your goals for your child?" What is your child's goal? So, I think one of the child's goals today was to paint and to listen. And I was able to say your child has reached this goal. Your child's able to listen and your child's able to paint. But so, the conversations today were a big reflection on the goals I think one and moving forward we set some goals with the families today.
So, in a six-month cycle almost.
Yeah so, we will meet again next term. And that looks at children's transition to school and how it might look whether that child would benefit from additional transition with the school it's sort of individualised to each child. And I think in terms of planning this document is sort of capturing everything holistically. It's got the family's voice the child's voice and the educators voice in it. So, if any other services out there are looking to develop something like that it's an amazing way to incorporate and manage progress and Yeah track the distance travelled, I think is how we sometimes refer to there's a couple of people on the online and had an epiphany moment now saying what an amazing thing to do and how to capture all of that information. Particularly the goals of children. Would you say that some of the collection of information in those documents has been orientated towards self-regulation to family sometimes say I want my child to self-regulate or did I use different words?
Yeah, you get some interesting ones that you question I want to stop them from having tanties or emotional management. The parents bring some of those aspirations around their children's guiding their children's behaviour and what they would hope for their children's selfregulation to the conversation with you. Yeah of course and it opens the discussion because you don't know these families and some, we do but they bring their paperwork their enrolment all about me. And then they come with this we call it an IEP an Individual Education Plan and it can be a daunting process. So, they would have had the time to fill it out prior to coming. And we are actually able to see emotional regulation well tell me more about that. What exactly is happening? or what is it that you want to work on? So, it just opens a discussion with it's a partnership and it happens right at the start.
Yeah, and I guess you're also reminding us about the rigour of the process. And I think Cathrine you said this before the intentional pedagogue it's the intentional pedagogue who's really thinking through these processes not leaving it to chance not leaving it to a situation that might arise something else might happen about the intentional pedagogue Cathrine do you want to respond to that? Yeah absolutely. If you may Alex what you're talking about really highlights to me the importance of assessment and how assessment under pins our effective support of children and family. And it's supports our ability to differentiate so much of what you've talked about is that individualised response to children and understanding their needs and just that empowerment of children as sharing their goals because then they become part of the assessment process themselves. And Catharine we talk about intentional pedagogue but really what we're trying to achieve is the intentional learner. And so, then children actually have a voice as part of that process and engaging the multiple voices as part of that approach to assessment is so important, but it also provides us insight into the different priorities that we have and an understanding of the contextual nature of children's behaviour. So, the fact that parent prioritised listening and yet you say Alex well they do listen then the question for me is then why is that such an important focus? Because perhaps they're not listening at home and what do you do within the educational setting that supports and scaffolds that child to listen. And then what kind of strategies can you share with that parent? So, it's such an important process and really understanding the complexities and how we can foster it because we know when children go to school they may be provided with different supports. So empowering parents to know what actually works to guide and support that child I think is really important and a commitment that we have to learning continuities.
Absolutely and in the Victorian context of course our participants will know that the continuity of learning between the early years into the early years of school through the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework lens and those transition statements are such a powerful way to support children as they move to their next learning opportunity which is going to be the early years of school. It's such a really fantastic reminder. I think about the importance of the planning cycle and really using that to our advantage so that we can think through those things. I'm interested Alex to take us to another part of the planning cycle. And I guess this is also picking up another part of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework with our integrated teaching and learning strategies. Can we talk about strategies particular strategies teaching strategies that you use in your programme? You might've used it yesterday. What sort of things work? We've heard from our previous panellists Sally and Leanne about things that work. Sally talked about having things that flow sand and water what stuff do you do that you think works?
Gosh well actually just probably this term I think again sort of being reflecting on practise within my position, but I think something that I've noticed is reading children and reading the group. Just yesterday and it was raining from the moment children arrived at the moment children left. Some of the hardest days those rainy days and windy days. Yeah, so what did you do? Well, I had the group of three-year-olds. (yep) And it was hard because we were inside. I tried a game sort of like a body break. Okay I'm going to put some coloured dots out. We'll choose our favourite colour we'll do some jumping. It completely did not work.
And I think from my perspective I thought well I could persist, and it be a complete flop, or I could just say let's stop and move on to something else let's do something else. So, I think for me I've been really reflecting on reading the group. The four-year-old group that I teach are busy as every kindergarten group is, I think but I feel like I've become really attuned with them and not packing up just because it's and we think morning meeting has to happen. I think if they're settled let's roll with that. They're engaged and sitting down for a story and noticing lots of wriggling. How you've meant to listen to a story if you're wriggly. So really trying to be tuned with the group. And if it's not working don't persist there's no point in persisting with something you want to achieve. If the outcome isn't going to be what you wanted to be. Don't you know what I mean?
Yeah absolutely. And I think there's probably a whole lot of people online going 'oh thank goodness' because what Alex you're saying that we don't have to be perfect and have the perfect plan. And it goes exactly according to plan you can change the way you do things. So, does that mean Alex that you've got to have ideas up your sleeve?
Oh yeah. (laughs)
Give me tell us what did you do instead?
So, you were had that plan and then it didn't quite go what did you do instead. Yesterday instead of our little game we actually washed our hands and I felt like we needed some food. I felt like our bodies weren't ready to listen. We need more energy and it either works or it doesn't. And I just think we're in such a really beautiful time of children's lives that we can be fun spontaneous but also staying within our routines and our structure. We can be fun and spontaneous and some things like that really just reengage and recapture children so yeah. So, it's a very simple strategies and it actually it's I mean Cathrine you might like to respond to this if it sounds simple it sounds like okay that didn't work let's eat you know? So, you think well how is that sophisticated behaviour guidance technique? Like is that a sophisticated behaviour guidance technique?
Well, it may well be though Alex here's the thing. So, we've got luckily, we have a professor so there we go Cathrine Neilsen-Hewitt you've got the evidence based instead of sophisticated behaviour guidance technique.
I'm actually going to say it's an excellent example of Alexandra's self-regulatory capacities because really you talked about the perfect plan. And I think the perfect plan is the plan that is flexible and responsive to the needs of the children and the learning environment. And so, the fact that you have great self-regulation skills it means that you problem solve that you are able to be flexible in your ideas you can kind of look at different options and that more important than that that you actually are purposeful you're deliberate you know the children that you're supporting and you actually know what the content does for those children and how it responds and what your priorities are. And that's why we talk about those rich learning environments Catharine and Alex that are really around that child initiated adult extended. So that sense of contribution of both the child and the adult and really responding to that. So, I'm going to give you an A+ for self reg?
There we go so, and this is probably some good reminders to us all is to rely on some of those very profound like okay time to eat bit of increasing our blood sugar levels and help us think of it better and the same with a glass of water it makes a big difference to our thinking capacity helps us get from our hull to our upper deck. So, some of those things seem simple but in fact tuning in as you rightly pointing out there tuning into children really reading that space, I guess you have to slow down a little bit in order to tune in and not be so determined to do it your way or the highway so to speak. So, Alexandra we we're coming up to the end of our conversation today time flies when you're engaged in a great conversation. Give us a couple of other ideas that work particularly. What else would you if you say for your example talking to a very beginning teacher, we've got some of those people online what sort of things would you suggest? Going outside doing what other sorts of things would you suggest work really well for children's selfregulation?
I think well as a new teacher I think the best thing that you can do when you are starting out is networking.
Engaging with anyone and everyone that you can because I have no answers, I have some I don't have all of them. And I just think I have learnt doing speaking observing. And I think that's some advice that I would give any educator is networking.
Call other centres call other kindergartens and reach out. In terms of strategies that I use. One thing I think is really important with children. And I guess when we talk about challenging behaviours you do have to put your... You have to keep yourself safe. And I know some teachers would work with some physical behaviours but getting down on children's level I think is really important especially just I think I don't like being spoken down to so I'm always quite conscious of where I position myself when speaking to children any other strategies, I just think trial and error don't be afraid to make mistakes. Something might not work but it might work the next time. So, try and try again.
Have you tried some of those sorts of techniques that Cathrine talked about in the last couple of opportunities we've heard from her about teaching children particular selfregulation strategies are you a fan of games and card games and things like that are you using some of those ideas?
We actually have in our reflective sessions with our team that we've been doing we've actually used a few sets the Bear cards which I really loved because the lady that we were doing the reflective practise with the card showed the full body of the bear. These cards are everywhere you get different animals.
You spoke about the importance of the full body rather than just the face because when you're sad you sort of close off when you are angry you sort of clench up.
So, she spoke about the importance of showing the full body and the body... And that's been a helpful tool for you to support children particularly and helping them to understand their emotions. Well yeah and just noting can see you are tense. I can see your body is really stiff looking about the physical emotions that the children are experiencing. I think it's a really really helpful tool.
I think it also points using the direction of something that we talked about right at the beginning when we first introduced this series, I seem to have a fly right in front of me where we're talking about how important this is for all children. So not just for children who have big emotions and who might have particular diagnosis of some description but for all children learning about some of those really profound emotions and understanding what happens to your body in that context is a really helpful great example. I think of intentional teaching. Cathrine we're in our winding up space now where we're sort of pulling some of these ideas together. Do you want to share a couple of key thoughts from what we've heard from Alex and some of the conversations I've see that the chat continues to be quite busy there? So, lots of different ideas there but Cathrine back to you and in particular big take homes that we want to now move on now and we're at the conclusion about four-part series.
Yeah, I think Catharine I just want us to revisit the Rs because I think that's really they guide us so much even Alex when you were talking about being on children's level that really sits so beautifully with that sense of respect and value for children. So, I think really in terms of moving forward it's just consistently thinking about what the quality of our relationship with the children and the families is that we support. Have I created a climate that supports children to feel big emotions to engage effectively in their environment to learn do I have I create an environment where families feel safe to share the challenges that they're experiencing with children so that idea of relationships and respect but it's really around empowering children with those skills? So, Alex talking about how children understand what emotions look like what do emotions feel like. Feel like. But again, just thinking about that bigger picture Catharine I think constantly we live in an environment that's changing constantly. COVID has presented a whole lot of challenges. And I think we really need to think about what impacts stress and I don't like to use the word trauma because trauma is not so much in the event but our experience of the event. But I think we need to think about the impact that stress has on children and the impact that stress has on the relationships children have. So, children do best when they have supportive and responsive relationship at home early childhood and within the community. So, it's thinking about how children's behaviours really tell us something about their needs and sometimes it's what they need or what needs are not being met. So again, it's looking at that the complex view and we really need to think about all of those factors that really shape and support children's behaviour. And when we do that and take that comprehensive view then I think we're really empowered to be in a position where we can support children and families effectively.
Well, this takes us to the end of our webinar series, and it's been a fantastic to continue to talk to you Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett about some of the evidence that supports our thinking. And of course, Alex and our panellists over the last little while who've helped us to come back into practise so really grounded into practise. It is important that you go back into the Department of Education and Training website and have a look at the school readiness funding menu. If that's what you're interested in exploring, there's a whole range of information there will be as Alex suggested two opportunities for you to continue to network with your colleagues. So, continue to look out for that. The Department of Education and Training website is a plethora of information. So is too is your local region. So, if you've got a question about how to connect locally what else is happening in that space please go and talk to your local regional staff. Thank you so much everybody for your participation over these last webinars. It's an amazing privilege to sit and think with educators. So, I've learnt heaps from the conversations as we have progressed, I've learnt about what it looks like on a Wednesday afternoon when it's raining. Thank you very much Alex. And I've also learnt about some really big new ideas that Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett has presented to us. So hopefully all of you will take some of these ideas and start to progress conversations in your individual services. So, if you're an educational leader it's an opportunity for you to revisit the material that we've had today. So, go back and have a look at the recordings take little snippets of it pause them as you go show a little bit of it and have those discussions that Alex was talking about. What does it mean for us? What does it look like for us? Get the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework out have a look at your planning cycle. How can you respond to those things? There may be ideas that you've heard today that you think I will update it for the last three webinars that we've had that particularly intrigue you. Now it's not a matter of doing those tomorrow and say just because Alex said, or Leanne said, or Sally said we're going to do what they've suggested. It's a conversation that you need to have with your colleagues a reflective practise conversation to say what might that look like for us? How do we start to plan fours in our particular context what are the children of families in our community? What are they thinking about? What are their needs? You know your community's best you know your context best take that into reflective practise processes. Think through that and then start to apply them over time. As Alex has reminded us a lot of this is a bit of trial and error. So, you need to use your professional expertise to try new ideas to see whether they work record information that helps you understand whether they in fact have made a difference or not take away things that don't work and introduce new ideas and test them out to see if they continue to work. And please reach out to other professionals in your community. The partnerships with professionals are really important. You might get to a point when you think actually, I need some further assistance this particular child needs more assistance. And again, we would reach out to our maternal and child health nurses and other professionals in our community. And of course, indeed reach out to your educational leaders and other colleagues who can support you in these conversations. We do wish you all the best as you encounter this work. And we know that children with additional needs and children with challenging behaviours and children from all different places and spaces to take us into a place where we can truly reflect about our impact on the lives of the children and families we work with. Thank you very much everybody for your participation over these four webinars. And we hope to see you again thank you. (upbeat music)
Connecting assessment to practice
The first webinar in this series is a conversation between Jane Page and Catharine Hydon, focusing on assessment for learning, using the early years planning cycle to support assessment, and gathering evidence of children’s learning to capture progress aligned to the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF).
Well, good afternoon, everybody. My name is Catharine Hydon, and I'm pleased to welcome you here to this series on Connecting Assessment to Practice brought to you by the Victoria Department of Education and Training in partnership with Early Childhood Australia. First, before we begin, I'd like to pause for a moment and acknowledge the traditional owners on whose country we're on. I'm here on the lands of the Woiwurrung people of the Kulin Nation and I particularly want to pay my respects to elders who have helped us and guided us and supported our thinking to learn more about teaching and learning on country across many, many decades. And in the lead up to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day in August, August the fourth, let's continue to work really hard to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children, to feel proud in culture and strong in spirit. And of course, a big shout out to all of you. Thank you so much for joining us. We know that it's a complex time and every day that you work, you deal with many competing stories and a whole lot of things that perhaps are unexpected, but we know that you're navigating the COVID pandemic in a way that's really supporting children and families to continue to participate in early childhood education, so thank you so much for making the time to be here. And also a shout out to all those people who have joined us later in the videos. And thank you very much for registering your interest in being a part of this conversation. I understand we're joined by over 1,000 people today, so that shows you how important the ideas are that we're talking about and how important the ideas of assessment are to you as you continue to support children to learn and grow. Before I welcome our speaker Jane Page, Dr Jane Page. Some of you know her, and I've seen you already identifying in the chats that you may have had connections with Jane and maybe worked with her or been taught by her in the past, which is fantastic. Let me just tell you a little bit about how it's going to work today and the roles that we're going to play. This is going to be a great series of online events that you can hear from experts and a range of people over the next four events. So, make sure that you go online and check out when those next events are going to be. This is the full first of a series of four, and we're really pleased that you can be here. We know that assessment is interest to lots of you and your colleagues and we know it's something that we do need to focus on a regular basis. We need to come back and revisit those ideas and reconnect. So, it might be really important now for you to grab a piece of paper and a pen and take a few notes and think about the ways that you might continue a conversation with your colleagues after our presentation today. And of course you might want to revisit some of the things that we talk about when you have a look at the videos a bit later on, and you might want to bring other people together and share particular aspects of the discussion that we have. So, it is my absolute pleasure now to introduce our guest, who's going to share all manner of insights into assessment and help us to really understand some of the ideas around assessment. I'm really looking forward to this conversation. So again, many of you will know Dr Jane Page. She's an Associate Professor at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne. Jane has worked in the early childhood field for over 30 years, covering a range of roles as a director and teacher in an early childhood service, as well as teaching and researching in the university sector. And Jane has a few ex-students on the line here today, which is very exciting. Jane's research interests include teacher effectiveness, coaching, educational leadership, and the application of human rights principles into early childhood settings. In recent years, Jane has been actively engaged in the development and implementation of a number of projects with state and local governments and using the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. And in connection with the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority, focusing on early childhood teachers pedagogical practices. We're also really mindful of the fact that Jane is going to open up a space where we can really think deeply about assessment. So, if you feel like we're taking a step back at understanding some of the context, that's exactly what we're going to do, and we'll weave our way through some conversations over these four webinars and then land in some practicalities as we keep going. But hi, Jane, over to you now, welcome to this webinar, and we're really looking forward to hearing from you.
Thank you so much, Catharine. I'm so delighted to be here today with everyone in the very first Connecting Assessment to Practice webinar. And I thought that we might begin today by just reflecting on the ways in which we engage in assessment in the early years of education. And you can see on the slide here, that there were three main forms of assessment that we use as early childhood professions. So, the first type of assessment is assessment of learning and development, and they are the summaries that we develop regarding what children know, understand, and can do at a particular time point during the year. Second, assessment as learning and development. And that occurs when we involve children actively in assessing their learning and development alongside us as adults. And then third, assessment for learning and development. And that's that continuous process of finding out what children know, understand, and can do at particular points in time in order to plan the 'what next', to build on children's previous learning and to support new learning. And I think when we engage in assessment practices in early childhood, we do so with particular purposes in mind. We're really keen to develop that holistic picture of every child, to use assessments to support us to build those responsive relationships and practices with children and families, kinship members and carers, early learning communities, to plan meaningful play-based learning experiences to purposefully tailor learning goals and teaching strategies that advanced individual children's learning and development. And then to really reflect on the impact of our plan and our interactions.
I'm so glad that you started with just understanding what the terminology means. 'Cause I think there's probably people who are here who are doing some of these things that may maybe not calling it assessment of, as, and for learning. They might be calling it program planning, they might be using other observation terminologies and things like that, but they might not think about it as assessment. Jane, can I ask, do we sometimes sort of worry about that terminology? Do we sort of need to make friends with the idea of assessment and start to attach it to what we do?
Well, I think it's, that's such an interesting question, Catharine, because I think as I was just saying, I think we are very purposeful and we do use assessment in early childhood and we have those particular goals in mind. We want to develop those holistic views of children, we want to build those responsive relationships and meaningful play-based learning experiences. And assessment may not be a term that we use, but we certainly always, but we do engage. And I think, we define it in our own way. And so if you think of assessment as learning, we write transition learning and development statements. And in those transition learning and development statements, we are summarising children's learning and development, we're identifying children's learning styles and approaches to learning, their interests and we're indicating how that child can be supported to advance at schools, so we engage in these practices and in a practice such as assessment of learning and development really build the continuity of learning across early childhood and school settings. But importantly, they also include children's and family members' perspectives as well. So they represent that collaborative approach to assessment.
Well, I think it gives us a really great platform for taking a further dive into assessment, which I'm sure is where you're going to take us.
Indeed, so I thought in the next section, we might just reflect on why we engage in assessment for learning. And so I'm really conscious that it is actually Early Learning Matters Week. And so it's a great time for actually unpacking assessment and thinking about that more deeply, and the research is really clear, early education matters. And we know that the experiences and the opportunities afforded to young children in those first years of life really shape and influence young children's learning and development in the here and now as well as throughout life. But assessment for learning matters as well, because we know it's the practices we adopt to build that rich, detailed, strengths-based picture of individual children's learning and development and the interactions that we have with children that will actually determine the extent to which we advance young children's learning and development. So, assessment for learning really illuminates those possibilities for us and supports us to enact those meaningful, rich learning experiences and interactions with young children. And I love this quotation that's on the screen. The VEYLDF describes assessment for learning as an essential ingredient to planning for and promoting new learning and development, which is a way of really highlighting why it matters when we engage in the process of assessment for learning, we document over time what children know, are ready to learn, and how we respond to children's unique learning interests and capabilities. And it's in this way, it's a really key process for advancing the five learning and development outcomes outlined in the VEYLDF. So, assessment for learning supports us to ensure that the children we teach, develop that strong sense of identity, are connected with and contribute to their worlds, develop a strong sense of wellbeing, confident in involved learnings and effective communicators.
It's fantastic that there, we can attach that to our daily work. You know, exactly what you just said then it really gives us a way to say that process, those practices start to bring to life children's learning and it's through that that we can engage in conversations with families. So assessments are a really fantastic tool to engage families in the conversation, I'm sure you're going to get to that, but I feel like this is something we do every day, so terminology that we can attach to everyday practices.
That's exactly right. And I think we'll reflect on that even further as we explore the process embedded in assessment for learning. So, on the next slide, we sort of outline that process and assessment for learning really involves several steps. Gathering that information on children's knowledges, understanding skills and capabilities in order to discover what children know, understand, and can do. But then importantly it involves really analyzing, well, what does this information mean so we can identify those next steps and actions in our planning and in our decisions regarding those evidence-based strategies that we will use to support children's learning at particular points in time, it really helps us to really focus in a very deliberate, purposeful way on what children are ready to learn and to build on that. And it also involves reflecting on whether the learning aims have been achieved and I think this is important, how do we know that we are effective? Well, we need to track and monitor that. And assessment supports us to track and monitor the impact of our practices on young children. So, I think there are a couple of important points to note in that process. Assessment for learning is going to be most effective when information is gathered over time as part of an ongoing cycle. So we need to repeatedly gather information on children because that's what supports us to actually address what children know and reflect on practices. Have we had a positive impact on children's learning and what children are ready to learn changes throughout the year. So it really supports us to eliminate children's current interests and to build on that when we respond to that. But it also supports us to really build on children's prior knowledge throughout the year and as that changes throughout the year. I think as well, if we're to promote children's holistic learning and development, assessment for learning requires us to really draw on multiple sources of knowledge of young children's learning and development. And so a single lens or snapshot doesn't really provide that complete holistic accurate picture of children's development and evolving capacities. So, we go to the next slide. This can sort of include theories of learning and theories of learning are so interesting because they provide us with those different lenses through which to observe, but also to reflect on children's learning and our role in that learning process. But as we said earlier, when we were discussing assessment as learning, what are children's perceptions of their learning themselves? We as adults make particular judgments when we analyse and assess children's learning and development, but the VEYLDF really reflects an image of the child as being capable, strong social actors in their lives, experts on their lives. So, when we ask children about their learning, we can still attest the assumptions that we're making around children's experiences in learning, and then engage with children really meaningfully as a result of that. And then of course, it's so important to reflect with families and kinship members, carers on children's learning experiences at home and in the community, so that we build that more nuanced and multi-faceted understanding of children's learning as it occurs in the context in which children grow and learn.
And I guess, Jane, now it reminds me in the previous side, in this slide, it's very familiar territory, it's the planning cycle, it's the things that educators do on a daily basis. We've got, a question came through just in terms of the assessment as, of, and for, and are they intertwined and just your description of the holistic approach that we would use in engaging with children and families and the previous lab, we talked about those planning cycle components. They are very intertwined, they are all connected. Are you doing them all at the same time, Jane?
Well, I think depending on, it's such a great question. Often the three types of assessment described as a sort of comprehensive system of assessment. So we dip in and out of them at different times. I think as we described them, when we're engaged in assessment for learning, it's so important to also engage children in those assessments. So we'll be also dipping into assessment as learning, but there will be particular points in time when we will summarize the learning that has occurred as well. And I know in my discussions with many Victorian teachers and educators just last week, but at the end of term two meetings we're providing families with that summative assessment of their child and their child's learning at that point in time to be able build those really meaningful conversations and to plan forward. Great question.
And someone's just asked a certain example of assessment as learning. And maybe I can think of one off the top of my head, but maybe you've got some others. And I liked the fact that we're getting really into the nitty gritty here around assessment, but it's when a child looks at their own documentation. So some of you might've produced a collection of assessment for learning, so observations or some narrative style documentation about children and children read it. You know, they get it out and they read it and they can then commentate on what they're doing in these documents. And one in particular example is a bit of a social story that I saw being produced by a group of educators with the children learning about washing their hands 'cause they were doing that through the COVID encounters this year and last year, and children could read that story, documentation of their own encounters that they were in the story, and they could talk about what they had learned. They could talk about the way they understood the process of washing their hands and how you have to wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing happy birthday. So they know all the nuances around that and prompted by a document that they have in front of them, documentation they have in front of them, that they can use to say, this is me learning something about hand-washing. Am I on the mark there? Is that what it is?
Well, I think it can be many things, Catharine, and that's one great illustration. Another illustration is simply sitting alongside children and speaking, discussing with them what they are learning. I also think about Reggio Emilia in this light as well, and think of the ways in which learning and learners and the children's thinking is made very visible on the walls of the learning environments in Reggio Emilia, and how that is quite deliberate, because it's about creating those conversations with children, with families around the learning that's happening at that space and time. So I think there are lots of opportunities and we all know our children and our communities well. And so we can adapt and think about the ways that will really effectively support us to engage with children around their learning.
I think it's helpful for people to start thinking about their own examples of formative assessment and summative assessment and what does it look like for them, because then it starts to make sense in their own practice.
Exactly. So, we want to develop a holistic picture of children's learning. It's also reflecting on and thinking about the range of assessment tools we use to get that information and will they collectively provide that nuanced and multifaceted picture of children's strengths and capabilities over time? What are the tools we use that we know are accurate and have an evidence base behind them that will support us to gather that information. Catharine, you spoke about the importance of speaking with children and families, but I just want to reflect on that a little bit further, because I think when we do consult children and families, kinship members, carers, that really helps us to capture that, as you said before, those authentic and accurate pictures of young children. And it also helps us to think about, well, what are the culturally relevant assessments that support children to demonstrate their capabilities, and then to plan those meaningful experiences for children within our services and to respond really sensitively and positively to children. And in that best possible light, assessment for learning is going to really reflect these key principles in the VEYLDF where we're upholding children's rights, we're valuing that culturally specific knowledge about children and support that continuity of learning between home and the early childhood services and community. So I was really interested in, in your own perspectives on that as someone who has worked very closely with professionals in using the VEYLDF.
Well, I think you're absolutely right. Assessment without a connection to underlying principles, seems like we're doing, going through the motions where we're just ticking off boxes. I think the minute that we engage in a rights-based conversation that children have a right to be understood and a right to be heard in matters that affect them and assessment for their own learning is a matter that affects them and to do so culturally, in a culturally sensitive and culturally engaged way and to do so in a way that helps to support the rest of their learning journey surely gives it meaning. The minute that we go through processes, just because we feel like we have to tick off a box. And I know there are people out there who sometimes feel this process, it feels a bit like that, but this is an antidote to that. Finding the meaning of the process and doing so with regard to some of those big ideas, is how we prevent us from feeling like we're going through just a mechanical process. And I just think of all the children that I was fortunate enough to work with when I was a practitioner who spoke languages other than English and the minute that we were able to talk to their families about their fluency in their first language and the minute that we also employed educators who spoke languages other than English, who were able to recognize children's capabilities and competencies in their first language is the minute that the assessment process sort of took a turn and it absolutely was brought to life. And I can remember having conversations with grandmothers about how excited they were, that their children were fluent in their first language and what an amazing way to be able to capture what children know, and to transmit that to the community that they're part of. And then Jane, generally the community think, wow, look what children can do. So assessment can take us there, then bring it on.
Absolutely and if we go to the next slide and we think about the ecological framework that the VEYLDF draws on, it sort of supports us to even think about that more deeply, doesn't it? In terms of the child at the center, that the child as an active agent in a range of contexts and how those different contexts can inform us, you know, assessment practices and to build that holistic picture of a child.
And many of us here online, and I'm sure there are many people gathered here who have processes of assessment that engage those different components of that ecological model. If you're not familiar with the ecological model, then time to get your Victorian Early Years Learning and development Framework back out again, and refer to the front section of that document, which really talks about that beautifully illustrated by the amazing Annette Sax who's shaped that into such a powerful document. But I think this is a reminder that assessment ought to be undertaken in the context of children's lives, not as a separate document that or separate process that sort of positions children away from their context, but provides meaningful opportunities. So, those conversations that we have with families right at the beginning of the year, Jane, you know, those, when we talk to families, we have a conversation about what children know, can do, and understand there are a form of assessment, aren't they?
Absolutely and also those conversations around what are aspirations for children, because they also connect with what children know, and can do, and understand. That's a very powerful model I think in that respect for thinking, reflecting on these types of questions and the role of assessment in that process.
And it may be something that people want to take a moment to do with their colleagues is to pause and say, what does our assessment processes look like in relation to the ecological model? How are we engaging children's contexts? How are we figuring out what's happening in relation to the community that we're a part of? It's a really great way to be able to bring those two ideas together, underpinned by all of those fantastic practice principles in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework.
And Catharine, I think that can only support us to build those really respectful, meaningful relationships with families and to acknowledge families as children's first teachers, but also to open up those possibilities for really engaging children in meaningful learning and providing children with some agency in that wonderful process as well.
Absolutely, well, people have got some thinking to do there, I think in terms of the way that they... But it's also very supportive of people's existing practices. So, are the existing practices resonate with some of these ideas and connect with this ecological model? So I'm sure people are busy writing notes about things that they're going to talk to other people about.
Fantastic. So, what I thought we might do now is just to explore how assessment for learning is enacted through the early years planning cycle. And if we go to the next slide and sort of see that cycle, it's the earliest planning cycle that supports us too in that, the process of assessment for learning in fact the cycle involves gathering information on children's knowledges and understandings and skills and capabilities through a wide range of sources as we said, in order to discover what children know, understand, and can do. And it also involves analyzing what this information means, what does this mean and then what are our next steps, and next actions in our planning, but also our decisions regarding those evidence informed practices that will support us in our interactions with children to really challenge and extend and enrich children's learning and development at that point in time, in the context of our play-based learning experiences. And then it involves reflecting and refuelling, have their learning aims being achieved and what does this mean and what would we do next? So it's a really important cycle that helps learning to be visible, that process that we do as professionals in early childhood. And I think it's also really important to note that this was a cycle that was developed and piloted and refined by the department and VCAA and researchers in consultation with early childhood professionals in Victorian projects following the introduction of VEYLDF. And if we go to the next slide, we can say that as a result of engaging with that cycle, that many early childhood professionals highlighted that there were positive benefits actually using the cycle, including making individual children's strengths and capabilities visible. We all know that children develop differently and at different points in time and therefore we develop that sort of nuanced understanding of the children within our programs. But then also in terms of tracking children's learning progressions over time. Participants also said that making that this sort of supported them to have those conversations with families around children's learning and development, they were the sort of learning conversations as opposed to the doing conversations. Today, your child did, and instead, today your child was learning too. That seems like a subtle difference, but it actually quite important difference. And that in turn really then strengthen those collaborative assessment for learning practices with children and families and other professionals. So it was a very meaningful process and developed in consultation with professionals. And I think what we also learned was when it's used systematically, as we said in that ongoing way, this process can benefit children and families and professionals, because it generates information that supports us to provide that really purposeful feedback to children. When you know children are ready to learn, then you're really making very conscious decisions of what to say and do with children that really just speaks to what they are ready to learn. And so that supports children to engage with you in those discussions as well. But it also supports us to reflect on the effectiveness of our programs and practices, as we said before, how do we know that we're being effective, and when we track and monitor often, we can see the impact and that helps us to really make those intentional decisions around, are these intentional teaching strategies, having the impact we thought? Are these learning experiences, having the impact that we thought they would not? And then to sort of tweak that to sort of really support children's learning. And then of course, as we said before, when we had those collaborative discussions with families and kinship and as children's first teachers, we really focus on that learning and it makes it really visible and transparent in terms of the teaching and learning process within the early childhood service. And then that in turn supports a continuity of learning between home and the early childhood service.
There's a couple of questions coming through, Jane, which I think are sort of very practically orientated. And I sort of go back to the planning cycle that we've just seen on the previous slide, but would go to some of the conversations you've said here. And of course, everybody is very familiar with the planning cycle. There's lots of people here who navigate that on a daily basis and let's hope that all of us here are contributing members to that process irrespective of your particular role, we'd love lots of people to contribute to that process because I think it makes it more meaningful. A couple of questions in the beginning, just about how do we engage families in this process. And a couple of people have come in with suggestions about how do we do that right at the beginning. And I guess that's another, that's a part of the formative assessment process, that collaborative process, where we are forming ideas, collecting information. There's a couple of people who've said that they do that right at the get go by asking those sorts of really important questions. Is it important and I'm just sort of paraphrasing a few questions here, but if we find it challenging to engage families because of time commitments and the other things that they're doing, would we pursue that, Jane, should we make sure we get parents' voices and family's voices into this process?
Absolutely, I'm conscious that we are time poor, but I think prioritising those conversations is just so important because we build new knowledge of children when we learn about children's learning at home and in community. And it supports us to really make those informed decisions around children and to build that holistic picture. But that continuity between home and early childhood matters as well. So as some of the illustrations that you've shared have said, right at the beginning, when we're welcoming families to our services, how can we begin those conversations and what are the different ways in which we can continue those conversations with families and to sort of reflect on how we can keep that going. I think it's very important because we do build that holistic picture of children when we engage in those decisions.
And there's lots of people, who've got some great suggestions. So keep those suggestions coming and talk to each other and be creative, I guess and imagine too about how we get that information. But I guess for me at the get go, we might begin conversations with families to privilege the learning is to say, we want to talk to you about learning and we want to talk to you about the ways in which we support children's learning. And that's part of the assessment process is we use to put that right up front, because some families might not realize that that's something that you would want to talk to them about. So, talking to them at them about that early and often gives you perhaps some more opportunities to engage with families in that way. A couple more questions that come through, I think Jane, just in terms of some practicalities. You talked about shifting the emphasis when we talk to families from what they're doing to what they're learning, does that apply when we're actually planning, when we're actually planning for children's learning, there's a lot of some educators who are saying, I think we plan it for activities, not for learning. So what's the difference between those two things?
Well, I think that's such an interesting point, isn't it? And I always remember in a professional learning that I was in the privilege of being engaged in many years ago when one of our colleagues was looking at the analysis section of the planning cycle and she was so courageous and said, oh my goodness, I think what I've been describing is what children are doing rather than what they are learning. And so I think it's the analysis process that really supports us to sort of think, okay, so what we've got this information, what does this mean? What is this child ready to learn at this point in time? And then how do I then plan those learning experiences that reflect what the child is ready to learn? So then the activities become more about supporting that child's learning at that point in time.
And I think this reminds us about some theoretical platforms. It sounds like you're talking about a bit of theory there, is that right, Jane?
Well, it's always, it's so important to, as we said earlier, to sort of think about theory as well. And so there are different theories that we'll draw on at particular points in time as we engage in that process. So, there are developmental theories that describe changes in children over time that support us, but there are also other theories such as socio-cultural theories that help us to think about the context and those discussions with them having around children's learning at home and in community and how do they support us. But then there are also those critical theories too, to help us to think about, well, what are the assumptions I'm bringing to this process and what does this mean? And so how will I reflect on this as I'm planning for children? So theory can be really helpful in helping us to sort of think through that process.
There was a couple of questions coming through about context. You're really trying to engage in context. How do we find out about context? I think the context of course is, we go back to that amazing ecological model that gives you a sense of the context of what's happening around children and in the community. And if you are fortunate to have educators who live in the community that they work in, then you will know something about the community, what's going down in your community, what's happening in your community, what's important, what's not so important, but also if each family can share many ideas about what's important in their context, the bubble that you live in, the space that you live in that's that helps you understand what children can do already and what, as you say, they're ready to do next. I think there's lots of different conversations, which is probably one of the reasons we said right at the beginning, this is something that you would revisit regularly. These conversations are not conversations you have once, they're conversations you have many, many times, you pull apart what you do, you rebuild it so it's fit for purpose and you're always coming back to some of the ideas that you shared in our conversations so far. So, lots of things to continue to talk about.
Well Catharine, I think also in our community, we have a range of other professionals that we work with. So we can build understandings of community as well through our conversations with our colleagues in other contexts as well. And our colleagues who are supporting children and families will be able to assist us with that.
And that's another part of assessment, isn't it? That's all contributes to the assessment process that you're undertaking when you engage with a number of different professionals that you might work with, psychologists and occupational therapists, etc. So, yeah.
That's right. So Catharine, on the next slide is a question for you. So we've talking about responding and embracing the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Victorian community and diverse approaches to child rearing. What are the steps do you believe that are required to sort of ensure that continuity of learning between home and early childhood settings, but also that really acknowledges and celebrates the cultural and linguistic diversity that exists in Victoria?
Well, this is such an important conversation I think to have, and we know that there are many, many children who are accessing early childhood education and care settings whose cultural background and their linguistic background is very diverse. I guess for me, one of the things that we do first is as professionals to take a little moment and this is the reflection process that you talked about as part of assessment, to take a moment to reflect on our own understanding of the cultural context for children. The way that the children who come to your early childhood education and care service are shaped by the culture that they're part of. So, some of us as professionals doing some thinking about that. So, the nature of your community might be changing. You might have people arriving in your community who haven't perhaps lived there before. You might be new to that community, so you've got to get to know what's happening in your community and of course, as I said before, the educators in your service might be people that you could talk to about that. And of course the educators themselves, if they do come from the same cultural linguistic background as the children that you're working with can be an incredibly important asset. And I'm always talking to you in preparation for our conversation today, about how I'd love to see more and more assessment undertaken in first language. So, using the skills that you have as educators in your first language that matches the children's first language, and family's first language to be able to recognize some of the skills and competencies for children in that setting. So, I think it's that, it's the sort of the linguistic component and the specific cultural component, but I think it's also culture in a broader sense too, it's to say what culturally is happening for children in their family life and their community life. Some of the, in your assessment processes are your formative assessment processes. When you're gathering information about children, you're going to gather information that is culturally connected to who they are. So I'm just going to share a little story about a little boy that I once met, who was, you know, his whole family were very sporty, he's probably absolutely enjoying the Olympic games. So a very sporty family. And so he was able to talk about the ladder, the football ladder, but I really don't know anything about, but that he was able to talk about the football ladder and who was up at the top and percentages and things like that, because it was sort of culturally very relevant and very important. So this is not about ethnicity, particularly, but this is about talking to families about the cultural context in which they live and work and really understanding what that looks like. So, I guess the big message here is for us to use the practice principles of the Victorian Early Years, Learning and Development Framework, particularly the ones around how we have partnerships with families to make sure that we draw that information into the planning cycle. So, we've got to figure out a way to get in there, so then we can then use it to support that process, because if you know something about a child and then don't use it, your children are going to be going well, you're giving me things that are either not relevant to who I am, I can't engage with this, it's outside too hard for me or too outside my frame of reference or already know it. So, you're telling me how to do things I already know. So, I'm figuring out what that looks like through that analysis process that you said, and then planning opportunities for children to extend all of what they know, their mathematical skills, for example, and then taking it through that process and then sharing that with the school that that child goes to, as they move forward through their transition statement. Then now you've got this amazing opportunity to take something from the children's context, the cultural context, through the experience of early childhood and into the rest of their schooling life.
Which is that continuity of learning again, isn't it? Which is so important. And I think that illustration just highlights so powerfully why it's important to have those discussions with children and with families because you learn new things in and through those discussions about children and their interests.
We've got a couple more questions coming through, but I might share a couple with you. I'm just conscious of the time we've got, but we've got a little while left before we need to wrap up, but we've got a couple of questions coming through about the sort of mechanics of the assessment process using the planning cycle. So, do you need to use the framework, so the Victorian Early Year Learning and Development Framework to write observations and stories? Do you need to sort of link it every single time, or how do you use those two things together in terms of the processes, your written work and what's in the framework in terms of the outcomes?
And so it's a really interactive process. I think the children's learning and development outcomes are really what we're working towards. We really want to support children to have those strong learning identities, to be connected, to be engaged in learning. And at the same time, we're going to use certain tools that will enable us to observe and gather information around children. So I think what we're doing is we're observing, but we're also going to the VEYLDF and we're exploring those learning and development outcomes, and we're interacting to build those, that picture of children.
So it's probably and the person who's asking this question is sort of posing, is it more like a guide? I guess that's exactly the way you just described it. It's a guide to our thinking. So for me, I think if you were engaged in a process of planning using these assessments steps that we're talking about, assessment for learning, assessment as learning, assessment of learning, you would have the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework next to you. You would have some of the illustrative maps next to you. You would have all these things next to you so that you could start to refer back and forth in a really dynamic way. I think the difficulty lies, if you don't refer to the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework outcomes on those illustrative maps as well over time through that formative process, you get to the end of it and you think, hold on a second, what is that again? But if you're familiarize yourself with that process as you go, then by the time you get to summarize children's learning at the end of a period of time, as we've been talking about perhaps a six month period of time, then a 12 month period of time type of thing, then you're really equipped to say, oh, yes, we've been talking and thinking about that and now I can do what the National Quality Standard asks us to do, which is to track each child's learning as part of an ongoing cycle that supports their learning in those five learning outcomes. If you do it just at the end, it's probably too late, you need to do it as you go. Would that be right, Jane?
Absolutely, I think as we said before, if we really want to be responsive to children's learning and development over time, we need to gather that evidence. We can't build on children's prior knowledge and learning unless we actually gathered that evidence. And so the learning and development outcomes are really helpful in that regard, but I think sometimes it can feel complex because they are interconnected, but together collectively they build that holistic picture of a child. So they are very helpful in that regard.
And I think that a number of people have asked questions about how much assessment and some of these really important mechanics questions, which I think are important and I appreciate the fact that many of you ponder this a lot, you know, how much documentation do I need? How much of this do I need? How much of this component of assessment do I need? I'd be interested in your thoughts around that, Jane. How do we respond to very particular questions around how much.
In some ways, I mean, these are great questions. In some ways it's difficult to answer because we don't want to be so strict in what we say for flexibility, but at the same time, if we are to support children's learning and development progressions, there need to be regular time points throughout the year where we're engaging in this process. So, it's thinking about how often do I need to engage in the earliest planning cycle and in this process to be able to get a sense of a child's learning progress over time and throughout the year. And I think if we're engaging, if we're using different sources, if we're having those rich conversations with children and with families, and we're engaging in that cycle, we'll be able to make those judgments ourselves as professionals in context, in terms of how often.
Yeah, you hit the nail on the head there, absolutely Jane, I think it's the professional decisions that you make with your colleagues about what is enough. One of the ways of course, to figure that out is through your lived experience. So as professionals, we engage through reflective processes around assessment that we undertake over a period of time. You get to the end of that process and that's where the power of writing or gathering together a summative assessment that's summarizes the children's learning because if you do that and you think, hold on, I don't think I've got enough, or I haven't got enough, I know lots and lots about Catharine in terms of her communication, but I don't know much about her physical capabilities, this will give you information that you need in order to then for the next lot to say, I need to focus a bit more on this or next year we need to do a little bit more thinking about how much we need. Practice helps your practice.
Yes and when we do that alongside each other, then we can make those professional decisions together as well. And I think that's such a great point because I remember recently a teacher sharing with me that she did an assessment on a child that she hadn't really done much assessment with during this year because this child was later in the program and she had really strong language and she was really engaged. But when she actually, when the teacher started to look more closely at this child, she suddenly realized that there were big gaps in her knowledge around child. And that while the child was very confident and a leader in the educational program, there were other ways in which she could support her learning and development. So I think that also just highlights it, you know, children's learning and development is complex, it's multifaceted. And so when we do work together to build our understandings together, evidence of children's learning and development, then we do get to know children more deeply.
And I think Jane, sometimes we might think that assessment takes place for some children, not all children. And I think this process is about assessment for all children, all children can benefit from rigorous processes, from authentic processes that help us to understand them more deeply and offer them learning opportunities as we keep going. So that conversation with your colleagues is going to be really powerful. I think it'll help you to then decide what you ought to do as you progress. And of course, references to the regulations, references to the National Quality Standard, references to the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework will help you make decisions about what you're required to do and what brings meaning to the process. So, the minute you feel like you are doing things for no meaning, it's time for you to reflect on what you're doing and think, hold on a second, what's going to build meaning here and come back to some of the things that you've been talking about. So, we have about just five minutes left, Jane. So I think there's one more slide that we've got to share with everybody.
It is one more slide. And I think really this is about thinking about, how assessment for learning supports us to be really intentional, to be intentional in the ways that we gather evidence of young children's learning, analyse that evidence, plan learning goals, think about the evidence and form teaching strategies that will support children's learning and reflect on that. And as we engage with children and families and colleagues in discussions, it really brings visibility and transparency to that processes as you've been highlighting, Catharine. And in these ways, I think this process really helps us to really bring authenticity, detail, nuance, purpose, and rigor to our work. And I think that's such an exciting and meaningful endeavor, to be able to advance our children's learning and development and make a difference to young children's learning in the here and now. But as the research will tell us throughout life is really exciting. So, I think it's an enormous privilege and indeed, it's been a great privilege to be discussing these issues with you today, so thank you.
Thank you, Jane. I think what you've done is, is open up that space and helped us to understand assessment in a different way. I think if the people who have gathered here today think, oh, maybe that's a word that I don't always use, maybe as a result of the conversation today, you can use it and think about the way that assessment takes place in your everyday practice. It's also a fantastic opportunity of course, to have some conversations with your colleagues, use these sorts of ideas. How do we think about the authenticity of our assessment processes? What works for us? What's contextually sound? What relates to the children and families in our community? How do we make sure that children's voices are heard and families' voices are heard in that process? How can we make sure we get enough detail so that we can summarize children's learning as they progress through the stages of their early years into the early years of school? How can we make sure that it's right for us? Just because one thing works in one space might not work somewhere else and we might need to change things slightly, that's why we use reflective practice to make sure that you're capturing what children know, can do, and understand in that planning process. And of course, you've given us an opportunity to really be rigorous around our thinking. So thank you so much for that, because I think it reminds us that we bring a really strong professional lens to this conversation. It's something that educators can offer children and their families that really brings some opportunities to do what the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework invites us to do, which is to provide you with the very best start in life. So they can go on to the rest of their learning journey with great enthusiasm. Thank you, Jane. We really invite all of you to take these ideas back into your own early childhood education and care context. Talk to your educational leader. If you are the educational leader, talk to your teams, open up this space. Thank you very much everybody for participating today and I hope that this conversation has opened up a really interesting and engaging space around assessment. Thanks for joining us.
This session, with Sue Grieshaber and host Catharine Hydon, looks at pedagogical documentation as both a process and a product draws on examples of pedagogical documentation, and explores different aspects of documentation.
Well, hello everybody and welcome. Welcome to this new video, this new webinar on connecting assessment to practice. My name is Catharine Hydon and this is number two in our webinar series. This series is brought to you by the Victorian Department of Education and Training in partnership with Early Childhood Australia. Before we get started, I'd like to take a moment as we do when we gather together to acknowledge the traditional owners on whose country we're on. I'm here on the lands of the Woiwurrung people of the Kulin nation. And I particularly pay respects to the elders who have supported us to think about what it means to engage with children and families on country. To learn about Aboriginal ways of knowing and being. I'll particularly take a moment also to acknowledge the amazing work that some of you have been doing. Some of you joined in celebrations yesterday for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day. And I'm sure those celebrations were an opportunity to support children, to be proud in their culture and strong in their spirit, fantastic themes that we got to celebrate. And of course, these are also opportunities for us to fulfill the ideas that are in both the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and the Marrung education statement. That invites us to think about the ways we can hold the doors wide open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in our everyday work. So particular also welcome to all of you who have made the time to be here today. We realize it's a very busy time, end of the day. So lots of you have been working all day with children, so thank you very much for making the time to be here. And I hope that some of you joined in last time as well, and that you were able to take some of the ideas that we talked about and share them with your colleagues. So really look forward to today's opportunity to continue the exploration of ideas around assessment. So I want to invite you to continue to say hello in the chat, I can see that some of you are doing that already, so that's fantastic. And some of you are acknowledging the traditional owners where you are and sharing a little bit of the ideas that you've been thinking about up until now. So continue to do that. Before I start to introduce at what we're going to talk about today, I just want to talk a little bit about how we're going to work and what this series is about. So as of course, you know, this is a great series of online events that you can hear from experts and hope then we'll have a panel as well at the end of this series. And it's a series of four events. This is the second one, as I said, and we hope that you'll be able to revisit some of the ideas by connecting to the videos of these webinars. And we'll let you know about those via email. And you'll be able to think about how you engage the rest of your teams in this, or you might revisit some of the ideas that we talked about. And we hope this series really supports you to continue to think deeply about assessment processes. What you understand about assessment and how you can think about those things meaningfully and how they can be effective in your setting. You might also be interested in going back and watching the first of these webinars and connecting the ideas we're going to talk about today with some of the things that we introduced last time. You remember that we had associate professor Jane Page, who talked about the definition of assessments. She talked about assessment as, assessment of, and assessment for. And the ways that assessment was woven into the fabric of the planning cycle, and also how it connected with the context for children's learning. And some of you will remember that we talked about the way that the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework understands children's connectedness with family and the communities that they're a part of and the way that assessment can be shaped to engage with those contexts. So it's my absolute pleasure now to invite Sue Grieshaber to the screen and let me introduce you Sue to everybody. Some of you in fact might know of Sue's work. Some of you might've even been lectured by Sue over recent times. So, let me tell you a little bit about Sue. Sue Grieshaber is the Professor of Early Childhood Education and the director of research in the School of Education at Latrobe University in Melbourne. She was a classroom teacher for 14 years in school settings, and the early childhood community before moving into the university sector. She has deep interests in early childhood curriculum, pedagogy, play and policy. Welcome Sue, fantastic to have you with us. And I can see you're all rugged up there, like lots of us as we navigate today, so fantastic. Hopefully our colleagues have got themselves a cup of tea and they're ready for a deep dive into assessment. We're taking another pathway to investigate some of these ideas. So, the next slide I think, tells us a little bit about what you're going to cover today Sue. So can you take us through what we're going to talk about today?
Hello, Catharine, and hello everybody. Yes, you're commenting about my looking rugged up. I certainly hope I don't overheat because I won't be able to do anything about it if I do, maybe just perspire. Thank you for that lovely welcome. This is an overview of the sorts of things that Catharine and I are going to be thinking about, talking about and the ideas we're going to be thinking with this afternoon. So, two key ideas pedagogical documentation as a process and pedagogical documentation as a product. And then towards the end, we're going to be talking about how pedagogical documentation can be used as a process and as a product. If you look at the image of what's on the right-hand side of my screen, it might look to you initially like a vase. But it actually presents viewers with two images. Only one of which can be held at the one time. You might also be able to see the profile of two faces, looking at each other, but not the vase at the same time. And the reason that I've got that there is to represent, thinking about documentation as a process and pedagogical documentation as a product. Because they're quite distinct things, just like the two images, the vase and the faces. It can be difficult to do both at once, but not impossible. And this image helps us to think about pedagogical documentation as a process and as a product. And that's what German researcher, Helen Knauf calls the two faces of documentation. So we can see the two faces looking at each other, or we can see the vase. But the two faces of documentation are what we're going to be talking about this afternoon in terms of process and product. One key point from researchers in Finland and Sweden, one of whom is Alasuutari is the quite down the bottom of that slide. And it says documentation can only be considered pedagogical if it's reflected on. So today we're talking about pedagogical documentation, that is pedagogical documentation as documentation that's been reflected on. The inverse of that is if it hasn't been reflected on, it's not pedagogical and can't be called pedagogical. So that's something that we can think about and think with, in terms of our everyday work and practices.
It's a really good reminder isn't it about slowing down a little bit and working with your colleagues to think through what we mean by assessment, what we mean by pedagogical documentation. I think we sometimes use these words quickly, or we quickly engage in this process. And it's a really good reminder to try and see things from different perspectives and to really think deeply, which I think is what you're going to do. You're going to take us into those spaces Sue.
Well, I hope to Catharine, I hope to. Because I'm not sure that everyone has thought about documentation, pedagogical documentation as a process and as a product. Or being able to use the two together, which indeed does happen.
It'll be interesting to see how people might connect what they do already at the moment with some of these ideas. I seem to remember that some of those words were around what I studied 35 years ago now. And it's great to be able to revisit them and get a stronger understanding of what we mean by them. So I'm looking forward to where are you going to take us?
Well, when I was a classroom teacher, there was a lot of talk about the processes the children used and the things that they did as opposed to the products that they made. But I think that sort of talk doesn't happen anymore. We've got different sorts of things happening because so much has changed as people who've been in the field for a longer period of time would know.
Yeah, well let's keep going and see where we go to.
So this slide outline some of the ideas in terms of what is meant by pedagogical documentation as a process. And I'm pretty sure that a lot of you would be fairly familiar with some of the ideas on this. You would probably be familiar with a pedagogy of listening and that comes from Carla Rinaldi's ideas and a pedagogy of listening is usually used in terms of pedagogical documentation, as a way of exploring children's thinking and learning processes. And that pedagogy of listening is also really important for educators to create meaningful documentation. That second point that's on the slide about making listening visible may not be so well-known as the idea of making learning visible. Because we talk a lot about making learning visible if we're using ideas from Carla Rinaldi or the sorts of things that are talked about and practiced in the preschools of Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy. But making listening visible is a way of being open to the theories of children and making listening visible is also a way of showing learning. And in the context of making listening visible, we know that real listening requires the suspension of judgment and practice. So that's something that I think I've thought a lot about. It's something I think Catharine's probably thought about too. We've had a bit of a chat about this in the past and the importance of not only making listening visible when you're working with children. It's really important to make that listening and learning visible to children's families, to educators, other educators that you're working with. And as part of that work, it honours holistic approaches and holistic approaches are key to the Victorian framework.
And I think Sue it reminds us too, that, the word process means that it's not just a one-off thing. We don't do it one day and we're done, and there's not really a destination point here. It's much more evolving, I think that's probably where the image that people can see on this screen, which we've taken from the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework Annette Sax's amazing work is the interconnectivity between the country and community. And we need a process for that, because if it's a destination, it doesn't allow us to do that deep listening. And I can imagine that there are many educators here. In fact, I know there are many educators here who can start to identify well that there's some ways that I do that in my practice. And there are some really concrete examples of that. And I know you've got a couple of examples of how do people do that, what does the process look like?
Yes, I think we'll probably explore that a little bit later. But just back to your point about destination, I think if we think about destinations, we'll think with destinations. There's always seemingly a pressure to get there. Whereas the pressure to get there means often that you can't enjoy it on the way, you can't stop and smell the flowers. You can't stop and go for a walk if you're only focused on the destination. So I think the point about taking time, slowing down, a slow pedagogy, the slowness has lots of positives connected with it. And the slowness, I think also enables you to engage with children and families in ways that it might not, if you're rushing to get to the destination, whatever that is. And of course along with that, it strengthens children's participation and makes whatever you're doing more democratic.
And I think there's probably people also who can start to point to the way that they've showcased listening and learning in some of the displays they have in their rooms and in their foyers. I know that when I visit early childhood services, sometimes I see the projects that children are working on. The hypotheses that they're creating, the investigations. And some of this is documented and made visible through displays so that you can see the way that the educator is listening to children, they're thinking together, they're sharing their insights. And of course that's can be done digitally now as well which is an exciting new space. But also some of you are doing it in the way that you've always done it, which is by capturing images and ideas and children's thinking. And displaying that in a way that's accessible to both children and to families. So that's a really sort of very tangible way of seeing that slow pedagogy emerge.
Thanks, Catharine. I'm sorry I didn't pick up on your prompt before.
So we've got some questions in the chat, people asking about what exactly does it look like? And I think it's good to be able to connect it with what some people are already doing.
Exactly, so here are three examples of what pedagogical documentation might look like in your everyday work. One is portfolios, so portfolios include work by children. They might include photos of activities. They might include learning stories. They might include documents to support children's transitions to school. So that's one example. And I know a lot of educators use portfolios. Another is wall displays. So wall displays usually have photos. They might have pictures that children have drawn. They might have explanatory texts written by educators or parents, or even children. And often wall displays show special events that have occurred. They might be documenting excursions that the children have been on or incursions. They might be about everyday routine practices that are carried out in the centre or in the room, or they might be about long-term projects. So there's this record. And often it's an evolving record because often wall displays are added to periodically. And the third example is presentation of children's work. So that might be displays of children's creations, or that might include sculptures, pictures, constructions, and those sorts of things. So there are three examples of pedagogical documentation processes that many people engage in on a daily basis.
And there's probably lots of people here who are thinking they've asked themselves big questions about portfolios and various ways of doing things. And I think your initial invitation for us to think about those as listening processes, is not just about doing processes, thinking processes, not just doing processes makes those more meaningful. So whether you call them portfolios or something else, if they can be shaped and crafted in such a way as to privilege the listening, then they become very meaningful and I think we can all engage in really fantastic conversations with children and families about what learning is emerging.
So those can all be examples as well of how you have listened to children. Children can see in wall displays, for example, evidence of how you have listened to them because their conversation might be reflected in a wall display, or it might be in a text message or in a message sent to parents. So those examples or evidence of listening, children recognize. And that means that they're acknowledged, that they have significant ideas and it's a respectful thing to do, I think.
And it actually reminds me of the conversation we had last week with Jane. Where we were reminded about assessment as learning as a way of children participating in assessing their own learning and understanding about themselves and the world around them. And pedagogical documentation is a way to draw children into that process. So lots of connections between what you're saying and what we talked about in the first webinar.
Excellent, I think we might be ready for the next slide, do you?
Yeah, I think so. Going to take us to a different place now I'm sure.
Yes, so pedagogical documentation as a product. And another way to think about this is as the distance travelled so, how far children might have come. So these sorts of things, if we're assessing children's achievements, we might be able to do that in relation to the outcomes from the Victorian framework. Other ways of doing those sorts of things or gathering information about achievements include observations. And sometimes they can be very focused observations if we're talking about documentation as a product. So that might mean using predefined categories about particular sub skills. For example, children's vocabulary, children's expressive or receptive language or children's comprehension. So you can make records of those sorts of things using observational methods. You can also analyse children's skills by comparing them against the typically developing child. That means you might use some information gathered on some of those predefined categories or checklists. And then you can compare those against what might be called the typically developing child in terms of developmental levels, language development, or age-related characteristics again. But generally there's a comparison against something, often developmental, often age-related. So, testing is also another way I nearly forgot testing. It's also another way that can be used to analyse or assess children's skills. And often that is done using standardized scales. And often if standardized scales are used, it means that children's assessment are going to be age compared as well. So when we're talking about pedagogical documentation as a product, there are tools, often tools that are used. They may be observational tools. Those tools are then used as evidence for particular diagnoses, often related to intervention or support mechanisms to help children. And they often identify delay or advancement in particular developmental areas, and then provide an opening for support for those areas.
Now I think this would be again, familiar territory to quite a number of educators because they're working with maternal and child health nurses, other professionals. Who write our connection there to the practice principal in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, which really honours the relationships with professionals, our partnership with professionals, how we think together about how children can be supported. Sue, does this mean that you come to these conversations without a strength-based approach. So it's not about a deficit approach. It's about understanding what children can do and figuring out where they're up to.
Well, I think if the aim is to support children and families in the context in which they are living and in the context in which educators are working. Then you're not going to be really aiming to find out what's wrong or fixing, so we're not really looking from a deficit perspective. We are taking a strength-based approach and we are looking to support, encourage and engage in those more authentic ways of supporting children. So relationships, I think are really important. They're external testers or external assessors can prove uncomfortable for children. And, if that's going to happen, a lot of work needs to be done to be able to make children comfortable so that they do perform their best on whatever test it is that is being used. And also I think we need to remember that a lot of those sorts of tests might not be culturally respectful or culturally appropriate, or they might not acknowledge or recognize that children may be multi-lingual. English may not be their first language. So we need to remember that any sort of assessment of the nature that I'm talking about is culturally biased, and that needs to be taken into consideration if this situation arises.
And this is a really timely reminder for us to engage with our colleagues and to use the reflective practice invitation in there. Victoria's Early Learning and Development Framework, and also the opportunities to work with families, to have a partnership with families so that we understand the context that families are coming to us in. And that we build a context together so that we can understand each other in a really clear way. I think also it's about how people use the tools that they currently have available to them. And on the screen here, you can see a tool that many people will be familiar with. Which is the transition statements that capture children's learning in a particular way. It's a particular tool that helps as children transition into the next years of school. But the way it's designed. And some of you are also designing your own tools I'm sure, designed in a way to be meaningful for particular children. And it's got some components in there which do the distance travelled as well as give you an opportunity to listen to children. Which is, I think the two sides of those it's the vase and the faces. I think those two things working together, which I'm sure you're going to talk more about.
Yes, I agree. And we're ready to move on to the next slide. So, don't be daunted by the look of this slide. We are going to take a little bit of time to explore it and digest it and hopefully think with the ideas on the slide. So, I have put together this table from an article that I referred to earlier by Helen Knauf who's involved in German early childhood education. So she undertook an in-depth study of the types of documentation that was used in 40 different services in a particular area of Germany. And I've put these together on the left-hand side of my screen, under the heading of documentation. So, documentation has been categorized in terms of how important it was in each service. And that was rated by Knauf as low to high and the same with the formats that were used. So where the standard formats were used, or educators could create their own formats, whatever was used this was also rated as low to high. And further down child participation and so on. So we're just going to use this table as a prompt for discussing some of the things that we hope you might engage with thinking about based on using this table as a prompt to think about the practices that are happening, where you work. The sorts of things that you might've used in the past, the sorts of things that you might think about using in the future. So if we think about the importance of documentation, where low importance was given to documentation, the centres that did that saw documentation as a mandatory requirement. It was something that they had to do. And because they felt they had to do it, they didn't think it was very important at all. However, the centres that attached a high importance to documentation soared as an integral and continuous part of everyday work. It was part of the routines of every day in the room. Educators saw themselves as researchers. They saw themselves engaging jointly with children, with families and with other educators. They were thinking and researching with the children, with the families and often with other educators as well. So that was how important they saw it because it was just part of their everyday work.
I think there's a lot of people who are nodding now, Sue, and I think all of us can remember a time when we felt we had to go through the motions, if you like. And a tick box approach to it, which you felt like was imposed on you. But the minute that you are liberated into a place where you could start to think and create, and you can be a part of those ideas is when it becomes exciting and interesting. And then I know this is going to sound amazing. You can start to find the joy in assessment and the joy in pedagogical documentation. And it makes lots of sense to me that it would be given higher importance by educators who felt connected and enabled through that process.
Yes and interestingly Catharine, Carla Rinaldi does talk, I think it was that same, very short article that I was referring to earlier that was written in 2004. She does talk about assessment being documentation in that article. So she draws very strong relationships between what we think of as assessment and documentation. So in some senses in what she was talking about in that article, saw them almost as similar concepts and working together. And, sometimes we think of assessment only as testing. And I think that was probably characteristic of the early childhood field when the term assessment was first introduced. People became quite concerned, worried about assessment. They did often associate it with their own experiences of assessment at school, which was often testing. And I think, you know, we're a long way from that now. And we have people doing some great thinking work with excellent examples of pedagogical documentation, which are reflective of this continuous part of everyday work, it's just part of the routine.
And I think it also reminds people to take stock from time to time that if they feel at times that they are straying, if you like, or drifting into mandatory approaches. Where feel like a cog in the wheel, it's time to come back to reflective practice, use that idea from the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. Bring your people together and say, how can we convert what we are doing to something that really is reminiscent of the ideas that are on the screen here, this continuous part of everyday work. Part of educators as researchers, thinking about joint learning, how can we involve children and families into this conversation? And then of course it becomes actually easier to do, frankly, it becomes an easier process when there's more people involved and it becomes more meaningful. It's a really interesting bit of research there's lots of dimensions.
There are lots of dimensions and it was a bit of a feat to put all those ideas on one slide. But of course, we're not going to talk about them all. We're just going to talk about some of them. And I think, the point about the reflection and the significance of reflection is emphasized. The critical aspect of critically reflecting is endorsed in the framework because of the theories that underlie aspects of the framework. Just like the national document, the Early Years Learning Framework, there are theoretical perspectives there that make it so important to take a critical view or an informed view. Or more than one perspective about the documentation or the information that you're gathering.
Which is probably takes us to the part that I find really interesting in this slide is the connection to the wide variety of documentation and many options. Can you explain that bit to us?
That's really of interest to me because I think this gives educators agency in this space, they feel like they are empowered to make some decisions.
Absolutely, Catharine. So, by use of standard forms I'm meaning the type of formats that we used to record documentation. So, in some of these centres they were required to use templates to record information. They were highly structured. So there was no choice you had to use the template and it had to be filled out in particular ways. And in others, where there was a high use of standard forms also the forms were divided into different parts of a portfolio. So you had to complete particular sections. Everyone in the service had to use the template. They had to fill out these particular sections of the template and you had to have these parts assembled in the portfolios in particular ways. Now their aim for doing that was to try and create some sort of standard and quality as described. I can't comment on the quality because that wasn't part of this particular research. But if we move to the last point, which you're particularly interested in. Where there wasn't a requirement to use the standard forms, there was a framework in these centres where there were many options. So they might've had eight to 10 choices. They could choose what they wanted to use to document whatever they wanted to document. So there was a wide variety of documentation formats that they could use. They could make a choice, they could make up their own. There were many options. And these centres tended to be the ones where they valued the importance of documentation more. So they were in the previous important section. They were the centres that used documentation as a continuous part of everyday work. It was part of the routine of the day.
And I think that this gives people permission almost if they need it, really, to think about all the different ways that they do things. So that they can generate tools, templates, resources, processes that work for them in their settings. And some people are identifying particular approaches in the chat. And it's great if we start to invite people to think about what's meaningful in their settings. And, I remember having conversations Sue with lots of educators who almost berate themselves for wanting to revisit some of their tools and reinvent them. And I've recalled myself saying actually, that's a sign of the way that you're engaging and thinking together about what's meaningful in your settings. So if this is you and you've got a wide variety of documentation strategies and different tools that you use that are widely available to the team who share an understanding of how to use them. Then this is a wider really, again, do that thing that's clearly I did find on the slide here. Which is to really inject some enthusiasm into documentation and assessment processes. I'm quite drawn by many options.
And Catharine often those different forms have been created in conjunction with a group of educators. So they'd been tried and tested and as you said, you go back. So they might go back and improve something, continuous improvement based on what it is they're working within the situation. And I think, that's about critical reflection as well. How can we make this better?
And it's also about opportunities to partner with families too, cause for some families, it'll be some form of documentation, some tool will work really well. And for other families you might need to change them, changing demographics, changing situations, changing global circumstances and community circumstances, change the way we might do things. So if you're one of those people who've created that opportunity for educators to participate in that, then I think this really goes to a really quality understanding of assessment and documentation. There's another one on here that I really liked too Sue, I don't know you're probably going to take us here. But the idea of joint documentation with children.
Yes, so the centres that did joint documentation with children, they valued children participating in the documentation process in all aspects of the documentation process. So where child participation wasn't valued in the centres, there was a little involvement of children and the documentation was often associated with the assessment and evaluation of children. But, where there was high participation, the children were actually involved in producing the documentation. It just wasn't done by the educators. It was shared, a participatory shared joint learning, joint thinking, joint researching thing. And I think sometimes that jointness makes us better listeners again, getting back to the pedagogy of listening, because if the children are actually involved in the production, they're going to remind you, oh, I didn't say that, this is what I said. You did too, thinking about it. You did actually too. So they're like involved in the conversation and in being involved in that conversation in producing the documentation is not only authentic. But it engages them in ways that they're not engaged if it's the educators who actually produce the documentation.
Away from children and what I love to see Sue, is in early childhood education and care settings. And I mean babies and toddlers and three and four year olds, we shouldn't think that participation is just the space for four year olds. But I love it when I see educators, who've got clipboards and pens and textas and notepads and things like that available all over the place. Where when an idea emerges or a bit of thinking happens about, some children find something in the outside space, or they construct a beautiful building. Or they're starting to investigate the feeling of particular natural resources. An educator can come in with some of those resources and think with children and we know that there are lots of different methodologies out there that use actual hard copies, paper, books, and resources and folders and beautiful flow books and things like that. That really help children to participate in that process. So it's not just the formalized, if you like tools, it's the way you create them, the way you invite children into those spaces.
It is and even though this didn't feature in this research, I know a lot of centres here in Australia actively involve parents and families in the production of documentation as well. Not just the children. There is the active engagement of families, and sometimes even communities. Depending upon what's going on with the centre and the children and the community. So, that was something that I didn't find featured in this particular study, but I know it does happen in Australia. And I think that's something that's worthy of pointing out as well. It is something that we should be thinking about as well.
And any dates celebrating I think when families can share some of those things. And we know that during COVID, in your lockdowns in various ways, families have been great at sharing some of the things that their children have been up to at home. And also lots of opportunities are now offered to families to share some of the things that are going on at home as a catalyst, almost for continued listening to children and thinking about learning. I'm conscious of time Sue. So we need to power on, we could talk about this all day clearly.
We could, so some of the centres in terms of diagnosis and assessment. So some centres had a focus on using documentation for diagnosing particular delays or indications where children needed help. However, other centres didn't use documentation in those ways at all, they were more interested in documenting how children were thinking and capturing children's typical experiences. The sorts of things that they continued to be involved in. The sorts of things that assisted them to learn, the sorts of experiences that they enjoyed in learning that kind of stuff. And lastly, some centres had a high emphasis on group learning, and that meant they did documentation of children learning in groups. So they were very keen to emphasize documentation of shared learning, not just of individual children. So their portfolios might've been individual, but they might've been groups of children. They also found that the emphasis on documenting group learning reduced the amount of time that educators needed to spend on individual child portfolios, if that was how documentations were kept. So I think that's a pertinent point that this group learning captures lots of sorts of things that are not able to be captured if the focus is just the individual child.
And I guess too, it's helpful here to connect that to the expectations in the national quality standard and the regulations that we hold onto each child. We track each child's learning as part of an ongoing cycle, but of course, where are they learning, they're learning in groups. So when they are in a group, you can see learning that is taking place for individual children. So we're a bit ambidextrous there aren't we Sue? We're being able to think about the groups that children connect with and how they come together to learn, and then be able to pull out individual information from those group encounters. So that we understand the distance travelled for individual children.
Yes, I think that's a great point Catharine. And an excellent way to think about the possibilities of group learning and documenting group learning.
And a couple of people have identified that connecting with families and getting families to participate in pedagogical documentation and thinking together about that is really hard. And absolutely we acknowledge that navigating that space with families who have many other commitments is sometimes tricky. But I wonder whether there are opportunities that we can keep thinking about to build meaning with families. And I know that some of the initial conversations, I think you were highlighting before the opportunities to meet with families, to have those conversations between families and educators, those parent teacher interviews type of thing. They are opportunities to have these conversations to start conversations around pedagogical documentation and how we do that.
They are, and they're more formal ones. Other more, every day ones are valuing culturally specific knowledge of families, valuing their knowledge about their children and their children's identities. Learning from parents about children's wellbeing, how children learn in their home environments, which can often be different from how they learn in group settings like kindergartens. The sorts of things that they do that are embedded in their community engagement as well. All of that I think is very useful ways of drawing on culturally and family specific knowledge to start conversations about this pedagogical documentation.
And I guess it's a really good conversation for us to have and continue to have with families about what they would like to know about their children. So we ask those questions, I think it's partly the questions we ask right at the beginning when we first get to know them. And indeed, if you have educators who speak languages that are the same as the families, then utilize those amazing skills that they bring to that conversation. And maybe we can think together with families about what they would like to know about their children. I think sometimes we've already decided what we think their families might be interested in. But maybe we've got to start that conversation again and say, how can we work together so that they can get a sense of what we're trying to achieve together. So that's an interesting conversation for people to have I think.
Yes, it is and the importance of involving children in that as well. I think there is a place for educated parent compensations, but including children in those conversations brings another dimension. And often a dimension that sometimes gives insights that we forget as educators and as parents.
It's not a short-term process I think Sue. It's a long-term pursuit and something that requires us to do what you invited us to do right at the beginning was to slow the process down, find more meaningful pathways. And probably combine some of the things we've been thinking about, which I think is where you're going to take us now. How do we sort of pull it all together as we conclude our conversation?
Yes, so moving to the next slide. Just starting with the point that I'm sure you all know, this is hard work. Being an educator is hard work and it's hard work on a daily basis. Working out relationships it's demanding emotionally, it's demanding cognitively and it's often demanding physically. So the work that you do as educators from a relationship perspective is highly demanding, and I'm not telling you all, anything. So moving on to thinking about documentation as a process and as a product. The thing here to think about is in parent teacher talks, documentation that has been used earlier, gathered earlier as a process is often brought to bear in parent teacher talks and then used to assess children's skills and development. And we know that this happens in Finland, in Sweden, in the UK and in Germany. Those references at the bottom indicate the source countries of what the authors are talking about. So yes, we do have process-oriented documentation that is later used for summative or more formal assessment. So, that documentation that we'd been talking about as a continuous part of everyday work, process documentation is non-normative. It hasn't been measured against any standards or scales or anything like that. It's the daily work that's been undertaken as a process. But that when taken to a parent teacher talk often in the context of this often more formal talk space, it is then used in the conversation to assess children's skills and development. So it gets changed and we don't have any research like that in Australia to my knowledge, but it has been documented in several different countries. So I think we need to be thinking about that as well. So, one of the things we also need to be aware of is that pedagogical documentation. And we talked about people creating their own pedagogical documentation before their own formats or ways to record it. That documentation is socially constructed by educators. So educators make choices about what form I'm going to write it on, what format I'm going to have. They make decisions about what categories and what classifications they're going to use. And those decisions tell us what they see is worthy of being documented. So it's about values, what you document as an educator reflects what you value in terms of children's learning, in terms of children's assessment. In terms of how you use those documentation processes with or without children, with or without families, with or without other educators, with or without the rest of the community.
Now, I think it's very helpful here to remind us again about importance of reflective practice is to be able to come back into that space and really think about those values, how we understand families. And I know some people are identifying the complexities of engaging with families, but this is exactly the time everybody to think about maybe the systems and processes that you use are not as effective as maybe other ones. And we need to attach critical reflection to that, to say, maybe that way that we've been doing it is not as effective as some of the ideas that Sue's been thinking and talking to us about in terms of the teacher and parent talks or educated parent talks that we can reinvent it. I think even though it is a complex space, we've got some match fitness here, Sue. We've got some capacity and skills that we can dip into starting with the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and adding on all of the things that you've learned over recent times. Including a global pandemic or the things that you've learned in terms of engaging with families that we can apply to this space. So, I agree it's a complex space, but we have some really amazing skills that we can start to bring into this space. Which is why we need to take a bit of time to think through what this might look like.
Yeah, I totally agree Catharine. We have got runs on the board and I think they're important runs on the board. And I think we can use those that have been used successfully in particular contexts, remembering that not everything works in all places at all times for all people.
And I think that some of you are asking questions about the transformative nature of documentation that it might start. And the assessment process itself, it might start as something that is processed, gathered with children in a really iterative way. And then as you collect it and I love the morphing nature of this is that as you collect it, it comes to a point when you can use it for a different purpose. Seems efficient to me too Sue that we would use something for one purpose and then use it for a different purpose down the line as we start to explore the distance travelled for children, it seems like a smarter, not harder approach.
If it is fit for purpose, Catharine, then yes, it is efficient. Definitely, why reinvent the wheel when you have invested in time, effort, thought critically and reflectively about this documentation work that you've done. Why not draw on it again to inform conversations that you have with parents or with educators in the school sector or whoever it is that you need to be talking to allied health professionals, for example.
I think to the community more broadly, I think are increasingly interested in what we're up to. So I was speaking to an educator today who said to me that the people who are walking their dog in the park next door are constantly engaging with them and asking what the children are up to. So, this helps the conversation more broadly about who children are in our community. So share it broadly everybody. We are just at the end of our conversations, any last thoughts that you want to leave with us Sue, as we conclude our conversation.
I think we've got a lot to build on. I think it's slow process, slowness of pedagogical documentation. If you think of the hare and the tortoise, the tortoise actually did things slowly, carefully, meaningfully, probably saw a lot on the way, learnt a lot, but got there in the end. Haste is good in some places and for sometimes, but I think we need to think slow where possible. Take our time, really develop relationships that are meaningful, not only with children, but their families and communities. And remember assessment's not a dirty word.
Well indeed we're exploring that and we're definitely trying to think about the ways that we practice currently and the way that it connects with the ideas of assessment and the way that we use documentation in meaningful ways. So if this has sparked in you some lots of thoughts about how you understand assessment and how you think about documentation, then this is a great way to introduce ideas to your team. You might want to revisit some of the ideas by watching the video, we invite you to continue those conversations, do some more investigation, do some more research. Watch this space, there's a whole range of ideas coming your way, because next time we'll be joined by another academic who will take us a different path of exploration. If you want to have these conversations and continue thinking about this and you want to alert other people to this opportunity, please do so. Thank you so much for your participation. Thank you very much for your willingness to join with us in a bit of a deep dive and an exploration of some of the ideas around assessment. If some of these ideas have challenged you, then that's great, keep thinking about them. And if they resonate with one of the ways that you already approach assessment and documentation, then congratulations, you are part of a really big thinking process that is not only in Australia, but across the globe. About how we can make assessment meaningful for young children and how the documentation can make children's learning visible. Thank you very much, everybody.
This session looks at an international perspective of assessment in the early years, with Susanne Garvis in conversation with Catharine Hydon. Swedish assessment practices are shared, and connections are drawn between Swedish and Australian contexts, using the VEYLDF.
Well hello, everyone, and welcome. My name is Catharine Hydon and I'm really pleased to be able to be part of webinar number three, and welcome to all of you who are joining us. Webinar number three in a series that we're doing with four webinars on Connecting Assessment to Practice. This webinar series is brought to you by the Victorian Department of Education and Training and in collaboration with Early Childhood Australia. Before we get going, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the traditional owners on whose country we are on. I'm here on the lands of the Woiwurrung people of the Kulin nation. And I particularly pay my respects to the elders who helped us all as early childhood educators to understand what it means to embed acknowledgements of traditional owners and engagement with country, into our everyday practice with children and their families. And I particularly draw your attention to the Marrung education statement, that the words of Aunty Geraldine Atkinson invite us to hold the doors wide open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, wherever we are in Victoria. And of course, a big shout out to all of you who've joined us today. We know that it's really busy time and many of you are navigating lockdown still. We want to really acknowledge the work that you're doing every day with children and their families. A big shout out to all of the people in various parts of Victoria, people in the city, and we've got people in the country, people in all sorts of different settings. So big welcome to all of you. So we've had a great series so far of these amazing online events. We've heard some from experts and we're about to, at the end of this series hear from a panel of practitioners. So watch out for that, for a webinar coming up next, but this is the third opportunity, and we're really pleased that you're here. And hopefully what this has done is opened up a space to think more deeply about assessment processes. What's meaningful, what's effective, what the research says, and we're really joined by some amazing experts who can help us think about assessment in a deeper way. Hopefully you might have been sharing some of the content with your colleagues. You might have been having meetings and you've joined them together and you're sharing some of the ideas that we've been talking about. And of course, you'll be able to share the videos further and rewatch them together as we progress. And you'll remember that in the first webinar, we were joined by Dr. Jane Page, who talked to us a little bit about what assessment meant, and we just started to define it. We're talking about as, of and for. And we were talking about the ways that assessment is woven into the fabric of the planning cycle and how it connected with the expectations in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework about connecting to children's contexts, working with family and thinking deeply and using reflective practice. And then last week we were joined by Professor Sue Grieshaber, who took us really further into the ideas around assessment. Some really interesting ideas emerging from research, thinking what pedagogical documentation looked like, how it was meaningful and valued by some of the researchers that she quoted to us and how we could make children's learning visible through really meaningful pedagogical documentation techniques. So today we're going to take a further look at some of the contexts around assessment. So we're really fortunate to be joined by a further, another expert in this space who can share with us a particular perspective. And in this context, we're going to look at the Swedish education perspective, that some of you might be going, why Sweden, how come we're looking there? Well, partly it's because our expert who's going to join us in a moment has some particular lived experience, but it's always great to learn from others. It's so great to be inspired by other people's practice. And in this case, another country's practice, we also want to be challenged by those approaches. We want to take a look at other ways of undertaking the work we do every day. And of course we know our Scandinavian colleagues are widely regarded in terms of their leadership in Early Childhood Education and Care. So we're really interested in learning a little bit more about what the Swedish context looks like in terms of assessment. And I'm sure some of these ideas will resonate with you. There'll be confirming some of your existing practice, but also might open up new possibilities about what it looks like for us in the Victorian context and how we connect it to the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. So let me introduce our next speaker, our next expert. Who's going to take us on a magical mystery to thinking about assessment in the Swedish context. So welcome to Susie Garvis, and it's great Susie that you're able to join us. You are indeed the professor of education and the chair of the Department of Education at Swinburne University of Technology. We may in fact have some people who are studying with you as we speak. So people might be recognising you, but you've only relatively recently returned to Australia in mid 2020, welcome back to a really interesting time of the Australian history, but it's fantastic that you're able to be here. And you've been working in Sweden and the Nordic region for six years. Must've been an extraordinary experience. You've come to us with a strong understanding of early childhood education and care from an international perspective. And you've worked with a number of NGOs organizations around the world, governments around the world. So we're very pleased that you are part of this conversation today. So maybe I can ask you right at the beginning, Susie, before you take us into your slides and share your thoughts with us, why Sweden? How come you went to Sweden?
I get asked this question a lot, Catharine. So it's very interesting story actually. So I used to be an Erasmus visiting scholar in Norway, and I worked with colleagues there who were in Sweden. And then they asked me to apply for a position at the University of Gothenburg, which I did. And so for six years, I was working at University of Gothenburg and also Stockholm University. And it was an absolutely fabulous experience where I became immersed in the Swedish and also Nordic perspectives of preschool, and preschool there is from one to five years of age, and then as a parent as well, I also got to experience it from the other side of actually being directly involved with early childhood as well. So it's been a fantastic experience and I'm hoping to share both sides of my story today as well.
Well, we're looking forward to hearing from you about the Swedish experience. We probably know a little bit about what goes on with our Scandinavian colleagues, but you're going to tell us a lot more detail, I'm sure. So off you go, tell us what our Swedish colleagues are up to?
Absolutely. So I'm going to start, first of all, with the context of what is Swedish preschools, and Swedish preschools start for children age one, and they end at age five and that's because there's a year around 480 days of parental leave for parents. And the idea is that once parental leave is used, children then navigate into the Swedish preschool system and the government sees Swedish preschool as the first step into education and part of a lifelong journey for education. So it has to be the very best experience because it's that first point of engagement. What's really interesting is that there is no adult child ratios. So different services can have different ratios. And the research is showing that ratios may not actually play an important part. It's more around the quality of the actual learning experiences that are happening, because preschool as well is heavily funded by the government. It's not free, but it's heavily funded. It can never be more than 3% of a parent's income and it's capped, 97% of the children age one to five, actually attend preschool, which is some of the highest preschool attendance rates in the world. And what happens is after the children actually finish preschool, they have called what's known as preschool class, and this was made compulsory in 2019. And this is a whole year of transition. So this might be actually in the preschool or it could be on a school context. And the idea is that it's sort of very much based on transitioning the children from early childhood into the first year of school, because Swedish preschool is also about prevention as much as possible. is that parents should never be charged for food or for any educational resources all the way from early childhood to secondary education. So the idea is that food, breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea are all provided for free for children and there's rules around the health of it as well. So it has to be really healthy food for the children. And as you can see in the photos as well, this is some photos of my daughter, actually, she's sitting up to eat her lunch with the other children. She's about 14, 15 months old here, and she's enjoying some rice and fish for the day as well. So she's learning all about the skills of eating and things and healthy eating along the way. Part of the Swedish preschool approach is the saying, and you may have heard this before. "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing."
Absolutely heard that.
So that means that children are outside every day, regardless. And as you can see from one of the photos as well, my daughter's just in the bicycle photo, she's just in a heavy winter jacket suit. So the idea is that the children are taken out and they're engaging with nature as much as possible. And there's been health benefits from that as well, of children actually engaging in the outdoors as much as possible throughout the day. So it's really about supporting children in their learning and development. And there are so many connections, I think, between the ways that Swedish preschools are conducted in the Australian context as well.
That might be really worth just elaborating on that a little bit more too Susie, but before we do that, people have asked the very obvious question, but just what do you mean no ratios? So obviously there are numbers of educators in the groups that are formed with the particular ages of children, or is there a different way of thinking about ratios?
I think this is a great question. So children can be grouped differently. They might be in what's called a family room where they would need children aged one to five altogether, or it could be broken up by age ranges. So it just depends on how the Swedish preschool works and what they think is best for the children. But there is no government requirement around ratio. And there has been research into this where, if children's groups are large, there's just as much learning going on as what could be happening with small groups of children as well. And it comes down to the quality of the learning environment and also how much routine and support is there to really, to structure that learning environment as well.
And Susie, we know we probably could spend all day talking about some of those mechanics around the way the Swedish preschool system works. And I guess for our people who are online at the moment, there'd be great opportunities for you to investigate that further. But for us, we're thinking about the way that assessment works in that context. So it'd be great if we now sort of move to a conversation where we're thinking about some of the things might be that we share as well as something that might challenge and inspire us.
Absolutely, and I think this is a great time to actually move on to the next slide as well, because the way, before I move into the idea around assessment, and it's good to think about the actual purpose of Swedish preschool curriculum. And this is a great reflection on what is the purpose of early childhood in Victoria as well. So in Sweden, the purpose is obviously to have this idea of education for all, it's part of the basis of democracy. And so democratic principles are what's envisaged and implemented throughout the daily practices and assessment structures that go on. The Education Act, it stipulates that the purpose of education is that preschool is to ensure that children acquire and develop knowledge and values. And it should also promote all children's development and learning and the lifelong desire to learn. So this is the connection as well, where early childhood is really seen as that first place of really fostering education. Education should also convey an establish respect for human rights and the fundamental democratic values on which Swedish society is based. So it's very much establishing it right from the beginning with children. And we can see that coming through in their ideas around assessment as well.
It's great to be able to start with a really big idea like that, and I guess in some way, this reminds us about some of the ideas that are in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, some of the ideas that are in the guiding principles of the national quality framework. So big ideas like democracy, big ideas around inclusion and equity, big ideas, help to sort of formulate what you're going to do as you investigate assessment. But can you just help us, in this sense around democracy, can you give us a sense of what you mean by that? The democracy in the context of the Swedish preschool curriculum?
So it's fostering that all children are equal and all children have access. And in Swedish education, we have the concept of equivalence. So all children will have an equivalence education and it's under the acknowledgement that equal education is not a possibility because everyone is different, but we can have equivalence. And that allows for different support structures, different ways of actually catering for children as well. And this concept of equivalence.
It sounds like equity to me, so a similar type of idea.
I'm thinking of the Swedish words in my head as well, Catharine translating them at the same time.
We're very impressed that you obviously can speak Swedish, and read it also, which is fantastic. So we're in deep or of that in itself. So it sounds like there's some things that are quite similar. And indeed, it's interesting to think Susie, too, that some of the people here might have philosophy statements that capture some of these big ideas like democracy too. So they might've taken some of those things and put them into the context of their value system and the philosophies that they work with. But good to know that that supports a conversation around assessment.
Absolutely, so I'm just going to move on to the next slide as well, which is where we can actually investigate this idea around assessment. And interestingly in the Swedish curriculum, there isn't the word assessment, but there is the word follow-up evaluation and development. And it's very similar, I think, to planning cycle in VEYLDF. And I know that we will talk about that later, but the idea is that it's an ongoing process and that it's about looking at how the quality of the learning environment is actually supporting the child as well. So in a Swedish context, you may see observations, but the idea is to really focus on how the group might be working together. It's focusing on observing, is this idea of setting up the room or what the child is actually showing us, is this the goal of what we're actually trying to do as well in this idea of supporting their learning and development. So rather than having an individual focus and having numerous observations, teachers may engage in one observation, but then there's a lot of talk that goes on as well in the idea of teams, which will consist of the preschool teacher and then also support staff. And it's those discussions that are really important and actually shaping the ideas around this concept of follow-up evaluation and development that's there. And it just Susie makes me think how important quality is over quantity, just producing tons of observation, and then not using those in a dialogue with your colleagues, won't get you to where you want to go. So in terms of our Swedish colleagues, they really privilege that dialogue with each other, that comes out of the generation of the documentation that they produce or the observations they produce.
Absolutely, so discussion is very much part of the culture. So the idea is that you are continuously engaging in dialogue, dialogue with each other, dialogue with the family, dialogue with the child, as you're engaged in this learning and reflection process all the time that's there. And so documentation is used to prompt that reflection, but it's not the main part. It's more the actual discussion and what are we going to do with this? That is the important part.
And I guess for all of us too, we're thinking that's about the reflective practice process in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and making time for that. I know it's complex 'cause lots of people work different hours and different times and trying to bring people together is tricky, but it's perhaps not whether we do that, but how we do it, how can we make space and time those ideas? It's a very interesting idea.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Preschool teachers or the teams in Sweden are lucky where there is time for them to actually sit down and make that space, but you're exactly right. It's really important to have that space and that time. The other part of the conversation is that children will be involved in actually reflecting on their learning as well. So it's lovely to see one common practice is that if a child's been at the same early childhood preschool, or Swedish preschool for five years, there's a lot of evidence there of the child's learning and actually getting the child to reflect over that period of time. And it's amazing to have the children tell these wonderful stories of, when I was little, I couldn't tie my shoe lace and now I can tie my shoe lace and I've taught this other child how to do it as well.
That sounds amazing. And those of us who've joined us in webinar one, will remember that Dr Jane Page told us about assessment as learning as the way that children become part of that. And that sounds exactly what you're talking about. And of course, there'll be people who are joining us in this webinar who are working in long day settings and they can work with children birth to five and that longevity. And of course in funded three-year-old programs, we'll now see two years of funding kindergarten. So lots more opportunities to be able to track that distance travelled with children over time. And of course there are lots of people saying, yes, discussion is really important. So we know how tricky that is, but it's about prioritising that as a really fantastic way of formulating ideas.
And I think it's also around in regards to making space for discussion, is also educating parents and families that the discussion is really important, not so much the photos and the observations, the bigger part of that is, yes, it's nice, but it's not something that has to be done in a quantity. And I think that's one of the key differences as well, is that Swedish families, right from the beginning, there's a strong understanding of how learning will be supported also around this concept of assessment. So what to actually expect, but also the purpose that it's that discussion or the dialogue that's really important. And we can have the early childhood teachers, can actually have these conversations in informal ways as well, whether it's drop-off or pickup or in development talks that I'll also talk about later.
Who communicates that to families? 'Cause I think there's probably some people on the panel here who are saying sometimes families want us to produce material that doesn't talk much about their learning, but just sort of proves that they're having a nice time in the early childhood service. So have you got any sense of how our Swedish colleagues manage to convey the importance of discussion around learning? How do they do that?
You mean with the families?
Yeah, absolutely. So part of it starts off at the beginning with in schooling, which is the transition period in, and each child is given a different amount of in schooling depending on the needs of the family and the child. And they really see that transition period as important 'cause it's a transfer of primary attachment from the family to the preschool. So for some children that it'll take a few days, for other children it will take a few months, but that's okay. And so it's about in that period as well, really educating and working with the family. And during that time, there's a lot of discussion and a lot of sharing about, this is why we do this and also allowing expectations and also a shared understanding of what responsibilities are.
It's, a really important message I think, for us to think about how we communicate the role of educators as capturing as you say, following up, evaluating, developing children's learning and how we communicate that to families in the early stages, in that orientation sort of entering into the program. So that there's a much stronger understanding of what we're trying to achieve as we progress. But back to you, "Susie, where are we going next?
No, absolutely. The other thing quickly, as well, a quick way that Swedish teachers often talk to parents as well is they say, you know, "If you want me to spend interaction time with my child or talk to the children, it means I can't, I'm not going to take as many photos. So it's sort of really making it obvious. This is why we're not going to be taking documentation all the time, because that will take away time from me actually engaging and talking with children as well.
So perhaps we need to be a bit braver and communicate more clearly to families about what we are doing and why we are doing it so that we talk together about those expectations rather than make assumptions about what families need. And of course, that's exactly at the heart of reflective practice and of course our partnerships with families. So I think really important ideas that our colleagues in Sweden are navigating and obviously have been doing for a little while now, so we can take some inspiration from there.
Absolutely, absolutely. So the other key as well, is that evaluation or and in this idea, when I talk about evaluation, it's probably similar to the word assessment. The idea of evaluation is that it should take the perspective of the child as much as possible. So what that means is that the child's perspective should be a starting point. The children and parents should always be involved in this idea of evaluation, but it's an ongoing cyclical process as well, that's there.
So, Susie, you're going to take us to talk a little bit more about preschool teachers and what they're responsible for in this assessment space in Sweden.
Exactly, exactly. So in the Swedish preschool curriculum, it actually defines or describes the role of preschool teachers. And it also describes the role of evaluation as well. So the purpose of evaluation is actually to acquire knowledge of how the quality of the preschool, which is the organization, the content, the implementation, how that's actually going in regards to the conditions for development and learning. So again, it's switching the focus of the individual to more of the group or the culture. So what that means is that assessment then is based on how is this learning environment really supporting children's development that's there. And it may be that sometimes there would be for example, observations of the group or individual observations. But again, it's always returning to that idea of reflective practice. What is the purpose of this and how is it actually supporting the learning environment?
So the preschool teachers as well are responsible for each child's development and learning, and the idea that it is always systematic. It's always engaging in this process of discussion, but it's also documented, analyzed and continuously evaluated to provide the best possible environment there for the child. And it's also then mapped against the goals of the curriculum. So similar to VEYLDF, there are also goals in the Swedish preschool curriculum also for learning content areas. And the idea that as a team, the preschool teacher and the team are working towards the goals for children. Part of it is around also the idea that the goals, as I was saying focus on the curriculum, and there's a big focus on language in particular. And it's about for the preschool teachers, continuously posing questions to each other in the group around either the learning environment or based on the child's interests. So for example, autumn with the autumn leaves is something that's very common that's explored from the child's perspective and it's also then looking at what other elements can come in here in regards to science, math language, for example, but also how the preschool teachers would actually, and the team would sit down and talk about how are we actually going to assess or track and evaluate what's actually happening along this journey that we're taking together with the children as well. The emphasis on the whole group. Does that mean that the individual child is not tracked? Or is it a combination?
Yeah, so it's a little bit of a combination, but more focused on the group. And also the other part of it is that the child is operating within a group as well. So we have to see how the children are actually working together? If we're looking at democratic principles, we have to see what democracy is actually looking like in the context of the preschool.
So it's not, I guess there's an important point in the context of the work we do here in Australia and in Victoria in particular is that we are looking at the individual child. We have an expectation that each child's learning is tracked as part of an ongoing cycle and the national quality standard, but it's really important, I think here to remind ourselves, of course, they do work in a group. They do learn in a group and that we can probably do three things at the same time there. Think about the individual child, think about the group. And we can think about the community that they're of more broadly. So I think it might be wheels within wheels or sort of a bit of an interconnected way of thinking about it rather than an either or situation.
Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think what's really important there is that acknowledgement of those three. So the individual, the community, as well as the group, because they all operate together, nothing operates in isolation.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that they all have they influenced each other, and they shape what happens. So it sounds like it so, but the other thing that of course is important in this, for us in terms of the educators work in Sweden, is that they match that with the reflective practice process. So it's a discussion, sounds like a really sort of connected discussion between what you're doing in that space and how you're talking about it.
Absolutely. And it's about thinking education as a whole as well. So rather than focusing on an individual, education is part of a bigger societal frame.
And I think that's, we all want to have those conversations. Don't we? About our role in the whole of the education space, but keep going. It's really interesting. And it sounds, I think there's lots of people who'd like to move to Sweden, nonetheless, we're here and we're going to think about what other ideas might inspire us.
Yeah, absolutely. So the idea as well is that this idea of ongoing critical examination. So this is to ensure that the evaluation methods are actually being implemented. There was a lot of trust in the preschool teams to actually do this. One thing that I didn't mention at the start of the Swedish context is that preschools are one of the most trusted professions in Sweden. So it's higher than banks. So there's a lot of trust there in the work that the educators are actually doing. And the educators are actually trained in a three and a half year degree, but they learn this idea of reflection and how it actually drives the evaluation cycle that's going on continuously. And there are still audits and assessments that go on in these Swedish preschools. But again, it's about actually observing what's happening in that context rather than asking to look at numerous paperwork.
And there'll be lots of people here who approach continuous improvement and the work national quality standard in exactly that way. So I think we've got obviously some inspiration from our colleagues in various places around the world, in the way that we currently undertake that work to reflect and review on the quality of our practice. But it really privileges that reflective practice work about how we connected. Susie, the relationship between those formalized assessment processes, the spaces that you would create for evaluation follow-up and tracking children's development, they are deliberately matched with reflective practice. The people do that in a very intentional way.
Absolutely, very much an intention away, but they will choose the reflections that they want to engage with. So the starting point obviously would be the Swedish curriculum goals and then reflecting as well on, what are we actually doing in reaching these goals? Have you seen these things? What could we do further, et cetera. And it's interesting because sometimes the conversations will be documented. Other times they will just be in practice and then they will become lived experience, especially if it's in the moment where, sometimes something might be planned, but the teachers are wanting to take that in another direction because the children are wanting to go into another direction as well. So it's all around following the child perspective.
And there's a couple of conversations in the chat to say that, how much of those conversations do you document? So can you, and you just mentioned it there in terms of some of the conversations are documented as part of that, but some of the conversations are in the moment. Is there a hard and fast rule about how much is documented and how much is not, who makes some of those decisions?
No, but you will see it in the overall quality of the Swedish early childhood. So all of these things are done to enhance their learning environment. So you will see it in the actual learning environment, rather than focusing on, documentation with paper and actually tracking these conversations, to actually make them purposeful, they have to be enacted. So that's why it's very important in the Swedish context to always think about improving education or the actual learning context and how that's actually happening.
And maybe that's the big question, is that we actually use our professional judgment and what we understand about the curriculum and for us, it's the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, but we understand about the context to make the decisions about what's worth writing down. I fear that the time that you get a hard and fast rule to say that you have to write everything exactly like this, and you have to do it on a Wednesday, and you have to do it by two o'clock. It's a bit of a trap, but if you use your professional judgment, if you talk and think together, then it will become clearer Susie about what we would write down and what we would not write down.
Absolutely. Absolutely. And for some things, there may be a lot of things that you write down, for other things, not as much. So definitely it's around professional ways of working, and trusting professionals.
Yes. And I guess this means too, that you can articulate the process that you use to engage in understanding children's learning more deeply. And I know some people are thinking, well, how do I have all the evidence to say that I'm doing this? But again, I like the idea that we can be confident in the way that we talk about the processes we use. And we again talked about that with Dr. Sue Grieshaber last week as well. So keep going, Susie, where are you going to take us next?
Absolutely, so I'm going to move on now to idea of the work team together. So in the Swedish preschool curriculum, it also describes what the work team is doing. So this isn't only the preschool teacher. This can be the other people who are in the preschool, all working together as the team. So the idea is that the team are continuously following, documenting, analyzing the child's development learning. They're reflecting on it with this idea of evaluation. And it's trying to really look at how they're working towards implementing the goals of the curriculum. And the idea is that once this reflection has taken place, there's a lot of influence about how to actually improve the quality of the learning environment to support that further as well. And the idea is that education, it needs to take in interests, perceptions, and opinions of children as much as possible. So that means it has to be a lot of interaction with children as well. So, you know, talking with children, asking children, all of these things that would just be part of quality interactions, which can then come under this idea of evaluation or assessment as well. The other part is also to then really follow up with guardians or families to also discuss what they are thinking, what they are noticing perhaps in the home environments. And then also to piece it all together into this idea of supporting the child and the family. And what you can actually see is that, especially in the Swedish context in the last couple of years, where there has been mass migration, especially with refugees from Syria, preschool is seen as the first connection for families into the actual idea of a government system. So it's really important that this support structure is there and relationship between the preschool and the families and that they're all working together for what's actually best for the child.
Well, and that's a really good segue to one of the questions that was raised around if discussions are of a priority, if the discussions with families are the priority, we want to draw families into this process of assessing children's learning, understanding children's learning, then how are Swedish colleagues navigating that when families speak languages other than Swedish?
This is a really, really great question around language acquisition and how to support that. So there will be translators obviously. The idea is that all children should have a sense of belonging. So in some of the diverse Swedish preschools, there will be information, children's posters, all of those types of things in multiple languages with multiple representations. But the other thing is that all children in Swedish education have a right to instruction in their mother tongue language. So there's an understanding that for a child to be successful in Swedish, they also need support in their mother tongue language. And that means that they will have access to a teacher who may come into the preschool as well from their mother tongue language.
Well, that's a really strong reinforcement for some of the great work that's happening out there with educators who speak languages other than English in our context. So big shout out to all of you who are sharing your language every day with children. And also a great exciting space that I think is being generated by some of the language programs that are being enacted in kindergartens in various parts of Victoria. So really exciting space. I think we've got a really strong history in Australia about supporting children's first language. So let's keep going in that space too everybody, and supporting that conversation to happen with families. But in terms of educators being a part of this, this sort of work team mean the way that I understand this and tell me if this is right? This needs everyone contribute to collecting information, having the conversation. It's not just some people's job to be part of the assessment process. It's everybody's job to be part of that.
Absolutely, and similar to the concept, I guess, of teaching team in the Victorian context, and even in the Swedish preschools, it would include the chef if they are actually in the preschool as well. So the chef will come out and talk with the children, ask them about the meals, what they like? There was a funny story at my daughter's Swedish preschool, where the children really wanted to try a lemon, and the chef went with it. So he took a group of children out, they went to the grocery shop, bought lemons, came back, cut it up for all the children. They tasted it and decided lemons weren't for them.
Until later when they appreciate lemons in their future lives. But that's so great to hear. And I know people are going to raise here that there's the complexity of everybody coming together in the same room at the same time. But I guess, again, it's not whether that happens, but how it happens, maybe it happens, it doesn't happen all the time, but it's something that we can aspire to as we work with our colleagues, I guess, would that include other professionals. So people who are from allied health professionals, and speech therapist, other people, would they be part of that conversation too?
Absolutely. So also the maternal child health nurse would be very much a part of that conversation and in some Swedish preschools and in all Swedish schools, there's always psychologists as well.
Okay. So again, all those people who've got access to school readiness funding and are using the allied health professionals in their teams. It's great to be able to think about how you draw those people into the conversations that are more robust about how children are learning. Well, we're heading towards the last part of today, Susie, so where are you going to take us next?
I'm going to jump now across to Assessment in VEYLDF on the next slide, because this really aligns with this idea of the evaluation cycle as well. So if we think of the word of assessment as evaluation in the Swedish context, there is a lot of similarity here in the way that what the teachers are doing in Sweden is actually happening in this planning cycle. So you can see that reflecting and reviewing is part of this cycle as well. And also this idea of question, analyzing, planning, acting, doing, this is exactly what is happening in a Swedish context and on a continuous cycle as well. And it's all about an ongoing process to really have strong support for the child. And also then looking at the idea of the learning context there. And I think there'll be a lot of people who look at that and might think that no, we don't share that some of those similar approaches to assessment across different countries, but it's really heartening to know that, but for different names, we are doing very similar things in terms of pursuing our children's learning and being able to attract children's only. Susie, does that mean that we are all using evidence-based approaches to the work we do in assessment?
Yes. Absolutely. And the other part of this as well is that in these cycles, there's more than one person involved. It's not any individual endeavor. It's a group endeavor where everyone is working together to provide the very best outcome.
And it makes me think that this planning cycle looks a bit too one dimensional to me. I feel like it ought to be a 3D model so that we can see it from multiple perspectives, but our technology doesn't lend itself to 3D models in the webinar. But imagine people that it's a 3D model and in that way, we can think much more about multiple people being a part of it, children being part of it, families being part of it. And the more confident you are in the way that you engage with the planning cycle, the more you can let others in. So Susie here, the same sort of cyclical processes is used in Sweden, the same sort of steps or are they just calling it different names?
Absolutely. So it would be called different names, but the same process, absolutely. And the key there is that it's going continuously. It's not something that stops at one point in time.
It's helpful to think about that. And it's also that also gives it a sense that if many people are involved, it helps that it's continuous. It helps that it's forming decisions as you go. And of course it reminds us of the conversation we had last week with Dr. Sue Grieshaber, who reminded us that multiple ways of tracking children's learning, multiple ways with many voices, gives people a sense of connection to the planning cycle. And so it's not just one person carrying that or one way of doing it. It's multiple ways of undertaking this process, which of course is why we're hearing from you about what our colleagues in Sweden are doing.
Absolutely. And for example, the question, you may not see the question in the observation that you're doing, but maybe another person who's in that team has actually seen that, the behaviour or the child's interest. And so they're actually able to contribute that as well. So again, it's the information sharing that's really, really important. The next slide as well is the last part around Utvecklingssamtal or development talks.
Oh, you're going to say that one more time, just so we can hear how you say that.
Utvecklingssamtal, which translates as development talks, and these are held regularly with families to really share information and to really have that idea of this is where we're wanting to go together. And the is that it's part of an ongoing process where parents are also starting to understand the curriculum. It starts with initial transition and the building of relationship, but then that relationship is supported through these development talks until the child actually exits Swedish preschool. And they could be, in some places they could be each term or they for some families as well. Again, this can be on a needs basis. It could be more regular. So monthly, for example.
Is there documentation shared at those meetings?
It can be, absolutely it can be. But again, the idea is that it's the discussion around the documentation that's more important. And the discussion is also very honest, very frank, and also very much around having a shared understanding of what goal are we actually working towards? So an example is this photo of my daughter, who's learning to put on her snowsuit, take it on, take it off. So this was one of the goals when she actually started was to make sure that she can become independent by allowing herself to get dressed, get undressed as they go inside and outside. And they were actually able to talk to me about the process, she's happy and actually document some of this as well.
And that in which is what we talked about with Dr Sue Grieshaber last week and with a Dr Jane Page is that, it brings it alive and it makes it so visible. And you can imagine that there'd be lots of families. I mean, you're the exception because you are an early childhood educator. So you know some of this, but you can imagine that many families, perhaps who speak languages other than English, it's the first time they've experienced Early Childhood Education in Australia, or indeed for families who might not really quite get what we're doing in early childhood education. This brings learning to life.
Exactly. It makes it real and it makes it a partnership as well. And that's the key is that it's a partnership for everyone involved and just in the photo down the bottom as well, the goal of this particular reflection was, it's an ongoing where they're working towards the child's pencil grip that will happen in a couple of years, but the children are actually picking up very small pins and putting them into a little pin board. So it's part of a bigger process there of what's actually happening.
And of course, there's lots of people here watching this thinking, actually, they're are very young children and look at the capability of your daughter putting those pants on. That's quite hard to put on some of those and imagine if she can do that now, imagine what should be able to do by the time she's four. So it's that high expectations practice principle in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework it just really highlights that. So just in terms of these development talks, and you mentioned it before, but I think it's worth noting here again, it is an expectation that families come to these. How is that communicated? Because I think there'd be people who are joining us now, who are saying, how can I get families to come to this? I offer this to families and they don't take me up on the offer, if gosh, every month, would that be too much, is it done digitally like this? Or is it done face-to-face, can you give us some advice around that from your experience in Sweden?
It depends on what works best for the family. So for some families, it can be monthly, other families it could be term, sometimes it can be digital. Sometimes it can be phone call. Sometimes it can be after the preschool, it could be in the morning during drop-off. So it's providing flexibility there as much as possible, but having that partnership where we do need to actually meet and talk around this as well. 'Cause it's important that we're on the same page.
And you know, of course there's lots of practical questions around sort of timing and things like that. And I'm sure just like us here in Australia, our Swedish colleagues have complexities around managing all of their workload, et cetera. But there's obviously times where some of those things happen more formally and obviously informally as well.
Absolutely. And with the development talk. So the idea is that it's such an important part of that home preschool partnership, that it has to have strong education around it, when the parent and the child first comes in, they understand that this is really important, especially working with all families, that they actually understand that by the parent and the teacher being on the same page, it's the best support they could give the child.
I do like Susie, your reference here to prioritising these time with families. So to be really blunt with everybody here, I think it's about a conversation, about what you prioritize, what you value and you do less of some things and more of some other things. And I know that's a tricky sometimes because everybody wants to do everything, but sometimes you have to prioritize those things, which you think are important in terms of supporting children's language and children's development. Children's learning over that period of time.
Absolutely. And it's really thinking about the life cycle of when the child first comes in, the experiences during, and then also after early childhood. So rather than thinking of it just as a day-by-day, it has to be thought as a broader experience 'cause this is first experience families and children will have with education.
So we're nearly coming to the end of our conversation. We could probably talk about our Swedish colleagues all day, but I think you've got one more slide to share with us in terms of connecting some of these ideas to some of the practice principles in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework.
Absolutely, so from today, from the Swedish context, you can hopefully see a lot of connection in this idea of follow up and evaluation of this concept of assessment for learning and development, that's actually in VEYLDF, where we're really looking to discover what children can know, do and understand. And it's very much looking at it from the child's perspective as well. And that also there's flexibility in what assessments, or how this is actually done with tools. And it's about creating a holistic picture of the child's knowledge understanding, their skills and capabilities rather than just having a small snapshot. So it's creating it into a holistic understanding and sharing that with families as well. And it's really important that family knowledge is included. And that's about making this relationship very clear with the family from the start. And again, this is part of the practice principle and similar to how the Swedish system was cyclical with follow-up design and evaluation. It's the same with VEYLDF with the planning cycle, but also the practice principles where it's very systematic and collaborative approach that's ongoing. And there's always the question of what's next for the child in the decision-making. So it's always ongoing, and this idea of continuously thinking about improvement that aligns with the Swedish concept so well.
And it's also a really good reminder about the importance of the practice principle in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework of our relationships with families, our partnerships with families, I think it really privileges that to say that the planning cycle is not outside of that relationship. And it's almost opening up that space, opening up assessment, so that it's much more connected to the way that families understand their child. And of course, we have a commitment really fundamentally in our relationships with families that recognizes them as their child's first and most important teacher. And that's one of the reasons why understanding the cultural context for families, understanding the language that they speak at home there, the things that are happening for them in their own family homes and bring that into the context of the early childhood education and care setting to build opportunities for children to learn and grow is really important. One last thing, Susie, that you want to leave us with in terms of the Swedish, our Swedish educator colleagues.
Oh! I could leave you with many things. I'm just trying to think of something Swedish to say, but I can't use my Swedish language now. So I guess the key is well is in the, the thing to think about is staff wellbeing, of the in the Swedish culture is really important as well because if staff are happy, if they are thinking of their own wellbeing as well, it's reflected in the child.
A timely reminder I think Susie, for us to pause and perhaps slow down a little bit, sort of calmly investigate the ideas around assessment, so we don't get ourselves into a situation where we're feeling overwhelmed by some of that thinking. So thank you so much, Susie, for sharing ideas with us, it's a really fantastic culmination of some incredible conversations we've had with Dr Jane Paige and Dr Sue Grieshaber. And now Susie, thank you very much for capping it off with an international perspective and sharing some insights more broadly. We really invite you to continue conversations with your colleagues and invite you to continue to think deeply about assessment. Thank you very much for your participation. Thank you very much for all of the comments and questions that you posted in the chat, and we wish you all the best. Thanks very much.
This session, the final of the series, is a panel conversation hosted by Catharine Hydon and draws research and practice in the assessment together. Early childhood teachers share practical assessment strategies and tips specific to their local contexts, and these are discussed in terms of connections to research and the VEYLDF.
Well, hello everybody and welcome. It's great that you're able to join us for the final webinar in our series on Connecting Assessment to Practice brought to you by the Victorian Department of Education and Training, in partnership with Early Childhood Australia. As I said, my name is Catharine Hydon, and it's my absolute pleasure to be hosting this conversation. And today, of course, we have a very special opportunity to join practitioners who are navigating the world of assessment and determining a whole range of different ways that they can practice that work. Now, of course when we're gathered together in opportunities like this, it's important that we take a moment to acknowledge the traditional owners on whose country we are all collectively on. I'm here on the lands of the Woiwurrung people of the Kulin Nation. And I particularly pay my respects to elders who have guided our thinking and helped us to, in the words of Marrung, the education statement of the Victorian state government, hold the doors wide open for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in early childhood education and care settings. We also particularly welcome our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues who've joined us here today and thank them for the work that they do in supporting children and families in all sorts of different settings across Victoria. Thank you, as I said, for all of your work and participation in making the realities of reconciliation practiced daily in early childhood education and care settings. So as of course you know, we have had lots of opportunities to discuss assessment as we've worked through these amazing webinars with these really fantastic presenters who shared some terrific insights. So as we bring these ideas to you, we really are wanting this to be a robust dialogue, a conversation that we start together that you take into your own early childhood settings. So we hope by now, there's some ideas that have been presented by our amazing presenters that has sparked your interest, maybe challenged you a little bit, maybe resonated with you in terms of your existing practice. We hope that you've taken some of those back into your own early childhood settings and started conversations with your educational leader, you might be the educational leader. You might've started some conversations with your colleagues to understand the place of assessment in the work that you do every day. I just wanted to recap a few things that we heard from our presenters as we start to introduce our amazing panelists. So you remember in the first webinar, we heard from Dr. Jane Page, who talked to us about assessment, assessment as, assessment of and assessment for. Really helping us to understand the difference between those, but importantly also reminding us about the planning cycle. And I think she's going to do a little bit more of that today because we'll be rejoined by Jane Page. And also making sure that we deeply connect with contexts and children's rights, strong features in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. And then of course we heard from Professor Sue Grieshaber who started to explore pedagogical documentation. The way we used evidence, we collected evidence and we made sure that evidence was shared with everybody. With children, with families, with our colleagues and making sure that we use the research data, that she was sharing with us, to make decisions about meaningful opportunities for pedagogical documentation. And we're thinking about the value we place on that, the way that it illuminates children's learning and development. And I think a number of you raised in some of the dilemmas that you might've been facing about the types of documentation that you might be using, the different ways that you calculate, how much you might be using. It's important to note there that we need to go back to source information, to find out what the expectations are, really encourage you to go to the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, the law and the regulations, and the National Quality Standard to determine what the expectations are. Rather than making assumptions about what they are and perhaps making a distinction between what's expected and what some of your local decisions might be. And then of course, we heard from Professor Susie Garvis, who opened up a whole new space, thinking about the international perspective in particular, the Swedish context. And I know there are many of you thinking, I love those ideas and I wonder how we can enact them. Of course it's a different context here, but there were lots of things that were similar. I'm sure you noticed that the way that she talked about the planning cycle, different words, but same process. But also helped us to think a little bit more deeply about some things that obviously work well for our colleagues in Sweden. In particular the thing that I remember, is the relationship with families and the expectation and the way that they talk to families about the ways that they could share the assessment processes that they had done. And I wonder how we can start to make sure that's part of our assessment processes. So those parent talks lots of conversations in the chat about that. I hope that some of those ideas have really resonated with you as I said, that might have said, actually we do some of those things. So maybe we have more in common with some of our colleagues in international context that we think, or maybe it's presented really new and challenging ideas to you that have opened up a new space for consideration. So lots of different ways to think about the work that we do. So what I want to do now, is start to introduce our amazing panel. And we're very fortunate this time to be joined by practitioners. So I know that you love hearing from practitioners. I know that this starts to help you identify what these ideas might look like in practice. And we're going to indeed hear from practitioners who are sharing their practice stories, and indeed we'll be joined by Dr. Jane Page as well. So, just let me remind you of our amazing panelists and introduce some new ones to you as they're coming up on the screen. Of course, you know, Dr. Jane Page, thank you very much, Jane. There's a whole lot of people here who I'm sure they have been lectured by you and are looking forward to hearing from you once again. Dr. Jane Paige is an associate professor in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, so fantastic that you are able to be here. And we have two practitioners who are joining us, which is fantastic. We have Shona Kelly-Briggs. Shona is a kindergarten teacher at Yappera Children's Services in Thornbury. Hello Shona, fantastic that you can be here. And she's passionate about supporting and advocating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in education. Having eight years of experience working in early childhood education, Shona believes strongly in the connections to culture and forming respectful relationships with families. And we're really looking forward to hearing from you Shona about some of your assessment practices. And we're joined by Kelly Walsh. Who's at Assisi Kindergarten in Strathfieldsaye which is near Bendigo. And Kelly is an experienced kindergarten teacher with 24 years experience. Her current role is nominated supervisor and teacher in a double unit kindergarten, just outside Bendigo. There we go, there's Bendigo for you. And Kelly is inspired by the ever-changing dynamic of early childhood education as are we all and constantly interested in learning and reflecting and strengthening her pedagogy and practice. So welcome to you all. It's fantastic that you can be here. So, I'm going to stop sharing my screen now and hear from all of you. I think we've got a bit of a fuzzy noise going in the background there, but we'll power on. And hopefully that'll remedy itself. So in the first instance, it would be really fantastic for us to hear from Shona and Kelly, maybe Kelly you first, about some of the ways that you assess. So this is an assessment focused conversation, and there's lots of people here who are looking for really practical ideas, what are people like you do? So, can you tell us in particular, some of the strategies that you've put in place, some practice strategies around assessment, but particularly we're interested in the ones that you have changed in recent times to better respond to the needs of your community and the children and families in your space. Welcome Kelly.
Hello and thanks Catharine. That was a mighty introduction. I think that in my career I have strengthened my knowledge in learning and understanding and it's ever changing. And I think that's something that we really need to be aware of ourselves and that maybe when you're starting, your practice will look different to later in life and in your career and that's all really positive. And I think when I've been reflecting, I've come around full circle in some ways. And I've gone back to taking observations in a book, handwriting, sticky notes, all of those types of things that I did many years ago. That kind of went out the window a little bit when I embrace learning stories and digital documentation and those types of things. And I think the way that we assess and document learning actually depends on ourselves, our own knowledge and understanding. And our teams who we work with, and what's their best method of observing and assessing children in our community. So, as I said, I've been through learning stories and huge big documentation, lots of paragraphs to perhaps describe things that we can sum up in a nutshell in maybe one sentence with our knowledge and understanding that perhaps we don't need to go into a lot of detail about. So some of you are visual learners, I know I like to see programs in practice, I like to see what people are doing. So I have bought in what we are currently doing in our kindergarten.
We have these books they're binders with 10 tabs that I've put in and each child has a tab.
So 10 per book?
- I do 10 per book, our group does, our team. In the kindergarten we have three kindergarten groups and two pre-kindergarten, or three-year-old groups. They do very different ways. Some of them have individual exercise books. So when they're going through their planning cycle, if they are focusing on particular children, they have the books out. So that's really meaningful for them. For us, I put things down a lot. So having 30 books around the kindergarten could be challenging for me and our team. So we have gone with this with tabs down the side. So we do hand write. This was a bit of information from our learning conversations, at the start of the year with families. We then asked the children's voice, to document what they'd like to learn and what they are looking forward to. We take observations sometimes their little photos, we just stick it in, as you can see, it's not pretty so to speak. But it is authentic and it does give a really good description of what's going on with the children.
- And Kelly, multiple people contribute to that?
Yes, everybody does. So some staff write on scraps of paper or pieces of paper or sticky notes, stick it in, got another team member that talks into the iPad and then she just prints that out, sticks that in. Others take photos, just to jog their memory, so to speak. So there's lots of different ways, I think we all learn, we all document in different ways. So, some are really confident to write starting here, others like to take notes and then expand later, linked to framework, use that terminology. So that's a bit of a idea of what we do. We do summary kind of assessments mid year. So we're looking at where the children have gone from the start of the year to where we are now mid year. So that's really assessment prior, of what they already know, what they can do. And then we look at assessment in terms of right, we've got a picture of this child. What are we going to plan for next? So assessment of prior learning, how far they've come, and then assessment for where to next, where are we going next in our program?
Well, and Kelly can I just ask you a little follow up question? I can see Shona is nodding here. So she may in fact thinking actually I do some of those things. So there might be a whole lot of people in the chat also who are going, "I do that." Can I just ask a couple of questions there. You said right at the beginning that you changed your practice quite a bit. Do you see that as a sign? I think there's a lot of people who think maybe I shouldn't change it very much, but it sounds to me like you're saying that changing it is actually a sign of quality. What do you think Kelly?
Yes I do, I actually think that our time's really valuable and we reflect it on writing learning stories. It's intensive in terms of the time it takes to write, then the adding the photos, there was some anxiety around, I didn't get a photo of that can I still write the observation. Taking that away has actually lessened, has given us more time, it's given us more freedom. And we did survey our family and our community around learning stories, and do they want to go on a digital platform. And in our community, we decided not to that was our feedback. So what we do now, is what we term, a beautiful colleague of mine calls these a gift. So we actually have A4 photos of the children, or we do a pic collage of their term, we get their voice of what they've learned. So it's not so much the documentation that we need for meeting the requirements of the National Quality Standards and ratings, assessment and regulations, but it's a beautiful gift for families. So when we changed our thinking in terminology, we felt free.
Well it's a great way. And we'll come back and talk a little bit more about maybe another example of your documentation, but it's fantastic to see some concrete examples, cause I think sometimes as you say, we are quite visual learners and we'd like to go oh, right that's what you mean. So Shona, I can see you nodding and going yes I think I might be doing something like that. So can you tell us a little bit about some of your assessment practices, maybe why you were nodding before. Was it something that Kelly was talking about?
Yeah, so lots of nodding, thanks for sharing Kelly. It was very relatable to what assessment looks like here at Yappera. We do very similar to the notebook. We have individual books for, you know, children that may need it. And we do lots of, like writing on sticky notes, notepads and you'll write like in terms of, moving away from, you know, going back to writing down notes on books and papers and stuff like that. Cause that's what assessment looks like in our kindergarten room as well, along with, and I'm finding that lots of conversations and communicating and discussions around, children and their learning and their needs is what it also looks like in the kinder room and what works as well for the staff in there.
And Shona, it was something that was picked up really strongly by our colleague, Professor Sue Garvis, who said that our Swedish colleagues spend a lot of time talking to each other. Now, Shona, do you write some of that down, when you're talking to each other? Do you write some of that down?
Where do you put that?
So like similar to how Kelly explained it, we have like a booklet as well. And we pop it on like a notepad or write it straight into the book. A lot of the time it's actioned as well. So if we're having a conversation about something we're like, oh yeah, let's get onto it. We will try and make it happen because we know, a day in the kindergarten program, it's so busy. So full on, that conversation or that idea could pass your mind. So we'll try and get onto the ball and action, and as well as, you know, write it down. So when we've got the chance to do it, we follow through.
And of course, all of what we're talking about, and you can see our lovely colleague, Dr. Giant page nodding away, too. This is all speaking the language of the planning cycle that's in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, isn't it Jane.
Absolutely that drawing on rich sources of knowledge, to deepen understandings of children and what children are ready to learn capturing children's interests and capabilities. And it really sounds Shona and Kelly, like this is a community of practice that you have developed around assessment. So you're capturing a number of different perspectives, a range of perspectives on children's learning, including children's own perspectives and then developing those rich learning goals that support you then in the every day to be with children and to support the learning process. And then of course, to reflect on that.
So we'll come back to you, Kelly, cause I know you've got other things to share and some different ideas that you want to share with us. But before we keep going, I think it's a good opportunity for us to clarify a few things. Kelly, do you have a particular set amount, and Shona as well, do you have a particular set amount of things that you have to write into the books that you have in relation to individual children?
No, and I think some children require a lot more observations. Our books actually have conversations with families as well, or if they've sent us an email, if they've updated information from their specialist services or early intervention. So, there's other children that perhaps the group goals and some of those things we're already meeting. So it might be a simple line as, you know, say our main program for that learning. And we need to get back to the fact that we are professionals we have a lot of knowledge. Trust in yourself and sometimes you do right what you're seeing, what you're observing, but sometimes you can actually say, I can already assess that learning. I know that they've had a sense of achievement cause they've completed that activity. We don't say they jumped up and down with their hands in the air and they smiled. We can actually just make that assessment. So I think it's varied. It'll be very varied in terms of the children and sorry, Catharine. And then it has to be every staff member has to do two per term, but you are collectively making sure you have a picture of that child.
An important reminder there, I think about having the conversation upfront and Shona you might want to talk a little bit about that too. Do you sort of have an agreement about how many you're going to do or you know, what the process is?
Yeah, so very similar to what Kelly said. We don't have an agreement of like a quantity, but it's just more, you know, like again, like I said before, like it's just, again, another conversation. So, I could be like, oh, I haven't had a chance to observe this have you seen it? And then, sort of have that discussion together and then yeah, go from there. And we observe obviously, you know, children's behaviour and identify if there's any changes in their patterns or anything like that. And then discuss on what we can do to promote their learning as well.
Kelly, one thought too, the book that you showed us, that blue one with the sticky notes and things like that. And that's a document that professionals use rather than you share with families. Or do you share that with families?
If families wanted to see there's nothing in there that would be confidential to that family, it can be theres, it can be messy. So we might need to interpret some of the little scribblings and jottings but if a family wanted to see that, they definitely would be able to. I think, touching base with the summative assessments our learning conversations, emailing out what's happening in our program and keeping them up to date gives them a sense of what's happening. But certainly I would share that. And I've always written documentation that if families wanted to look at it they could.
I guess it's distinct from a professional dialogue we might have around our own professional practice, something that we would exchange perhaps with educators. But when we're thinking about children, it's something that we might want to share with families. In fact, families might be very interested to know what our methodologies are and how processes some people might be really interested. Kelly, I'm conscious of time. We could talk about this all day, but Kelly, can you take us to that other document that you have that I know you've got there. And again, talk a little bit more about some of the changes that you might've made or how the shifts in your practice might've taken you to that document. And I'm sure Shona will be able to add some more things to that too, off you go Kelly.
Thank you. We have, I've just got our planning journal with us at the moment. And I was reflecting on, when I first started teaching, we would have objectives and goals for every single activity and it was really individual. And then our thinking perhaps moved to more of the group setting and then involving what's happening in the community and our thinking. And I suppose my knowledge and understanding also increased and I was constantly writing and planning for experiences that didn't happen. Because children may have been interested in it a week ago, but when they came back to kindergarten, they were no longer interested. So I've also gone back to doing a whole plan for a term. So this is our term plan that we do.
So that's a big, A3 book.
This is A3, yeah. So there's a rationale or I suppose a bit of an assessment of what's happened for this. We also took into consideration our learning conversations with families and things that they were interested in their children learning. Then once we've done that section, I look at theory and how that may link or how I can further our understanding and our educating teams understanding about why we might be doing particular things. Then we look at goals from the early years learning framework or from our own understanding. Cause sometimes I think there's things we can add.
And indeed the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework is only one list. You can go ahead and add more dimensions to that. In fact, that's fantastic, particularly sort of culturally contextually work to come up with particular outcomes. That's a great idea.
Yeah and adding or changing. And then we have the educator's role and intentional teaching.
And I really believe our role is very significant in programs and we do need to be engaged and we do need to be having these conversations. And knowledge of the child is really rich. And I think I could sum up every child, I work with 30 children in terms of their learning styles and those types of things. And I may not know their grasp off the top of my head or their rote counting, but that's where a photo in those other books or maybe even a checklist for those things so you have a really big overview...checklists sometimes are frowned on. But, left-handed, right-handed those types of things. I think that may be helpful in a program. Then we document the children's voice and our voice in this.
So that's like a form of observation, the next parts are observation of what's happened in that. Okay, great.
So this is the emergent curriculum. So we do this usually weekly, so we look at emerging interests, ideas and their learning. We have educator initiated experiences of provocation child initiated, community initiated. Obviously Olympics has been something that seemed particularly relevant. And for us, we've also been planning around COVID the dreaded COVID. And perhaps some of our planning is that families might be fragile, that we have a conversation at the door with families that we send texts home, that we communicate with them as well. We have, if there's small group learning and different things down here, we have family voice community, and then what next, links to Framework. And then we continue with what's actually happened.
So Kelly, there's probably going to be 400 questions. People are going, how did you do that, what'd you do here? But did you develop that model in collaboration with your colleagues, how long has that been in place for you?
For me I've been doing a form of this probably for four or five, six years. And then the colleagues that I work with presently are taking some of that on and they're doing parts of that. So I think it depends, as I said on our teaching team, it depends on how you interpret things. Some people like to have boxes and they fill boxes in. That for me is, oh, what if I don't fill a box in, I find that dreadful. So everybody just thinks and learns differently. I don't know what you do Shona but if you don't get a box filled in, sometimes I can become more anxious about that. Whereas if it's more free flowing, everybody writes in it during the day. And then we talk about it. Our team get together every Monday afternoon and we have a block of an hour and a half to talk about what's happened.
And Kelly, I think you heard that is a very important thing. If a box doesn't work for you, then change it because this is the great thing about you as curriculum decision-makers. You this collective group of people who have gathered here, our whole profession, our curriculum decision makers, you can start to decide what works for you. And if a box is always empty and it's worrying you, then maybe you have to change it. But let's hear from Shona. And say Shona, do you use a paper thing, or are you using something online doing a bit of a digital thing?
So we do use the digital platform for like observations and learning stories, but we also have a paper form of that as well. You know, for staff who aren't as confident with using technology and are more comfortable with the paper based. And like Kelly said earlier, if you don't capture a photo, it's not to say that, that learning has been missed or it hasn't taken place. So that's another reason why we've decided to keep the paper form as part of our assessment. And we also use very similar to Kelly's I love how she's sectioned there into different little areas. Very similar to that, where the program goes into an A3 book. And it's the voices of all the educators, it's voices of families. I try and capture, the voices of children. So it's, child led and also has aspects of our adults led in there as well and community and family involvement.
And both of you have referenced the fact that you are quite responsive to what's going on. So Kelly, you've got a term frame, if you like. And then something that is more short-term. So a longer term and a short-term. Shona, would you have a set time that your program goes for, or your plan goes for, or do you say, well, maybe three weeks or sometimes it's two. And what do you do?
Well, I aim for two, so I do it fortnightly, but if I see a consistent, interest that's continuing or is showing up, I definitely don't change it just because it needs to be changed. It obviously continues, but yeah.
And Shona, what about your team coming together? How do you sort of support them to contribute to the plan?
Before I do the plan, I actually spend about half an hour to an hour in the room with the other educators. And we just discuss, what's been happening, where do we want to go to next? How are we going to get there? Is there anything in particular that I need to do or someone else needs to do to make it happen? And then from that, obviously draw on, you know, any notes and using the books as well while I'm writing the plan.
I guess, and Jane I'd love you to sort of chip in here. Cause I think there's some really good threads here. But for me one of the things that's really important here, maybe sometimes this has happened just through logistics. is that the planning sometimes and engaging in the assessment process has become a solitary process we do without consulting our colleagues. But maybe we've got to think about opening it up and saying, how do we bring more people into it? Children, families, educator, colleagues, to open it up a little bit and make it a bit more democratic. So how can we get more people to be involved in it? And it sounds Shona to me, that by having that preliminary conversation, what you end up producing in that assessment process is much more meaningful. Jane, do you want to just add a thought or two? Can you bring us back into that planning cycle again.
Shona and Kelly, you've just raised such rich practices it's been wonderful to hear about your work. And what's so clear is that it's a collective endeavour. And to me, I just get a really strong sense that you have a clear vision in your services that your assessment practices fit within your visions. You have a real sense of purpose. And Catharine as you were saying bringing everybody into that journey, which has a framework in place, but is organic and flexible enough for you to modify and change on the basis of emerging interests and children's learning over time. I think when we reflect on the early years planning cycle, at each stage, we can ask ourselves a set of questions. So we gather information, but who are the sources of our information? As Kelly, you yourself said, we are professionals. We use our professional knowledge and judgments when we're collecting information on children. We are one lens and an important lens. When we bring children's perspectives into the conversation our families perspectives into the conversation, we just develop a more nuanced understanding of children and how children learn and what that learning looks like in our context, but in contexts, other than our services as well. And I think that's a really rich process. And then that flows through the different phases of the early years planning cycle as well. So when you're engaging in those conversations around children's learning, you can then jointly develop learning goals. And then when you're interacting with children, children can engage with you there and that flows back to reflections, so it's a very rich process.
And in my reckoning, and again, Kelly, maybe you can start us off here is analysis for some people seems a bit tricky to do. How do you actually look at all the stuff you've got in that blue book and all the things maybe Shona you've got in the digital platform and how do you make sense of it all? So then you decide what you're going to put in your plan. And just a little heads up everybody, if you are connecting with other colleagues in your local community, it's great to share templates and tools and different ideas. So reach out to your local community and ask for different things, because that's been my experience. People share ideas and you can get inspiration from different people. So reach out to your colleagues in your community, But Kelly, how do you take all of your sticky notes and your bits and pieces that are in that blue book and how do you make sense of it all. So that you know what you're planning what's that bit there?
I think that's a really good point Catharine, as I said, when I started teaching, I possibly was writing more of what I was seeing. And some educators, that is what they need to do to take observations and maybe they have different levels of knowledge and understanding. And they might not be as familiar with the early learning frameworks that we are, and that, that's just as important. So an observation that a colleague takes that is exactly what she sees and then I would collate all of that into perhaps the summaries. I only do that at the end of second term when I'm about to have learning conversations, I will do a more formal summary of the child. And prior to that, there will be little steps along the way where I will look at the data and all of the observations and we will make goals collectively. That's generally, when we talk to our teaching team, we would say, this is what we're thinking around this child at the moment, challenging them in this way, or this could be our role in this goal. So then there's kind of little steps in assessments. So we've assessed where they'd come. If you had a child with separation anxiety, you might have all of these steps in place. So you can get to a point where the child is actually saying goodbye well to their family. So you can say in your assessment, we've met that goal. There'll be other goals like, I think in kindergarten in this age, we always talk about friendships. She's my friend, she's not my friend, they don't like me, they're not my best friend, they're not ready, they're not wearing the right clothes. All of those types of things. That goal, as Shona said will be a goal for the entire year. And perhaps for five, six years, maybe even adult.
And many of these goals we don't probably get to a stage where we say we've met that goal. And I think that's okay, we can say we've gone from here to here when we're assessing where a child's at. But in the social and emotional and learning dispositions, sometimes we won't meet the goals that we set. But I think as I've got more experienced, I think those goals are the most important. And perhaps when I started teaching, I was looking more at things that I could see concrete. Can they count to 10? Do they have a great grasp, do they climb over the A-frames correctly? You know, you look at tangible things that children can do that you can observe and then as you get experience, you're perhaps looking at goals that are a little bit more.
Complex is a good way to put it, yeah.
Because indeed children's learning is not always lineal and it's not always sort of lock step with their developmental age, for example. So there's lots of things going on there. Shona do you want to talk a little bit about your analysis process? How do you make sense of all the pieces that you collect?
So I'm still, open to learning and building my own knowledge as a teacher. So for me, I like to refer to the Early Years Framework and sort of read through that and pull out bits that I feel relate best to sort of, what was observed or what we've written about that child, just to link it through that way. But like Kelly said, you know, over time I might have a different way of doing it or I won't need to refer to the Framework to be able to analyse children's learning.
And Shona, in my introduction of you. We talked about your commitment to honouring children's cultural identity. So in your practice at Yappera culture's obviously a really important part of understanding how children are learning and growing. How do you use that to think about the material that you're collecting? So at...
We...Culture is embedded in our everyday practice. So we take on, sort of the ...the Bronfrenbrenner approach to, it takes a community to raise a child. So obviously taking all that into account as well.
And a like the fact that we're using different materials, like our cultural knowledge, what we know about our community, the people in our community to make sense of what's happening for individual children. We're touching base with families, we're using the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. I can see you sitting there next to you and having a look and seeing, and hopefully lots of Victorian Early Years, Learning and Development Framework copies out there, which are slightly tattered because you've been looking at them so much. But I think those connections are really important. And I guess there's not one right way of analysing, but I can really hear some ideas there about how you do it. Maybe Jane, do you want to chip in here about some of the things that you just heard in terms of that analysis process?
Absolutely, thank you, Catharine. And I think it's very much about drawing meaning from your observations and I've heard both Kelly and Shona really refer to their own communities, to cultural knowledge, to knowledge generated by the children and the families themselves. And so that's really about what is the meaning of this in terms of what children are ready to learn. And that analysis process, I think often we do in our heads. And what I've loved hearing today is how that analysis process is really part of a conversation with many people, including colleagues and families and children. And I think that's a really rich and valuable process.
So we know that there's quite a number of people who are really keen to hear about some of the logistics as well. Like how do you do some of those other things? So I wonder whether Shona, you have a digital space that you work in? Do you also have some other sort of documents that you use? Can you just tell us a few more things about the documents? Do you have a book that you have in your room? A few of those sorts of logistics would be great. And do you have time to talk to your colleagues about some of those things?
Yeah, so we do have reflection books, we use notepads like paper forms of learning stories as well. And yeah, I think for what works in our kindergarten program is we're very big on communication. So communicating is probably our number one and then, obviously getting it to paper as well.
Yeah and speaking of which Shona, you regularly communicate information about the planning cycle to families through your digital platform, or do you do that with paper as well?
Mostly through paper, through COVID I have used the digital platform to share documentation, like the program plan and also communicate and reach out to families. Just to check in, share some play experience, some learning experiences, so that learnings, continued through COVID with some families isolating during these times.
Yeah, great, thanks Shona. And Kelly, what about you? Any sort of other logistical steps that you particularly think are important in terms of the planning cycle? And, we know that the documents you've shared with us, and some of the things you said of course, make up parts of the planning cycle. And some of them are a combination of parts of the planning cycle. But any other sort of logistical steps that you take that you think are worth noting?
We take time to critically reflect on our roles and how we see things that we've observed that have been really successful and those things we'd like to work on. You never stop learning. You never stop changing and growing. I think that's really important too, that you identify things that are going really well. Sometimes we look at the negative things in how can we change that? Do you know what, some things are working really really well.
Indeed and we should keep them shouldn't we Kelly, if they work well, keep doing them.
And you've done a great job and we do indoor outdoor during our program. So for example, yesterday I was outside for most of the day, except for a brief moment. So for me to say to the other team members well tell me what happened inside today. And even the next morning when we're sending up, oh, I wasn't inside much last session. So tell me what they were really interested in and what would you like to put out? So there's autonomy and I trust my colleagues. I trust their knowledge that they will set up things that are really important for children, or we leave tables sometimes and say to the children, what would you like out today? We also have quite a big foyer. We're pretty lucky that we have a big foyer. So we do have wall displays of some of the learning. At the moment we are looking at, our children are very interested in experimenting at the moment. So we have got a wall of some photos around experimentation that families can look at. And I've documented that with, we haven't got the children's voice yet it's coming, but I've got the terminology of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. Sometimes we send a text home to families. That just is something that's been really great that a child's achieved during the day, or they come to us sometimes now and say, can you send that to my family? So that's really nice way of just staying in touch. And I think I agree with you Shona, the conversations that we have are so important. And trusting our colleagues and building their knowledge and understanding as well.
And Kelly, I think the idea of having some displays and we heard again last week Dr. Sue Garvis was talking a little bit; Susie Garvis was telling us a little bit about some of the ways that documentation was visually available to some of the families in Sweden. But that is complimented so the things that are publicly on display is complimented by the things that are in that gorgeous blue book, which is like a big collection of observations and evidence about children's learning.
Yes and we also scan the diary or the reflective journal to send home to families so they can read it in their own time. It's the practice that we have done for some time, but COVID really made that more important because it couldn't be standing around reading the book. It takes out the children showing their families what they've been doing, but they can do that at home on the digital platform. So while we perhaps don't use the digital platform for communication in terms of a paid platform, we're still sending things home virtually and sustainability and keeping connected as much as they can.
And of course, in COVID, there's been lots of people who've using very different ways of doing things in relation to that. So a couple more questions before I'm passing over to Jane who's going to pull some threads together here. You mentioned Kelly before checklists. Can we just talk about that? Because I think there's some people in the chat who might go, I thought we weren't allowed to use checklists, Kelly, do you use checklists? And what are you using them for?
Occasionally we use checklists. They're not our main form of observation, but like I said, if you've got children that you just want to know how many children are left-handed? How many children are right-handed? How many children do you want to group together if you think they learn better a small group? Or who's interested in certain particular things? How high can they count? Do they know their shapes? It's not the be-all and end-all of--
Yeah and I think when we get to one of our main assessments in our transition statements at the end of the year, and you look through some of those things. And I think I have a really good picture of a child, and then I go, oh, that was a bit specific. So there's certainly not our main form of observation, but they are a quick snapshot on a tool sometimes that's important.
There's one question coming through. might you share those with families, a checklist?
In what sense?
Would you share that with families? Say if you're having a parent talk one of those meetings, would you share the checklist or would you summarise it rather, and share that with a family?
I'll probably saw it more in a newsletter or if a learning conversation, we might just jot it down. I think that one of the things that we are becoming a lot better at is sharing our knowledge in newsletter format, which is a form of assessment in itself. So that the newsletters actually really look at the learning well. I think we did talk a lot that the community and what happened last year, perhaps has influenced fine motor skill in our community, that children haven't engaged in a lot of gross motor skills last year. They didn't go to playgrounds, they didn't hang for a while, they didn't build their core strengths. So we've noticed that fine motor skills then can be challenging for some of the children, particularly this year. Other things that we would share with families that might've been a bit of a checklist in terms of oh we've got, noticed some things to do with grass, but hang on, let's go back to where are they at with their gross motor? Where are they at crossing their midlines? Where are they at in that sense?
And I think Kelly, it's a point you made earlier about using our professional voice to be able to summarise what we know about children and then share that in a meaningful way with families. What about you Shona? Do you use a checklist or two for some things?
Yeah, so we have used a checklist, but it was something that sort of came out of what we were sort of hearing from families. So it actually came out of when we're done our individual learning plan, sort of, families not being too sure whether their child was ready for school. And a lot of that impact was like what Kelly touched base on was due to COVID. So we've found that, the checklist has been reassuring for our families during these difficult times of COVID. So their like families get sort of a bigger picture as to where their children are at. And it's not to say, look, next year, our families might not need it or might not have those concerns. And that's where it comes back to, you know, really connecting with your families and getting to know what it is that they they need. And how are we going to share that information with them?
Very important advice, Shona. Speaking of which, as we start to wrap up, I wonder where the both of you Kelly and Shona can share a bit of advice for some of our people who are just at the beginning of their career, feeling a little bit overwhelmed at times. People who just need some new ideas, a bit of advice from yourselves. So Kelly, a bit of advice. What's the thing that you would say to the people here today about the task of assessment and how to make it work for you.
Be kind to yourself in terms of your time, make sure you're not double handling things. If you're taking a note, stick it in, don't feel like you have to type it up. Things don't have to look pretty. Reflect first on yourself and how you like to document and then talk to your team and work out what works best for your team. I know for some teams, digital documentation will well, and truly typing up on the iPads will well and truly meet their team's needs. But for us, it didn't and we found that if you had an iPad with observations, not all the team members were involved going back to handwriting. Everyone was involved. So that was really pertinent for our team in particular. So I think be kind to yourself, try things out if they work great. If they don't, don't take on every single thing. That's my advice. I think in childhood as a profession, we get new things. We take them all on and we don't let old practices go. We don't let certain things go, but it's okay to. That would be my advice.
Well I'm sure a whole lot of people are clapping now saying, oh, that's a really good idea. So Kelly does mean it though. Think about being kind and think about the things that work for you in your context. Shona, what about you. You're eight years into this work. So particularly, I'm not sure how long you've been working in early childhood might be longer than that. But your sense, some bit of advice for our participants.
I'd say, keep tracking along. Just be open to learning, and building that knowledge. And like Kelly said, be kind to yourself, talk to your colleagues, share the load. So it's not just, learning that you're taking on and then having to share with your team. Be involved in learning together and learning new strategies and adapting to it as well.
Great that you reminded us about keeping learning. And I really think that the ideas that you shared with us in terms of coming back to that Bronfrenbrenner idea in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, so that we can start to think about who is in our community. Because the knowledge we have comes from a particular place. So connecting with communities and hearing what they say about what they understand about children's learning is such an important thing in all communities. And there'll be lots of people who are joining us from particular communities where that matters a great deal. Thank you, Kelly and thank you Shona for your insights it's been fantastic. I think there's a lot of people who would just love to hang out with you and come and talk to you about what you're doing. So you never know you might meet them somewhere where we can catch up face-to-face. But Jane, you're going to pull some threads together and help us land all of these amazing contributions that we've had over these four webinars. So over to you, Jane.
Thank you, Catharine. And thank you, Kelly and Shona for such rich insights today, and for sharing your own assessment experiences, I think what you have really highlighted, and these are themes that have been raised across the series is how lucky we are in Victoria to have the VEYLDF. The VEYLDF is just such a wonderful resource that we can draw on as we reflect on and build our confidence in enacting assessment practices and how valuable that is. But what I've also really heard you discuss today is that as teachers, we are translating and enacting assessments in the context of our services and our communities. And so, we're working in a very particular context and that is an important part of the assessment journey. And I think also you've raised a whole range of questions that we've been reflecting on across the four webinars that we've had. And some of those questions include well, how does assessment for learning connect to our vision for young children and families aspirations for young children? Do we have a clear purpose as a team around assessment for learning? and that came through so clearly in your illustrations today that the importance and value of teamwork. And as you spoke I was really reflecting on how that provided agency for colleagues as well as for children. But then also what does meaningful and authentic assessment look like in the context of our services and who are the important sources of knowledge? We may draw on theory at times, but you've provided such rich illustrations of how you can connect with community, with families, with children to really build a holistic picture of children and a more sort of nuanced and multifaceted picture of children. I think you've also raised such important questions around the methods and the tools that we draw around to assess learning. And what I heard today is, what is the purpose? So you have your vision, you have your collected endeavor, and then how does this method, why would we be using it? And how does that support us to build that holistic picture of children? And then how does assessment shape our decision-making? I think you've really, again, provided such rich descriptions around who you collaborate with to build learning goals for children. To reflect on whether they're successful and then how that feeds back into conversations with families and with children. Another question I think that you've really highlighted this afternoon is the importance of tracking and monitoring the impact about assessment processes over time. And when you do that, you build a sense of how children's learning has progressed across the year and how important that is. And then of course, how do assessment practices shape our own collaborative efforts and that could include efforts within the team, but also our collaborations with families and children. And what I really felt in your own illustrations was this really strong sense of collective endeavor. And what I also loved about what you shared with us today, about how these conversations around the challenges and the successes we have through enacting the early years planning cycle and through our broader assessment endeavors. Is that it builds our own professional knowledge and understanding and I think what is so key to this process, which you both reinforced so often is well, I'm open to learning and I continue to learn as an adult in this journey. So I think these are such exciting and meaningful questions that go to the heart, Catharine, for why we're here advancing young children's learning and development and making that difference in the first years of life.
And of course, where you started us off in the conversation around honouring children's rights. Their right to be learners and to be able to actively participate in the early childhood education and care context that they are a part of. So thank you so much, Jane, for your wisdom and your thoughts about this. I think there's many people here who are going to take lots of the ideas that you summarised for as a way to start thinking about and implementing in their own practice. Thank you so much, Kelly, thank you so much, Shona. You're getting lots of lovely rounds of applause from all of our colleagues. And I'd like to thank all of the people who have taken the time to be a part of this. We know that it's a really busy time. There's lots of things happening and your commitment to continuing your own learning in this space is to be commended. We also want to thank all of the team who've brought this together. There's a lot of work in the background to make these webinars possible. So thank you very much to the DET team and the Early Childhood Australia team for making these webinars possible. So now of course, it's time for you to go back and start these conversations in your own settings. Reflect with your colleagues, plan for the future. Think about which ideas might resonate for you. Perhaps you might hold a reflection conversation, or review conversation with your colleagues to consider which ideas you really like, which ones you'd like to challenge yourself, to implement in 2022. Start to think about talking to families about what they think is meaningful. Perhaps you might have a look at all the tools that you use and have a discussion about which ones are working very well and which ones don't work so well. Revisit some ones perhaps that you've put aside and you might want to reconnect with. You might also want to identify the ones that you might like to perhaps discontinue that you think, taking Kelly's advice is to say, maybe there are things we should discontinue cause they don't work for us as well. They don't track the distance travelled as strongly as we might need to. Some of you also might want to go back to the source documents. You might want to revisit things like the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, the law and the regulations, your local policies, make sure that there's a conversation happening about how these ideas connect with each other. Making sure that your decisions are really evidence-focused and they are sound and strong in their underpinning theory and the connections that they have to say that for example, the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and the National Quality Standard. Hopefully what this has done is illuminates some space, make some space in your thinking for assessment. You've heard from Shona and Kelly today about all the thinking they've done all the revision and all the machinations in their local contexts. And you can also hear how proud they are of those great discussions that they have and how much that's included their colleagues. So please continue to think with each other about that process. You might also want to do some more research and maybe spark some ideas and thinking, I want to do some more thinking about what other people are doing. So reach out to your local community, use the networks that you have available to you. Thank you so much for joining us and we wish you all the best.
Outdoor pedagogy portal for Victorian educators
The Victorian Educators Outdoor Pedagogy , which is freely available to all Victorian educators, includes a professional learning module, online books, and case studies on outdoor learning. It is aimed at generating inspiring outdoor practice and supports the diversity within learning environments in our sector.
Australian Professional Standards for Teachers
Developing teacher professional practice
The department has developed a video to support early childhood teachers in their understanding of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers Standard 3: Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning.
The video provides an opportunity for teachers to reflect on what the Standard means in their professional practice.
[Catharine Hydon - Director Hydon Consulting ]
Standard 3 in the Australian Professional Standards for teachers is 'Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning.' For teachers in early childhood settings this is firstly about engaging with the practice principles of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework.
This particularly means considering high expectations for every child and building respectful relationships and responsive engagement and through this process establishing learning goals for individual children in collaboration with families that will challenge and extend children’s learning. It’s also about making curriculum decisions about the learning environment that maximise children’s opportunities for learning and growing.
[Lisa Deane - Early Childhood Teacher Yarraville Community Kindergarten]
My name is Lisa Deane, and I am the nominated supervisor, educational leader and early childhood teacher here at Yarraville Community Kindergarten. Having a set of teaching standards for me as an early childhood teacher means that I have something that will help me to make sure that I know what my requirements are as a teacher.
I know what is expected of my role, what I should know and what I should be doing. I believe that we are professionals and having these teaching standards would definitely help us to make sure that we can say, “yes, we are professionals and we know what we’re doing, and we are supporting children in their life-long learning.”
To plan for and implement effective teaching and learning, you really need to get to know the children that you're working with. Once you are able to know the children, you get an understanding of where they’re at developmentally, emotionally, socially, physically. You can use that knowledge to plan where they’re going to next.
We utilise a few documents to help us with our planning in terms of what we want the children to achieve and what outcomes we want for them. We then collaborate as a team to decide what goals we would like these children to achieve and then we think about the activities and the experiences or the resources or the strategies that we’re going to use to help the children to get there.
An example of a learning goal that we’re currently working on with the children is to create more understanding about sustainable practices and being socially responsible. This learning goal is informed by the children, their curiosity in the environment.
We’ve shared with the families what we’re doing and we’ve even asked the families to contribute. So we’ve been talking about different types of trees and what they might look like and a simple you know, 'bring in a photo of your child with their favourite tree' has led to lots of discussions at home.
Another strategy that we use to ensure that learning is progressing is through reflective practice. We have conversations as a team as to how the experience went, were we able to achieve those goals? Do we need to plan for further learning? Do we need to provide more time for the children to actually understand and grasp the concept that we’re trying to teach them?
We document it, we keep a record of it which further guides the next step of the planning process. We also share it with families through our online communication tool and through summative assessments that we do for the children.
We observe the children, we engage in conversations with them to get an understanding of their understanding. It’s great to hear when something you’ve been working on at kindergarten is discussed at home and they’re able to share with their families what they’ve learnt. That gives us feedback as to how our program is going.
For me, the teaching standard ‘plan for and implement effective teaching’ is mostly about having a really good understanding of the children that you’re working with and having clear intentions as to the goals that you want the children to achieve, and then thinking creatively about how you are going to get the children there.
Therefore, this teaching standard is really important so that we can help build that solid foundation for life-long learning.
Reviewed 12 October 2022