Reflective practice is the cycle of ongoing learning that occurs when teachers and educators take the time to stop, think, challenge and change their practices. This allows professionals to see new perspectives and ideas, to advance children’s learning and development.
Reflective practice is one of the eight Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF) practice principles. It supports critical thinking and changes in practice in a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program.
As funded Three-Year-Old Kindergarten is delivered for the first time in Victoria, reflective practice allows early childhood professionals to improve their teaching.
Teachers and educators should think about their own practice and reflect on how it could be adapted and enhanced to suit the needs of children attending Three-Year-Old Kindergarten.
Examining and understanding how three-year-old children learn will help you reflect on what changes can be made to your existing kindergarten programs. It will also help to inform what teaching practices and approaches best meet the needs of this age group.
Reflective practice is an enabling strategy which supports and enhances teaching and learning. This is set out in the VEYLDF as well as in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF)
Reflection and critical thinking are most effective for individuals and with teaching teams that are open to change.
Collecting relevant evidence helps to challenge and inform decision making. It helps to identify improvements in practice. Reflective practice helps teachers and educators to understand practices from different perspectives. It helps them to adapt their actions and responses in the future.
Early childhood professionals who engage in reflection on their practice:
- think about the impact and effectiveness of their current practices and environment
- are likely to review their everyday practices and find ways to improve
- are open to the exchange of ideas and shared decision-making
- develop positive partnerships with children and families, as well as other professionals
- are more likely to learn, develop and strengthen their capacity as a team.
Translating these opportunities for professional growth into actions is the next step in reflective practice. It is the ability to identify alternatives and to trial these, which translates the ‘thinking’ component of reflection into the ‘active’ component of reflection.
Enabling reflective practice
The next step in reflective practice is to trial new ideas.
Use new evidence-based ideas such as:
- pedagogical conversations
- reflective journals
- professional inquiry
- mentors or critical friends
- professional learning programs.
Opportunities to reflect on practice arise as part of an educator's everyday practice.
This includes when changes happen. For example, a new program such as Three-Year-Old Kindergarten or as part of reviewing your service’s Quality Improvement Plan(opens in a new window).
Reflective practice can be spontaneous and responsive to a situation. It can also occur as part of a plan where teachers and educators are investigating a specific component of their practice. Ideally this would be part of a commitment to continuous improvement.
There are many approaches that teachers and educators can use when undertaking reflective practice. The VEYLDF offers the Early Years Planning Cycle Resource for the VEYLDF(opens in a new window).
The EYPC is a reflective tool for teachers and educators to examine various aspects of their practice and build their teaching skills. The EYPC can be used individually or in a teaching team.
The EYPC has five steps to support teachers and educators to develop and deliver high quality education programs for young children.
Collect evidence and information of a child’s, or a group of children’s, learning and participation within the program. This information can be collected and documented in a range of ways over time. Further information is available on assessment for learning.
Analyse the information collected. Draw on evidence from a variety of sources – including the VEYLDF, early childhood theories and available resources. This may include using resources from the Box of Educational Resources. Question and understand the decisions you are making about your teaching practice.
Develop an educational program to extend and support children’s learning and development. This includes planning specific learning goals for individual children as well as, or in addition to, goals for the group.
Support and scaffold children’s learning through the implementation of the educational program. Use a range of teaching techniques that are best suited to achieve the planned outcomes for children’s learning and development.
Engage in a process of reflection in order to evaluate children’s learning and development and identify the next stage of learning. Reflect on the effectiveness of the teaching techniques used. Consider how children’s learning might be made visible through documentation.
Characteristics of effective reflective practice
The aim of reflective practice is to support early childhood professionals to examine and improve aspects of their practice. This, in turn, helps to advance the learning and development of children attending a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program. Characteristics of effective reflective practice include:
- to set goals and how to achieve them
- monitoring, thinking about and improving teaching practice
- improving your teaching using evidence and research
- being open-minded, able to respond, and inclusive
- discussion with colleagues at your kindergarten and beyond
- ability to adapt your teaching using frameworks and new evidence or ideas
- make informed judgements, to decide whether to continue or change an element of your teaching practice.
All aspects of teaching practice can be improved through reflective practice. Engaging in reflective practice helps teachers and educators to find ways to continually improve. Reflective practice helps to develop a helpful and collaborative culture of professional inquiry. We can learn from our practice and explore improved ways of working in more depth.
Connections to the VEYLDF
The VEYLDF recognises reflective practice as a process that supports evaluation of teaching practice. It fosters a culture of learning. The VEYLDF’s EYPC outlines a process for early childhood professionals to use as part of their practice in order to question, analyse, act and reflect on evidence they have collected as part of their practice.
The implementation of a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program provides an opportunity for services to focus on and strengthen their culture of reflection. This supports children’s learning and development, as early childhood professionals assess children’s progress against the VEYLDF Learning and Development Outcomes.
Questions to support reflective practice
Funded kindergarten helps teachers and educators to notice similarities and differences between three- and four-year-old children. This helps to best support all children’s learning and development.
The following questions ask about a culture of reflection:
- How could reflective practice help improve your teaching?
- What does a quality early childhood program look like for three-year-old children?
- How do assessment practices help children's learning at kindergarten?
- What best practice helps three-year old children to learn?
Having watched the video above, consider the following questions:
- What changes can be made at your service that allow time for reflective practice and exposure to a range of diverse ideas?
- What ground rules have you established in your teams to ensure active listening and respectful reflective practice?
Connection to the box of educational resources
- A box of educational resources has been provided to all services funded to deliver Three-Year-Old Kindergarten from 2022.
- It includes support for teachers and educators to engage in reflective practice.
- Some resources included in the box are available online for free. (The links are listed below).
- A small number are only available in hard copy.
Resources available online
- Fact sheet: Two years of quality kindergarten: what does the evidence say? (PDF, 424KB)(opens in a new window)
- Tip sheet 1 – Collaborative teaching: teaching as a team (PDF, 675KB)(opens in a new window)
- Tip sheet 1 – Collaborative teaching: teaching as a team (DOCX, 5.4MB)(opens in a new window)
- Tip sheet 2 – Learning in a larger group, teaching strategies to support engagement (PDF, 372KB)(opens in a new window)
- Tip sheet 2 – Learning in a larger group, teaching strategies to support engagement (DOCX, 4.9MB)(opens in a new window)
- Tip sheet 6 – Multi-age groups: working with mixed age groups (PDF, 531.6KB)(opens in a new window)
- Tip sheet 6 – Multi-age groups: working with mixed age groups (DOCX, 5.8MB)(opens in a new window)
- Tip sheet 8 – Differentiation (PDF, 458KB)(opens in a new window)
- Tip sheet 8 – Differentiation (DOCX, 5.8MB)(opens in a new window)
- Tip sheet 11 – Expanding your teaching practice (PDF, 457.7KB)(opens in a new window)
- Tip sheet 11 – Expanding your teaching practice (DOCX, 5.3MB)(opens in a new window)
Resources included in the box
Letters to Carla ... about 3 year olds
This book is a series of letters from an experienced teacher who understands how young children learn. On page 40, ‘Considering Celebrations’, it describes the important role of celebrations for young children. Celebrations can provide opportunities for reflective practice in a kindergarten program.
Order a copy of Letters to Carla. Wims Online(opens in a new window)
Powerful interactions – How to connect with children to extend their learning
This reflective guide supports understanding about what ‘powerful interactions’ are. You can learn about how to make them happen and their importance in facilitating children’s learning.
Order a copy of Powerful interactions. Wims Online(opens in a new window)
- ACECQA, Critical reflection in practice(opens in a new window)
- ACECQA, Developing a culture of learning through reflective practice(opens in a new window)
- VEYLDF Practice Principle video series – Reflective Practice video(opens in a new window)
- VEYLDF Practice Principle Guide – Reflective Practice (PDF – 490.02KB)(opens in a new window)
- VCAA, Early Years Planning Cycle for the VEYLDF(opens in a new window)
- Wheatley, Margaret J. Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2002, Willing to be Disturbed(opens in a new window)
- World views – Using Theories(opens in a new window)
Pollard, A., with Collins, J., Simco, N., Swaffield, S., Warin, J., and Warwick, P. (2002) Reflective Teaching: effective and evidence-informed professional practice. London: Continuum.