How critical reflection can change the state of play at your service


Caboolture Christian Children’s Centre had built up quite a collection of donated toys over the years before educators began noticing an odd trend.

Director Helen Hopkins said toddlers would play with a brightly coloured plastic toy just long enough to work out its function. Then they would walk away.

Educators raised this observation with the centre’s educational leader who encouraged them to think deeply about what the toddlers’ behaviour might mean in terms of Quality Area 1: Educational program and practice.

The aim of their reflection was not simply to reach for an answer. In order to meet the second exceeding theme, educators knew they would have to inform their practice with critical reflection.

This meant questioning, challenging and affirming each other in wide-ranging discussions. Were they stimulating, engaging and enhancing the learning and development of each child in their care? Could they be doing more?

Critical reflection that is well documented, or that can be clearly articulated, can demonstrate the second exceeding theme: Practice is informed by critical reflection.

When critical reflection is documented, as it was at this service, this does not need to be burdensome—a service can demonstrate the critical reflection theme using notes jotted in a journal or in daily program documents, or as minutes taken at a meeting.

How can we document critical reflection?

The sorts of questions an authorised officer might want answered are:

  • How did the idea for reflection come about?
  • Who are the people involved?
  • If staff used research, was it from a credible and relevant source?
  • Dissent is a hallmark of robust discussion. Do the documents show dissent?
  • What steps were taken, what reflections were had, what questions were raised?
  • What changes to policy, procedures or practice did the service implement?
  • What have been the impacts on practice?
  • What have been the benefits of change and who has benefited?

Changing how children play

At Caboolture Christian Children’s Centre, robust discussion led Helen’s team to research the long-term effects of plastic toys on the environment and the benefits of loose-parts play, particularly the use of natural and recycled elements.

Not long after, the centre began giving away its single-purpose plastic toys.

‘We asked parents to donate pots, pans, pipes instead… anything that added to open-ended learning experiences,’ Helen said.

'And the children loved it. Their play changed. They spent more time exploring what they could do with these objects, and each child came up with their own ideas about how these things could work together.’

Educators observed their progress, attuned to opportunities to scaffold the children’s play. This scaffolding guided the children to solve problems and achieve goals that previously had been beyond their ability.

In March, the long day care centre—approved to offer 75 places, an approved kindy program, outside school hours care and vacation care—was rated as exceeding in five of the seven quality areas (1, 4, 5, 6, 7) and meeting standards in areas 2 and 3.

Staff are thrilled at the evidence their hard work has paid off, not just in the toddler’s room but across the service more broadly.

‘We are still looking at our physical environment (Quality Area 3),’ Helen says. ‘We are in an older building and we have a tight budget, which creates a challenge for what we can do with the environment, so there’s that.

‘But we can’t just rest now. Everyone had waited for years to get to those exceeding standards, which made it all the more exciting for us. We have to keep going.’

For more information on reflective practice, read the ACECQA newsletter We Hear You.

Back to news and articles feed
Last updated 15 November 2019