Reflective practice in early learning: what it is, examples, and why it’s important
As early childhood educators, we encounter a variety of situations on a daily basis, ranging from ordinary to interesting (to say the least!). Reflective practice in early learning is about taking a step back and critically examining these experiences to better understand what happened and why. By reflecting on our practice, we can learn from our experiences, improve our approach, and ultimately provide better care for the children in our campuses.
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What is reflective practice in early learning?
Reflective practice is a process of critical examination and evaluation of experiences, situations, and decisions to learn from them and improve future practice. It involves actively seeking out information, analysing and interpreting it, and using it to guide decision-making and improve outcomes. Reflective practice is not just about what happened, but also about why it happened and how it can be improved.
We apply reflective practice to various aspects of our work, such as planning, teaching, assessing, and communicating with children and families. It helps us identify the rationale behind our practices and evaluate whether they are consistent with our beliefs, values, and core philosophy.
Little Scholars School of Early Learning’s The Collective is a service-wide, multi-faceted educational initiative, designed to enhance each child’s learning and development and best support educators’ time spent with children.
The models of reflective practice in childcare
There are different types of reflective practice, including reflection-in-action, reflection-on-action, and reflection-for-action.
Reflection-in-action occurs spontaneously as we make decisions in response to what is happening in the moment.
Reflection-on-action involves thinking about experiences after the event and questioning how and why a specific practice contributed to or detracted from a child’s learning or relationships with families.
Reflection-for-action is a proactive way of thinking about future action and involves considering different approaches and refining inclusive practices and communication strategies to improve outcomes.
We view reflective practice as an essential component of developing a culture of learning that drives continuous improvement and focuses attention on quality outcomes for children and families. It helps us to enrich children’s learning, build our own knowledge and skills, and affirm and challenge our colleagues.
How to engage in reflective practice
To engage in reflective practice, we take time to observe children closely, foster relationships and gain insights into their thinking and learning. Here are some strategies we employ to engage in reflective practice in early learning:
- Review staffing arrangements and routines: We create an environment that is conducive to reflective practice by reviewing staffing arrangements and routines. This might include providing extended periods of uninterrupted time for educators to interact with small groups of children, foster closer relationships, and gain greater insight into children’s thinking and learning.
- Establish routines that allow for reflection: We regularly set aside time during scheduled programming or at the end of the day to record our reflections. Similarly, a similar amount of time can be allocated during a regularly scheduled meeting to reflect on practice across the service. These meetings can also provide a forum for team members to talk about their personal experiences.
- Work closely with experienced colleagues: We encourage our team to work closely with more experienced colleagues to provide opportunities to observe, critique, and learn from each other. They can describe what they noticed about a child’s response to an experience and ask questions about why their colleague used a particular strategy.
- Network with other services: Networking with other services can provide insights into the way the service is perceived by others. We meet with other people regularly in the wider community as we believe this provides opportunities to explore ways the service can become more responsive to the interests and needs of families and children in the local community.
Why is reflective practice important in early learning?
Reflective practice in early childhood education is important as it ensures educators regularly reflect on what they do, why they do it, and how this knowledge can improve their practice.
Studies show that high-quality early childhood settings positively affect children’s development, and reflective practice is a feature of such environments. This practice allows early childhood professionals to develop a critical understanding of our own practice and continually develop the necessary skills, knowledge and approaches to achieve the best outcomes for children.
Reflective practice also helps us create real opportunities for children to express their own thoughts and feelings and actively influence what happens in their lives. In addition, reflective practice helps professionals to develop a deeper awareness of their own prejudices, beliefs, and values, and advance learning for vulnerable children.
We value reflective practice at Little Scholars
At Little Scholars, we recognise the importance of reflective practice in providing high-quality early education to the children in our care. Our educators engage in regular reflection and are encouraged to share their insights and experiences with their colleagues.
We believe that by reflecting on our practice, we can continually improve and adapt to better meet the needs of the children and families we serve. The Collective allows for educators to have autonomy in how they document and plan for children. This supports a strength-based approach with our team.
If you live in South East Queensland, book a tour today to enrol your child in the best early learning campuses in the community.