Struggling with QA1? - these time saving hacks can help you exceed in this important area
Educators are busy people, who come to working with children because they want to help shape little lives. In this piece Sprout shares timesaving documentation hacks.
People who work in early childhood are special, and most often, they come to work with children because they know that the work they do can make a big difference in shaping the lives of Australia’s youngest citizens.
That being said, a real challenge for many educators is managing all of the “other” things which come along with working in early childhood - the checklists, the paperwork, the seemingly endless forms.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Sprout’s pedagogy and practice guides are here to share with you four simple tips about documenting children’s learning which can save you time, and get you back to doing what you love most - being there to make a difference.
Micro documentation - the power of Post-it notes
There’s an expectation that documenting children’s learning has to be a series of photos, and a lot of words with links back to the approved learning framework, ideas of what happens next, and links back to what happened before.
While documenting in this way is common, the expectation to complete lengthy observations on a daily basis can leave educators feeling overwhelmed. Have you thought about experimenting with micro documentation? These little snippets or notes about children’s learning, when put together, form a full picture of that child’s growth.
Micro documentation can be jottings, running records, snapshots of conversations or other short form recordings.
This piece, by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, describes how children’s learning can be captured over time on just six little post-it notes.
Take it to the floor...or wall - demonstrating learning with visual displays
Have you heard the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words?” It’s persisted over time because it’s true! Photos of children’s learning can give depth and insight into what took place on any given day.
Displaying photos of children’s work, or sharing them digitally, is a great way to keep families “in the loop”, and the learning taking place can be highlighted strongly when accompanied by a short explanation of learning.
Another powerful way of capturing learning is by using the floorbooks method. Here, educators and children work together to record children's voices allowing educators to use their ideas in their planning. Group writing in a Floorbook allows shared thinking as children recall each other's ideas and record them through writing, diagrams and photographs.
Let them leave their mark, literally. Highlighting the magic of mark making.
Collecting evidence of the work children have done - like mark making, drawings they have done, photographs of projects they have made, either on their own or with others, videos of their messy and sensory play - and then asking them about their work, or asking them to tell you or show you what is significant about it, is a powerful way of respecting children’s voices.
For children who are pre-verbal, or who are emerging talkers, recording the sounds and words is not only a wonderful memory for families, but also a sign of respect for the child as they are being in the moment, rather than focusing on who they are becoming.
Educators can honour the work children are doing, and add layers of meaning for families, by explaining more about why the work is significant from a pedagogical or developmental standpoint.
Here are some “in practice” examples from the team at Loftus Kindergarten.
Do what HAS to be done, not what you THINK has to be done
There are lots of myths circulating about what it means to be meeting or exceeding quality area one.
ACECQA has been very clear from the time the National Quality Framework (NQF) began that there are no mandated templates or programs for documenting children’s learning or educational experiences.
As this ACECQA resource says, “while templates and programs may be a helpful way to organise information, there is a risk that they can be limiting. Resist the temptation to reduce documentation to a ‘tick and flick’ approach. It is not about filling in blank boxes.”
While some providers may have a standardised way which they prefer all their services to use to document children’s learning, it is important for educators to consider the context of their service. These guiding questions may help:
● Will these templates work for my children and families?
● Is there something on here I could respectfully challenge?
● Does this form meet our needs?
In the same way that Sprout offers compliance based templates, checklists, tools and other resources which are customisable to the unique needs of every individual service, in line with the requirements of the NQF, educators should look deeply into systems and methods of documenting, and ensure that as well as saving time, they are meeting the unique needs of their space.
For more hints and tips on documenting children’s learning please see Pedagogical Documentation: A South Australian Perspective - A resource for early education and care educator teams produced by Gowrie South Australia.
Author Freya Lucas, The Sector
Freya is the editor of The Sector, and has over 20 years of experience in education and care services. Her previous roles as an early childhood teacher, primary teacher, and ECEC operations manager giving her a unique insight into the ECEC sector at all levels.