A great way to start embedding critical reflection into your centre is to think about your intentional activities and experiences. Here are some simple questions to guide you to critically reflect on planned experiences:
- Why did I provide this activity? Was it initiated by the children? Did it extend on a particular child’s interest? Did I notice a skill that needed to be developed?
- What went well? Why did it go well? Did I use intentional strategies? Was I intentional about the environment? Did I ensure the group size was appropriate and the activity was done at a good time?
- What didn’t go so well? Could I have been better prepared? Could I have asked for help from colleagues? Did I need to consider the timing of the activity? Was it appropriate for the age and abilities of the children?
- What could I do differently next time? After considering the questions above, how could I improve the activity?
Some further questions to consider:
- What was my role in the learning?
- What intentional teaching strategies did I use and how effective were these?
- What learning outcomes were achieved through this activity? Did the children achieve the outcomes I expected? Why/why not?
- How did the activity cater for the diverse learning needs of the children?
- Who is disadvantaged when I use these strategies? Who is advantaged?
- How did the environment positively/negatively affect the learning?
- What theories and philosophies influence my practice?
- How can I extend the children’s learning further?
- What are the children’s reflections on the activity/experience?
- Do the children want to repeat the experience? Do they want to make any changes? How could they improve the experience?
Collaborative reflections- When working in a team, open communication is the key to improvement. Being able to give honest feedback and take constructive criticism on board helps the team grow. Different team members may have different knowledge, philosophies and strengths that you can draw on. Asking for help, or opinions on how you can approach a situation differently will help you grow in your practice. Working as a team and striving to constantly improve benefits the children’s outcomes and the educator’s sense of belonging and achievement.
The most important part of critical reflection is applying our new understandings to our practice. How have you learnt from this experience and how can you improve? Some examples of improvements could be:
- Consider the timing of activities. The children were not as engaged as I expected because I did the activity before lunch and they were hungry. Next time, I will plan to do this activity immediately after morning tea time.
- Consider the group size. All of the children wanted to participate in the painting activity I set up this morning and this caused chaos between the toddlers who were upset about there not being enough space or resources. Next time, I will set up the activity in a separate area and collaborate with other educators to only take three children at a time.
- Consider the children’s abilities. Today we cut out pictures of food and glued them onto a food pyramid while discussing healthy food choices. Some of the children did not have the ability to cut around a shape yet and got frustrated. Next time, as well as providing supermarket flyers for the children to cut pictures of food out of, I will also have pre-cut items for the children who do not have the ability to cut around shapes yet so they can also take part without frustration or feelings of failure. I will set up a playdough cutting activity to help the younger children develop their scissor skills next week and will continue to provide activities and resources that work on hand strength.
Consider what intentional strategies you and your team are using. Many of the children have been attempting to put on their shoes and socks by themselves. I have noticed other educators doing this task for the children to get them outside faster so I have had conversations with them about slowing down, sitting with the children and using encouragement to promote persistence. As a team, we are now going to consistently use encouragement to help support the children with their self-help skills as they put on/take off shoes, socks and clothing.
By Michelle Marias