In January, many people make New Year resolutions. Unfortunately, despite our best intentions, many of these are broken before February begins. Or is that just me? A similar problem can occur in early years settings. Practitioners often start the new term with refreshed enthusiasm and brilliant ideas, but within days can become engulfed in the daily routine and problems and quickly lose sight of the new beginnings they had envisaged.
Managers and practitioners constantly need to consider how to improve their provision and this can be more effective if we try to weave regular reflection into our everyday practice rather than attempting “quick fixes”. According to Fullan (2003) as cited in Moyles (2006), active reflection enables practitioners to understand the knowledge and skills they already have and to “…develop and use the intellectual and emotional power within themselves to try to improve or enhance their situation”. If practitioners can acquire the habit of reflecting on what has happened within their daily roles, they will start to recognise their achievements but also have the power to consider how to change things for the better.
Encouraging staff to be reflective practitioners is never easy, but well worth the effort. If the manager models reflective practice within her own job role, then this is a very powerful motivator for staff to follow suit.
We recently filmed a group of children playing with a piece of old drainpipe, some cars and a hastily improvised tunnel from chairs and an old blanket. Just like “The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds”! It was fascinating to watch the children involved in the play and to witness the way they interacted together, but it was also very rewarding to discuss this with a colleague as we watched together. In that scenario, reflection was easy…..How good was that? What would be even better? How can we extend the learning? We will now share this film at a staff meeting for further reflection. The discussion should inspire new beginnings and challenges for the year ahead.
It is definitely easier to have a trusted colleague to share your thoughts and to help you make practical changes that enhance the child’s experience. We can all benefit from discussion with someone else who is sharing the same experiences. Professional discussions, supervisions and peer observations are all more formal ways to encourage reflection but often it’s just being able to talk to a like-minded person that will take your thoughts to another level.
We currently have a member of staff in the second year of studying for a professional degree. She is enthusiastic about her course and has quickly developed into an even more reflective practitioner. Her enthusiasm is infectious and again has inspired colleagues to consider their practice and to deepen their knowledge of child development. She is leading us all to reflect more openly and has raised the status of reflection within the setting. With all the challenges 2017 will no doubt bring, it’s even more imperative that we have the ability to reflect and make appropriate changes to our provision.
Trying to weave reflection into everyday practice has meant that we constantly have “new beginnings”, but they seem to be more sustainable than the New Year resolution kind.
About the author
Wendy Taylor has 40 years’ experience of working with young children, including early years teaching, lecturing, deputy manager of a local Children’s Centre and as the Chief Examiner for CACHE. She is also a co-author of books for students on foundation degree courses and currently manages a day nursery in St Albans, which is attached to Oaklands College.
Fullan, M. (2003) The Moral Imperative of School Leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin and London. Sage
Moyles, J.(2006) Effective Leadership and Management in the Early Years. Open University Press