Category Archives: Loop Article

05Jun/16

Creating a culture of Adventurous Play-risk rich environment

“We feel that risk has a role to play in learning and as research shows, has the potential to achieve positive outcomes for children.” (Lewis, 2005; Nichol, 2000).

“Children and young people need to encounter some real risks if they are to respond positively to challenging situations and learn how to deal with uncertainty. This cannot be achieved by limiting them to supposedly safe environments. Therefore, providers of play opportunities have no choice but to offer situations in which children and young people can experience real, not make-believe, hazards”
from
Managing Risk in Play Provision, by Ball, Gill and Spiegal

Think back to your own childhood! What did that look like? Was the main focus outdoors and freedom?

Research has shown that contact with the outdoors is often limited for many children in modern society, and the vital experience of using the outdoors and being comfortable in nature is being lost. According to research by Planet Ark (2013), “one in ten Australian children play outside once a week or less. We have become a nation of indoors, not outdoors.” Not only is the frequency of outdoor play changing, the nature of outdoor activity in Australia is also changing. Ball games are still popular and organized youth sport remains popular at 35%, however games like tag, hop scotch, street games and exploring local nature have declined significantly in the last decade.

The Planet Ark (2013) data states that the decline of outdoor play is not linked to the amount of homework children receive however parents commented that concerns about crime and safety and lack of time to play outside were identified all as significant factors that prevent children from playing outdoors. As a result children have become reliant on indoor sedentary play for recreation, learning and socializing with low risk associated. These modern pastimes are filling the space of that outdoor play occupied.

Children are driven by nature to seek challenges; it is how they learn. Taking risks are an essential element in play, learning, exploring, experiencing and growing. However a culture and adult expectations can increase or diminish this drive. If there are no challenges in an environment children will create their own acts of daring or experimentation that can result in harm.

As Educators working in Education and Care environments we have a duty of care to the children and their families to manage risk whilst still ensuring children have appropriate opportunities to belong, be and become. As a society we are increasingly recognising the necessity and the developmental value in children engaging with natural and built environments, taking on some challenges and testing themselves as they explore, grow and play and this is supported by the National Quality Standards.

It is our role as Educators to showcase and engage children in the natural environment paying close attention to creating a culture of Adventurous play-risk rich environments. When this is a main focus children will:

  • learn through child-led play at the child’s pace
  • develop a sense of responsibility for themselves and others
  • build early risk management strategies
  • develop coping mechanisms and problem solving capabilities
  • learn to take on challenges and accept responsibility
  • consider the impact of their actions on themselves and on others
  • develop a respect for danger, hazards and experimentation.
  • foster their self-esteem and self-belief

Claire Warden (2011) suggests by offering children a risk-rich environment allows adults to help keep children safe by letting them take more risks, whilst guiding them through a progression of experiences.

What is your role and responsibilities as an Educator creating an adventurous play environment?

Educators play lots of roles in children’s group settings; they make it possible to go outside frequently, they help to make experiences challenging, spirited and safe, they help to make the outdoors a place for growth and learning, they observe, they interact and make judgements around the safety of the environment.

Here are a number of roles you may play….Consider which role/s do you take around creating a culture of adventurous play;

  • Rule Maker
  • Provisioner
  • Observer
  • Safety Monitor
  • Participant
  • Mentor and Guide
  • Conflict Resolver
  • Enthusiast
  • Maintainer
  • Safety, Liability and Risk Management

 

Educator Reflective Questions when creating a culture of Adventurous Play- Risk Rich environments

  • What are the real safety issues and risks in your environment and what are the perceived ones?
  • Who sees these risks?
  • Do you focus on both risk assessment and benefit assessment? For example, it may be risky to climb a tree, but the sense of achievement and physical skills that children gain from climbing are very beneficial.
  • Does avoiding the risks reduce the benefits?
  • What is risky for one child, in a particular setting on a particular day, may not be for another child. Risk is relative.
  • How do you share this with families and the service?

 

Current evidence shows that when Educators are thoughtful and purposeful around planning for a risk rich environments this supports the best learning outcomes for children. This approach enables children to become strong stakeholders in their own development, which allows them to build confidence, competence and independence.

How can services create a balance between being aware of risks, while honouring and valuing children’s play, freedom of movement, indoor and outdoor learning opportunities and, most importantly, the relationships children have within the service?

 

References

Buchan. N (2015) “Children in Wild Nature- a practical guide to nature based practice” Teaching Solutions, Blairgowrie.

Lewis, I. (2005) Nature and adventure ECOS 1

Nichols (2000) Risk and Adventure Education Journal of Risk Research 3(2)

Planet Ark (2013) From Climbing Trees –Getting Aussie Kids back outdoors:

 

Websites

www.naturesplayqld.org.au

www.kidsafensw.org/playground-safety/challenging-play-risky/

www.playengland.org.uk/welcome-to-play-englands-new-website/

22May/15

Setting the foundation for quality practice in family day care

Loop Magazine Article –  Autum 2015 – Cathy Cahill

It all starts with an effective Educator Recruitment and Induction process

Over the last year the Family Day care industry have experienced a great deal of uncertainty and change. This has lead us to challenge our old thinking around what a coordination unit should look like. We have found there to be a strong correlation and connection between Family Day Care Educators being highly skilled and having constant and effective support from their coordination unit. This support can be in many forms but it has to start with a comprehensive Educator Recruitment and Induction Process. Thus giving Educators the best possible foundations which leads to the best outcomes for children.

As an organization FDCAQ has recently researched and created a recruitment and induction process to assist Coordination Units in the process of acquiring and maintaining high quality educators. We feel by highlighting the contemporary approach of focusing on the importance of the Recruitment and Induction Process to attract high quality educators opposed to the redundant thinking based on arbitrary Educator numbers is the correct thinking of establishing the future of Family Day care as a force in the Education and Care sector.

Coordination Units need to start to focus on understanding adult learning principles in their role of ensuring quality outcomes to children in an educator’s home environment.  By using these principles each Coordination Unit will gain a deeper understanding of best practice to help develop mentoring and support processes which enables the learner to develop dispositions for learning. These dispositions for learning are developed when coordinators work with an educator as equal partners and each party recognizes the skills, attributes and competencies they bring to any learning experience.

Knowles work on ‘Andragogy’ highlights 5 key learning principles for consideration when working with adult learners.

  1. Self-concept: As a person matures their self-concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being
  2. Experience: As a person matures they accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning.
  3. Readiness to learn. As a person matures their readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of their social roles with families, children and coordinators
  4. Orientation to learning. As a person matures their time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application, and accordingly their orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject-centeredness to one of problem centeredness – hence the precedency toward the on the job learning.
  5. Motivation to learn: As a person matures their motivation to learn increases to an internal process – driven by own motivation to learn. (Knowles 1984: 12 in Smith, M 2002)

These principles align well with that of the more well-known theory of pedagogy applied to child learning principles. The role of the coordinator, once a person is deemed appropriate for the role of the educator is not a ‘teaching role’ but rather a mentoring and support role. Walking alongside the educators, supporting their capacity to build competency through professional development planning, resourcing and engaging in problem solving processes. This happens through a range of strategies, while face to face home visits are a key component of building an understanding of the educator’s practices this cannot be seen as the only or ‘best’ way to undertake this mentoring and support role.

So, what are some of the ways services actually ensure they can and do support educators?

Using an in-depth Recruitment and Induction Process ensures the coordination unit are selecting educators that support the ethos and philosophy of the service, have the suitable attributes, skills and qualifications. This process builds an Educator profile which contains knowledge about the educator, her/his family, the education and care environment and the arras Educators may need further Professional Development.

The development of a Professional Improvement Plan – this requires a collaborative process where both the educator and coordinator identify the current strengths and areas of support needed.

Family Day Care Educators are responsible for the all the day to day management of their home based service, this includes making decisions about the learning environment provided, managing the wellbeing and safety, implementing service policy and procedures, enrolment of families in the educator’s environment and although only required to hold or be studying towards a Certificate III qualification.

The above attributes are what each Educator needs to have to coordinate the day to day operations of their FDC business demonstrates that through the focus on quality recruitment and induction processes to attract applicants with the best skills and attributes. Also they need to be supported in a system with coordinators who are skilled and qualified in andragogy. Every Educator will play a significant role in the lives of the children’s in their care, this is why we need to get it right from the start.

FDC provides an environment for skilful, self-managed adults to demonstrate quality outcomes for children. This alone demonstrates the impact of a strong intentional recruitment and andragogy approach by coordination unit staff in supporting and recruiting educators.

Reference

Smith, M. K. (2002) ‘Malcolm Knowles, informal adult education, self-direction and anadragogy’.

13May/15

Looking through the lens of change

Loop Magazine Article – Summer 2015 – Cathy Cahill

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Even though many Family Day Care services are facing the dilemma of funding cuts and with this needing to move to new ways of operating to meet the requirement of the National Quality Framework. Services continue to focus on the quality provision of education and care. The transition and transformation to the National Quality Framework has for many coordinators presented an opportunity to demonstrate their skilfulness in supporting educators in their provision of quality education and care. The below story reflects one Educational Leaders’ reflection on working with her coordination unit team to move thinking about supporting educators and to assist and challenge them to adapt to the new expectations.

Looking through the lens of change

My journey began when I took on the role as Educational Leader in a Family Day Care service. With the impending Ratings and Assessments process looming over our service the Coordination team decided to undertake a process to identify and determine, to what extent each educator was meeting the National Quality Standards. This included considering the capacity and skills of each educator within our service and the planning required by the team to support and scaffold their skills development.

The Coordination team worked together to identify the Educators needing additional support to enable them to move from working toward to meeting the National Quality Framework.

Part of our process was recognising that this ‘change’ is transformational, it would not be easy but with a commitment to outcomes for children the Coordination team felt they were up for the task. Assisting educators to explore and embrace new ways of thinking and working with families and children require the team to:

  • Understand that individual educators will respond differently to when faced with new ways of thinking
  • Respond sensitively to individual reactions, and understanding this may bring with it varied reactions, emotions and impacts which require supportive strategies.
  • Use effective communication, employ a range of processes to communicate ‘Why’ the NQS enhance their work.
  • Recognise working collaboratively with all stakeholders is a critical factor in assisting others through the initial and ongoing stages.
  • Consider educator’s past personal experiences in relation to working with coordination team members

With all these aspects in the forefront of our thinking the Coordination team considered, what was already known about each educator with regards to how they were meeting each of the 7 Quality areas of the National Quality Standard.  We used the ‘Attitude Bell Curve’ as a guide to assist our team to collectively benchmark where we believed each educator was at in their journey towards meeting the NQS.

During these initial discussions we identified whist most educators were embracing the National Quality Standards (NSQ) some of our longer term and newer educators had not yet committed too or where struggling to engage with the NSQ.

Our process involved developing an educator improvement plan around the type, and the amount of individual support they needed to assist their developing understanding of the NQS.

The process included assigning a skilful coordinator to work with the educator for an agreed timeframe, focusing on one specified quality area until the educator felt confident and competent. This involved a weekly professional development visits where the Coordinators would, not only support educators in practice but help build awareness, a deeper knowledge base and new skills. They also challenged each educator’s perception of the NQS as the process for benchmarking and showcased the educator’s professional practice for themselves.

Coordinators found that some educators were challenged by this targeted process, but within a short period of time, relished receiving this additional mentoring which cultivated confidence and their capacity to meet and even exceed the NQS.

While, other educators demonstrated high resistance to the whole idea of embracing these quality standards and were reluctant to engage in the process or resisted making the changes required. As a result of this outcome a new strategy was employed; it was decided that further conversations around expectations were required with these educators. This included a frank but necessary conversation about whether, the educator had the attitude and commitment to continue to offer quality education and care with our service. The coordination team reiterated their committed to supporting these educators. They discussed their willingness to assist educators to embrace the new standards of practice. However, our team collectively were firm in conveying a clear and consistent message that this process would not be at the expense of quality outcomes for children and this change in attitude was required by the individual educators. Were there losses, you bet there were, but we now have a cohort of educators in our team committed to their professional practice and who have a strong awareness of how this influence outcomes for children.

Our learnings: 

Change is not managed but lead, transformational change required the coordination team to stay strong, have a clear and concise message, to be prepared to challenge, support and seek commitment from themselves and our team of educators. We recognised educators had to make a choices about their future, come on the journey with the service and we will support you, or if this is not possible, we are committed to assisting the educator to self-select out of this career option.

“Change is an inevitable and necessary part of working in early childhood education and care. Educators will be well equipped to survive change by understanding the process of change, being prepared for change and implementing change in a positive and professional manner.”  Professional Support Coordinator TAS, 2010

References:

Change Management, 2010 (Gowrie) Professional Support Coordinator TAS

www.gowrie-adelaide.com.au/…/Professional%20Learning%20in%20Act.

Cole,B. & Seaman.R, The Attitude Bell Curve And Mental Toughness As Business Tools, 2005. http://www.mentalgamecoach.