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.

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