Australian early childhood educators are expected to develop and follow a planning cycle as well as meet EYLF (Early Years Learning Framework) outcomes to ensure that all children in care are supported to follow and extend their learning journey. There are principles, learning outcomes and different guidelines according to where we live that must be taken into account but for the most part it is important that educators develop a planning cycle and method of documentation that suits their own individual style.
You can read more about my own planning cycle here but today I wanted to explore the evaluate and extend part of the cycle as I have been receiving quite a few messages from readers asking for help in this area.
As always with my posts for educators, please remember that I share how I interpret things and how I have previously learnt through my own formal training but also through my own personal experience in different care environments. It may not be what you have been told or what your Director or Coordinator or Scheme requires so you need to be aware of that as you read.
I do always encourage educators to question methods and procedures if they are being forced upon them though. You are a professional and as such have the right to question and seek clarification for the work and processes expected of you. But to do this means coming from a place of knowledge and understanding and confidence in your own planning style and systems so that you can confidently engage in debate.You may find this article on how to become an assertive educator helpful.
So you’ve completed the first step of the planning cycle and documented meaningful observations on the children in whatever format suits your style…now what? An observation isn’t much use to your overall planning if you haven’t reflected, asked yourself questions about the observation you recorded and then evaluated the answers. Without this step it is just an observation and that my friends has been a waste of your time. And no one wants that.
What does analysing an observation mean in simple terms? How do I start?
Well here’s what I always ask myself when I reach this step. I learnt to do this over 25 years ago now during my training but I still think the questions are relevant, I have just incorporated a little of the language and context of the Australian EYLF outcomes now as well.
5 questions to ask when you make an analysis of your observation.
When you first start taking observations it can be easy to fall into the trap of writing down every little thing a child does. With experience though you will see that it is more worthwhile to think about what you see happening in front of you first, engage with the child and if you feel it was significant write it down later.
I like to take lots of photos, I never take notes as I’m not there to just observe every day. A child doesn’t want to see someone sitting there with their head down writing notes as they play. They want you to engage and be involved in their play even if that just means knowing you are there watching them and not actually directly involved.
I can hear many of you saying now “But how do I know if it’s significant?” (I know, uncanny aren’t I? )
You’ll need to think about how you want to document your observation evaluation. Some people do this underneath or beside their observation. I use my forward planning form as I find it easier to keep a sequence going and show clear linking if I keep all steps together. It makes it a little clearer in my mind (and I need that as there is usually so much going on in there lately and frankly I usually do this program step with a glass of wine in hand…!)
It doesn’t matter how you do it, just be consistent so you always know where to find the information when you need it.
So now you have a written observation (in the format you prefer e.g learning story, anecdotal, photo collage etc), a review and evaluation from this observation of the learning outcome/strength/ interest that took place….now what do you do with it? You plan and extend!
Still with me? Hang in there, it’s not an involved process, I’m just breaking it all down for you into easy to understand steps ( I hope!)
So let’s explore how we extend from our observation and evaluation of learning.
6 Questions to ask yourself when planning extension activities
I write a summary answering these questions on my forward planning form and then add to my fortnightly plan in the ‘Individual Focus” box. No codes, just the name and extension activity planned. Parents or others reading my plan don’t need to see all the specifics, I have the information all in one place on the forward planning form if I need to pull it out.
Planned Activity Evaluation/Reflection
This is usually pretty brief for me. I come back to my forward planning form, write down the date the extension activities were completed and anything significant I observed. You might ask:
Now you are back to the beginning of the cycle of individual planning! If you are able to keep reading without falling asleep I will take you step by step through how I do the above cycle. But please keep in mind that this is a system I have developed because it works for me. You could do something entirely different but the principles are the same overall.
Ok, deep breath people, stay on your learning journey (ha…see what I did there?) …here’s an example of the steps I take in my own programming…I hope it helps you connect as we move through each one.
Step 1 – Document your observation
This is an example of my photo observations – pretty simple, the photos really tell the story and are the main focus – text uses language of the EYLF and the child’s voice. There is no need to write as much as I do, a few lines is sufficient – just make sure it is meaningful. For more information on different observation styles and how to use them effectively read this article.