Let's have a chat about linking the EYLF outcomes and your programming cycle. Because from what I can see the often misunderstood ‘requirement' to link EYLF outcomes to every activity using numbers or complicated codes is causing educators an awful lot of unnecessary angst at the moment!
I have received some really heartfelt messages and emails lately from educators asking me to please help them to decipher the EYLF outcomes and advise how to link activities to those outcomes. Some educators have told me they are leaving the profession because they just feel to overwhelmed with this part of the planning cycle.
This really makes me sad because there are so many myths and unrealistic expectations floating about in the early childhood profession at the moment and unfortunately not everyone has the time, inclination or even the thought to challenge these myths or the expectations being placed upon them.
Knowledge and understanding can empower you in many ways, it can give you the confidence to ask questions, challenge directives that aren't explained well, engage in self and service reflection and most of all give you the confidence to ask for support or clarification so you can again feel in control.
I know that to find a path to this knowledge base and the clear answers that you seek can be difficult and frustrating. People who should be supporting and explaining often get caught up in explaining expectations with the use of lots of ‘important speak' and flowery jargon to help justify their position. I have found that often they do not fully understand why they are asking someone else to do something a specific way, they just ‘know' it must be done this way and therefore you must follow.
Now I'm not saying you should always challenge your boss, director, scheme, leader or management committee but you should endeavour to find the information you need for yourself first in a way that you can understand easily. When you understand WHY something is being asked of you then you are able to ask informed questions and seek some clarification. What I'm trying to say is don't give up, just find someone who explains things a little better, in a way you are able to understand and feel confident with. Then come back ready for a discussion with the powers that be about more support or information or even offer an alternative suggestion for a way you would prefer to meet the expectation required of you.
Now that I have that off my chest I'd love to try and be that person for you when it comes to understanding how to best use the EYLF learning outcomes. Remember that these are only my thoughts and interpretations and stem from my research, reading and hands on practice on expectations surrounding the EYLF and the document itself. They might not be what your management team believes. But hey, not going to let that stop me, it's always good to have a healthy debate and reflect on best practice!
If you would like to access over 105 play based activities already linked to learning outcome areas with extension ideas you will find them in my Play Prompt Planner HERE.
Enough waffling, let me try and break this down a little for you and answer some of the questions I have been receiving lately….
Take a deep breath…..here we go!
How do I plan using the Early Years Learning Framework Outcomes?
The NQS says in Element 1.1.2 that “Each child’s current knowledge, ideas, culture, abilities and interests are the foundation of the program” .
Element 1.2.1 states that “Each child’s learning and development is assessed as part of an ongoing cycle of planning, documenting and evaluation”
I believe this indicates that we draw on children's ideas and interests as well as their knowledge, culture and abilities and to be able to do this we must know children well. How do we get to know the children in our care this well? We can do this many ways but one important way is through a form of observation and reflection/evaluation and then being able to use that knowledge to plan for future experiences.
The EYLF document talks about a cycle of planning, documenting, and evaluating. You can see what I have written about the planning cycle in this previous post – but really all you need to remember is that the observations and assessment you are recording must be meaningful, they must be specific and they must support you to support the child's learning journey and their steps forward. If it doesn't then you have wasted your time and the child in your care hasn't benefited either. I tend to take a photo of a moment I know is important and then come back to it later to analyse. I also take photos that I know a parent will find important for general parent communication. It is vital to include parents in your planning cycle too and this is why I firmly believe that when talking about outcomes and including them in your programming it should be in a way that everyone can understand.
How do I interpret the EYLF Outcomes?
I'm sorry that I don't have a magic answer to this one for you as I know many find the wording and categories of the framework difficult to understand and interpret.
Really, the only thing that worked for me was reading the framework and focusing on the keywords and points. The Educators Guide to the framework is also very helpful and you can download it for free HERE . It is not enough to just read the principles and main headings of the outcomes. You need to read through the dot points underneath and think about how the activities you currently offer might fit into those areas.
If you find it difficult to understand the examples given then take a step back and think about the children you currently have in care in relation to a learning outcome, use your own words. For example…How do you ensure that the children have a strong sense of identity? How might you see this? How can you support them and promote their learning in this area? Think about these questions in the context of your own service rather than what is written in a book.
The most common mistake I see is educators trying to slot one activity into just one outcome. Why do we need to be so rigid? Why put that pressure on yourself? Why not think holistically and consider that the activity might actually fall under a few outcomes and that is perfectly ok? Also, consider that one activity might meet different outcomes for different children. It does not need to be an exact science. I often put one particular activity on my plan in a certain learning area but I know that it might also cover another 3 areas – no need to write it in every box though, just be aware that one experience can incorporate many different learning and developmental areas.
How do I know which activity goes with which EYLF outcome?
For example, a simple activity with scissors can fall under a number of the outcomes when you consider the children are cutting ‘everyday food ‘ pictures from recycled paper to explore healthy eating and sustainability. They are also practising colour recognition, eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, problem-solving, and communicating.
I pretty much use my learning outcomes after the fact. How? I tend to use my observations and other documentation to explore the outcomes met. I incorporate the EYLF wording into this documentation rather than a specific number (eg. 1.1 etc)
I prefer to just observe something interesting from a child and then think about which outcomes it matches up with and record/assess that way. In terms of my program I will record a few intentional teaching opportunities with a planned outcome in mind but everything else I just add after its happened. I might focus on one of those opportunities, all or none because the play evolved along a different path. And that is ok – I like to plan ahead with possibilities and opportunities listed but not everyone works in that way and that's ok too!
So how do I personally do that? Here's a brief example of a short observation using the wording of the EYLF instead of labeling the experience with an outcome number…
This observation clearly demonstrates Ruby has a growing understanding of sustainable practices as well as an increased understanding of the interdependence between the land, people and plants. Through everyday access to a range of natural materials in her play environment Ruby is showing through moments like this that she has an emerging respect and appreciation for the natural environment. I'd like to explore and challenge this emerging interest in growing food and eating it and introduce the basic concept and importance of our interdependence of living things.
Did you connect this observation with Outcome 2 – Children are connected with and contribute to their world? I've basically combined an observation with a part analysis here for the purposes of showing you an example. I would include the same sort of wording when planning my extension activity based on this observation. This is a little wordier than I would normally do but I wanted to give you a clear example of what I mean.
The order I completed this process was first to be in the moment with Ruby, discuss and problem solve with her, listen to her learning journey, I took some photos as I always have my camera close by for these moments. I remembered her words because I thought they were so very significant so they stuck with me. I didn't turn away and lose focus because I was writing something down, I was actually joining in and experiencing. Later at rest time when I loaded photos onto the computer, I was reminded of this special moment and saved a few photos relating to this moment in Ruby's observation folder in her electronic portfolio on my computer. Sometimes I also add some notes at this stage but not often.
When I began to write my ‘Our Day' daily reflection/communication sheet for the parents (and my own records) I included this moment briefly as a dot point with some of Ruby's own words included along with a picture. This then acts as another record I have to use for next week's forward planning even if I haven't as yet completed the formal observation. I just include the date along with the planned activity relating to this day of the Our Day form onto next week's program activity plan under ‘children's interests' or ‘individual focus activity'. So it's like a shortcut really and another way that I use my Our Day forms to cover many documentation areas if I am short on time.
Later in the week I arranged the photos quickly into a collage and added the observation above while sitting with the framework beside me. By using the language of the outcomes in this way I have gained a much deeper and clearer understanding of the EYLF and the terminology used. If I have time I will then add a short analysis to my forward planning form but often this gets done at a later time and then I will plan an extension activity from this analysis…again including the wording of the EYLF. To me, this means a lot more than just putting the outcome number next to an observation. You still have to write an observation, you aren't making more work, by including the wording in your observation you are actually saving yourself time further along the planning cycle…and others will understand what you are recording.
Obviously, I have just tried to explain this as briefly as I could but it's hard to explain everything when writing. Please ask any questions you might have and I'll try to answer. Remember though that this is the system that works for me, it might not for you but I hope it helps in some way! Take what you find useful and modify it to your own needs. I explain the planning cycle and finding your own rhythm and system in THIS E-BOOK .
Do I need to link my planned activities to the learning outcomes?
I think this phrase from the EYLF Myths and Realities factsheet is important to note “The emphasis in the EYLF is on planning for learning—not just planning activities. Some activities and resources may regularly be available to children, but as well, educators need to plan and organise particular experiences that support children to make progress towards each learning outcome. Educators may also plan other strategies, such as specific one-on-one interactions, to assist each child’s learning and development.”
Do I need to link my individual and group observations to the EYLF learning outcomes?
I cannot find any evidence in the NQS or EYLF that supports the notion that educators need to physically link their observations or other information they have collected about individual children to the Principles and Practices on their documentation.
1. The Question Step – Educators should analyse what they know about individual children in relation to the framework's learning outcomes from the information that you have worked towards collecting (your observations, learning stories ,portfolio info etc). Have you identified group or individual strengths, interests and goals?
2. The Plan Step – You must then be guided by the framework's learning outcomes, principles and practices to support further learning in those areas. It might be one or all of the areas. Have you clarified what you want to now extend or focus on for the group or individuals learning journey? Have you identified what role you as educator will take in this extension? Have you made a plan for how you will present and evaluate the learning activity?
3. The Act/Do Step – My personal favourite! Keeping your planning in mind, set up your environment for the activity, consider the framework areas you are focusing on or others that might now come to mind as you observe and document the learning taking place. Have fun with the children while implementing your plan!
3 The Reflect/Review Step – And finally use them again when evaluating or reflecting on the activity and the child's engagement and learning progress. How did it go? Did other learning opportunities arise? Did you notice a focus on a particular outcome or principle?
So yes we must always be guided by the framework's learning outcomes and principles when considering our individual and group planning but that does not mean we need to be rigid in always writing down the specific outcomes in our documentation and only focusing on those because they are there in front of us on a plan.
I think it is important to remember is that as educators we must always use a range of different ideas, principles and outcomes to understand what learning is taking place. If you are just focusing on linking it might not be enough. For example…2.1 written next to a planned activity or experience doesn't tell anyone much (least of all parents) but by planning, describing and analysing in your own words what the children in your care know, do and understand then you can do some clear assessments about where the children's learning falls under the 5 learning outcomes.
I fear many educators are now focusing too much on interpreting their observations with the use of a learning outcome number. It has become the ‘thing that must be done' and is causing an awful lot of stress for many while actually not being very helpful to anyone!
“The NQS suggests that assessors may need to sight ‘documentation demonstrating that the five learning outcomes are evident in documentation of children’s learning’. (Element 1.1.1) The information gathered about the child should be analysed and linked to the Learning Outcomes.However, when analysing a child’s learning, educators assess progress over a period of time, rather than ‘leaping to a judgement’ linked to an Outcome.Young children will be ‘working towards’ the learning outcomes and documentation should make this progress visible to the educator and others.”
Documentation demonstrating that the 5 learning outcomes are evident in your planning and the children's journey does not mean limiting yourself or a child to an outcome number. Your documentation just needs to show their progress towards the learning outcomes over time. There are many ways to do this rather than just focusing on what outcome was met for one specific activity last Monday. You need to shift your thinking and focus on the child's overall journey. If you let go of the expectation that you need to first link everything correctly to the framework you might be able to get back to just being in the moment with the child as you work together and begin to collect your ‘evidence' holistically.
Using your own words will help you understand the EYLF more deeply and also enable you to see the outcomes being expressed differently between children. Try to write in a way that will enable your ‘word pictures' to clearly identify all outcomes with not a number in sight!.
Consider also the other ways you can demonstrate a commitment to the EYLF outcomes….Your policies should reflect them, your behaviour and interactions should reflect them and they will be evident in your professional reflections. Just because you can show someone an observation that identifies an example of a particular principle, practice or outcome doesn't convince me that they are applied consistently.
Why is it important for others to understand ‘my system'?
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A Little About Me
Jodie Clarke is an early childhood professional supporting educators who want and need to stay passionate about the work they do! She has 30 years hands-on experience in the early childhood and human services sectors across many different roles.
Jodie is mum to 3 in Australia and has already helped thousands of educators with their work through her popular blog posts, activity ideas, online training and e-books.