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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Magazine Issue 55 Winter 2014
REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • WINTER 2014 - ISSUE 55 19 The Reading Group Process Prior to each reading group, participating ISFs were sent a journal article or book chapter which addressed an issue relating to inclusion. To prepare for each session, participants were asked to read the selected article or chapter and reflect on the following questions: • What are the key issues raised by the author of the article or chapter? • How do these key issues relate to or intersect with my role? • How does this contribute to, broaden, or extend my understanding of inclusion? • How can I use or apply this knowledge in my role? Participants were encouraged to keep a reflective journal between sessions to record their thoughts and impressions, application of the knowledge gained, and emerging issues and questions. One ISF stated that while she had always kept a journal, the description of "reflective" was new terminology for her. Participants phoned in to each reading group using a teleconference facility. This methodology allowed ISFs from across the state to participate, ensuring equity and accessibility across geographical locations. While we were initially concerned that meeting over the phone might be a limitation, this approach actually became a strength, as participants identified the phone link up as convenient and time and cost efficient. One ISF also commented that talking about issues over the phone provided a sense of anonymity, which created a safe space for talking about more difficult issues. Significantly, participants in the reading group reported that their involvement in the project assisted them to develop and refine their reflective practice skills, which they could then utilise with educators. One ISF commented that, "[participating in the reading group] did mean that I was reflecting more on what I was doing when I was in centres" . She noted, "being pointed to different readings was useful, [as was] having questions to focus on. I would probably use those questions all the time now as a focus for reflection. We tell services to reflect, so we have to do it ourselves" . Another ISF spoke of using the EYLF as a reflective tool in her work with educators. She reported, "...it [the EYLF] has given us the perfect chance as ISFs to have fabulous discussions around why people choose to do the things they do in their role as early childhood staff. It has been inspirational ...working with teams of staff, and seeing real change ... within the service, has been incredible" . Key Findings At the conclusion of the reading group, ISFs were surveyed about what reflective practice meant to them and how it related to their role. Participants described reflective practice as taking the time to reflect on and evaluate their interactions and conversations with educators, with a view to improving their practice. The flow on effect of this was that they then felt more confident in supporting educators to further enhance their practices. One ISF reported, "I like to digest these thoughts and decide whether I would change my thinking [and] my practices so that I can constantly improve and develop my skills [and] knowledge when dealing with services. It relates to my role, as I need to be constantly evolving as a person so that I can help my services evolve and develop themselves" . Another ISF commented on the importance of being critically reflective commenting, "For me reflective practice is examining what I do, think and say, and analysing it for unintended bias - looking at who is included and who is excluded by my actions or lack of action. It's about being fair (in the fullest sense of the word) and ethical in all my dealings with others. It is integral to my role as ISF - If I can't be reflective about my professional practice, how then can I expect others to be so?" For Reflection Reflective practice is a core principle of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and My Time Our Place and supports ongoing learning, continuous improvement and quality practice. Therefore, the processes applied in the research project with ISFs make it relevant and applicable to early and middle childhood educators. In fact, a cohort of educators took part in a reading group facilitated by the first author in 2012. These educators commented that they enjoyed hearing different perspectives to develop thinking and inform practice. They also valued the opportunity to participate with colleagues, and to read and discuss together. This feedback provides evidence of the effectiveness of reading groups as a tool to promote reflection and professional learning. It also builds on the evidence base demonstrating the positive impact and outcomes emerging from the ISF reading groups. To consider how a reading group may be applied in your context, we leave you with some reflective questions: • What are your current reading practices? • Ideally, what would you like your reading practices to look like? • What would success around your reading goal look like? • What are the challenges to your ideal reading practices? • What content areas do you feel you have a good knowledge and understanding of? • What content areas would you like to build on? • What is one small step you can take to address your reading goal? • What supports or resources might assist you with this goal? Considering these questions will support educators to engage in critical conversations, challenge their current thinking, and consider how they might apply new understandings in everyday practice. References Australian Government Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (2009). Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Retrieved from http://www.deewr.gov.au/EarlyChildhood/Policy_Agenda/Quality/Pag es/EarlyYearsLearningFramework.aspx. Australian Government Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (2011). My Time Our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia. Retrieved from http://www.deewr.gov.au/Earlychildhood/Policy_Agenda/Pages/FrameS chAgeCare.aspx. Dewey, J. (1933). How we think. Convent Garden, London: D.C. Heath & Company. Greenwood, J. (1993). Reflective practice: A critique of the work of Argyris and Schon. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 19, 1183-1187. Madden, L. & Davies, C. (2011). Rethinking Inclusion: Understandings of inclusion through the eyes of NSW ISFs. Report prepared by Semann & Slattery for Children's Services Central. Raban, B., Nolan, A., Waniganayake, M., Ure, C., Brown, R. & Deans, J. (2007). Building capacity: Strategic professional development for early childhood practitioners. South Melbourne: Cengage Learning. Schon, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited. Schon, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner. San Fra cisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Issue 56 Spring 2014
Reflections Magazine Issue 54