The National Quality Standard 2011 requires all services to work towards continuous improvement. (NQS page 12, A key focus of the NQF is to promote continuous quality improvement). This means that the curriculum can’t be stagnant and must evolve over time. Each service is at differing stages with their practices and documentation. Services move through the cycle of improvement prompted by a change of team members, a new Director, after inspiring training or perhaps from reflecting on a parent complaint. For even the services that have been assessed as exceeding, it is important to remember that you have not reached a destination. Your team will continue on the cycle of continuous improvement and it is ok to make changes and ‘improvements’ on the very practices that you were assessed on.
To provide the best service possible we all need to be committed to making changes, reflecting on our practices and processes. We need to be open to trying new things and to making changes regularly.
So what does continuous improvement look like in practice?
- Professional Critical reflection is key to continuous improvement. Engaging in conversations with educators about the curriculum elements will support educators to enhance their practices and to think about the ‘why’ not just the ‘how’. Written critical reflections are required under the NQS element 1.2.3. The element explains reflection as having the intention of gathering information to gain insights that support, inform and enrich decision making about children’s learning. Educators are to examine what happens and reflect on what they might change or develop. It is not documented how regularly educators are required to reflect on their practices. You may find it works best for your team to do so weekly or fortnightly. The system that you have in place and the way it is understood and used is important and should be inclusive of all educators.
- Meet with your team regularly. Use their reflections as a basis for your discussions and together set goals with each educator/room. As the Educational Leader it is your role to inspire and mentor each team member. Ensure that actions come from meetings rather than them just being space for discussion.
- Develop a culture of professional enquiry by providing articles about relevant topics for your team. Talk about information that you have read, blogs you follow and where your team can find more information. Use your meetings as a time for reflection, learning and discussion- not housekeeping and directions. Room leaders and educators could take turns of presenting or sharing information with the team. Remember to allow for opportunity for discussion and sharing of ideas.
- Try new things! Don’t stick to something just because that is the way that it has always been done. When trying something new remember to plan for the change and to consider what you need to do to engage the team, the families and the children in the change. Change takes time- give the change time. Don’t try something for one day and then say it doesn’t work. When a new team member joins your team embrace the opportunity to learn from them. New team members are able to see your program more critically and perhaps see opportunity for improvements.
- Celebrate Success. Continuous improvement is not about focussing on what you have done wrong or badly. It’s about building on what works. Remember to be proud of your achievements and that of your team along the way.
- Reflect with the children. Consider how you seek the children’s opinions and ideas. Younger children can indicate to you about the experiences that you provided by their participation, their excitement to repeat the activity and if they ask for more. Older children are able to have conversations about what they like and ideas that they have. For example try talking to them about the room set up. Ask what play areas they would like in their room and in what position they should be in.
- Be Proactive not reactive- (Write a plan) Take time to stop and think about the way you are doing things and why. Be open to new ideas. Get out there and see how other educators/Directors are doing things. Create a plan. Without a plan you may keep busy with thinking of ideas and acknowledging opportunity to improve but never actually putting things into action.
- Communicate with families. It is important to be open with families and to invite their input into your program. Visual displays, information evenings, parent/teacher meetings and newsletters are excellent ways to share your process of improvement.
- Use you QIP to document your improvements. Your QIP should be updated as part of your regular meeting process. Incorporating your QIP into your regular practices will ensure that the document is up to date, relevant to your team and is a ‘living document’.