An EYLF wish list: What’s on yours?

Rolled out more than ten years ago and a key element of the National Quality Framework, the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) has had an enormous positive impact on early childhood education in Australia.

The review process, which is now underway, provides a valuable opportunity for the framework to be refined in line with recent research about what works best to support children and their families: both being and belonging in the here and now, and children’s life-long learning and development. As early childhood professionals, individual and team reflection is needed to consider what the current EYLF does well and how it could be strengthened.

My wish list

Top of my wish list is the inclusion of learning trajectories within Learning Outcomes. These indicators of learning continua would help educators observe, assess and plan for individual children’s playful learning and development. They would assist early childhood education and care services to meet NQS Element 1.3.1 and thus undergird equitable outcomes for all children. Aligning with inquiry learning and play-based learning, learning trajectories help us to articulate clear learning objectives and support the early years planning cycle.

So much has changed in the last decade. The largest of these changes is our experience of COVID-19 and its consequences. One constructive outcome of COVID-19 is that the work and dedication of early childhood educators has been made visible to the broader society. One of the challenges for all of us, however, whether teaching at service level, in family day care, after school hours care or any other early learning setting, and in teacher-education, is the need for us to be leading learning, rather than playing catch-up with the pace of change.

A revised EYLF could help here by incorporating learning trajectories. Just a few are suggested here in the form of reflection provocations.

  • How does play evolve, and what does this mean for observations, assessment and planning?
  • How does identity evolve, and what does this mean for observations, assessment and planning?
  • How do language learning and literacy evolve, and what does this mean for observations, assessment and planning?
  • Digital technologies have become ever-present and children are passively and actively using them, arguably from birth (particularly during COVID-19 as they conference-call with family and friends). What does this mean for observations, assessment and planning?
  • More than just a focus on mathematics in ECEC in the last decade or more, we now include science, technology and engineering. There is a lot of interest in an integrated STEM approach—STEAM, if we include the arts. What does this mean for observations, assessment and planning—particularly if we aren’t sure what the ‘big ideas’ in individual disciplines are? What should we be noticing in children’s play before we integrate these big ideas purposefully?

Learning trajectories set out pathways that children typically move along, at their own pace, as they learn and develop. They help us to recognise what a child already knows and what they may be ready to explore next, with our support. For example, when children are learning about repeating patterns, they first recognise a pattern. Actually, seeing the pattern is necessary to understand what makes a pattern, a pattern. Logically, seeing a pattern must precede copying a pattern, extending a pattern or making pattern. This describes the patterning trajectory. Knowing the trajectory equips educators to start off by pointing out patterns in a child’s painting, block construction, playdough marking or dancing—wherever the patterning emerges. Drawing attention to the pattern by saying, ‘Look at the pattern you’ve made in your playdough! I see a zigzag and a poke, and a zigzag and a poke! Every zigzag is followed by a poke—that’s a pattern!’ Observing children playing with playdough, threading beads or making patterns with leaves and rocks in the outdoor area during free play may lend itself to observing children making patterns.

If a child’s work demonstrates patterning, one can infer that the preceding progression points have been achieved. Knowing where a child’s demonstrated knowledge is situated along a learning trajectory helps us to avoid underestimating what a child knows or overestimating what learning will come next. Research-informed learning trajectories help us to avoid a best-guess and to have confidence that we are attuned to individual children’s learning within their play. This in turn supports purposeful observations and planning. It does not detract in any way from children’s interests or creativity. Rather, it provides the educator with a learning lens and in so doing, supports the enactment of NQS Quality Area 1, and more specifically, Element 1.3.1—Assessment and Planning Cycle.

This learning trajectory information is available in a range of resources, and educators can access these to assist them to analyse observations and plan for playful learning. However, a significant constraint is time. At every level of teaching, from early childhood education to higher education, dedicated teachers spend far more time on planning for learning and refining our own practice than our ‘regular’ hours.

The review of the EYLF provides an opportunity for research-based learning trajectories, as indicators of progress towards Learning Outcomes, to be incorporated in the EYLF. Having typical learning pathways associated with identity, community, wellbeing, learning and communication—and the subdomains within each learning outcome—would help early childhood educators to use their planning time more efficiently. Learning trajectories start from birth and underpin the concept of life-long learning. Worth considering, as we undertake this exciting consultation process. If you believe that including learning trajectories in the revised EYLF would support the quality of our teaching and learning—and thus, child outcomes—this is the time for your voice to be heard.

What’s on your EYLF wishlist? You can have your say on the NQF Review 2019 website through a survey or written submission.

ECA Recommends

The EYLF and NQS without tears
By Susie Rosback and Sarah Wilson

The EYLF and NQS without Tears by Susie Rosback and Sarah Wilson has become an indispensable reference and guide for early childhood educators. Its practical nature has reassured educators that meeting the requirements of the EYLF and NQS is achievable and has elevated the book to its current highly regarded status. Purchase on the ECA Shop.

Caroline Cohrssen

Caroline Cohrssen is Professor in Early Childhood Education at the University of New England in Armidale, NSW. As she is particularly interested in children’s learning from birth to five years, her research encompasses the home learning environment as well as early childhood education and care settings. Her research ranges from fine-grained analyses of interactions, to collaborations with quantitative researchers in Australia and overseas. She recently collaborated in the development of the Early Childhood Learning Trajectories that have been published by the Australian Education Research Organisation. These assist educators’ enactment of the early years planning cycle.

One thought on “An EYLF wish list: What’s on yours?”

    Sally Baker says:

    I believe as an early years educator of 17 years and an Educational Leader, the EYLF and NQS need to encourage more inclusive practices, not for cultural purposes but for the wider community for children and families with learning difficulties, delays or disabilities and the eldery people in our community. Children should be exposed to a diverse group of people as they develop emotional intelligence and eliminate any prejudice for future generations. Early Learning centres should be provided with appropriate funding and training to be able to welcome anyone into their service no matter their needs, not to segregate people because they are different, what is that teaching our children?

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