Reflecting on Theory and Practice
Reflect on and analyse my roles and responsibilities as a pre-school teacher/deputy manager, then reflect on overall benefits from studying this course
My primary role at my setting is to ensure that the children’s well-being and safety is in mind at all times. I endeavour to provide good quality care and education for all children attending. A noted in Study Topic One, “the Start Right Report used the term ‘educare’ to described the way in which both care and education combine in early years settings”, Ball, 1994, page 11. See appendix one, from tma01, for a more detailed overview of my roles and responsibilities within my setting.
Chapter 4 of the reader emphasises that “adults need to be skilled and knowledgeable and have a willingness to reflect on his or her practice and learn from this”, Karstadt, Lilley and Miller, 2003, page 43. Before I would carryout my daily tasks without considering the principles behind the actions. I have made a serious effort to spend time on self-reflection, I have learnt to critically analyse my own actions as well as the behaviour of the children. The course has showed me how to structure and document my observations so they can be acted upon more efficiently. I can now plan more effectively using techniques that have been recently introduced, discussed shortly.
In my new position as deputy manager I have been given more responsibility to make sure that not just myself but others around me are performing as highly as possible. The methods I have studied have been passed on to my colleagues in an effort to raise the settings standards as a whole. I have cultivated better relationships with other staff, especially he manager, as we have spent time liasing to introduce some changes that were dreamed up during my previous TMAs.
As a result of my studies on this course and carrying out my TMAs three areas in particular have changed as a result.
* Parent collaboration
* Creative development
From the beginning I was aware that this was a priority area for development. Every day numerous observations about each child are made, but not fully exploited. My own work in TMA 02 highlights that “it is important to recognise children’s existing achievements and establish strategies for their future learning”, (Study Topic 5, page 27). Completion of study topic 5 helped me gain a deeper awareness of how to manage observations, planning for them, ensuring they have a purpose, and allowing them to take place effectively. I realised that what as needed was a manner in which we could quickly and easily record these observations.
By introducing an easy to interpret visual structure to a child’s development it is much more simple to see their current progress and how to influence their journey through the syllabus. TMA 02 brought these thoughts to my attention; I now focus much more highly on ‘next steps’ sheets, see appendix two for an example. These sheets consist of my, or another member of staffs’, observations in the form of spider diagrams with ideas to extend further learning. These easy to understand observations help staff in both long term and short term planning.
Contineous provision sheets, see appendix three for an example, have also been implemented to expand upon the ‘next steps’ concept. The purpose of a provisions sheet is to record the success of a particular area in our nursery environment. For example, the imaginative area displays information on how much the children, playing as individuals or in groups, enjoy the area and how it affects their personal growth. “Observations and listening can be dynamic sources of curriculum development in the early years” (The Open University, 2003, page 13).
The practices we are implementing, with next-steps and provisions reports, enables staff to be more dynamic in their observations and recordings. We are streamlining the processes so that they can be quickly and easily added to or interpreted in an instant rather than building up as time consuming paperwork.
I believed that the topic of parent partnership was our nurseries strongest ethos and as a result I chose this for the subject of TMA 03. As I worked through the study topics and researched the national standards of day care I realised that my setting was not exceeding the standards quite as highly as I had thought.
Our setting performs well in many of the set targets but there was one area where I noticed that required some personal development on my own behalf. I discuss in TMA 03 that often I am “being more enthusiastic about working with parents who express more interest than, perhaps, on sharing information with those that I view as being detached” (Vincent 1999, study topic 10, The open university, 2003). I noticed that I was unintentionally acting more detached from the more dormant parent, for example in matters of childcare arrangements.
From my research I decided to work to address this imbalance by making a greater effort to engage these parents in conversation. We also use ‘all about me sheets’ to give us a clearer knowledge of the parents and the home environment. actively seeking out these parents to speak to. By building up a better relationship with them I now find it easier to talk to them subconsciously about their children’s achievements. We have also introduced ‘All about me sheets’ which the parent fill in at home. This gives us a clearer picture of the child’s home environment and gives us a starting point to talk to parentsa bout. Creativity Development
Up until recently outdoor play was dominated by ‘high energy’ physical games, for example chase games and car games. These activities do benefit the children in terms of developing social skills and motor skills but doesn’t bring out their best creative work. The video clip of Dashka Patal in the course material, working closely in a hospital play area (the open university, 2004), draws attention to incorporation of the curriculum into outdoor play. After completing TMA 03 it was brought up in a staff meeting to introduce a scheme to cater for the children’s interests and enthusiasms while also being stimulating and enriching.
We decided that each week to provide a new creative opportunity outdoors. The first week we set up a builders yard, as a role-play environment, including the resources such as hard hats, building bricks, and tools. The children’s reaction to this was fantastic, see appendix for the activity plan and evaluation. Since then the role-play area has been changed many times including a petrol station, a flower shop, and even an ice cream van. As well as imaginative opportunities outdoors we also provide children with pens, paints, and glues to work creatively on a smaller artistic, and individual, scale.
Offering a variety of diverse experiences has unquestionably encouraged the children to challenge their own creative and imaginative experiences and shown evidence of autonomous learning, as mentioned above. Children’s Learning (800) currently 826
What additional knowledge have I acquired about how children learn? How has this changed my role? What have I observed about the ways in which children learn? My accumulated experiences throughout my time at nursery have endowed me with a strong philosophy of the importance of learning through play. Over an extended period, although my philosophy had not changed, my passion in this area had faded.
Spending time viewing and analysing examples of play in case studies from a multitude of sources, for example the reader and the DVD, I have been granted a refreshed approach to play. A simple walk amongst the nursery grounds, traversing obstacles and under trees obviously assists to fine tune motor skills but now I realise that many more opportunities for development are presenting themselves. Communication skills are tested with discussion about the environment and the many wonders it provides for children; new knowledge in turn can be further linked in with their knowledge and understanding of the world as a whole.
By improving my ability to identify an opportunity when it arises I feel the course material has taught me to utilise every chance to assist a child’s development.
Before I began the course I had very little awareness of schemas, the various types, and how to structure learning around one. From the course material (Devereux and Miller, 2003) I have assimilated knowledge on observing these behavioural traits and how to act on them appropriately. Study topics four, seven and eight discuss how children play and how it in turn affects their development.
I have always naturally spent time observing how children develop in certain areas of play at my setting, and acted accordingly. “Early years practitioners have recognised for a long time that the best practitioners observe children carefully and listen to what they say”, the Open University, 2003, study topic, page 6.
After working through the study topics and carrying out TMA 2 I have begun making a more conscious effort to thoroughly analyse my own thoughts and practises. I strongly support my belief that children learn through play, good, exciting, and fun play.
I stress that other staff at nursery appreciate, as much as I do, the need to provide engaging activities along with resources for the children to develop these activities. A play area needs to be inviting and entertaining for a child to devote their attention to it. We have implemented continuous provisions and ‘next steps’ sheets, as mentioned previously, to monitor and ensure that the activities provided are benefiting the children. Consider a particular child; look at what I did with them before the course. Describe what I did. What has since changed?
Why have I changed my approach? When carrying out TMA 02 I chose to focus on a child from a culturally mixed family of Hungarian and British. As a practitioner I feel as though I have always respected cultural diversity but my studies show that there where areas for improvement. With so many children present at nursery at anyone time it was easy to overlook differences between the child’s environments at home and at nursery. I am eager to promote individuality amongst the children from an early age and realised that I had been presented with an opportunity.
Firstly I asked the child’s parents about any differences at home and some information on the basic words of the Hungarian language, such as names, colours, numbers, and simple phrases. All the practitioners at our setting make an effort to include these phrases as much as possible, with all of the children. As a further development we hold regular discussions on how life differs around the world and how special it is that we are all different. I have introduced a map of the world with pictures of people and images next to their respective countries as a visual teaching aid.
It is important that the children learn to celebrate the subtle individualities of those around them, and those they will encounter later in life, from an early age. I believe promoting understanding and acceptance now will prevent prejudices in the future. We have had many positive comments from parents regarding these changes, especially when their child has surprised them by thanking them in Hungarian at the dinner table at home. Do I consider myself more effective in terms of learning and care? If so, how do I know this? I have definitely grown into a more effective practitioner.
Beyond boosting my enthusiasm of play and I have extended my knowledge of play and been inspired to develop our previous methods. Gaining awareness of how children grow, mentally and creatively, I can now adapt techniques for each child in my class. They are all at varying stages and I feel in a stronger position to plan how to move each child positively through their development. Other practitioners within my setting have also been inspired to enrol on the course after discussions on how the course has given me a deeper insight into how children learn.