Stop. Think. Focus. Reflect.
This is what I have found to be the result of using the Self Reflection tools in the “Síolta Aistear Practice Guide”.
Síolta is the Irish word for seeds and is the name of the national quality framework for early years education in Ireland.
Aistear means journey and is the name of the national curriculum framework. They are guidelines for early year practioners on the island.
The practice guide can be found here which provides information on the two frameworks, developing your curriculum and professional practice.
It really is a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know when developing the curriculum and environment in your early years service.
The self-evaluation tools contained within the practice guide are so very easy to use. Each statement is food for thought and enables you to focus on the quality of your service in various areas, e.g. learning environments, nurturing interactions, planning and assessing etc.
The tools enable you to stop, think, focus and reflect. Once you have that done, you can move on to implement changes (little or large) to continue to improve your service.
The use of the self-evaluation tools are an easy and productive way to learn or revise what you’ve previously learned about Síolta and Aistear. I find that self-evaluation tools are much more productive than reading and trying to digest pages and pages of written guidelines. On the reading of each statement for reflection, you can visualise what you are doing in your service and easily envisage what more you can do. Then, move onto the next statement and more food for thought.
What better way to educate yourself on something than to immerse yourself in it and apply it to your real life – much like how we strive to facilitate the children’s learning experiences!
Of course, you will probably be pleased to find that you are meeting a lot of the standards set out in Síolta already but we know that there is always room for improvement, right?
We decided to put aside some time once per month in our service to sit down as a team and reflect on our practices, using the Síolta Aistear Practice Guide.
This is how we structured our first self-evaluation meeting:
- Copies of the Síolta self-evaluation tool were printed and stapled so each staple had one element with statements contained. The self-evaluation tools have 3, 4 or 5 elements contained in them. You could split up the elements so that a small number of people are reviewing each one e.g. two people on each element. This will save time as there is less reading to be done, leaving more time for discussion. In our meeting, each staff member (4 of us) evaluated 2 elements each.
- Time was given (about 20 minutes) for all staff to read and review each statement in the elements and encouraged to fill in the ‘notes/examples’ block, especially if they found they had ticked ‘no/some evidence’ in their evaluation. Note to self – organise some background music for the next meeting. We could have heard a pin drop, it was so quiet during this bit!
- After our quiet and reflective evaluation, we came together to highlight what we noted to be somewhat lacking or ideas that sprung to mind while we were evaluating.
- Although highlighting all that is good in our practice and praising/encouraging each other is needed for a contented staff and a continued high standard, for this evaluation I decided to ignore this somewhat and focus on where we could improve. Why? Partly to keep us focused and partly to save time (that’s precious for us all!) Besides, our days are filled with encouragement for eachother as a norm.
- We had scheduled one hour to complete our self-evaluation and we covered 2 out of the 3 elements. I’m confident that we would complete the next one (with 3 elements) within the hour as included in ours was discussing the sugar level in shortbread biscuits (it was the random topic of the day 😆)
- The length of time that you set aside for your meeting will depend on numbers of staff and your progress as a service.
- I took minutes of our meeting and afterwards, emailed each member of staff with these attached. This document included: *Date *Attendees *Plans of Action agreed at the meeting (the standard was cut and pasted with the plan of action alongside it) Nice and simple. We will re-read these documents throughout the year as a reminder to check on ourselves… a continuous evaluation, if you will.
Although we were happy (along with parents, inspectors and children) with how we ran our service, we did come up with changes and tweaks that have encouraged us in our professional lives and I, for one, am excited for the year ahead!
I found that these meetings are worth the extra time spent and will help with making the time spent with the children even more enjoyable.
As always, I wish you the very best for the coming year. Do yourselves a favour and check out the Practice Guide here.
Would you like an easy life when planning your curriculum in accordance with the Aistear guidelines? Have a look at our Curriculum Packs here. All activities in all packs are already linked to the Aistear learning goals. Each activity has all Aistear Themes contained and linked. All you need to do is print and play!!