History of Reflective Practice \nOver the last ten years reflective practice is a term which has been used in many universities and educational settings. However it is not a new phenomenon; in 1927 Mezirow identified reflective practice as being a \u0027transformative tool\u0027 when considering knowledge and situations. \u00a0In 1933 Dewey defined reflective practice as making links between our current knowledge and new knowledge that is gained whilst focusing on how we, as early years practitioners feel about certain situations (Rosen -ND ). Donald Schon describes reflective practice as being \u0027professional artistry\u0027 (1987:22) going\u00a0 onto suggest that it is a complex concept which emphasises the need for practitioners to\u00a0 think about situations when they occur , and then to consider the same situation\u00a0 afterwards as a team, reflecting on whether or not the action taken was appropriate . In 1984 David Kolb introduced his learning styles cycle which, similarly to Schon, encourages practitioners to \u00a0think about a new situation that has occurred focusing particularly on how a team reacts to that new situation. Kolb calls this concrete experience, and like Schon, \u00a0Kolb accentuates the need to think after the event and consider how the situation \u00a0could have been dealt with differently; \u00a0this he calls reflective observation. He \u00a0then goes onto suggest that practitioners need to think differently about situations and maybe change practice in the light of this situation; \u00a0this he describes as abstract conceptualization . The final part of Kolb\u0027s cycle is active experimentation and this relates to the new ways of working which have been put into place in the light of discussions. \n \nBusinessballs (May 2006) http://www.businessballs.com/kolblearningstyles.htm. LA 24.10.2013 \nMore recently Siraj-Blatchford and Manni have described the notion of reflective practice as being the \u0027nurturing of collaborative dialogue \u0027 (2007:17) and they emphasise the need for managers and early years practitioners to encourage their teams to think more reflectively on the work that they do. It has also been suggested\u00a0 that practitioners should not only be discussing situations with each other, but that they\u00a0 should\u00a0 be including children in\u00a0 dialogue\u00a0\u00a0 about issues which affect them\u00a0 (Craft \u0026amp; Paige-Smith: 2011). Indeed article 12 of the U N Convention on the Rights of the Child (Unicef: 1989) \u00a0\u00a0repeats the requirement that, as practitioners, we need to encourage children to discuss issues that affect them with adults / practitioners. \nSiraj-Blatchford has developed the concept of reflecting with children further through the concept of sustained shared thinking \u00a0(2002).\u00a0 \u00a0Through this process children are encouraged, by knowledgeable adults, to work together in an intellectual way in order to either solve a problem or think more deeply / reflect on a question. Whilst being involved with this it is important for both the practitioner and the child to engage in a dialogue which will further develop the child\u0027s thinking and learning. This is a similar concept to reflective practice as it involves decisions which the child and adult make together. \n\tReflective practice and early years policy\n \nIt is important, when considering reflective practice to examine what early years policy and guidance statements say about the need for early years practitioners to be reflective practitioners. Whilst the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) (2012) does not categorically mention reflective practice it does state the need for practitioners\u00a0 to \u0027respond to children\u0027s emerging needs and\u00a0 interests\u0027 (pg.7) \u0027whilst\u00a0 building warm positive relationships with children\u0027. The EYFS discusses the need for practitioners to plan activities around the needs of the child, evaluate their effectiveness and replan in the light of new knowledge which has been observed. It is interesting to note that the diagram produced \u00a0around planning in early years settings is similar to that of Kolb\u0027s learning cycle. \n \n(DFE 2012) \nThe EYFS, like Schon (1987), discusses the need to identify issues and challenges to practice as they arise but does not focus as much on the need to engage in dialogue as a team in order to reflect on situations. \n\u00a0It does however; discuss the need for well qualified practitioners to engage with young children, to develop their thinking and to continually reflect both on their practice and the needs of the children that they are working with. This will help develop both the children and quality of the setting. Jackson: 2010) \nDevelopment Matters (Early Education: 2012) sets out the need for practitioners to observe all children, to reflect on those observations, and then to plan activities around both the interests and needs of the child. It then goes on to state the importance of positive relationships with practitioners,\u00a0 who are not only able to plan stimulating activities but are also able to engage with a child\u0027s play, \u00a0encouraging \u00a0him / her to reflect on what they are doing and to build on that play. \nThe introduction of the Common Core of Skills and Knowledge by the Children\u0027s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) in 2010 sought to set out standards for practitioners in terms of working with all children. It sets out certain skills which practitioners ideally should have, in order to work with children and families. It describes the need for practitioners to use theory in order to reflect on their practice whilst meeting their own professional development needs. They also draw on the need to discuss issues with colleagues in order to reflect on situations and make changes to practice accordingly. \nThe early years teaching standards which have recently been developed by the National College for teaching and leadership (NCTL) (2013) also stress the importance of practitioners being able to reflect on their practice and to make changes to all areas of their work, in order to continue to improve practice across early years settings. Early years teachers are being acknowledged as being the right people to \u0027establish a culture of co-operative working \u0027 with colleagues, families and other agencies involved with families and children. (NCTL 2013) \n\tHow can reflective practice help practitioners to change practice?\n \nReflective practice enables teams to focus on both the ethos and the everyday work of the setting, particularly in relation to inclusion issues. It assumes that through observation, discussion, and a willingness to work differently, teams can make changes to their practice in a positive way. It encourages practitioners to \u0027think outside of the box\u0027 about day to day issues that early years setting are continuously confronted with;\u00a0 be that change in policy, the needs of a particular child or family or changing the layout of the setting. Reflective practice enables practitioners to develop their thinking about situations and helps to give practitioners \u0027a voice\u0027. It gives groups of practitioners an \u0027excuse\u0027 to analyse what has gone before and to consider new ways of working in a more collaborative manner. (Pollard et.al 2002). \nHowever there can be some challenges to reflective practice which may relate to assumptions and generalisations that practitioners make in relation to particular groups of people / children. Practitioners may have stereotypical views in relation to gender, culture, and spiritual beliefs which impede their ability to think more deeply about day to day issues.\u00a0 These can sometimes arise out of people\u0027s own experience or out of ignorance and an unwillingness to learn and discover new information.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 But once again open dialogue between sensitive practitioners can help everyone in a team to reach new understandings of once held, but out dated views. \n\tExamples of reflective practice changing practice\n \nSoon after taking leadership of a Foundation degree in early years, a course leader from Sheffield Hallam University was asked to go to a conference which the local authority was putting on for childminders, to give a presentation on the degree and to explain why it was so beneficial for practitioners. Towards the end of the presentation one of the childminders asked if the University would consider putting on a group on a Saturday for potential students. The course had previously run on an afternoon and early evening and the leader was not sure whether her colleagues would adapt or agree to working on a Saturday.\u00a0 However she went back and discussed this with her line manager and the rest of the team and it was agreed that not only would they accept this large group of childminders (assuming that they met the entry criteria for the degree) but that they \u00a0would be taught in full days so that they did not need to come to University as often as previous students. At the same time as this local authority budgets, which had previously paid for supply cover for students when not at their setting, also dried up and so other practitioners were interested in Saturday sessions. This group of students is about to graduate and they have been one of the highest attaining\u00a0 \u00a0groups that have completed the degree and a large majority of students have moved onto the B A top up route. Without reflecting on our previous practice and seeing an opportunity for the childminders to study they may have never taken the course, moved on with their practice, and for some of them gain an outstanding OFSTED qualification. \nA newly established children\u0027s centre in a multi cultural area noticed that many of the parents attending a carers and toddlers group were happy to sit around the edge of the room talking to each other, but they seemed to prefer to talk to one another rather than engaging with their children except at snack and singing time. Their children rarely played with any of the toys and neither did the parents give them any encouragement to play with the toys. Each session was followed by complaints from practitioners who felt that the group should stop; however, staff recognised that it was good to see parents talking together and that the group met the need for parents to support one another. \u00a0This dilemma was discussed after each session until the issue was raised at a staff meeting. At \u00a0the same time a practitioner in the centre was needing to carry out a piece of research - it was decided that the research would focus on how other cultures viewed the \u0027westernised\u0027 need to provide toys, in abundance, \u00a0for their children.\u00a0 The results of that research demonstrated that, some parents did not see the need in buying lots of expensive toys as they had few toys when they were growing up. Around the same time an emerging interest in treasure baskets and heuristic play was being discovered (Goldschmeid and Jackson:\u00a0 2003) in many early years settings so after further discussion the team decided to use \u00a0elements of heuristic play \u00a0for the group. Slowly the sessions began to change. Parents enjoyed playing with their children and gradually the parents started to play with their children. Staff in turn would produce activity sheets for parents giving them tips about how they could use items from around their houses to play with their children. Not only did the group continue to benefit the children but it also benefitted the children who had more stimulation at home. \nThrough both of these scenarios we see evidence of groups of practitioners and in the second case, parents reflecting on practice and making changes to practice in the light of certain situations.\u00a0 Bother of these were inclusion issues - if the University had refused to put the degree on for the childminders it would have been turning away a large group of early years practitioners who were eager to learn more about working with young children. If the practitioners in the children\u0027s centre had not discovered why it was that some parents did not see the need for toys they would never have been introduced to the benefits of heuristic play and treasure baskets. \n
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