From ‘tick the box’ to transformation

Issue: Volume 94, Number 3

Posted: 23 February 2015
Reference #: 1H9cqX

At Carterton Playcentre, a required self-review process turned from a ‘tick the box’ exercise into a transformative journey, as Diana Cruse explains.

The outlook seemed fairly dismal. An Education Review Office (ERO) report had advised that we were ‘not well placed’ to promote positive learning outcomes for our tamariki, and we were expecting another review in the near future. Key personnel had recently left our centre – members who had been actively involved for years - taking with them vast amounts of experience and knowledge. A fairly new team had been left behind, and the new president had only been in her role for a matter of weeks.

One of the key recommendations that came out of the ERO report was to put some work into our self-review processes.

To begin with, we thought this was an exercise in simply ‘ticking the box’, but it’s become much more than that. The result has been a transformational shift that has positively affected most aspects of the life of our centre. Over the subsequent two years, as everyone became actively engaged in the self-review process, we worked collaboratively to turn our Carterton Playcentre into a thriving, flourishing learning institution that recently received a rating of ‘well placed to promote positive learning outcomes’ for our tamariki, after ERO’s re-visit.

Our self-review topic

As a team, we decided to focus on the learning of our tamariki; specifically, ensuring that each child was being individually noticed, recognised and responded to. As a result, we came up with the topic: “How does our centre’s planning and assessment process support the learning of our tamariki?”

The process

It was a rocky start. None of us had done a self-review before and we weren’t quite sure where to begin. I went to our association’s office and came across the book Nga Arohaehae Whai Hua: the self-review process. This seemed like a natural jumping off point. At first, it felt like reading a foreign language: stages, triggers, indicators… lots of deciphering was needed to begin with, just to understand what was required.

After much thought and discussion, we came up with a plan for the ‘gathering stage’. We gathered information from a range of external sources – among the most valuable sources, providing the richest information, were internally derived: a review of the learning journals of our tamariki; a whānau survey, and visits to other centres that exemplified best practice in our region. For our whānau survey, we gave each individual the opportunity to voice their feelings and opinions, The ‘making sense’ stage involved analysing all our data and findings. This was such an exciting part of the process as we were able to see our centre’s strengths, as well as areas requiring improvement. There is something really encouraging in being able to say ‘look at the great things we are achieving.’ And then to look at our identified ‘work ons’, and use these as a platform for change in striving for best practice.

Next was the ‘deciding stage’. As we had logically worked through each previous step in methodological order, this stage of the review was full of excitement and energy. It felt as though the stage had been set for opening night and it was now time to shine.

Our deciding phase was invigorating and multiple areas of our centre were changed as a result: inside and outside areas; assessment and evaluation practices; our welcoming area; various areas of play.

Some of the data we gathered highlighted that many of our whānau did not understand what ‘notice-recognise-respond’ meant, so to help them we decided to hold a whānau movie evening, to demonstrate the principle in action. We filmed tamariki playing, highlighting how their interests were noticed, recognised and responded to. The evening was a great success, which can be attributed to a few factors: the movie showed every one of our tamariki learning through play (and everybody loves seeing their tamariki on a big screen, playing!), there was food involved and the evening was well supported by our centre whānau. When parents, caregivers, whānau and community get together for social events, relationships are strengthened; building relationships engenders better outcomes for all involved.

ERO came back and said they were in “awe” of our self-review process, which was great news. But the real reward of this self-review process was seeing each of our tamariki being individually noticed, recognised and responded to, and helping our whānau come together in the process.

A process that began as a requirement turned into something far more invigorating and transformative than we had imagined it ever could be. Our centre self-review process has become addictive and transformative in nature. Requirement or not, our centre’s self-review process is here to stay.

Ngā Arohaehae Whai Hua

Access the Ministry-published self-review document Ngā Arohaehae Whai Hua/Self-review Guidelines for Early Childhood Education(external link)

BY Diana Cruse
Carterton Playcentre,

Posted: 9:50 AM, 23 February 2015

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