Drawing from the work of Schon (1983), early learning reflective practice involves teachers thoughtfully considering the children’s experiences of learning in conjunction with thinking deeply about teaching. Engaging in reflection should be part of practice both at the individual level and within a group. When we engage in collaborative reflective practice over time, we gain new knowledge and our perspectives can change (Dietze & Kashin, 2012). A tool that can support reflective practice is the use of a professional journal (Loughran, 2002). Do you have a journal? Do you find it useful? If you have not yet begun to use a professional journal, consider it as an important step to supporting your ability to be reflective. Your reflections in your journal will become part of your documentation that can be analyzed and interpreted to help you discover the curriculum path you and the children will be taking. Another tool is called the DATA method (O’Connor & Diggins, 2002). It is adapted here to align with outdoor play and learning.
Describe in detail an outdoor play experience that you found particularly intriguing such as the child who was building an enclosure for the forest gnomes.
Analyze the experience examining the underlying values such as the image of the child as capable and competent to use their imagination and to engage in schema play.
Theorize about additional sources of knowledge that can help you make more sense and more meaning from the experience such as talking to the child’s family and the other teachers. Is the child making other types of enclosures? Has the child expressed an interest in gnomes prior?
Act by providing additional opportunities for the child to explore enclosures and launch a test with a trial balloon to see if this is a real interest for this child and perhaps for the rest of the group.
Simplifying the framework proposed by Rolfe, Freshwater & Jasper (2001) can also serve as a guide for reflection. This tool, developed for helping professions such as nurses, involves three components: what, so what and now what? By using this framework as a way to reflect upon documentation it can lead to curriculum decisions. The framework has been adapted to include another component “What about the what?” to encourage even deeper thinking. Click on the words below to reveal more information.
This is an objective question that asks you to describe what you saw or heard.
What about the What?
This is a reflective question that asks you to consider why you choose to record and document a particular situation. How did it make you feel? As you examine the documentation, what makes you smile or what tugs at your heartstrings?
This is an interpretative question. What are you learning about the child’s learning processes and what are you learning about your own teaching? How does this situation connect to the child’s prior experience or knowledge? How does it connect to your prior experience or knowledge?
This is a decision question. Where will you go next? How will this inform your practice? How will you use your knowledge/experience to plan for the children’s outdoor play experiences or to plan for a long-term project investigation?