Quality Improvement Plans (QIPs) are completed so that services can self-assess their performance in order to provide children with quality education and care, and to plan for future improvement. Therefore, it makes sense to ask the children themselves about the changes they would like to see at their centre.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child identifies the need for children to have and express their own views on issues that affect them. Adults should listen and respond respectfully.
The QIP process is the perfect opportunity for educators to give children a voice, and empower them with a sense of agency. This week we explore how this can be done in authentic and positive ways.
Including children in QIP has the potential to be tokenistic, especially if their views are hurriedly documented at the last minute. While services are required to update their QIP at least once a year, meaningful consultation occurs throughout the year.
Services should listen to children’s thoughts and feelings as a daily practice. Not only does this make the QIP process easier, but the children will learn it is okay to share their views with others. They will feel listened to and have a clear process for achieving change in their lives.
Allow children to communicate in different ways
Talking is not the only method of communication. Group discussions are an incredible way for children to share ideas and learn collaboratively, but they have their limitations. Discussions can prioritise the ideas of children who are able to participate and exclude children with language, developmental and social barriers.
When involving children in the QIP process, consider how different children at your service communicate.
- How do your babies express their needs and interests?
- How do children with disabilities and or developmental delays prefer to communicate?
Educators need to adapt to the ways their children communicate. Instead of talking, children may prefer to share their thoughts through body language, music, visual arts or role play.
Educators can find greater meaning in children’s ideas by taking the time to listen deeply.
Avoid settling at the first idea a child presents you – involving children in a QIP is not about quickly ticking a box. Children may say what they think adults want to hear, or what they feel is socially acceptable amongst their peers.
Be patient. Authentic communication takes time. Build trusting relationships, ask children questions, clarify assumptions, and keep searching for understanding.
Create learning experiences
Involving children in QIP does not need to be a stand-alone activity. Consider the greater learning experiences on offer, and take advantage of these:
- writing ideas down on paper teaches children about the purpose and function of language systems
- displaying children’s ideas on a classroom wall creates a language-rich environment
- self-expression through music, movement and drama supports social-emotional development
- planning for positive changes teaches children about problem-solving.
Listening to children and documenting their ideas is meaningful when action is taken. Educators can avoid tokenism by having a clear plan for following up on children’s ideas.
Before consulting with children, ensure all team members at your service are on board and committed to the process. Find solutions for implementing children’s ideas in a proactive and timely manner.
And remember to tell children what they have achieved. Show them what has changed in their lives!
7 ways to collect children’s ideas
- Establish a space for spontaneous storytelling. This could be a special mat or a circle marked on the ground with tape. Introduce props like puppets and silk scarfs.
- Create a wishing well or a wishing wall. Children draw or write the things they wish for on paper. They drop the paper into the well or pin it to the wall.
- Give children cameras. Ask children to take photos of things they like and don’t like at their centre.
- Invite a performer. Arrange for a musician or actor to help the children express their ideas through a group performance.
- Document children’s stories in their own words. Use audio or video to record children’s ideas. Write captions for children’s artwork when they explain what it is about.
- Question games. Ask questions during transitions and group times. Where do you like to play? What do you want more of at preschool?
- Recreate your centre in small world play. Help children build the perfect centre using blocks, boxes, small dolls and loose parts. Role-play scenarios and explore possibilities.
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