Through this essay I aim to reflect on my personal and professional development over this academic year. At the beginning of the academic year I evaluated my own personal and professional skills through a self-audit (see appendix 1). I selected the Early Years Practitioner Status (EYPS) standards (2012) to use as a criteria to evaluate my skills against, as I believed this was relevant to me since I currently work within the early years, and my future career aim is to be an early year’s teacher. Evaluating my skills against the standards helped me form a better and clearer vision of myself in regards to which skills can be considered as my strength’s and which areas need further improvement. Through my self-evaluation, I pleasantly found that I was achieving most of the standards to some extent, as I was already applying them in my current work as a pre-school leader.

For example, all five standards in the first topic of supporting the healthy growth and development of children are all a part of my current job role. Within this essay I aim to reflect on how my professionalism has developed through the use of these skills. Similarly, like in any evaluation along with my strengths I was also able to identify the skills which I needed to improve on. My self-evaluation highlighted that there were many areas that needed development in order to make my professional practice impeccable. However, within this academic year due to commitment to my studies and other work related issues improvement in all areas could not be achieved, and so I selected three key areas that needed improvement and created an action plan (see appendix 2) to help me achieve improvement in these areas. Through this essay I intend to reflect on how these areas have developed and how the action plan has helped in achieving the set targets.

The key areas I chose for development were supporting planning, supporting transitions and developing professionalism. I chose these three areas as I believed that they were the most significant areas that needed developing first to help me achieve better in my current job role, as well as this these goals were also achievable in the timescale available and could fit around my other commitments. Cottrell (2010, p.3) identifies that developing personal and professional skills allows individuals a deeper understanding of their performance as well as providing individuals with greater confidence of an understanding on how to improve their performance. As my main aim of the self-evaluation was to gain an awareness of my practice and develop my professionalism, I decided that this was a key skill within itself that needed improvement. If I successfully developed the different skills which could help me in improving my practice further than this would be a great achievement.

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The Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC, 2011, lines 1-4) state that the Early years is a vibrant and extremely significant sector as the staff working within this sector play a crucial part in shaping the lives of the children they work with and so the staff need to be providing high quality practice at all levels. In order to provide high quality practice it is important to review and develop your professional skills frequently to ensure you are delivering your best. For me the most useful element in helping me to develop my professionalism was taking some time out to reflect on situations and writing a reflective log. Reflection is a significant step towards helping individuals develop their professionalism as Cottrell (2003, p.188) states reflection provides individuals an opportunity to gain an in depth and honest picture of themselves. She further suggests that by stepping back and observing a situation, individuals are allowed a chance to identify how others view them, thus giving them a greater understanding of things which have any type of effect on their performance and progress.

Whilst writing the reflective logs I was able to rethink the whole day in a different context and highlight main aspects of the day. I began thinking about why they went well and this thought process helped me to remember these skills for next time. Bolton (2010) suggests that the key to effective reflection is to view one’s actions in an evaluative way and use the findings to assist in improving practice further. By reflecting in this manner it will serve the purpose of allowing professionals to persistently improve their practice and become competent practitioners. After putting this reflection into practice I now feel more confident in writing reflections and critically evaluating any highlighted events. Furthermore, I am now able to use the information from my reflections to help me plan for similar situations.

The self-audit illuminated that there are many skills within the EYPS standards which can be considered as my key strength skills. These include knowledge and understanding of children’s development and supporting them through the various stages of development. This can be seen as I have not only gained in-depth child development knowledge through my university studies, but I put this knowledge into action daily as I plan different activities for all the children considering all their individual needs. Jarvis et al (2010, p.34) explain that professionals working with children should support children’s development through sustained shared thinking by considerately providing the contribution required for the child to move onto the next stage of development.

This sustained shared thinking concept is influenced by Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory and his notion of the Zone of Proximal development. Within this academic year I have been working with a child who has a speech and language delay. In order to provide a stimulating environment which is beneficial for this child I have been working in close partnership with other professionals. I feel that this has been a great opportunity for me as it has enabled me to significantly improve my understanding and ability to work with children with specific needs. My manager also praised me as she also felt that I had worked very hard in helping child x to settle in and achieve well. This has further increased my confidence in working with children with additional needs.

The action plan designed was appropriate for my professional development as it set out the specific goal that was being worked towards and also described the method of achieving these goals. The action plan was effective in helping me successfully achieve my targets because I had set SMART targets. It is advised that in order for targets to be effective they should be specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and timely. (Doran, 1981, p.35; Cottrell, 2010, p.117). Additionally, the evaluation of the targets set in the action plan and how they were achieved also helps in understanding if the actions were appropriate for the expected outcome. I was very enthusiastic about following the action plan accurately in order to achieve all the set targets efficiently and within the set time.

This enthusiasm inspired me to ensure that I managed my time well so that all planned actions were completed on time and did not conflict with any other of my commitments such as my study time. However, a few times due to an increase in time being spent on studying some planned actions were not completed on time. But the aspiration to achieve all the set targets was high and so I ensured that all the actions were fitted in where possible through good planning and time managing. All 3 targets I set in the action plan have been achieved in the timescale fixed and I feel that I have successfully developed my professional practice in these areas. I believe that this action plan is proficient and I would certainly use the same plan for improvement in further areas. Nevertheless, one thing I would increase is reviewing my progress in between as this will help me reflect on the situation and provide me greater understanding of my pace and technique of development.

Evaluating my skills against the EYPS standards and gaining an awareness of my strengths and weaknesses has further given me motivation to complete my studies, improve and develop my weak areas and achieve my goal of becoming a qualified Early Years teacher. Having successfully achieved my set targets assigned in my action plan, I have decided to re-evaluate my skills and set some further targets to achieve. Working with child x and seeing him develop his confident and cheerful personality has been so rewarding for me that it has encouraged me to ensure that I am helping all children achieve well to their full potential. Due to this one of my next planned goals is to gain in-depth knowledge and understanding of identifying children who are in need of additional support and how to ensure the correct steps are taken towards providing this support. I aim to continue this process of reflection, planning and evaluating my skills to become an exceptional practitioner.

In conclusion it can be seen that I have significantly developed many skills over this academic year. I have understood the importance of professional development and ways of how to develop my skills further. Through taking actions to develop one skill has helped me improve many other skills along the way. The action plan has also proved to be an effective resource in my professional development with realistic and achievable targets, and the success of the action plan has further assisted me in identifying my next steps in order to develop my professional practice.

Building good relationships with key children. Knowledge of attachment through university module.

Develop and sustain respectful relationships with children and their families.

Working in partnership with families of key children at pre-school.

1. Safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

Know the legal requirements and guidance on health and safety, safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and the implications for early years settings.

Regular health and safety checks. Up to date knowledge through in house training at work.

Establish and sustain a safe environment and employ practices that promote children’s health and safety.

Same as above and feedback from my colleagues.

Know and understand child protection policies and procedures, recognise when a child is in danger or at risk of abuse, and know how to act to protect them.

Good up to date knowledge on important safeguarding issues. In house training and information from university module.

fortunately never had to put in practice

4. Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge every child.

Establish and sustain a stimulating and inclusive environment where children feel confident and are able to learn and develop.

Planning activities in partnership with colleagues considering the needs of each child and taking into consideration their interests and learning styles. E.g. activities indoors and outdoors.

Engage in sustained shared thinking with children.

Helping children by one to one support to achieve the next step of development.

Give constructive feedback to help children evaluate their achievements and facilitate further learning.

Praise, rewards, sticker charts.

Feedback to parents/carers.

Demonstrate the positive values, attitudes and behaviours expected from children.

Reminding children the rules daily at circle time. Role modelling good behaviour to children.

5. Make use of observation and assessment to meet the individual needs of every child.

Observe, assess, record and report on progress in children’s development and learning, using this to plan next steps.

Regular observations on key children and planning next steps for them to help them achieve the EYFS goals.

Engage effectively with parents/carers and wider professionals in the ongoing assessment and appropriate provision for each child.

Working in partnership with speech and language therapist and discuss future plans with parents

Differentiate provision to meet the individual needs of the child and provide opportunities to extend their learning and development.

Planning activities for the pre-school children in partnership with other staff and discussing all children’s individual needs.

6. Plan provision taking account of the individual needs of every child

Provide balanced and flexible daily and weekly routines that meet children’s needs and interests and enable them to learn and develop.

Taking into consideration all children’s needs and planning stimulating activities for children to engage in

Plan and provide appropriate adult led and child initiated play and experiences that enable children to learn and develop.

Planning a variety of adult led activities to help children achieve their EYFS goals that link with current themes and provide some additional time for children’s own initiated play.

Select, prepare and use a range of resources suitable for children’s ages, interests and abilities, which value diversity, and promote equality and inclusion.

Stories and posters of people of different cultures and backgrounds. Different skin coloured paints and chalks. Posters in various languages.

7. Fulfil wider professional responsibilities by promoting positive partnership working to support the child.

Understand the importance of and contribute to multi-agency team working.

Working in partnership with the Speech and language therapist. Devising planned steps and reviewing them together.

Take a lead in establishing and sustaining a culture of cooperative working between colleagues and wider professionals.

Not quite accessible in my job role

Support colleagues to understand the part they play to enable every child to reach their full potential.

Review colleagues work at staff meetings. Build good working relationships and offer all colleagues any support they require.

8. Lead practice and foster a culture of continuous improvement.

Model and implement effective practice, and support and mentor other practitioners.

Good role model putting theory onto practice and offering support to colleagues.

Reflect on the effectiveness of provision, propose appropriate changes and influence, shape and support the implementation of policies and practices within the setting.

Not accessible through my employed position/

Take responsibility for improving practice through appropriate professional development, for self and colleagues.

I have previously attended some training here and there. No major development undertaken. Urgent area needing development.

Promote equality of opportunity through championing children’s rights and anti-discriminatory practice.

Following all anti discriminatory policies of setting and equal opportunities policies. Ensuring all children are provided with the same opportunities to participate in learning.

Understand the implications of relevant legislation, statutory frameworks, including the EYFS, and policy for early year’s settings and apply in practice.

Attending regular meetings and trainings whenever legislation has amendments and changes.

Action plan

EYPS Standard

Specific target

Action to be taken

Timescale and Outcome expected

Differentiate provision to meet the individual needs of the child and provide opportunities to extend their learning and development.

To progress planning by incorporating the children’s interests. Generate a spectacular learning environment indoor and outdoor which reflects children’s interests.

Select various themes at the beginning of term. Share with parents/carers and to gain their views and to identify what the children already know and what they want to know. Use this information as a foundation for planning. Try to ‘lower’ the ceilings with canopies, create small areas which provide children a cosy space.

Exhibition of children’s work and displays of children’s interests such as superheroes and cartoon characters with relevant writing and signage.

Summer term 2014

Aim is that children will be interested and eager to learn.

Planning will then be child led. The environment will reflect children’s personal interests which will motivate them to learn and develop confidently.

Take responsibility for improving practice through appropriate professional development, for self and colleagues.

Improve practice for self and other colleagues in pre-school room through use of reflection and appraisal.

Keep reflective logs and review at the end of each term, identifying any areas that need improvement and thinking how to approach improvement. Aim for good appraisal at end of year

End of summer term.

The expected outcome is to become an effective reflective practitioner and encourage colleagues to adapt this practice too. Develop my professionalism further to help me progress in my career.

Support children through a range of transitions

To provide a smooth transition for new children joining us at the beginning of the academic year and also a smooth transition for children leaving us to start school at the end of the academic year.

Work in close partnership with the schools reception teacher and plan some specific activities in the fortnightly visits to the reception class.

Arrange some time for the reception class teacher to come and visit the children at pre-school a few times over the year.

In the last two terms introduce a few small sessions for children interested in joining the following year as open sessions. Invite the parents in as well so that they also understand what the pre-school routine consists of and familiarise their children with it.

Beginning of the next academic year when all transitions take place.

Aiming to ensure all children leaving pre-school are able to have a smooth transition and settle into the routine of reception class easily. Similarly, aim to become a little familiar with new children joining us so that they can settle into the pre-school well and begin to build positive relationships.

Review and Evaluation

Target

Evaluation

Developing mine and my colleagues professionalism

Keeping a reflective log has really helped me and my colleagues. Through staff meetings we have reviewed some situations as a group by looking at our reflective logs. This has helped us all gain a greater understanding of situations and a better understanding of everyone’s individual perspective. By understanding colleague’s perspectives we have been able to share our workload more efficiently and seen a great difference in how we deal with different situations. We also have independently reviewed our reflective logs and this has helped me to learn to evaluate my responses critically.

Improving planning through incorporating children’s interests

I feel that the steps taken to improve planning have also helped develop my quality of observations. Initially I was unsure on how I would manage to incorporate all the different interests of every child within the planning. Nevertheless, after involving parents in the selection of the various themes to use throughout the term, I discovered that a lot of the children shared similar interests. This made me feel more at ease in developing the planning. Involving parent’s views in helping me achieve this goal also helped strengthen my skills in working in partnership with parents. I found that involving parent’s views was very beneficial as not only did they feel valued but they showed a greater interest in the learning the children did within the nursery.

Supporting children’s transitions.

Through well planned fortnightly visits to the local primary school children have become familiar with the reception class teacher and have shown greater excitement of playing in the reception class room. As a result of children becoming familiar with and developing a relationship with the reception class teacher many children are confident and enthusiastic about their move to the school in September. The stay and play open session for children joining us next year have also been very successful as it has provided me an opportunity to meet the parents and get to know them a little, it has also helped me understand a little about the stage of development these children are currently at. I intend to use this knowledge to help me plan some good settling in activities for the beginning of the year and maybe the children can share their experiences about attending the open day.

References

Bolton, G. (2010) Reflective practice writing and professional development. 3rd ed. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Cottrell, S. (2010) The personal development planning handbook. 2nd ed. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

CWDC. (2011) Working in early years. Children’s Workforce Development Council [Online]. Available from: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20120119192332/http://cwdcouncil.org.uk/early-years/childcare-careers [Accessed 5th May 2014].

Department for Education (2014). Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage Setting the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five. London: Government publications.

Doran, G.T. (1981) ‘There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management Review. 70 (11)

Teaching Agency. (2012) Early Years Professional Status Standards [Online]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/299391/DFE-00337-2014.pdf [Accessed 6th May 2014]

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