By Kay Crosse

Introduction

With the focus on learning in the revised Early Years Foundation Stage framework, practitioners should be encouraged to reflect on the learning environment as part of their quality assurance process.

Support for deep-level learning

The Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC) has developed two programmes.

  1. Effective Early Learning (EEL) for children aged three to six years.

  2. Baby Effective Early Learning (BEEL) for children from birth to three years.

Both programmes support practitioners in auditing the ways in which they support deep-level learning in young children, also providing a basis for professional development. Following the relevant training, practitioners are empowered and enabled to carry out observations which feed into small- scale action research activity.

In this way, the quality of children’s learning and adult–child interactions are observed then evaluated, leading to improvements that are totally relevant to the provision and the staff working in that provision. Many staff feel more confident in bringing about improvement when they have used EEL and BEEL, as the programmes use an evidence-based approach.

Evaluating learning

The methods of observation used in EEL and BEEL are based on the approaches initiated by Professor Ferre Laevers of the Leuven University in Belgium. One aspect is to observe how deeply children are involved in the learning experiences both adult-led and child-initiated. Practitioners know that when children are fully involved they are likely to be learning at a deep level resulting in high-quality, sustainable learning.

The EEL and BEEL programmes offer ways of evaluating learning, using observations, based on a five-point scale starting from:

  • scale one — an absent or passive attitude with no signs of exploration or interest

up to:

  • scale five — being continuously absorbed in the activity, showing high motivation, alertness, precision and enjoyment.

Practitioners can download the full five-point scale by searching for the Leuven Involvement Scale. Sharing the information gained from practitioners and parent observations will enable parents to become more involved in their children’s learning.

Evaluating staff

Another benefit of developing practitioners’ skills in observing children’s learning is that the focus on deep-level learning is also the focus of the Ofsted inspector, as the involvement of children is a key to evaluating whether or not learning is taking place.

The EEL and BEEL programmes also have scales relating to adult–child interactions, which can be used to look at staff performance and as evidence for performance management. Relevant information can then feed into the organisation’s development and business plan as well as the individual member of staff’s professional development plan.

For the BEEL programme, where the key person’s interactions with their children are at the centre of high-quality learning and development, the observations focus on the child’s:

  • sense of location in the world

  • inner motivation to find out about the world

  • ability to try different things

  • ability to interact with other children and adults, looking at who initiates the interactions.

Conclusion

Using the EEL and BEEL programmes supports critical, reflective thinking enabling practitioners to work with colleagues to bring about quality improvement, which promotes equality of opportunity and cultural diversity.

Last reviewed 11 January 2013