The Quality Assurance and Capacity Building
Unit oversees the annual quality assessment visits to over 650 childcare centres across
Toronto. We would like to share with you Children’s Services’ revised measurement tool – the Assessment
for Quality Improvement – and review the expectations and processes related to the measure.
Children are visual and tactile learners, so it is critical that they are immersed in
a positive social learning environment that offers opportunities to extend learning and
promote problem solving. Your interactions with children will have a long-lasting impact;
they will support learning and foster a child’s self-esteem.
There are five consistent commonalities for all program sections of the assessment measure
to advance quality: 1) interactions, 2) observations and documentation, 3) purposeful planning,
4) accessible versus available and 5) inclusive environments.
Educators need to role model positive social interactions to set the stage for children
to participate. By engaging in both spontaneous and planned experiences, educators can foster
communication and extend the learning. These experiences are based on the cues and interests
of the children. It is important that your observations are
completed for each individual child with a range of frequency depending on the room.
Infant, toddler, and preschool observations are completed weekly, whereas full day kindergarten
and school age are completed monthly. During the summer, Full Day Kindergarten programs
are completing child observations weekly. These observations are to be used for purposeful
planning of learning experiences. For example, if a child is demonstrating an interest in
nature, then areas within the room can incorporate this interest. You could add books about nature
to the reading areas, include rocks, a microscope, shells, or leaves in the science area, paint
pine cones as an art experience or include leaves that you’ve collected on a nature walk
in the sensory area. The playroom environment should be developmentally-appropriate,
organized and set up to promote children’s participation and peer interaction. By using
the environment as the third teacher, the play materials and displays are inclusive
and accessible for independent use. Educators need to be flexible within their environment
and with their interactions to meet the needs of the children. Room displays should be inclusive
to cultures and abilities, as well as including artwork and photos of the children and their
families. A component within the AQI is recognizing
the difference between accessible and available. Accessible means the play materials are out
in the room environment where children are independently able to access the materials.
Available means the play materials are stored on a high shelf or storage cupboard and a
child needs to ask for it. For children to follow their own learning
path, they need to have the play materials and equipment at their finger tips be able
to use the materials as they see fit. The preconceived expectation of how the learning
opportunity should go is second to how the child actually completes the experience. If
a block learning experience is set up with various accessories such as farm animals,
trucks and cars, the child has the freedom to access and use whatever they are interested
in. Through on-going observations the educators are able to see that interest and plan future
experiences that enhance and challenge the child to continue to expand their developmental
skills. Educators play an important role in a young
child’s life. Research has proven children who have access to high quality early learning
experiences support their life-long learning. High quality programs must have educators
who are responsive to the children’s individual needs and who provide opportunities for growth
in all areas of development. Educators need to recognize that play is natural way for
children to learn and provide a rich environment that is both interesting and safe for children
to explore. The assessment measure serves as a resource
to support educators in engaging children to follow their interests, and cues. It also
connects with the two Provincial documents, the Early Learning Framework, and How Does
Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years. By observing the child and following
their cues and interests, educators are able to provide a program that supports a child’s
curiosity by having diverse, developmentally-appropriate play materials and equipment accessible.
How Does Learning Happen? speaks to four foundations – belonging, well-being, engagement and expression.
When you review these four foundations, the AQI connects with all four areas. For example,
it creates context for learning through exploration, play and inquiry and fostering communication
and expression. These areas are embedded throughout the assessment measure, as they are key components
of high quality early learning programs. You should remember achieving a rating of
a ‘3’ is completely acceptable. I think we get carried away about the scores
and the numbers and it’s not about that. It’s about maintaining the quality we aim for.
We’re committed to our families, to our community and that’s what drives us. It’s good to know
how, you know, how somebody else is seeing our job but it’s really about the quality
and it’s about the children All children benefit if educators offer a
well balanced and rich environment that is accessible, and children are able to engage
in meaningful play opportunities. It is important to remember that advancing quality is an on-going
process. With your support, we can ensure that high quality early learning programs
are available to families across all communities. Each centre that has an annual assessment
receives a ‘Quality Makes a Difference’ sticker to display in their centre. The sticker assures
families that the centre participates in an annual assessment process, and acknowledges
the hard work and dedication of the staff. Quality does make a difference. Together,
we can ensure that high-quality early learning programs are available to families across
Toronto. If you have any further questions about the
Assessment for Quality Improvement, please speak your centre Supervisor.