Self review guidelines

For an organisation to grow and improve the quality of its services it is important it monitors its performance. Ngā Arohaehae Whai Hua/Self-review Guidelines for Early Childhood Education were created with this in mind.

Section 1: Exploring review

"E mau ō ringa ki ngā akaaka a Tāwhaki kia tārewa tū ki te rangi.

May your hands grasp the vines of Tāwhaki, which lead to the sky above."

This whakatauaki describes the importance of taking opportunities that lead to understanding. In the context of review, it reminds us of our overarching purpose - to take responsibility for the quality of our practice in order to support and improve children's learning. Through self-review, we know how well our practices are achieving this goal.

  • What is review?
    • Review is the deliberate and ongoing process of finding out how well our practice enhances children’s learning and development. Review allows us to see which aspects of our practice are working well and what we could do better. As a result, we can make decisions about what to do to improve. Through review, our practice is transformed and, ultimately, children’s learning benefits.

      Self-review and external review are complementary review processes in which all early childhood education services are involved.

      Self-review is a review that is undertaken from within an early childhood education service in order to evaluate practice. This may also be called internal review, quality review, or centre review. Self-review is usually based on the priorities set by the service. Self-review is conducted within the early childhood education service by members of that same service (who are sometimes referred to as a "learning community"2).

      External review is a review in which an external body, such as the Education Review Office, evaluates the quality of education in an early childhood education service. External review is usually based on a combination of external and local priorities. It is conducted within each early childhood education service by people who are not members of that service. They bring an outsider's perspective to review.

      Self-review and external review share a similar purpose in helping us to identify:

      • the aspects of our practice we are doing well
      • the aspects we may need to improve
      • the actions we should take as a result of what we learn about our practice.

      Together, these complementary reviews enable early childhood education services to improve practice in relation to children's learning.

      Self-review is both planned and spontaneous.

      Planned review takes place when we set out a plan, or schedule, of what we will review and decide over what period of time we will review it. Planned review ensures that we are evaluating regularly and across all areas of practice over time. It takes account of what is happening in our service and of our priorities. It is both manageable and flexible.

      Spontaneous review takes place when we respond to issues or events that arise in our service on a day-to-day basis. Spontaneous review allows us to be responsive to immediate issues and priorities. We can adapt our review schedule to accommodate changing priorities.

  • Why undertake self-review?
    • "Just think of the children, and review is real!" - Education and care service

      Self-review has two key purposes:

      1. The first purpose of self-review is improvement: it enables us to improve our practice. We ensure that our practice supports children's learning in the best possible ways.
      2. The second is accountability: it enables us to ensure that we are meeting our legal requirements. This is called compliance. We check to make sure that we are meeting our legal requirements, responsibilities, and accountabilities.

      In review, both purposes are important in achieving positive learning outcomes for children.

      Images of whāriki/mats from Sāmoan culture can be useful in helping us to understand the relationship between these dual purposes.

      Ie toga, a fine mat, is prestigious and an item of great worth in Sāmoan society. It holds special significance because it is intricate and ornate - representing the value given to the craft Papa laufala, an everyday mat, is functional and useful. It provides a foundation for both the weaver and the people who sit on it. Without this mat as the ground cover, we would not be able to enjoy the beauty of ‘ie toga.
       Ie toga fine mat, beige, brown trim  Papa laufala everyday mat, beige, hexagonal pattern
  • When do we undertake self-review?
    • Self-review is an ongoing process. When we recognise that review is concerned with improving the quality of our curriculum, it becomes an important part of our daily practice. The question of timing is determined to some extent by the specific focus of the review and whether our review is planned or spontaneous.

      Planned review involves a review schedule or plan that spans a period of time (usually between 1 and 3 years). It sets out a plan for regular self-review over time.

      Spontaneous review takes place in response to an issue or concern. Spontaneous review doesn't wait for a schedule.

  • Why should we document self-review?
    • Documenting self-review is helpful for a number of reasons: 

      • It makes our review process transparent for everyone.
      • It helps us to keep a record of our reviews over time.
      • It serves as a reminder of our intentions and discoveries in review.
      • It enables us to share our reviews with others (including external reviewers).
      • Both planned and spontaneous reviews can be documented.

      Documenting planned reviews involves developing a formal procedure for review. This can be expressed in a policy/procedural statement.

      Documentation includes:

      • a planned review programme that spans 1-3 years and covers all areas of practice over time (see Appendix 2)
      • a plan for each review (see 'Preparing a plan' in Section 2 and Appendix 2)
      • a record of the information gathered and analysed that supports review findings
      • a plan for change (see 'Developing a plan for change' in Section 2 and Appendix 2).

      Documenting spontaneous reviews involves recording happenings and events that trigger a review as well as the review process and outcomes. Spontaneous reviews are often documented after the actual review has taken place.

      Documenting planned and spontaneous reviews allows us to keep a record of the process, information gathered, and outcome of each review and to monitor the implementation of our action plan. Appendix 1 provides some examples of documented self-review from a range of early childhood education services.

      You can also use the links below to view samples of documented review:


      Sample 1 - A systematic review schedule

      Our vision: We aspire for children to be confident explorers, keen inquirers, and creative thinkers. Our learning environment will enrich and enhance the knowledge, skills, and dispositions children bring to the learning experience. Through collaborative relationships, we will work with children and their families/whānau to promote positive learning outcomes for all children.

      We will achieve this vision (direction)Key practices for review focusWhen review will take place
      Goal 1
      Children will have access to a wide range of appropriate resources (that promote meaningful exploration).
      Learning and teaching practice May-June 2005
      Goal 2
      Adults will be responsive to children's questions and cues (to promote inquiry).
      Learning and teaching practice  August-November 2005 
      Goal 3
      Adults will actively encourage and acknowledge children's ideas and suggestions in the learning and teaching context. 
      Learning and teaching practice  August-November 2005 

      Goal 4
      Adults will provide a diverse range of opportunities for families, whānau, and the wider community to be involved in children's learning.

      Collaborative practice
      Learning and teaching practice
      March-October 2005

      Meeting accountabilities

      Governance and management practice January-Sept 2005


      Sample 2 - Example of a review plan

      Review Plan: May-June 2005

      Indicators (linked to goal) Key practice for focusFocus for review

      Children will use resources to:

      • solve problems
      • classify
      • look for patterns
      • make comparisons
      • explain to others
      • (Te Whariki, page 88)
      Learning and teaching practice To what extent our current range of resources (equipment and materials) promote exploration for our 4-year-old children?


      Timeframe Gathering Information
      May-June 2005 Over a two-week period, gather information about children (4 year olds) using resources in the centre.

      Staff member X will code children's (4 year olds') use of resources in existing learning stories documented over the past six months, using indicator criteria.

      Staff member Y will video children (4 year olds) using resources for a total of 15 minutes daily (staggered throughout the day) over a period of one week.

      Staff member Z will support children (4 year olds) to take photographs of resources that promote exploration.

      Children (4 year olds) will be invited to share and discuss photographs.

      Teachers will view and code video footage and photographs at the next staff meeting.


       ToolsEthical Considerations
      Existing learning stories

      Video and photographs (existing and new)

      Do we have consent of children (4 year olds) and parents for use of existing learning stories/photographs?

      Have we got consent for videoing and photographing children?

      How will we ensure that children have a choice about the extent of their involvement?

      How will we let parents know what we are doing and why?

      How will we share the findings of this review and with whom?

  • What do we review?
    • Te Whāriki (page 10) describes curriculum as “the sum total of the experiences, activities, and events, whether direct or indirect, which occur within an environment designed to foster children's learning and development”.

      "This review caused us to relook at our curriculum policy. Even just looking at programme planning, we've now realised that we need to look at other things too - things like appraisal, policy, and health. Review opens us up for a really good look!" - Home-based education service

      We review our practice - everything we do! Deliberate and careful review of our practice provides the opportunity to improve our curriculum, in its fullest sense, over time.

      There are 3 key areas of practice contributing to the functionality and quality of our curriculum whāriki. They are:

      1. learning and teaching practice
      2. collaborative practice
      3. governance and management practice.

      These areas of practice are relevant to all early childhood education services but will be approached in different ways according to identified priorities. Over time, services will evaluate each area of practice through review. A review plan or schedule ensures that no area is overlooked.

      In review, the relationship between these areas of practice and the principles of Te Whāriki can be described as the warp and weft of a weaving. The principles of Te Whāriki can be represented in the warp. This is the foundation for our work. These principles act as a stable framework and are always the basis for review. They establish a foundation for reviewing our practice by asking:

      • How well does our practice empower children to learn and to grow? (Empowerment/Whakamana)
      • To what extent does our practice reflect the holistic nature of learning? (Holistic development/Kotahitanga)
      • How integral to our practice is the wider world of family and community? (Family and community/Whānau tangata)
      • To what extent does our practice support children to learn through responsive and reciprocal relationships with people, places, and things? (Relationships/Ngā hononga)

      Drawing on the principles of Te Whāriki in review enables us to evaluate practice in the light of our shared beliefs about what really matters.

      The areas of practice can be likened to the weft of the weaving - where different threads are selected according to the review priorities of our service. These priorities are developed in response to our obligations to meet legal requirements and our commitment to quality education.

       flax weave, red, green, yellow 

      Learning and teaching practice - Tikanga whakaako

      Learning and teaching practice is what we do to foster children's learning. It can best be described by the term “ako”, which acknowledges learning and teaching as reciprocal processes. In embracing the concept of “ako”, we recognise the fact that learning is ongoing and context based. The way we foster learning is informed by our knowledge of theory and of practice as well as by our ability to put theory into practice (and vice versa).

       Learning and teaching practice includes such things as:

      • our ability to notice, recognise, and respond 4
      • curriculum planning and evaluation
      • responsive and reciprocal relationships.

      When we review learning and teaching practice, we ask “How well do we foster children's learning?” In responding to this question, we explore what we do, what we say, what we believe, what we know, and what the result is for children in our service. We want to know how well aspects of our practice support children in their learning.

       Teacher, three children, computer screen



      Collaborative practice - Te mahi ngātahi

      Collaborative practice is concerned with the way we work together. When everyone has authentic opportunities to learn and contribute to learning, we become a learning community. A learning community is built on a shared set of values, such as respect, trust, honesty, empathy, sharing, safety, and concern for one another. The way we work together is informed by our understanding of one another, our ability to ask for and respect the opinions of others, and the recognition we are able to give to the wider world of the child and their family. When we are prepared to embrace the perspectives and views of others, we add great richness to our curriculum whāriki.

       Collaborative practice includes:

      • processes that we have in place for ongoing consultation with members of our learning community
      • authentic partnerships with local iwi that facilitate appropriate Treaty-based approaches to learning
      • systems, such as portfolios, that enable children's voices to be heard in all aspects of the learning process (Kei Tua o te Pae, Book 4, page 2).

      When we review collaborative practice, we ask, “How well do we work together?” In responding to this question, we explore what we do, what we say, what we believe, what we know, and what is happening as a result. We are keen to find out how responsive and reciprocal our relationships really are in supporting learning.

      Collaboration image, five teachers around documents


      Governance and management practice - Te mahi whakahaere

      Governance and management practice is concerned with the responsibilities for operating our service - both now and in the future - and the ways we keep things running smoothly. The importance of sound governance and management practice in our early childhood education service can be expressed through this well-known whakatauākī.

      Ka pai ki muri,
      Ka pai ki mua,
      Ka pai ngā mea katoa.

      If the back's right,
      the front's right.
      It's all good.

      The way we govern and manage our service is informed by our knowledge of service priorities and external expectations. When everyone is aware of what is expected, we are in a position to successfully achieve our shared goals.

      Governing and Managing Your Early Childhood Service (2004) distinguishes between governance and management.

      These practices may be shared by the same people or separated out, depending on the organisation of each service.

      Governance and management practice includes:

      • planning for the future
      • developing and maintaining systems
      • formulating and reviewing policies and procedures.

      When we review governance and management practice, we ask, “How well do we govern and manage our service to support children's learning?” In responding to this question, we explore what we do, what we say, what we believe, what we know, and what is happening as a result. We are interested in finding out how well aspects of our governance and management support children's learning.

       Five teachers, one infant around small table 


      Some questions to think about - Hei whakaaro iho

      How do we strike a balance between planned and spontaneous reviews in our service?

      To what extent does our documentation convey the depth and breadth of review that takes place in our service? Would other people understand the documentation if we showed it to them?

      How much emphasis do we place on review that fulfils our accountabilities as opposed to review that seeks improvement? Is there a healthy balance between the two?

      What does review tell us about our practice in relation to the principles of Te Whāriki?

      What aspects of our practice do we regularly focus on? Why?

      What aspects of our practice do we overlook? Why?

      What do we know about how well we are doing in relation to our:

      • learning and teaching practice?
      • collaborative practice?
      • governance and management practice?

      How do we know that children's learning is being enhanced through our practice? What evidence do we have?