Date of Award


Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)





First Advisor

Peter Beamish

Second Advisor

Maria Northcote




The National Quality Standard (NQS) is the benchmark for quality in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) within Australia. The Australian Government positioned reflective practice at the core of the NQS (ACECQA, 2013) in order to raise standards and inform future planning and decision making (COAG, 2009; Kennedy, 2011). Critical reflection was identified as foundational to good practice with educators expected to engage in a “lively culture of professional inquiry” (DEEWR, 2009, p. 13) with reflection ensuring a way of continued improvement to raise standards.

This study explores the impact and implementation of critical reflection in ECEC. Critical reflection is a Commonwealth legislative requirement (DEEWR, 2009) yet educators find it challenging to do as there is no set way or approach (ACECQA, 2017). This results in it being “tagged on, rather than constituting a way of working and learning” (Barton & Ryan, 2014, p. 4), with the concept of, and practices associated with, critical reflection not defined well operationally (Wilson, 2013). Educator understanding of the purpose of critical reflection is limited (Liu, 2015) with a lack of understanding at a conceptual level (Korthagen, 2017).

This study uses qualitative methodologies to investigate the impact of critical reflection in ECEC and respondent’s knowledge and attitudes to critical reflection using the tools of grounded theory. Fook’s (2017) notion of critical reflection was intentionally adopted and modified as an approach. Many positive impacts were documented from the use of critical reflection which was found to be a particular asset to the way in which the learning environment was impacted. Critical reflection was found to assist in the effective functioning of ECEC and a model for critical reflection in ECEC was developed to assist educators to form a sound conceptual understanding of how critical reflection works in ECEC centres. As many ECEC centres struggle to implement critical reflection, the SCHEMED (structured, collaborative, founded on trust built upon person-centredness and heart-openness, equipping, meaningfully mentored, empowering and distributed) implementation approach was developed from the data to inform practice and to help educators implement critical reflection in ECEC (ACECQA, 2018).

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