By Tracy Walter
Early in 2019, the PA Key Program Quality Assessment team began orientations in partnership with the Branagh Group to introduce the LearnERS platform. LearnERS helps guide programs through a quality improvement process using the Environment Rating Scales. LearnERS is an online platform offered to center-based programs through a limited number of LearnERS-PA scholarships good for one year. A program must minimally be a STAR 2 facility and in good standing to be considered for a scholarship. Applications can be requested from the quality coach working with the program. When enrolled in LearnERS, you will be part of a team and partnership that includes a lead from the PA Key Program Quality Assessment team, the quality coach, and the director of the program.
The LearnERS experience reflects the program and is teacher informed, it is grounded in the continuous quality improvement (CQI) process, requires commitment from program leaders and teachers and is not a one size fits all framework. Using tools within the platform, LearnERS guides and teaches the staff about the “why” behind what we do to provide quality programing for children. With the LearnERS platform, the teachers and staff will work through online modules, reflect on their current practice using the CQI journal and come together in peer learning sessions to discuss what they have learned.
As programs focus on CQI, LearnERS can be the guide through this process. To use LearnERS with your CQI plans, you will follow 4 main steps:
- Complete the internal assessment
- Set CQI goals
- Complete LearnERS modules and reflect with CQI journals
- Participate in Peer Learning Sessions
Step 1: Complete the Internal Assessment
It is important to start with your internal assessment to get a true picture to where your program is at the current time. Assess each classroom with the Environmental Rating Scale (ERS) appropriate for the age-group in the room. It is important to be objective. It is ok if your classrooms don’t score a seven on most or all the items. Be honest with yourself in the scoring to give a good starting point for your CQI Plan. It’s recommended that the staff review the items in the scale book, become familiar with the Additional Notes for Clarification found on the ERSI website (https://www.ersi.info/index.html), refer to the PA Position Statements, and to the All About the ITERS-R and All About the ECERS-R books for more clarification on each item and indicator.
Step 2: Set CQI Goals
Once your internal assessment is completed for each classroom, take the time to reflect on each item to see where you want to focus for continuous quality improvement. You will be updating and possibly making minor changes to goals as you move through the process. Working as a team to create the goals will help ensure success of each goal to improve quality for the children.
Step 3: Complete LearnERS Modules and Reflect Using CQI Journals
LearnERS has an online module developed for each item of the ITERS-3 and ECERS-3. Although the platform was developed around the ITERS-3 and ECERS-3, programs using ITERS-R and ECERS-R find as much success using LearnERS as those using ITERS-3 and ECERS-3.The Branagh Group developed each module to focus on the best practices of each item, therefore, is relevant to each version of the ERS Instrument.
The teaching staff will work through the module identified in the CQI goal. As staff work through the modules, there is time to reflect on the practices currently being used within the classroom in comparison to what is learned in the modules. The modules will explain the best practices in each item and explain the “why” behind the practices. This is a good time in the process to begin planning changes to the current practice in the classroom. Once changes are identified, the teacher can begin to make those changes. Part of this process is to try new practices and see what works and what doesn’t. The continuous “trial and error” is an important part of the CQI process. It’s important to keep what is working and use the strengths of the program to increase and build on the quality of practices.
Step 4: Participate in Peer Learning Sessions
Peer Learning Sessions are a vital part to the process of using LearnERS with CQI. The sessions are a time for staff within the same program or staff from other programs to share ideas. It’s an ideal time to share your success, progress and challenges experienced through the process. It’s a time to learn from one another, get ideas and brainstorm to help meet your CQI goals, and change your practice for a higher quality program for the children. It is a networking time to help one another and connect with other educators as yourself. The Peer Learning Sessions are typically facilitated by the director of the program and/or your quality coach.
To be enrolled in the LearnERS platform, ask questions or get more information, you may talk with your quality coach, or email the LearnERS leads from the PQA team at LearnERS-PA@pakeys.org .
This post is the first in a LearnERS series. Be sure to watch for future postings for more information about LearnERS.