Using VERP in the Early Years
Educational psychologist Anita Soni and nursery manager Sarah Presswood explain how video enhanced reflective practice (VERP) can enhance professional practice in the Early Years
Reflection is a cornerstone of modern educational practice, and with good reason: it helps ensure that the needs of all children are met, sends a strong message to parents and carers that standards are constantly being reviewed and raised, and increases staff confidence and competence. However, all too often, it focuses on what has gone wrong. This is undoubtedly important, but missing the opportunity to identify excellence, celebrate it and – even better – analyse why it occurs, then replicate and share it, which is just as vital.
VERP and VIG
Enter VERP. Video Enhanced Reflective Practice involves filming a practitioner with a child or group of children and then studying what has been recorded to pinpoint the exceptional or better than usual moments. This approach is not completely new and builds on the idea of VIG (Video Interaction Guidance) as used by parents to build and strengthen reciprocal, sensitive relationships with their children through micro-analysis of their interaction with them.
VERP in action
VERP has been used to great effect at a Birmingham nursery, where staff were hoping to find out why some children apparently displayed lower levels of involvement. Their aim was to increase the children’s levels of engagement. Three staff members volunteered to be videoed, then the video was edited by a VIG guider, to show moments of attuned interaction. The whole team watched it back to look at how the adult and child interacted with each other, how they both felt and may have been thinking, and reflected on what this meant.
Because the clip showed the child and staff member in harmony, it was an incredibly affirmative exercise, with colleagues quick to comment positively on what they saw, seeing attunement in action and very happy to share their thoughts. More staff put themselves forward to be videoed, and very quickly were analysing footage themselves, editing the video so attuned interactions were highlighted. They then explained to peers why certain moments were chosen and asked for feedback as a way of stimulating discussion.
VERP sessions now run every six weeks, with practitioners setting their own goals. These range widely, from senior members of staff using it as an opportunity to share excellence with those newer to childcare and teaching, to individuals drawing on moments when a more reluctant child joined in with activities.
This isn’t to say it is an exercise in boasting; rather it enables staff to see what has gone well so they and others can do more of it in tricky situations and in everyday practice. It also provides a forum to focus on details, such as the tiny changes in a child’s non-verbal cuing using posture and facial expression when interest is stimulated, and the signs that show it might be helpful to wait for a response rather than rushing to fill the silence.
All round benefits
Both staff and children have gained from embedding VERP into the nursery’s processes. Practitioners are more confident, and are always on the lookout for excellence in their practice – and that of their colleagues – as they see it as a learning point for themselves and others.
Managers have found themselves adapting how they oversee students, for example, by allowing a comfortable space to develop during supervision sessions where perhaps previously they would have jumped in. And of course the children are benefitting significantly, with individuals who were previously silent now being drawn out of themselves by staff members who understand just what makes the difference to those particular charges, and do so with sensitivity and assurance.
VERP, inspections and accreditation
It also plays to external agencies, regulators and visiting accrediting agencies. For example, in the UK. OFSTED might have put to one side its self-evaluation form, but inspectors still expect managers and staff to be able to talk knowledgeably about the setting, the quality of care and activities provided. In short, they must show how well the learning needs of all children are being met. By putting in place a process of review and challenge that facilitates development and improvements in everyday practice, VERP provides a great tool to do this.
Dr Anita Soni, Academic and professional tutor, School of Education, University of Birmingham
Anita is an Educational Psychologist (EP) who works with nurseries and schools in the West Midlandsin the UK. She also works at the University of Birmingham on the Applied Educational and Child Psychology Doctorate, the professional and academic training route for EPs. Anita is trained as VIG practitioner and uses VIG with parents and their children to further develop their relationships, and staff to support them in their work supporting, interacting and teaching young children.
Sarah Presswood, Early Years Professional (EYP) and manager of the George Perkins nursery.
Sarah manages a busy day nursery in Birmingham which is rated as “Outstanding” by Ofsted. A key priority is to ensure everyone – staff, children and parents – are supported to be reflective, responsive and confident so that they become the very best they can be.
Feature Image: Pixabay