Since January 2014, we have been trialling our Thinkers platform with a number of early childhood settings across Australia and SE Asia, under the banner of 'Reconfiguring Quality'.   


In 2019 APECC officially launched    A | Thinker | in | Residence

and we welcome other settings in to this coalition of practice change!


Is YOUR team ready to join us in 2020?

The inspiration

Our Thinker | in | Residence platform has drawn inspiration from the outstanding Thinkers program funded by the South Australian Government and now the Don Dunstan Foundation. As a ‘global first’, the program has examined a broad range of social challenges.


At APECC, our hope is to provide collaborative opportunities for the exploration of innovative and authentic approaches to practice change in early childhood education. We are particularly grateful to work that was undertaken in SA by Prof Carla Rinaldi in 2012 and beyond, which continues to motivate and influence the thinking and practice of many education professionals.

An overview

Walking alongside your leadership team, we will work towards a focused and long-term sustainable plan for quality improvement. Using a professional inquiry lens, which sits alongside children’s inquiries, our attention will be on critically reflective practices that support teachers and educators as researchers.


APECC has developed an organising framework called ‘planning for the possible’  ©  which includes listening with intent, developing inquiries, seeing the bigger intentional teaching picture, documenting with purpose and examining the value we place on what we share with others. 

Our work with you is steadfastly centered on the notion of an intelligent curriculum.

Our framework: Planning for the possible  ©

Our work together begins with standing on the doorstep of your classroom/centre/school to examine what you do well and what you are challenged by in order to appreciate the foundation on which we will build. Understanding the values you have, the community’s expectations, your aspirations as a team, what you wish to change and the image of child you currently hold are important influencers in setting the pace of our collaboration. We look at clear reference points, both from our profession and from your own context, to consider what is expected of us so we make informed decisions about ‘where to next’.



Our thinker in residence is a critical friend 

who can help you see what you cannot yet see.

Our framework has a series of steps or structures that support you in planning for the possible. Each step can take as much time as you need to ensure it is embedded practice before taking the next step - we leave no one behind and everyone on the team is expected to be an active participant regardless of their role with children. 

Step one:

Listening with intent is the key driver for decision-making and gives a sharper focus to what you are listening for (and with). We look at the lenses for listening that serve different purposes at different stages of your reflective planning. We explore how children listen as mediators and assessors of their own learning, your teaching and the environment being offered.

Step two:

Seeking significance in what we hear, see and understand, from our shared experiences alongside children, assists in centering our practice and to start to consider potential professional inquires about teaching and learning.    

Step three:

Generating a professional inquiry from initial interpretations of teaching and learning we then begin to give shape to the planning framework. We are seeking to build our joint professional knowledge about children, childhood and intentional teaching from a lens critical for professional growth.


Step four:

Curating an intentional context for teaching and learning includes the physical environment and the expectations for relationships between people, spaces and resources as vital to the success of both professional inquiry and children’s inquiries.

Step five:

Documenting teaching and learning as evidence of, and a key driver for, professional decision-making and NOT as an onerous task is a big challenge for many. We seek to bring joy to our responsibility and accountability as documenters and to rethink the purpose, value and role of educational documentation.

Step six:

Sharing teaching and learning is proposed as more than a display, social media upload or online platform. We will focus on the processes of teaching and learning and the process elements you believe have value, meaning and currency in influencing your community’s broader understanding of early childhood.

How might we work together?

Our work together is based on your requirements. We can work as often as your budget and time permits, but the more frequent our collaboration, the greater uptake we might expect for change. For change to take effect and to be sustained, you need to think about it over the longer term! Additional information about the investment opportunities in your team can be found at the bottom of this page.



Sometimes it takes professional courage to untangle the 'conceptual knots' in our practice so we may take leadership in early childhood education more seriously.

As a guide only, here are a few options to consider if you are standalone or a small group of settings:

Example one

Working in four week cycles with a combination of Saturday /after hours seminars alternated with team meetings for the first year at 4 week intervals

(i.e. 12 dates a year)

This offers opportunity for better traction with the work and steadier outcomes.


Example two

Working in 8 week cycles with a combination of a Friday on site and a Saturday seminar for the first year at 8 week intervals

(i.e. 6 bookings a year)

This works best when travel is involved but can work for any setting and has better opportunities for individual educators to access the Thinker.

Example three

Working in 12 week cycles with a combination of one Saturday or Sunday seminar (weeks 1) a leadership team meeting (weeks 5) and onsite afternoon+evening team meeting (weeks 9).

(i.e. 12 dates a year)

This enables a content focus followed by two practice focused sessions.

Example four

Working by 'school term' cycles with a content seminar at the beginning of each term (i.e. 4 dates a year)

This supports teams who are on their way and need addition stimulus for their thinking. 


Virtual Thinker

We also have a membership subscription which offers you the opportunity to access our Thinker through ebooks, webinars, podcasts and Skype consults.

Please chat to Deborah if you are an organisation or cluster of settings so we can talk through

some of the approaches that might work for you.


All of our collaborative work can be supported by a range of virtual and printed opportunities, depending on the requirements of your team and where you are located. 

Exclusive access to a private team platform on our Learning Management System (LMS)

We have the capability with our LMS, to set you up in a private group. This affords us the opportunity to add members who can then access tele conferences we might hold, webinars we might present, podcasts to review, hold discussions on various topics, upload documents and access our ebooks. This is particularly useful for teams that are located in places where our Thinker needs to travel quite a distance to be with you and is AWESOME for overseas participants.


Access to the LMS is free with your Thinker in Residence program.

Thinker | in | Residence
Thinker in residence 2020.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 4.7 MB
Investment indications
A Thinker in Residence – 2019 investment
Adobe Acrobat Document 85.8 KB



As part of a strategic approach to developing a professional learning community, with a commitment to grow teachers as leaders and ensure a research culture, I was pleased to invite Dr Deborah Harcourt to pilot her Thinker-in-Residence program (then known as Re-configuring Quality) to facilitate change over a three-year period (January 2014-December 2017). This collaboration honed our critical reflective skills and through planned workshops, seminars, professional conversations - unified with an annual research inquiry - our team built educational leadership capacity and a deeper understanding of educational documentation and a strong view of the child as a researcher.


During our professional inquiries, our team developed a planning cycle linking inquiry, research and educational documentation. Our collective research and learning was shared with our early learning community and the wider community. The change in our thinking as researchers transformed our practice and our commitment to professionalising our teaching and learning.  


Our thinking was ignited, unified and we enjoyed ongoing debate, questioning, documenting, research and planning for the possible! Our relationships with children, families and the wider community deepened and aligned towards a strong statement of intent for our learning community.


I encourage you to work alongside Deborah as a thought leader and wish you well in your journey.


Vivienne Walsh M.Ed. B.Ed. Dip EC Teaching, Director of Flinders Early Learning Centre, Queensland