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JELPP – Volume 33, Issue 1 (Jun 2018)

Dispositions of a responsible early childhood education leader: Voices from the field

Gwen Davitt and Debbie Ryder
Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand

Abstract

In our organisation's research project, “Leaders Growing Leaders” (Ryder, Davitt, Higginson, Smorti, Smith & Carroll-Lind, 2017), which investigated effective ECE leadership in Aotearoa/New Zealand, leadership dispositions were identified as one means of making sense of the complexities of leadership within early childhood education. The New Zealand early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki: He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa. Early Childhood Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2017) highlights the importance of kaiako (teacher) responsibilities. Similarly, this article argues that the six specific leadership dispositions of an early childhood education leader, identified in our research, can act as a framework to explore leadership responsibilities. Participant voices are drawn on to exemplify and articulate the specific leadership dispositions of being: a communicator; relationship focused; caring and supportive; and a leader of growth and change, whilst also acting as a critical friend. We argue that responsible leadership must be purposefully grown, developed and sustained across the culture of the ECE setting. Underpinning this understanding is the need for dedicated leadership professional development that supports emerging and current leaders, and their teams, to engage in robust collegial dialogue and reflective practice in terms of what it means to be a responsible leader.

Keywords

Leadership; early childhood education; dispositions; responsibilities; professional learning

Learning in nature: Leadership opportunities in an Education Outside the Classroom programme in a New Zealand early childhood centre

Vicki Hill
Melody Childcare Centre, Hamilton, New Zealand

Abstract

This article explores how involvement in an Education Outside the Classroom (EOTC) programme in one New Zealand early childhood centre provides leadership opportunities for teachers and children and highlights the benefits of [re]connecting young children with nature on a regular basis. It focuses on teachers’ and parents’ views and perspectives on their participation in this nature-based education programme, specifically in regard to the leadership opportunities that the programme provided for teachers and children.
This article highlights the powerful influence of the EOTC programme in the development of teachers’ leadership. It describes how leadership is a contextual phenomenon and explains how a formal EOTC programme in an early childhood centre provided increased opportunities for teacher leadership regardless of formal leadership position. Distributed leadership and relational leadership were identified as key components of the programme. The article also explores how involvement with the EOTC programme and the natural environment provided significant opportunities for the leadership development of children, in addition to developing their physical abilities, independence and social skills. This article adds valuable knowledge in the area of leadership opportunities resulting from involvement in an EOTC programme.

Keywords

Leadership; distributed leadership; early childhood education; nature programme; bush kindergarten; Education Outside the Classroom (EOTC)

Widening the leadership story – moving beyond the individual

Linda Baxendine

Abstract

Distributed leadership that includes democratic practices can open spaces for children and their families to share their knowledge and skills and participate in everyday early childhood leadership activity. Drawing on the findings of a Masters thesis this article discusses how one kindergarten’s exploration of the local community has afforded insights into reframing leadership as an emerging social process whereby teachers, children and families are participants in an approach to leadership described as democratic leadership. Past leadership research has commonly focused on skills, traits and behaviours of people deemed leaders. Moving away from the primacy of the individual towards knowing leadership as an emergent phenomenon that exists between people incorporating multiple worldviews, elevates democratic principles such as collaboration and meaningful participation. Leadership-as-practice was used to analyse the ways in which excursions into the community have broadened teachers’ understandings of leadership and fostered more democratic and inclusive participation of children and families in the kindergarten programme. Utilising excursions within the local community as a mechanism to support a democratic form of leadership suggests that leadership can be perceived as arising from the collective work of people in everyday contexts. The value of extending the learning environment beyond the boundaries of the kindergarten, to engage with the local community, offers possibilities to make connections with the surrounding land, understand local stories, histories and cultural events. In this sense democratic leadership intersects with place-based education as children’s awareness of themselves as citizens of a community deepens. Inquiry as a form of participatory democracy was a key feature of decision-making in this study and provided a common purpose for community excursions while encouraging leadership opportunities.

Keywords

Democratic leadership; leadership-as-practice; early childhood education; collaboration; place-based education

Teachers’ beliefs and practices regarding young children’s leadership: A comparison between New Zealand and Honduras

Maria Auxiliadora Cerrato1, Kate Thornton2 and Maggie Haggerty2
1Real LEDGE Honduras, 2Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Abstract

Young children’s leadership is an under-researched area. This article reports how teachers of 4 and 5 year old children in New Zealand and Honduras conceptualise and encourage children’s leadership. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews and observations of teaching practice. The findings suggest that there are differences between New Zealand and Honduran teachers' beliefs and practices regarding children’s leadership. While teachers in New Zealand settings encouraged leadership by empowering children to assume leadership roles, teachers in the Honduran settings allocated leadership opportunities. In addition, New Zealand teachers viewed young leaders as sharing leadership and leading their learning, whereas Honduran teachers viewed them as influencing peers. These findings may encourage teachers to reflect on how their beliefs regarding children’s leadership guide their teaching practice.

Keywords

Children’s leadership; teacher beliefs and practices; early childhood education

Data- and research-informed improvement work in ECEC

Line Skov Hansen
Aalborg University, Denmark

Abstract

The article describes an approach to data- and research-informed improvement work in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) that is used by the Laboratory for Research-based School Development (LSP) at Aalborg University, Denmark. The approach includes collaboration between research, policy and practice and it incorporates two current policy priorities in the field of Danish education: evidence-informed decision making and the continuous improvement of the learning environment. The approach is based on the core idea that it takes a collective effort and widely distributed leadership to ensure the well-being and learning of all children. Additionally, the approach rests on the hypothesis that the use of evidence assists ECEC services to accomplish goals of high-quality learning environments, and the improvement work can drive efforts to use knowledge from data and research. Consequently, in this approach, data- and research-based knowledge is used as an essential indicator of quality and as a trigger for professional learning and development (PLD) of the teaching staff. Furthermore, leadership is seen as essential in relation to the PLD of the teaching staff and their use of evidence.

Keywords

Early Childhood Education and Care; data- and research-informed; improvement work; learning environment; professional learning and development; leadership; whole system approach