Leadership in Early Childhood Education Professional Leadership and Professionalism Advocacy
Leadership in Early Childhood Education: Professional Leadership and Professionalism Advocacy
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TOC o “1-3” h z u 1. Introduction PAGEREF _Toc70812391 h 32. Professional Leadership in Early Childhood Education PAGEREF _Toc70812392 h 33. Impact on Leadership in Relation to Personal Values PAGEREF _Toc70812393 h 54. Leadership Issues Relating to ECE Leadership PAGEREF _Toc70812394 h 75. Approaches to Leading Change and Advocacy PAGEREF _Toc70812395 h 86. Conclusion and Recommendations PAGEREF _Toc70812396 h 9References PAGEREF _Toc70812397 h 11
1. IntroductionPart A answered the question of who a professional leader is and who is expected to advocate on issues of professionalism in early childhood education. It identified professional educators as among the critical pillars of the early childhood sector expected to play the role of leadership. Part A also identified a leader using Waniganayake et al. (2012) definition as any individual in the capacity of influencing others and the decisions they make in a given field. By this definition, the management of educational organizations, made up of early childhood professionals are leaders and are, as such, expected to advocate on issues of professionalism. The focus of this Part B is to develop on the understanding of professional leadership and to better define who is expected to advocate for issues of professionalism in early childhood education (ECE). While professional leadership in ECE is yet to be fully explored in academic realms, the changing role of teaching and learning for early education sees it as the exhibition of personal and professional characteristics relating to skills and knowledge necessary to offer strategies that facilitate learning for children and creates an avenue for other professionals to achieve the same through leadership.
The overall aim of this report is to answer the question of who a professional leader in the field of ECE is and who is expected, by industry standards, to advocate on issues of professionalism. The report will draw a number of theories relating to the field of ECE to provide a detailed analysis of professional leadership in ECE, showing the impact of leadership to the field of ECE, providing an impact of these perspectives on professional leadership, presenting the issues emerging in professional ECE leadership, and offer approaches to leading change and advocacy for the issue. Finally, the report will conclude by providing recommendations for future studies and for the ECE sector in Australia.
2. Professional Leadership in Early Childhood EducationProfessional ECE teachers bridge the gap of knowledge and professionalism between other important individuals in the life of early childhood leaners such as parents and community leaders. They are directly involved in the development of young children, employing their experiences and skills to ensure that young learners can begin the process of learning without major hiccups. However, they do not automatically become leaders just because of their role in guiding and imparting learning to young children. The diverse sectors in ECE profession challenges and creates leaders that understand the importance of collaborating with other service types to create variant policies for the benefit of the children and a better system. In ECE, leaders enter the field with love of children as an extra skill. It adds on to their experiences and skills in other key elements such as flexibility, openness to challenges, patience, and organization (Bøe & Hognestad, 2017). Such individuals embrace the diversity that comes with ECE and are able to communicate effectively with their colleagues and children, as well as other community leaders and parents. Ideally, besides being excellent teachers to ECE learners, these leaders endeavor to improve the overall quality of the teaching and learning processes. Apart from dealing with institutional challenges in their role as professional educators, they also have a responsibility as leaders to mentor others to leadership positions, ensure that they utilize individual strengths of others to benefit ECE learners, make time and opportunities for growth, and use their position to influence the best outcome for ECE learners in terms of curriculum implementation and other key learning objectives.
In any profession, leadership is ideally described in terms of how professionals in various fields are able to intersect character attributes, skills, knowledge and their individual traits to motivate other people in their organization to work towards meeting a common goal. In ECE, the same description is used by Haslip & Gullo (2018) to define professional ECE professionals who move past being mere educators to become leaders. They not only show competency in terms of their skills, knowledge and character attributes, but are also able to pass these important personality traits to others in a way that motivates them towards meeting goals for ECE learners. In addition to having acquired skills and expertise in specific areas of ECE education, including understanding children development and learning, working with their families, and supervising other staff members, ECE leaders understand the system itself and are able to shape policies to influence better qualities of services available to learners, their families, and the community (Muijs et al., 2004). The basic tenets of an ECE leader is ne who evaluates how others in the field, for example preschool teachers, understand early care and the ECE system, reflects regularly to analyze change in different knowledge areas, and determines how the understanding and knowledge can continuously be developed to improve learner outcomes. Therefore, one of the important elements of being a leader in the field of ECE is to combine the knowledge, skills and experiences gathered throughout the years as a professional in different capacities, to include leadership qualities such as motivating other people to work towards a common agenda, and ensuring positive growth and better quality of services available to ECE learners. Basically, professional leadership in ECE is as in any other field, with the exception of the main stakeholders being children in their ECE stages and their families as well as the entire community.
3. Impact on Leadership in Relation to Personal ValuesIn line with Part A of this assignment, professional leadership in ECE is all about enabling different levels of change in a way that helps those under leadership to contribute towards the realization of objectives. Liu & Hallinger (2018) observed this definition of leadership as important in the field of ECE as it creates an environment where every professional educator works to become an effective agent of positive change. Yet, not every educator is a leader. According to Fairchild (2019), so many people in managerial roles are not able to be effective leaders because they do not have the capacity to influence others to be a better versions of their professional selves. In my point of view, defining leadership in this manner makes it clear that professional leadership in ECE is all about ensuring the successful implementation of policies, changes, and any other relevant elements to any education organization, including an ability to make other people in the field better by motivating them to perform as their roles and positions demand. Alameen, Male, & Palaiologou (2015) agree that leadership makes the difference between the failure and successful implementation of organizational goals. The same is applicable to the field of ECE. Therefore, it is important to redefine the role and description of a true leader in the ECE profession in a way that allows further research into it, with an intention to make it better for learners.
It is important to note that leadership in the field of ECE is fairly young (Waniganayake et al., 2012). However, it is a field in scholarship that is expanding as reflected in the nature of the changes that have occurred to curriculum and the understanding of leadership, as well as literature in the sector. Fairchild (2019) found that common leadership theories such as transformational and transactional leadership are not acceptable in the sector as the strategies fail to mirror the collaborative nature of approaches in leadership practiced in ECE. Conversely, new approaches have been advanced that apply to other areas in the education sector, including distributed leadership and pedagogical forms of management.
In distributed leadership theory, Haslip & Gullo (2018) report that leaders in a learning environment need to have the opportunity and the autonomy to define policies and make decisions in areas of responsibilities that touch on teaching and learning. The autonomy mentioned is key to attaining the objectives of empowering the leader and providing them with an opportunity to own their work and decisions. In this approach, leadership is largely seen and defined in terms of context. Heikka (2014) defines leadership in the confines of distributed leadership approach as a social and situated process that meets the key elements of a learning situation, followers, and leaders. Therefore, every member of an ECE team has an opportunity to practice leadership, with the full support of others and taking responsibility of policies and directions. In this approach, it is likely that ECE leaders would base their decisions on personal values in response to situations relating to the teaching and learning process. Because of the autonomy that the distributed leadership style suggests, there is a high likelihood that personal values would influence their educational leadership (Radinger, 2014). For example, it is likely that one’s values on matters relating to faith or belief would direct their actions and decisions on whether to have religious education in the teaching and learning process. Heikka & Waniganayake (2011) present a point that every leader will unconsciously, and sometimes intentionally, apply personal values to determine appropriate policies and actions. Therefore, personal values are intertwined in the distributed leadership approach, one of the main strategies applied in ECE today.
In the pedagogical leadership approach, leadership is all about supporting the processes of teaching and learning. According to Fairchild (2019), pedagogical leadership includes instructional leadership a concept that sees the support of classroom teachers in the central role of curriculum implementation. For example, the pedagogical approach impacts the teaching and learning activities through establishing norms, organizational culture, and quality improvement expectations. A pedagogical leadership approach demands working together with learning communities, defining the vision, applying values that are required in a program, and implementing changes where necessary (Alameen, Male, & Palaiologou, 2015). Although the impact of personal values are reduced in this approach, pedagogical leaders still retain an element of individual decision making based on personal values. For example, leadership in the pedagogical approach challenges and empowers all educators to implement a curriculum structure to the best of one’s standards. To create a culture that turns every educator into a curriculum implementer, school leaders must first decide on which values to apply. Here, it is likely that leaders in the ECE field transfer their individual values into leadership activities and practices. Self-awareness becomes an important element of this leadership style because it allows a leader to merge their personal values and leadership goals and practices without creating a conflict of interest.
4. Leadership Issues Relating to ECE LeadershipEarly childhood education has a major problem embedded in the clear lack of an independent leadership structure despite the field of ECE being a self-regulating entity in the larger education sector. Therefore, a major leadership issue is that leaders in ECE are dependent on the structures and frameworks that are applied in other areas of education (Miller & Cable, 2010). School leaders, for example classroom teachers, are confined to use of curriculums and leadership approaches that are a part of the education sector. While Denee & Thornton (2017) identify that the integration of ECE to the general education curriculum is important in preparing young learners for the future, it limits just how well ECE leaders are able to formulate and implement effective polices and decisions. The problem, according to Waniganayake et al. (2012), translates to other areas of ECE including teaching, earning, interactions with members of the ECE community, supervisory role of leaders, motivating educators, defining the curriculum, and other issues relevant to leadership in the ECE field. Therefore, the dependence that the ECE shows with regard to the general education sector translates to leadership issues because it limits the reach of a leader and what is required for them to employee the best possible solution to solve an internal problem in their institution.
ECE leadership suffers from a poor definition of functions and roles. Douglass (2019) posits that there is an interplay and a clash of roles between administrative and pedagogical leadership in ECE leadership. Due to the first problem identified above as a dependence on structures used in general education, often ECE leadership sees the interaction of pedagogical and administrative roles where the former leaders are required to perform both roles. The unclear definition and implementation of functions and roles is an issue because of how it is likely to bring about a conflict in execution. As a result, Klevering & McNae (2018) talk about the challenges facing ECE leadership to include tensions surrounding their broad scope in terms of their role. The reason why this large scope of their role is an issue of conflict is because of how it creates competing demands between the pedagogical and administrative requirements. Even for the pedagogical leader, the roles are unclear and unsupported by research (Muijs et al., 2004). Pedagogical leaders do not have dedicated leadership roles and positions, and are also supposed to perform other functions such as teaching and maintaining order in classroom as well as being curriculum implementers. These other roles limits the time to perform an added role. Therefore, poor definition of functions and roles in ECE is a major issue that limits the extent to which a leader is effective in attaining the goals in their role and functions.
5. Approaches to Leading Change and Advocacy
To lead change and advocacy in ECE leadership, there is a need to redefine the leadership role in a way that incorporates global changes to the educational scene, the shifting role of educators, the influence of leadership on learning, and on other issues such as management that are important to leadership. Denee and Thornton (2017) suggests that ECE leaders focus on creating a structure of leadership that takes on the problems and issues facing the sector as an independent field in the general education scene. ECE suffers from a traditional definition of leadership in a context of hierarchical management framework where there are leaders and followers. ECE lacks leaders at the top of an organization structure. In this case, Strehmel (2016) is convinced that alternative leadership frameworks, specifically the distributed leadership approach, would lead to positive change.
Distributed leadership approach will lead to change and advocacy in ECE leadership. Kivunja (2015) explains that distributed leadership is concerned with enabling multiple parties to have a stake on leadership, changing the definition of leadership into the actions of people enacting changes to influence positive change and improvements. Thus, distributed leadership is a divergent approach in relation to the traditional view of leadership as a job title held by a few people in a given environment. Distributed leadership also corresponds to what Ho (2012) terms as collective leadership in reference to how resources are combined in a given setting to facilitate meeting of desired goals and objectives. Teacher leadership, a concept that is unique to ECE leadership, would benefit greatly from the use of distributed leadership approach. Teacher/pedagogical leadership also means that the teaching staff takes on other administrative roles. Because of how the traditional approach to leadership is ineffective in ECE due to its focus on positional roles (for example, supervisors, managers, head teachers, and head of departments), the distributed approach allows e meaningful distribution of opportunities and roles relating to leadership, where ECE staff members would have some power to make decisions and implement self-management in executing the role as leaders.
Distributed leadership approach would enable effective change and improvements to ECE leadership. The distributed strategy is termed by Thornton et al. (2009) as a shift in perspective of leadership from the traditional focus on people to maintaining attention on practice. Leadership, therefore, ceases to be a position and takes on a new view where everyone has a role to effect positive change, meet goals and objectives, and be implementers of curriculum at their level. Hujala (2013) describes one of the major advantages of distributed leadership use in ECE as the fact that it is not bound by positions, which are constraints in ECE leadership. It is expected that the ECE sector would reap the benefits of distributed leadership, documented to include better staff engagement and retention, improved learner outcomes, and the development of effective learning in educational teams (Klevering & McNae, 2018). Therefore, distributed leadership would work well in changing how the ECE sector meets its teaching and learning goals because of how it is based on set behavior for teachers to develop and practice. Additionally, distributed leadership conforms to the widely used pedagogical leadership in ECE, where the influences and interactions of teachers, rather than their authority and power, would spearhead leadership in a school. While positional leaders are important in the management aspect of leadership, they are irrelevant in the changing ECE sector, requiring a focus on behavior and practices as opposed to the positional aspect of management and leadership.
6. Conclusion and RecommendationsIn this report, the questions of who a professional leader is and who is expected to advocate on issues of professionalism in early childhood education are explored. Leaders are defined as any individuals in the capacity of influencing others and the decisions they make in a given field. Therefore, the management of educational organizations, made up of early childhood professionals are leaders and are, as such, expected to advocate on issues of professionalism. While professional leadership in ECE is yet to be fully explored in academic realms, the changing role of teaching and learning for early education sees it as the exhibition of personal and professional characteristics relating to skills and knowledge necessary to offer strategies that facilitate learning for children and creates an avenue for other professionals to achieve the same through leadership. Professional ECE teachers are directly involved in the development of young children, employing their experiences and skills to ensure that young learners can begin the process of learning without major hiccups, yet they do not automatically become leaders just because of their role in guiding and imparting learning to young children. Apart from dealing with institutional challenges in their role as professional educators, they also have a responsibility as leaders to mentor others to leadership positions, ensure that they utilize individual strengths of others to benefit ECE learners, make time and opportunities for growth, and use their position to influence the best outcome for ECE learners in terms of curriculum implementation and other key learning objectives. They face problems relating to lack of an independent leadership structure despite the field of ECE being a self-regulating entity in the larger education sector and poor definition of functions and roles. The study recommends that the leadership role be redefined in a way that incorporates global changes to the educational scene, the shifting role of educators, the influence of leadership on learning, and on other issues such as management that are important to leadership. It is also recommended that alternative leadership frameworks be implemented.
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