Early Childhood Education: Leadership and Management


Being a teacher means taking on a number of diverse roles and helping the children learn new things. Therefore, a teacher is a leader who should have the ability to manage children’s talents and capabilities (Rodd 2013). The key responsibility of a great teacher is to support the children’s success. It is one of the most important aspects of early childhood education. Leadership practices utilized by a teacher represent a powerful instrument for various purposes. One of the most important aspects of leadership and management in early childhood education is the ability to assign roles (Siraj & Hallet, 2014). On a bigger scale, these roles define the capacity to improve an educational facility. On the one hand, a teacher may become a leader for the children. On the other hand, a teacher may transform into a leader even for his or her peers (Siraj & Hallet 2014). The value of leadership aspects of education cannot be underestimated and should be taken into consideration when discussing the management and leadership in early childhood education.

The current paper explores the peculiarities of leadership practices applied in different schools across the globe. It discusses the importance of preparing efficient leaders and finding new areas where the existing leadership practices could be implemented successfully (Rhodes 2012). The paper investigates the ways in which talent management assists the leadership practices and discusses the application of different leadership practices in the school environment. The author of this research reviews the approaches that are featured in Australia, England, and Hong Kong. Additionally, special attention is paid to the policies employed in these three countries. Early childhood education leadership is thoroughly investigated. The researcher takes into consideration the cultural aspects of education in order to fully address the context of leadership in early childhood education (Krieg, Smith & Davis 2014). The relevance of this research can be explained by the growing demand for influential leaders in education. Therefore, this article points out the key aspects of a great leader and explores the level of readiness among the teachers to take on a role that presupposes leadership or a position of power.

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The concept of leadership in early childhood education is complex and necessitates an extensive approach. The author of this article conducted a literature review with the intention of identifying the cornerstones of leadership in education and proper management of the latter. The current trends in leadership practices are also presented in the paper. The author of the article reviewed the benefits of distributed leadership and investigated the list of responsibilities of a teacher/ leader in an educational setting. The transformations in the market caused by the leadership practices and early childhood education also were discussed. The author discusses the relevance of government policy on leadership in early childhood education and draws several conclusions concerning the significance of this phenomenon. The value of leadership for educational practices is reassessed and thoroughly examined in the context of the modern didactic trends and stakeholders’ opportunities.

Literature Review

In their 2013 research, Ylimaki and Jacobson conducted an investigation in order to point out several leadership practices and define the ways to use effective leadership practices in real life. This was done in order to improve leadership preparation, and the information was gathered from seven different countries (Ylimaki & Jacobson 2013). The study aimed at the evaluation of the background of successful leadership practices that were applied in those seven countries. The researchers conducted numerous interviews with principals, students, and teachers. The data that has been obtained during these interviews were examined in compliance with the practices of organizational learning, key notions of instructional leadership, and socially receptive practices (Ylimaki & Jacobson 2013). The analysis of that information showed that successful leadership is heavily contingent on demographic deviations. The authors of the research also accentuated the resemblances and differences among leaders and provided relevant references concerning leadership training.

Rhodes, in his 2012 research, approached leadership and management in the early years from a slightly different perspective. The key objective of this particular research was to identify a new direction for the studies on leadership and leadership management (Rhodes 2012). The author explains that leadership has been approached as one of the crucial subjects when it came to professional development and the impartiality of prospects. Nonetheless, the researcher focused on the management of self-confidence as he believed this feature was an imperative but repeatedly ignored aspect when it came to leadership development and practices (Rhodes 2012). He questioned the importance of self-confidence for leadership and management in early school years. The uniqueness of this research is signified by the approach that the author uses when reviewing the implications of self-confidence in combination with talent management (Rhodes 2012). The article connected talent management to self-confidence and explained the importance of this amalgamation to school leadership. This connection was articulated via a representation of leadership and a thorough description of its effect on all the aspects of school education (Rhodes 2012). The author of the article stressed the importance of developing leadership practices during the early years.

The research conducted in 2014 by Krieg, Smith, and Davis represents a comprehensive report on a professional development program. The program focused on the development of leadership in early childhood settings. It featured an inquiry-based approach (Krieg, Smith & Davis 2014). The program was sponsored by an Australian union specializing in strategic projects and supported by an early childhood plan. The key objective of this initiative was to trigger the development of early childhood educational leaders. These educators should have coordinated their actions with an Australian educational framework (Krieg, Smith & Davis 2014). The authors of the research conducted a literature review of the materials on the early childhood leadership. The initial data presented in the paper contained the illustrations of how those who participated in the research have seen themselves in terms of educational leadership. The connection between their leadership practices was reviewed in compliance with the educational framework (Krieg, Smith & Davis 2014). The authors of the research presented their view of early childhood leadership and drew reasonable conclusions concerning the importance of leadership in an educational environment.

Aubrey, Godfrey, and Harris (2012) reviewed the existing literature on early childhood leadership. This was done in order to test different models, learn about the specific characteristics of this aspect of education, and develop the subject on the basis of the available data (Aubrey, Godfrey & Harris 2012). The researchers had to investigate the core components of early childhood leadership. They have used a variety of methods to collect the data. The participants of the research dwelled on the hierarchical structure of their educational facilities and described the key cultural aspects of their educational practices (Aubrey, Godfrey & Harris 2012). The results of the research showed that there is a great variation in patterns across different educational environments. There were identified three key leadership roles – guides, strategists, and business-oriented leaders. The authors of the research came to the conclusion that these three roles are the most relevant (Aubrey, Godfrey & Harris 2012). The investigators acknowledged the importance of decision-making and its impact on leadership practice in an early childhood setting. The article summarised the importance of developing new problem-solving mechanisms and reflecting on leadership practice.

In his 2012 research, Clark reviewed the leadership roles in terms of early childhood leadership. He particularly focused on the new professionals who were active in the early childhood education sector (Clark 2012). The investigator perceived leadership skills as the most important characteristic of an educator. However, Clark believed that the concept of this type of leadership is inaccurate and is utilized inappropriately. The author employed a historical approach and connected it to the cultural aspects of the educational practice (Clark 2012). Interviews and dialogues were conducted to collect the data. By means of the obtained data, the author of the research challenged the existing leadership practices and proposed an idea of catalytic leadership. The key idea of this leadership style was that the leaders were able to inspire and not rely on their authority or position of power.

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In 2013, Hallinger conducted research that reviewed the current methodology used to investigate the subject of educational leadership. The paper focused on the literature review of the existing materials concerning leadership and management in early childhood (Hallinger 2013). The author was able to analyze 40 sources dwelling on leadership and management that were published during the last 50 years. In this paper, the author provided extensive information concerning the existing frameworks and detailed descriptions of leadership styles. There were also specific findings that represented the trends in management and leadership (Hallinger 2013). The researcher was able to identify methodological transformations and other significant specifics. Hallinger (2013) stated the framework presented in his paper would help future leaders understand the existing leadership frameworks and successfully manage the early childhood educational environment.

In their research, Mistry and Sood (2012) emphasized the fact that leadership in the early childhood leadership sector of primary schools in England was not researched efficiently. The researchers indicated the need for professional development in the area. The key objective of this paper was to define the hypotheses for the early childhood leadership culture and professional training for future educational specialists (Mistry & Sood 2012). The authors of the research evaluated the partakers’ readiness for leadership and their understanding of leadership culture, training, and context. The data was obtained by means of interviews. The key objective of the investigators was to gain more insight into leadership preparation (Mistry & Sood 2012). The findings of the study proclaimed that newer early childhood leadership practitioners were more prepared for the practical implications of leadership than their experienced colleagues.

In 2013, Heikka and Hujala conducted research that focused on the process of distribution of leadership responsibilities in an early childhood education environment. The investigation focused on the depictions of leadership and involved teachers, directors, and administrative leaders. Heikka and Hujala (2013) also explored the way these stakeholders perceived leadership. In order to collect the data, the researchers utilized several focus groups from Finland (Heikka & Hujala 2013). The authors of the study based their research on two different views of leadership – circumstantial and distributed. The results of the study showed that educational leadership and quality enhancement were seen as critical responsibilities in early childhood education. The researchers also found several novel ways to distribute those responsibilities. Nonetheless, the outcomes of the study indicated that leadership distribution strategies were infrequently utilized (Heikka & Hujala, 2013). The authors of the research came to the conclusion that early childhood education leadership should support the interaction between the stakeholders. That would be one of the options aimed at increasing the value of distributed leadership in an educational setting.

Continuing the topic of distributed leadership, in 2013, Hall researched the prominence of this approach in English schools. Hall believed that distributed leadership was the reason for a major market and government transformations that happened during the last two decades (Hall 2013). The researcher investigated the inconsistencies in the connection between leadership deviations and this transformation process. Hall (2013) also highlighted the growing popularity of distributed leadership during that period. The research conducted by the investigator was utilized to discover the abnormality of that phenomenon in terms of the expansive formulae and societal practices related to distributed leadership. Moreover, it also included the distinctive connotations and practices associated with this broad intercession (Hall 2013). On the basis of the research findings, the author of the article was able to discover that the application of distributed leadership depends on the school setting, certain circumstantial features, and authoritatively sanctioned utilization of distributed leadership. The outcomes of the study also showed that distributed leadership was one of the instruments that helped to develop social practices within schools (Hall 2013). The peculiarity of the ways in which distributed leadership is applied at different educational facilities majorly depended on the authorized discourse due to the fact that teachers and other school leaders tried to find possibilities to implement this concept in their practices.

In their 2013 research, Heikka, Waniganayake, and Hujala also investigated the peculiarities of distributed leadership. They were able to connect the early childhood period to research on educational leadership (Heikka, Waniganayake & Hujala 2013). The authors of the article discussed the concept of distributed leadership and listed its key characteristics. Heikka, Waniganayake, and Hujala (2013) utilize scholars’ personal opinions to compile the definition of distributed leadership. The investigators thoroughly examined the existing theoretical data concerning leadership research. They also reviewed the use of distributed leadership within leadership frameworks and early childhood education that have implemented a distributed leadership approach in early childhood education practice. Heikka, Waniganayake, and Hujala (2013) criticized the application of the existing distributed leadership notions in the educational setting and within the early childhood background. The key objective of this article was to motivate the experts in the area to reconceptualize their vision of distributed leadership.

In 2014, Hauge, Norene, and Vedoy conducted research on school leadership. The relevance of this research could be explained by the evolvement of the latter. The improvements in the educational settings were implemented by a dedicated crew of developmental leaders (Hauge, Norenes & Vedoy 2014). The authors of the article studied the instruments that were utilized throughout the process of implementing the improvements and dwelled on the transformations of the collaborative approach to leadership in the chosen educational facilities. On a bigger scale, the researchers supported this transformational process. The research design was supported by novel technologies and cultural-historical activity theory (Hauge, Norenes & Vedoy 2014). Overall, the investigators outlined the process of how leadership outsets and practices transformed throughout the years. They emphasized the changes that transpired in schools and significant alterations applied to leadership in education. The peculiarities of collaborative leadership were explored and applied in practice (Hauge, Norenes & Vedoy 2014). The authors of the study believed in the necessity of developing collaborative leadership. The key finding of the study was that watchful scheduling and clever allocation of all types of resources (cultural, human, and technological) are required to perform justifiable enhancements in schools.

The study conducted by Leeson, Campbell-Barr, and Ho (2012) dwelled on early childhood education in England and Hong Kong and the transformational character of leadership. They showed the interconnection between the influence of the policy outline and the improving quality of leadership outlooks. Leeson, Campbell-Barr, and Ho (2012) examined the policy expectations, education reform backgrounds, and the importance of leadership. The researchers were focused on three models of leadership (including authentic, transformational, and distributed) and used these models to examine the current issues in education (Leeson, Campbell-Barr & Ho 2012). They were interested in obtaining the practitioners’ opinions and the efficiency of the existing policies in the context of early childhood education. The connections between the policies were examined, and consequent conclusions were made (Leeson, Campbell-Barr & Ho 2012). The theoretical models of early childhood education in England and Hong Kong were found to be incomplete, and the authors of the article recommended to continue the research in the current area to discover the value of different types of leadership for the educational practice in a variety of didactic settings.

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The relevance of Government Policy

The analysis of the data obtained as a result of the literature review showed that there is a number of important findings. The key outcome is that there is a variety of roles and responsibilities that should be included in the policy that is in charge of defining a teacher’s leadership and management responsibilities. Therefore, the author of this research was able to make several assumptions on the basis of those findings.

First, the policy should include the value of instructional resources that should be skilfully allocated and managed by the teachers. The leadership practice and various styles of the latter might be supported by a number of specialized Web sites, instructional materials, books, journals, or other resources that could be used in the educational environment. Assessment tools and a lesson or unit plan can also be considered the resources of crucial importance when it comes to leadership in early childhood education. This point represents a partnership in the educational process. Second, this educational policy should presuppose the role of an instructional specialist. This means that the leader should assist his or her colleagues in developing and employing effective teaching strategies. In terms of this particular aspect, a partnership can be defined as the ideas concerning differentiating instruction or planning lessons that were developed together with fellow educators. Numerous classroom strategies that can be collaboratively developed should be based on research. The main responsibility of the teachers in the role of instructional leaders is to explore the adequacy of the existing instructional methodologies and apply them to the educational environment. The findings of the investigation should be shared with fellow teachers.

Third, the policy presupposes that the teacher that takes on a leadership role is keen to follow the standards of content generation. The leader should realize the ways to combine the components that make a high-quality curriculum. Consequently, educational leaders in early childhood education are in charge of evaluating the curriculum and making sure that the curriculum is correctly implemented in the processes of the given educational facility. On a bigger scale, the leadership allows the specialists to develop novel curriculum standards and propose them for review to the colleagues. Shared assessments and major agreements are only possible in the environment, which enables partnership and appreciates leadership in the early childhood education.

Another vital component of the policy is decision-making. The leader should lead the class and be the main source of support for the environment. As long as the policy focuses on the implementation of innovative ideas, the leader should be able to perform a number of critical tasks. This list of tasks includes public lessons and collaborative teaching. A leader who is involved in decision-making should be a skilful observer who is able to provide relevant feedback on the spot. The policy should also take into consideration the fact that teachers’ self-efficacy could be sufficiently enhanced by meeting with colleagues. The process of decision-making and collaboration with peers would significantly increase the chances of solving critical educational issues and determining the areas where development is necessary. This area of leadership in early childhood education presumes that the teachers should reflect on their practice and collaboratively improve the educational setting.

Yet another important part of the policy is the process of enabling professional education prospects among staff members. In other words, this motivational decision-making aspect of a teacher’s responsibilities represents an extra role for the leaders. Making correct decisions in collaboration with their colleagues enables teachers to learn more and triggers ubiquitous improvements in the learning process. The practice of decision-making in the early childhood education environment supports the professional development of a teacher and helps him or her to reflect on their practice. Ultimately, decision-making is an instrument that should be widely utilised to fill gaps in student learning. In this way, the isolation and unawareness will be overcome by means of the policy and the educational practices will be supported by the leadership styles. Serving as a mentor for novice teachers is a common role for teacher leaders.

The role of a mentor should also be taken into consideration due to the fact that leaders should serve as role models. The collaboration does not end at helping the new teachers to adjust to the new educational environment. The leaders in early childhood education should serve as a source of help for the new teachers in terms of educational practices, curriculum, didactic procedures, and politics. The development of new professionals depends on the school leaders, and their contribution should not be undervalued. Multiagency collaboration is another important part of the policy. This collaboration means that the leader serves a special expert committee (for instance, a school enhancement crew). The leader should also be active at the grade-level and represent a department chair or similar structure. The policy states that the leader in early childhood education should be interested in supporting school ideas or representing the educational facility on a greater level. The key feature of the multiagency collaboration is the ability of a school leader to share and successfully communicate the vision of the school. This part of the policy requires the alignment of personal and professional goals of a teacher with the goals of the institution. Therefore, the leader is in charge of the overall success of the school as an organisation.

On the other hand, teacher leaders should be seen as visionaries who are constantly looking for positive change. The fact that the leaders take on the role of a so-called trigger defines their commitment to the continuous development and help the teachers to evaluate their contribution adequately. The policy requires the leaders to analyse student learning and pose questions that would help to improve it. There is a number of ways that can be used by teachers to display leadership. There are formal leadership roles that presume that responsibilities should be designated exclusively. There are informal leadership roles that are contingent on the interaction of the teacher with his or her peers. The assortment of roles that are available to teachers means that there will always be a way to showcase their talents and efficiently apply their capabilities. Overall, the school culture and the processes of improving child learning and influencing the colleagues all are the responsibilities of a leader in an educational environment.

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Conclusion

The current research dwelled on the most important characteristics of leadership in the field of early childhood education. The author covered a number of points that are crucial to the subject. Those points included the transformations that are triggered by the novelty of leadership approaches, detailed descriptions of leadership styles, and factors that influence the early childhood education setting. The author conducted a literature review with the intention of exploring the details of leadership and management in the early childhood education. Current trends in the field were identified and discussed (including the state of affairs in England, Hong Kong, and Australia). The author of the article also dwelled on the relevance of the government policy that supported leadership in the educational setting.

One should realise that leadership in the early childhood education requires deep human qualities and a sense of authority that goes beyond its conservative perceptions. On the basis of the reviewed data, the author of this article came to a set of conclusions concerning leadership. First, leadership should be seen as a process of connection between certain individuals and teams in an attempt to introduce significant positive changes and help the members of the team perceive the vision of the organisation and understand its objectives. Leadership in the setting of early childhood education is a serious ethical responsibility. Second, the pedagogical purpose of leadership in the educational environment defines the way an educational setting operates and states that an efficient leader should skilfully manage resources and time. The responsibilities of a school leader comprise hiring and supervising employees, connecting with children and their parents, and building trustful relationships with other organisations. To conclude, leadership within the early childhood education environment can be considered a fascinating journey. The leader is up to explore the peculiarities of interaction with others and reflect on these relationships in order to trigger and maintain positive change.

Reference List

Aubrey, C, Godfrey, R, & Harris, A 2012, ‘How do they manage? An investigation of early childhood leadership’, Educational Management Administration & Leadership, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 5-29.

Clark, R 2012, “I’ve never thought of myself as a leader but…’: The early years professional and catalytic leadership’, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 391-401.

Hall, D 2013, ‘The strange case of the emergence of distributed leadership in schools in England’, Educational Review, vol. 65, no. 4, pp. 467-487.

Hallinger, P 2013, ‘A conceptual framework for systematic reviews of research in educational leadership and management’, Journal of Educational Administration, vol. 51, no. 2, pp. 126-149.

Hauge, T, Norenes, S, & Vedoy, G 2014, ‘School leadership and educational change: Tools and practices in shared school leadership development’, Journal of Educational Change, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 357-376.

Heikka, J & Hujala, E 2013, ‘Early childhood leadership through the lens of distributed leadership’, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 568-580.

Heikka, J, Waniganayake, M, & Hujala, E 2013, ‘Contextualizing distributed leadership within early childhood education: Current understandings, research evidence and future challenges’, Educational Management Administration & Leadership, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 30-44.

Krieg, S, Smith, K, & Davis, K 2014, ‘Exploring the dance of early childhood educational leadership’, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 73-80.

Leeson, C, Campbell-Barr, V, & Ho, D 2012, ‘Leading for quality improvement: A comparative research agenda in early childhood education in England and Hong Kong’, International Journal of Leadership in Education, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 221-236.

Mistry, M, & Sood, K 2012, ‘Challenges of early years leadership preparation: A comparison between early and experienced early years practitioners in England’, Management in Education, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 28-37.

Rhodes, C 2012, ‘Should leadership talent management in schools also include the management of self-belief?’, School Leadership & Management, vol. 32, no. 5, pp. 439-451.

Rodd, J 2013, ‘Leadership in early childhood: The pathway to professionalism’, Allen & Unwin, New York, NY.

Siraj, I, & Hallet, E 2014, ‘Effective and caring leadership in the early years’, SAGE, Los Angeles, CA.

Ylimaki, R, & Jacobson, S 2013, ‘School leadership practice and preparation’, Journal of Educational Administration, vol. 51, no. 1, pp. 6-23.

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