Leadership for professional learning during curriculum reform in early childhood centres in Australia
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 01:42 authored by Kaye Colmer
The overall aim of this research was to explore the relationship between leadership and professional learning as early childhood educators participated in professional development and learning (PDL) associated with educational reform. This research met a gap in current knowledge as there is limited understanding of how leadership supports educators' learning within the early childhood discipline. In recognising early childhood centres as complex social systems (Hujala, 2002, 2013; Nivala, 2002), social domains theory using an adaptive approach (Layder, 1998, 2013) was utilised in theorising this study. This approach enabled consideration of the influences on educators' social behaviours and the role of agency and structure in the enactment of leadership. Data were collected in two stages; first from focus groups of early childhood centre directors and then from case studies undertaken in early childhood centres. The case studies enabled deeper level exploration of the complexities of organisational life over time. Data collection included both qualitative and quantitative methods that captured the perspectives of all staff. The findings show that the conditions that nurtured educators' professional learning were created through complex interrelationships between leadership, collaborative professional learning and attention to centre organisational systems. A director's capacity to create an enabling professional learning environment included nurturing inclusive, collective and collaborative professional development and learning. Positional leaders also played important roles in translating new knowledge to practice in everyday work with their teams. Leadership was recognised as behaviours, dispositions and interactions that influenced educators towards improving their pedagogical practice. The findings suggested that in responding to the reforms, a shared focus on practice fostered relationships among educators that were primarily of a professional nature which supported the growth of positive professional identity and the emergence of distributed leadership within an early childhood centre. These findings suggested that an inclusive, relational and contextual approach to early childhood leadership may be warranted.