How is leadership understood and enacted within the field of early childhood education and care

Hard, Louise (2006) How is leadership understood and enacted within the field of early childhood education and care. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The field of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) traditionally encompasses care and education for children aged from birth to eight years. In this study, the focus is specifically on the field that provides services for children in prior to school settings, that being the birth to five sector. This sector is highly feminised and has emerged over the last century from philanthropic roots. Despite considerable work into leadership in other areas, until recent times, attention to aspects of leadership has been limited within the ECEC field and much of the research undertaken has focused heavily on centre-based leadership. This study investigated how personnel, from a range of services, understand and enact leadership. In terms of data analysis it draws heavily on symbolic interactionism as a methodological tool and engages standpoint feminist theory to inform the analytical process.

Data were gathered from semi-structured interviews with twenty-six participants who also identified artefacts, which they considered influenced and supported their understandings of leadership. In addition, two focus groups were conducted to explore themes emerging from early analysis of the data. Findings indicate two categories, which emerge as relevant to how leadership is understood and enacted by participants. The first of these is the concept of interpreted professional identity, which reflects participants' interpretations of who they are as early childhood professionals informed by their own views and the views of others. How individuals interpret their sense of self (manifest in their professional identity) is influential in the secondary category, which is interpreted leadership capacity. This category reflects participants' leadership activity or inactivity.

The analysis reflects a complex interplay between how participants interpret their professional sense of self (interpreted professional identity) and their capacity and willingness to enact leadership (interpreted leadership capacity). Individuals in the formation of their professional identity interpret factors, both internal to the ECEC field and external (through social expectations). The culture of the ECEC field (internal factors) includes competing elements such as a discourse of niceness juxtaposed against examples of horizontal violence. Factors external to the field suggest there are lingering social associations between heroic male images and leadership, which make women as leaders problematic. Within a highly feminised field such as ECEC, this study brings new perspectives to understandings of leadership and its enactment.

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ID Code: 16213
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Tayler, Collette, Danby, Susan, & Ewing, Bronwyn
Keywords: leadership, early childhood education and care, symbolic interactionism, standpoint feminist theory, interpreted professional identity, agency, hesitancy, interpreted leadership capacity, horizontal violence
Divisions: Past > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Louise Hard
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:58
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 14:40

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