267 – Leading as a socially-just practice within early childhood education

Presentation - ECV2022-267

Leading as a socially-just practice within early childhood education

Leanne Gibbs, Charles Sturt University, Australia (lgibbs@csu.edu.au

Background: This paper reports on an Australian study of the emergence and development of leadership within early childhood education (ECE) sites that uphold children’s rights and access to high-quality ECE. 

Aim: The qualitative study contributes to a growing body of research on ECE leadership practice, specifically site-based leadership cultivation and development.

Method: A mini-ethnographic case study methodology was employed to investigate the emergence and development of leadership practice. Methods included observation, unstructured interviews, dialogic café, and document analysis. The participants were 30 emerging and positional leaders within three exemplary Australian ECE sites.

Results: Complexity leadership theory was used to situate leadership within the Australian ECE context, accounting for the competing purposes of high-quality education programs and the complex array of practices required for leadership to be effective. Additionally, the theory of practice architectures was used as an analytical tool. The theory of practice architectures helped to identify socially-just leadership practices that uphold children’s rights and to understand the organisational arrangements that enabled and constrained those practices within each site. Study findings illuminate how leadership can be cultivated and developed in ECE.

Conclusions: As a result of the study, organisations are encouraged to create the cultural-discursive, material-economic and social-political arrangements that shape leadership within ECE sites. The paper argues for the development of ECE leadership as a socially just practice that upholds children’s rights and access to high-quality early childhood education.

Implications for children and families: You have significant rights. Socially-just leadership practices support those rights.

Implications for practitioners: Regardless of your position, you can practice leadership that enables children’s rights and their access to high-quality ECE. 

Key words: leadership, children’s rights, qualitative, complexity leadership theory, practice architectures, early childhood, social justice

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

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