Distributed leadership for professional learning: Effective leadership practices in early childhood education
In Aotearoa New Zealand, leadership within the early childhood education (ECE) sector is both positionally assigned and a required practice of all teachers. Within this context, distributed leadership – where all team members have the opportunity to lead – is increasingly seen as an effective leadership model (Thornton, 2010). The purported benefits of distributed leadership have significant overlap with professional learning: increased engagement, deeper learning, context-specific learning and improved pedagogical practices among teachers (Poekert, 2012). This study considers the relationship between distributed leadership and professional learning in ECE settings, and seeks to discover practices of effective positional leaders in facilitating both. A nationwide survey was carried out in Aotearoa New Zealand to capture a picture of current perceptions of ECE teachers and positional leaders about professional learning communities and, in particular, distributed leadership for professional learning. Subsequently, the leadership practices for distributed leadership and professional learning in three previously-identified high quality ECE services were investigated through individual and group interviews. The analysis of literature, survey and interview findings from this study led to a framework of effective leadership practice, consisting of six elements: inquiry and articulation of thinking; teachers enacting leadership; collaboration and dialogue; mentoring and coaching; fostering relational trust; and, creating vision and designing supportive structures.