Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Distributed leadership for professional learning: Effective leadership practices in early childhood education

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posted on 2021-11-22, 15:36 authored by Rachel DeneeRachel Denee

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.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Education

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Institute for Early Childhood Studies

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education


Thornton, Kate