Educational Leadership practised through internal evaluation in New Zealand ECE services.
The New Zealand Teaching Council’s Leadership Strategy vision is:To enable every teacher, regardless of their role or setting, to have the opportunity to develop their own leadership capability so that through principled and inspirational leadership, a culturally capable, competent and connected teaching profession achieves educational equity and excellence for all children and young people in Aotearoa New Zealand (Education Council, 2018b, p. 4).
There is however a lack of clarity about how this vision can be achieved. While there is a growing range of literature concerning ECE leadership emerging from New Zealand, highlighting shared or distributed approaches (Hill, 2018), the role of the positional leader and distributed leadership (Denee & Thornton, 2017), and leadership dispositions within leadership development (Davitt & Ryder, 2018), there is limited literature exploring the practices of educational leadership within New Zealand ECE services.
This study explores how educational leadership is practised through internal evaluation processes in New Zealand ECE services and how these practices support the professional capabilities and capacities of teachers. Previous research has highlighted that a practice approach to leadership removes the focus on the individual leader and allows leadership to emerge from collective action. The objectives of this research were: to develop a better understanding of how educational leadership is practised through internal evaluation processes; explore what challenges or enables teachers to become involved and practise educational leadership through internal evaluation processes; and to understand how services monitor the impact of changes on teaching practice, made as a result of an internal evaluation.
This qualitative research, which took the form of an interpretive case study, was framed around a single case design with multiple units of analysis. Data were gathered from three participating ECE services through interviews, focus groups and observations, and drew on the perspectives of both teachers and positional leaders. A reflexive thematic data analysis approach was employed, and four key themes were developed: identification with leadership; supportive workplace culture; continuous improvement; and effective leadership practices in ECE services.
This case study concludes that there is a complexity in the ways ECE teachers identify with leadership, restricted by a belief that leadership requires a formal title, with teachers often unaware of their own leadership practices. A supportive workplace culture can encourage and promote leadership, while a cycle of continuous improvement can promote quality teaching practices. Finally, seven effective leadership practices were identified: relational leadership; creating the conditions for teamwork; engagement; knowledge expertise and sharing opinions; shared decision making; facilitating and guiding and accountability and organisation. This study contributes to our further understanding of educational leadership in New Zealand ECE services, in particular the practices of leadership.