Date of Award

1-1-2001

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Loraine Corrie

Second Advisor

Dr Russell Waugh

Abstract

Early childhood education has long been regarded as having the lowest status in the education system. Recent government reforms in Australia based on financial rather than education concerns means early childhood education will continue to face declines in status, conditions and appropriate resources, unless educators exercise leadership skills in advocating for appropriate programs and curriculum for young children. A new model of Early Childhood Teacher Leadership was created to measure leadership skills, including leadership in advocating for young children, and tested in Phase One of the study. The model involved General Leadership (Classroom Leadership, Self-directed Leadership, Program Leadership and School Leadership), Communication (from me to principal/parents /teachers and from principal /parents /teachers to me), and Influences (my influence on the school, my influence on the principal). In Phase Two of the study, twenty early childhood teachers were interviewed for approximately one hour in regard to how they conceptualised their leadership roles, what factors enhanced or constrained their leadership, and what strategies they used to communicate their philosophy and pedagogy. Phase One involved collecting data from 270 Early Childhood Teachers in Western Australia at government schools, using self-reports on ideal and real aspects of leadership obtained through a questionnaire. A Rasch measurement model computer program was used to create an interval level Scale of Early Childhood Teacher Leadership from the original 142 items (71 real and 71 ideal). The final interval-level scale consisted of 92 items (38 real and 54 ideal) that had a reasonable fit to the model, where the thresholds were ordered and the proportion of observed variance considered true was 94 percent. The Rasch analysis supported the structure of the leadership model and indicated some improvements could be made. Written responses to open-ended questions at the end of the questionnaire provided insights into how the teachers conceptualised their leadership roles. These insights provided the framework for the formulation of the face-to-face follow-up, interviews that comprised Phase Two of the study. The findings indicate that, as expected, teachers found it easier to hold higher ideal self-views for most aspects of leadership than to hold high real self-views. Teachers recognised the importance of leadership skills but experienced difficulty in enacting them. The Early Childhood Teachers reported various factors that helped or hindered them in fulfilling their leadership roles. The four global factors that could either help or hinder Early Childhood Teachers were 1) intrapersonal and interpersonal skills; 2) professional confidence; 3) others' understanding of and respect for early childhood education; and 4) time. The Early Childhood Teachers suggested strategies that could help them develop stronger leadership skills. The four main strategies suggested by the teachers were 1) professional development addressing leadership and interpersonal and intrapersonal skills training; 2) inclusion of leadership skills training at pre-service levels of teacher education; 3) opportunities to collaborate with othe1 staff; and 4) public promotion of early childhood education. The findings have implications for Early Childhood Teachers, administrators, teacher educators and for future research.

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