Pedagogical leadership: a case study of the educational leader in an early childhood setting in Australia

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Hughes, Mary (2019) Pedagogical leadership: a case study of the educational leader in an early childhood setting in Australia. Other Degree thesis, Victoria University.


Over the last decade, the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) sector in Australia has undergone major reform with both federal and state governments introducing learning frameworks to address the quality of early education and care. The National Quality Framework (NQF) (Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority [ACECQA], 2018a) was established to raise quality and ensure that every Australian child receives the best possible start in life. As part of these reforms, the National Quality Standard (NQS) (ACECQA, 2018a) stipulates a requirement for the appointment of an Educational Leader in all prior to school settings: someone who will support, guide, and build the capacity of educators. The role of Educational Leader in ECEC is relatively new and there is a limited amount of research in this area. The aim of this research was to gain a deeper understanding of, and insight into, the day-to-day pedagogical leadership enactment and decision-making of Educational Leaders, with a view to broadening current definitions and understandings of the role. A constructionist approach that ascribes to an interpretivist theoretical perspective underlies the qualitative single-case study design adopted in this study. The research was conducted within the context of one early childhood education setting in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. It involved participants with different roles in the setting, aimed at exploring how pedagogical leadership is understood and enacted. A qualitative single-case study design was selected to generate thick descriptions of how the Educational Leader gives direction, professional insight and informed expertise to educators in an ECEC setting, with major attention given to the uniqueness and complexity of the single case. Multiple methods of data collection were used over a six-month period: semi-structured interviews, shadowing, and the analysis of documents, artefacts and social media posts. Shadowing is not a commonly used method in early childhood research but was used in this study because of the richness of descriptive data that it offered and because of its suitability to the setting. The study sought to address two research questions: ‘How does the Educational Leader provide pedagogical leadership to early childhood educators in a particular early childhood setting?’ and ‘What are the influences that determine how the Educational Leader provides pedagogical guidance to educators in a particular early childhood setting’? Analysis of the data identified two main findings that addressed these questions. The first highlights the main features of the day-to-day functions of the Educational Leader at the setting. The second highlights some factors that influence the work of the Educational Leader. At times, these factors encourage success in their work and at other times they constrain success. The findings from this study provide a better understanding of the Educational Leader role in early childhood education and have the potential to inform policy. Of scholarly significance is the contribution of the shadowing method in research methodology, which is particularly useful in small-scale studies such as this one. Furthermore, the study contributes knowledge to the ECEC sector by providing insight into factors that influence how leadership practice is shaped and how the role of the Educational Leader is enacted in an ECEC setting.

Additional Information

Doctor of Education

Item type Thesis (Other Degree thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education
Current > Division/Research > College of Arts and Education
Keywords leadership; early childhood education; Melbourne; Australia; policy; pedagogy
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