Froebelian Leadership – Donna Green

Project author:

Project summary:

Action research and reflection on leadership from a Froebelian perspective in an early learning and childcare community


Cultivating a Community of Froebelian Principled Practice  


This project will focus on an element of the Falkirk Froebel Flagship (FFF) Charter, “the aim of the charter is to ensure Froebelian Principles underpin practice, and these principles are valued, lived and incorporated into all elements of early learning and childcare for the benefit of each child, family and practitioner” (Green, FFF Charter, 2022:1). The purpose of this project will be to examine the research methodology questions used within an early learning and childcare (ELC) setting to see this through a leadership lens.  

 “I wanted to educate people to be free, to think, to take action for themselves” (Froebel in Lilley 1967:41). 

 It will give a short insight how the research questions were used in ELC practice, which enabled participation of leadership at all levels. In my role I have the responsibly as lead Froebelian to facilitate, however, I drew on multi methods of delivery and valued “listening as a process” (Clark, 2022: npn) to support and very much cultivate a whole team and community participation.  


Prior to the ELC setting accepting the authority offer to participate with the FFF, following their successful strong application. Reciprocal conversations began and sharing of the charter took place which enabled a learning together approach where a democratic style of leadership was sought from myself. This style enabled listening and open to ideas and value the existing knowledge and wisdom to culture a co-operative community. One of the key elements of this leadership style was to value equal participation from children, educators, and families. 

 The FFF charter research questions consisted of four focused questions: 

  1.  In what ways do Froebelian Principles inform practitioners and how are these used in practice? 
  2. What makes an environment Froebelian?  
  3. How do adults view children in the early learning and childcare community? 
  4. What is your understanding in relation to the role of the adult through a Froebelian lens? 

 Practitioners actively participated individually and collectively. In addition, participation from children, families and community were sought to ensure this was personalised in meaningful ways to this early learning and childcare community. 


Froebelian Principles (Froebel Trust, npn) provided guidance but not rigidity. Proceeding to make explicit links to how these Froebelian principles can be transferred into day-to-day practice. 

 Tovey reminds us “A Froebelian approach is not a method. There is no formula or recipe to follow or a set of equipment to purchase or prescribed curriculum to adhere to. Nor is it a series of ideas and activities which practitioners can dip into and out of, rather it is a whole way of thinking about childhood based on a set of values and principles” (2013; 2). 

 Therefore, initially it was pertinent that positive relationships were formed, in addition the opportunity for everyone to express their opinions enabled each practitioner to have autonomy and supported a whole team overview of current understanding of Froebelian Principles, how children are viewed and what practitioners believe to be important aspects in their role as an adult in the (ELC) setting. 

  “It is of course easier… to have an answer given by someone else but it is far more valuable and stimulating for them to find it out for themselves… [so] we should rather put them in the way of finding answers…” (Lilley, 1967:126). 

 The use of a questionnaire to gather each practitioner’s initial response to all four research questions took place. This was then analysed e.g., common threads, natural existing interconnections. Moving forward opportunities were created to discuss collectively through organised pedagogue sessions where I facilitated and created a safe space for honest reflections to understand how Froebelian Principles were unfolding into everyday practice. 

 In response to research question one, discussions formed the first part of the question on identifying how Froebelian Principles inform practitioners and for the second part of the question was a collective audit created to show how principles are currently used in practice. This supported making principles visible and encouraged a shared language and understanding. The observations of practice supported rich conversation how these are meaningful to children along with examples and visuals of what this looks like in the ELC setting which supported participatory process with children and families e.g., through visual personalised photos. 

 “… which positions young children as active participants in the research process” (Clark, 2017)  

 Moving onto research question two: What makes an environment Froebelian? An example of some of the work carried out included practitioners reflecting upon the core provision offered in the learning spaces, for example within the woodwork, block play, outdoor, sewing space how were the observations, interactions and experiences of this space linking with the principles e.g., Autonomous learners, Knowledgeable nurturing educators. This indicated strengths but also highlighted possible areas for further development.  

 Research question three provoked a shift in understanding through a rights base approach and the principle of valuing childhood in its own right was explored. Mindsets were challenged in relation to truly valuing child led pedagogy through a slow pedagogical approach which focused on how this is meaningful to each individual child and family in their community. This added depth into how observation informs attuning to each individual child where various opportunities to truly value children’s perspectives have been explored further. 

 The final research question four explored the adult’s role. A remarkable added value was noted as practitioners’ knowledge grew from the Froebelian courses each of them were studying along with further bespoke CPD to support strengths and developments. Literature through professional reading, supporting a depth of learning as practitioners were immersing themselves in understanding why they were doing what they were doing created a shift in opinion-based conversations to become more informed. As the facilitator this included making links with local and National guidance to ensure the research had a rigorous and robust understanding of how this interconnect through the Scottish context. In addition, stay and play sessions were established with children, families, and educators, on and offsite in nature to enable opportunities for the whole community to learn together through the various core provisions and experiences.  

 Project outcomes 

The main findings highlighted an increase in practitioners’ knowledgeable and their enthusiasm to learn and reflect increased their pedagogical understanding. The rich observation from practice supported practitioners to see each child as an individual which promoted holistic open-ended practice. The concept of ‘freedom with guidance’ was drawn on along with making observations of practice more meaningful with children whilst focus on the process of Bruce (2021: npn) observe, support, extend. 

One of the key impacts became apparent from this research was difference the principle of ‘Value childhood in its own right’ along with an increase in opportunities through the principle of ‘Autonomous learner’ and the value on Relationships through each child’s viewpoint.  

 The main resource I used in my leadership role was the use of Froebelian Principles to guide leadership in all situations, for example the adaptation of the person but staying true to the principles e.g Valuing childhood (family/Educator) in its own right. In addition, starting where the child (family/ Educator) is at and not a preparation for the next stage. e.g., ‘at the stage, be the stage’. 

 Final reflections 

Through using research questions to support FFF has enabled my Froebelian leadership role to work with a community to provoke an ethos of learning together. Initially, some educators focused on how long it will take and some doubts around their initial knowledge. 

  Clark’s research around slow practice reminds us “it will take as long as it takes” (2022: npn).  

 However, as time passed there was less emphasis on time and more emphasis on children and how the principles link to practice which has helped to enable more meaningful dialogue with everyone involved. 

Scottish Government states “those in leadership roles in early years establishments need to create a culture which values staff and supports practitioners in improving their skills and Knowledge” (2014:49). 

 It was therefore important as a lead to listen and acknowledge conversation and act accordingly to support, however, it was also important to provide further examples to ensure each practitioner connected and felt valued. Feedback of my leadership role on various levels indicates positive impacts where I have added examples: “I like woodwork, drawing and outside” (child). “You are very supportive,” “You share knowledge in a way I attune and feel part of the process, which has been great as it motivates me to learn” (practitioner). “I love the way you have implemented the principles, particularly engaging with nature, I feel that is important, I am glad my children have these opportunities, this means a lot to me” (Family).  

 The opportunities have enabled practitioners to have a deeper understanding of Froebelian principles through experiences the research process provided. Where practitioners’ knowledge and confidence has grown which filtered out with children and families. It provided a deeper understanding of their role, how they view children and how the Froebelian principles interconnect individually and collectively which aligns to the ELC settings vison, values, and Froebelian Principles. One envisages as a leader that this will continue to flourish, and the pedagogies learnt will be embedded to cultivate a culture where Froebelian approaches will be a part of everyday lived experiences. 

 Everything in the universe is connected. The more one is aware of this unity, the deeper the understanding of oneself, others, nature and the wider world” (The Froebel Trust, 2022: npn). 


 Bruce, T. (2021) Friedrich Froebel. A Critical Introduction to Key Themes and Debates. London: Bloomsbury Publishing 

 Clark, A. & Moss, P. (2017) Listening to Young Children, Expanded Third Edition: A Guide to Understanding and Using the Mosaic Approach. London, Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers 

 Clark, A. (2022) Falkirk Froebel Trust Funded Implementing slow pedagogy project (npn). 

 Green, D. (2022) Falkirk Froebel Flagship Charter  

 Lilley, I. (1967) Friedrich Froebel: A Selection from His Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Scottish Government (2014) Building the ambition: national practice guidance on Early Learning and Childcare Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (pdf) 

 Tovey, H. (2017) Bringing the Froebel Approach to your Early Years Practice. London and New York: Routledge 

 The Froebel Trust. Principles. Available: Froebel Trust | Pamphlets and guides [Accessed 20/04/2023]. 





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