Froebelian Leadership – Julie Lindsay

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Project summary:

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

The purpose of this project is to facilitate colleagues within our setting to co-design a short inquiry, this inquiry was chosen through the interrogation of data which highlighted a gap in our provision. Throughout this we will explore our leadership style, what Froebelian characteristics, and traits supported this inquiry, I will consider who we were as leaders, individually and collectively.  The participants will reflect on their own learning from this process and on their leadership role and reflect on my leadership input.  Finally, I will reflect on how my leadership has developed as a result of this, and reflect on future opportunities and challenges for practice 

At Willamsburgh ELCC we are always looking to improve our practice and provide quality learning experiences for the children and families within our setting.  Having the opportunity to participate in this Froebel leadership project, has given me a chance to support colleagues in co-designing a short practitioner inquiry for improvement, and take a leadership role in facilitating it. I approached the staff in question and informed them of the current training I was undertaking and discussed the purpose of the project.  They were keen to support as this was a new experience for them, so we agreed on a process that would be led by them and supported by myself. Their initail step was interigating data from the progression tool, which identified a gap in the children’s understanding of the properties of 2D & 3D shapes, through proffesional dialog the participents decided to reflect on seesaw observations, after analysing the information it identified a lack of confidence across the staff team, I encouraged them to think about how we could gather more evidence, and it was decided to observe the interactions between staff and children.  

This concluded that their initial findings to be true, so my role was to ask the question, to make them think of the steps they need to take to achieve their goal. “It is 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” (Liley, 1967.126)  I encouraged them to think about devising a plan of action to keep the inquiry on track, and that there are plenty of options online they can research, through which they chose cycle of change and SMART targerts. I encouraged discussion on how this could be facilitated, how would this be presented to staff.  This encouraged a lot of dialog and reflection on previous training they had participated in, and chose from their own experiences and what worked best for them.  The participants created an action plan to facilitate training opportunities sharing their knowledge through moderation with the staff team.  I encouraged them to think about how they would prepare themselves to explain the purpose of the project, where would this take place, how they feel about presenting in front of the staff team, if they are confident in their presentation, and if they would like opportunities to practice.  Then they would need to consider how they would inspire and motivate the staff team to get involved. With some coaching they concluded that they needed to be enthusiastic about their findings and confident to deliver for staff team to believe and support the inquiry. The participents devised an agenda to keep on track, being flexible for uncertain circumstrances, communicating effectively to delegate pre & post session work, asking for support when needed, after consultation they set review dates to evaluate what as been learned, pre and post questionair to measure impact, The impact of this inquiry has created a unified understanding across the staff team, of properties of 2D & 3D within the loose parts in the nursery environment.  A further review will be carried out at end of term 2023 to analyse evidence and record impact.  Truly effective leaders ensure the organisation has clear direction and an infrastructure which will enhance the probability of the organization successfully achieving their vision(Howell, 2023: npn). 

 I believe our style of leadership was democratic, where we encourage each other to grow and develop, actively listen to ideas from each other and whole staff team, encourage professional dialog and participation in the decision-making process, and we are individuals who recognise and praise our achievements, the leadership traits that we adopted was strategic planning, communicating effectively, delegating tasks, agreed timescales with an action plan, allowing flexibility for movement to achieve our goal.  

Next, I had to consider how Froebelian our relationships were throughout this project. The participants had the autonomy and trust to lead this inquiry, we were interdependent on each other, sharing our inner knowledge on our research project, and sharing outwardly through PPT presentation, focused activities and learning through moderation for a cohesive understanding.  It was important that we understood the importance of relationships, understanding that everyone is unique and comfort zones vary, therefore we had to discuss how we would motivate individuals. It was important that I encouraged autonomy for the participants to build their confidence to take control of their own learning and contribute positively toward their inquiry.  The participants did very well, they were intrinsically motivated considering there were periods of absence on both sides.  This itself was challenging as they had to take the lead role by themselves, they worked through differing of opinions to select the best way forward, and would seek advice when needed, I would present challenging questions to deepen their thinking skills to create innovative solutions, which they engaged with.  

On reflection the participants enjoyed the challenge, it stretched them out of their comfort zones. They were initially apprehensive, but felt that with the knowledge I was there to support when needed, and provide alternative ideas and suggestions, was very reassuring.  They enjoyed the fact that I challenged their thinking, and asked questions that they had not considered when preparing to present to staff team, in doing this they felt prepared and motivated to meet the challenges. This project has given them effective tools that they can use for future inquiry, the importance of setting goals with a clear time scale, as they found time can run away very quickly, with both participant having a period of absence, had huge impact on progress, and were glad that I was the continuous support to make sure they got back on track, also understanding importance of effective communication from all sources, and ensure what they communication is clear so it cannot be misconstrued. 

 This leadership project has enabled me to reflect on how my leadership has developed as a result of this.  Initially I stated that I was a democratic leader, but now realise that one style does not fit all situations, I had seen oneself as a Democratic/paricipative leader for group participation,  with active listening to their input, and to fuse their multiple perspectives together. Coaching the participents to try different things to achive their goals,  I used transformational leadership style being optomistic to inspire and motivate others to participate in this project  As mentioned before there were periods of absence during the time scale for the projerct which compromised the plan, so therefore I used Autocratic leadership style to make descisions to direct them back on track, which was really usefull for the participants. 

I feel that it challenged me to take a step back and think carefully about my role in allowing them the sovereignty to lead this inquiry, I have learned that If you want people to be able to participate in leadership roles, they have to be placed in a situation to perform this, and give them a chance to practice and build belief and confidence in their ability as leaders, which is relevant to leaders at all levels.  Another challenge that rose for me personally, was remaining consistent in my approach, and the participants knowing what our expectations were, instiling confidence in themselves and confidence in me. “The most valuable component of leadership is not power, position, influence, notoriety or fame…….  It is character.  Character is the cradle of credibility for the leader.” (Munroe, 2014: npn). The impact on the feedback I recieved from the participants was very positive, it made me feel good and strengthened my confidence and self esteem, knowing that they valued my input and saw me as a positrive role model, and in effect I know the impact my positive and productive feedback will have on them, positivity breeds positivity. The next steps for my leadership journey is to embrace the many different leadership styles and characteristics, and be more aware using emotional intelegence to analyse, situations and understanding the impact they can have on my choice of leadership style. 


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