Froebelian Leadership – Karen Petrie

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Project summary:

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


Leading Slow Pedagogy 


I am a new manager to my setting and over the past few months the staff have been working alongside me implementing some changes. I have been developing the staff’s confidence in themselves and their practice. This has helped to make them feel valued, listened too and to be part of a team. I feel that it is important that they have ownership over their practice. I feel strongly that it is important to develop the staff strengths.  

Recently our setting was chosen to work with Alison Clark on a small project to develop an area of slow pedagogy in our setting. I chose this experience for my staff to take a lead on developing, as they were highly motivated by the topic. The staff had lots of ideas about change and shared this with me and I felt that this was a good opportunity for the staff to take a lead on a development they felt so strongly about.  


Joining the leadership programme was good timing for me as a new manager and I found that it helped support the strong feelings I had about leadership and management. I believe a strong leader is fundamental to a team and should support and encourage the growth of strong leaders within in our team.  I believe that staff should be part of and have a say in, changes and development, to be part of changes so that they feel valued, motivated and listened too. I feel that these values are strong in myself, and I wanted the staff I was to work with to feel this too. I had been drip feeding this to the staff during staff meetings, getting them to take ownership, to have a say and to be involved in decisions. The Leadership programme helped back my ideas and thoughts, driving me forward to keep going, as it is hard to change so many minds. I feel before I was here leadership was dictatorial, that the staff were often told what to do and they didn’t have a say.  Changes were done to them rather than with them. So having a new leader was a hard step for them, not only having a new person, but different ways of working. Change is hard for lots of people and that’s why I feel it is important it is done together.  

“If they are involved, they will create a future with them in it…” (Margaret Wheatley, 1998) 


The Slow Pedagogy project was starting around the same time as we were given this project and I felt that it linked well. To work with Alison Clark, settings had to produce a piece of work to say why we should be chosen. I asked the staff team if this is something they would be interest in which they all said they would. My initial thoughts around developments were “How can children play a more active role in everyday routines?”, “How might this effect the role of the educator?”, “How can slowing down pedagogical documentation support next steps with children?” Once we were chosen to take part, there was an introduction evening. I opened it up to staff to attend if they were free/interested. A small group of 3 staff attended. They had lots of discussions around the topic afterwards, and I took notes of what was being said. The 3 staff were very enthusiastic and I had decided then that the staff should lead the development. We met up the week after to discuss their thoughts around the introduction. I said to them then that I felt that they could lead the development with the other staff. We continued to discuss what they felt they could change within the setting. I helped to facilitate these discussions, helping them to come to the decision that they would continue to develop lunch times at our setting. Lunch times had already been influenced by Alison Clark and a training session she had done with staff in October last year. The small group felt that this could still be developed further and that this would then influence some of our other practices further into the year. Some of their other ideas were: how can we change our routines to develop deeper learning experiences for children, and how can we change or documentation to show deeper learning? It was decided that both these ideas could be further developed later in the year.  

Once the group had their idea for development, they talked about how they could present it to the team. They gathered all the resources they would need to present their ideas. The team were aware that the small group were going to discuss Slow Pedagogy with them. The team all worked well together, listening to the small group leading the project and taking part to have their say and to add their thoughts to the discussions. By the end of the meeting the whole team had planned what was to happen next with jobs assigned to individuals.  

 Project outcomes 

A few days after the meeting I spoke to the small group of staff leading the project to see how they felt that it went. They were all positive and said that it didn’t feel that they were leading a change because the staff were all really positive about the development and all the staff contributed to discussions. They are keen to see some of the changes and observe to see if the discussion has made a positive impact on the children. Once we have looked at changes that has been suggested, the team will come back together to discuss the impact it has had on the children’s learning experience. Within the first few days, the staff fed back that lunch time seemed quieter and more organised. On reflection the staff felt that was because they were more relaxed. We are continuing to work on the slow pedagogy project so as yet they are not at the end of this journey but have dates in the diary planned to reflect on the change, to be able to feedback to parents, and other settings on the changes by the means of a PowerPoint. The team are documenting their journey through a journal, adding in the discussions the staff have had, the children’s voice and the parents’ voice.  

The staff I feel are more empowered to know that they can make a change, that they can all work well together for a common aim and make a difference for the children. At the start of the project the small team of staff had ideas they wanted to develop further into the year and were aware that they needed to try one project at a time, so they feel ready to discuss their ideas further with staff as a whole team. The small group I feel felt listened to and supported by their team, that they are motivated by the opportunity to lead a project and to develop it further.  

Final reflections 

I found the whole Froebelian Leadership course inspiring. I don’t have a negative thing to say about the whole course. I felt that it supported me as a leader and as a manager in many ways. That it helped me reflect on who I was as a leader, and was this different than who I wanted to be? It helped support what I was trying to achieve in my setting to develop leadership at all levels and not in a superficial way but in a way that the staff can all lead aspects of their work and have true passion for the things they are doing. The course helped me focus on the things I strongly believe in through quotes and discussions and making links with Froebelian practices. Some of the things that have really stuck with me is “to lead with love”, “to make strengths dominant so that weaknesses become less important”, “to build a community of trust” and “that leaders don’t do things to people, they guide and support”.  

From learning about the different styles of leadership, I really liked Laloux description of the different styles and how he has used colours to represent the styles of leadership from red being impulsive, amber being conformist, orange for achievement, green being pluralistic and teal being evolutionary. From reading about these styles, I felt that I have brought a teal style of leadership to my setting. The teal style of leaders I think represents more of the views and principles of Froebel. That using a teal style is a horizontal style of leadership that we don’t use a hierarchy of staff. An example of this would be in our setting we have a space for staff photos, they are individual photos and are all in frames. They are displayed on a Welsh dresser in a random order, there is no hierarchy of people we are seen as a team. I think seeing this in our entrance helps give visitors the feeling of everyone being seen as just as important as each other. Being horizontal is not saying everyone is equal but is more about recognising people strengths and using these. All our staff have a leadership role in our setting, each role is individual for that staff depending on their interest and skills. We will have some staff being mentors for students, other staff being responsible for weekly blogs, some staff responsible for lunch times, or for outdoors, forest school, etc. It is about valuing everyone’s contribution and abilities. The teal style of leadership speaks to me and my own values, to treat people as humans, that they all come with their own skills, knowledge, and experience. Staff should be listened to and respected and that staff who are involved in change will make the difference.  Since starting in my role, I have introduced ‘lollipop’ moments where staff recognise the skills in others and share this with the team each week. It helps to show that we value each other that we celebrate our strengths.   

Next steps in leadership 

Feedback from staff about how they felt leading the slow Pedagogy project and from our settings discussions around our improvements shows my how essential it is to continue to lead in a teal style leadership, encouraging the growth and development of my team to be leaders. That staff will be empowered and enthusiastic about the changes and developments in the setting that they have been part of. Staff have fed back to me that they feel listened to, that they have seen changes happen that have been positive and done with them rather than too them. That any changes are made with discussion first and everyone having the chance to be heard.  

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