Froebelian Leadership – Thomais Gkioule

Project author:

Project summary:

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

 “Collective Leadership in a Froebelian context. My mentoring/ co-leadership role during a “First Aid” project/action plan that took place in our school complex, for both educators and students”  


 As a kindergarten teacher, I work in a school with children 4-6 years old and seven other colleagues; all together, we work in a larger school community (two more kindergartens in the same building) with 12 other colleagues. The total number of colleagues includes the kindergarten, special needs, English teachers and a school nurse (only “seven” of us are working as permanent teachers and the rest are substitutes). All educators in primary and secondary education as well, have the task to plan 1-2 projects/action plans at the beginning of each school year, depending on the needs of their students as well as on their own.  

One of the current projects/action plans which has been decided and planned in our school complex this year is “First Aid” training for both teachers and students. The first idea came from two colleagues from another school in the complex and we agreed to follow it. The knowledge and acquiring of “First Aid” skills is a huge need for all of us in our school community as we frequently have many multiple incidents. The necessity was/is to make changes in teaching and learning for our students and teachers. The parents’ group hasn’t been included only for this year. In my class, I am the oldest in working years, so I was invited by my head teacher to work as a mentor for my colleagues (see Appendix A). In the specific project, I work as a mentor/co-leader for my school. There are two more coordinators who belong to the other kindergartens with which we work in a close collaboration network.  


 All teachers in the school complex work in different working hours.  So, we chose to have an easier communication through viber or e-mails. This kind of communication gives us good feedback on our work, but not always. Feedback from interviewing during our holidays proved to be very useful for discussion-evaluation (Many thanks to my colleagues!). Our project/action plan questions are related to the familiarization of the students and teachers with the basic concepts of First Aid, as well as the importance of this knowledge for helping our fellow human beings (see similarities on the Scottish leaflet – Highland One World, n.d., p.6).  

In this report, we will be focused on the leadership questions: A few of these (team) questions are related to our leadership distribution. Who would be the leader-coordinator of this project? Would she be the main person responsible for proposals, decision – making and writing rather than sharing the above with all the team members? We thought carefully the above through discussion in our class and the special needs teacher accepted tο be the project coordinator. As a mentor/co-leader I also had my personal questions: 1. How can we make everyone’s strengths more visible in our everyday communications, practices, roles, etc”? 2. “How are we promoting community – aware autonomy and trust among colleagues, and minimising rigid practices and top-down management”? (See more on Bateson, 2023, p.8). The real meaning of a distributed leadership is “a deliberate process of sharing leadership behaviour, so that team members other than the head or manager take an active lead” (Lindon and Lindon in Froebelian Futures (4), 2023, p.18) (see about social leadership models on Appendix B).  


In the past, I used to share experiences, ideas and tasks-responsibilities within my colleague team in our class, school or school complex. I got quite familiar with this kind of “sharing” when I came in this school community. Our relationships could be characterised as democratic, collaborative, and full of professional love and understanding, with times of disagreement or conflicts. However, there is a spirit of empathy among us with the strong will to overcome any obstacles. This spirit is expressed mainly by the old teachers and is adopted by the new colleagues according to their character or will1 (Covey, 1989). Just to mention that I am the only Froebelian trained among 19 other colleagues in the Kindergarten school complex so far. A video-presentation about my inquiry project took place last March at school for parents and colleagues and another one will follow in May. Throughout the project process, there have been proposals and actions corresponding to the needs of the students and teachers: seminars, discussions and traineeships for both educators and students. The plan is usually written by all the members of the team apart from the coordinator/leader who has mainly the responsibility to compose the report parts and submit the report. We submit the project report to the Institute of Education Policy in Greece twice each year.  

 Our process  

Before we start planning a project/action plan in our school community, we usually “generate an overview of where” we are at (Bateson, 2023, p.1). It’s a kind of needs investigation in which we all take part. The idea came from another school colleague and the school nurse in our complex. Many teachers expressed their interest and chose it for different reasons (see Appendix D): 1. It is a human subject, 2. We work in a crowded community with 120 students, 3. First Aid knowledge and practice is crucial for teachers and students as we daily have so many incidents at school.  

My class team firstly agreed on the topic and was free to find proposals, design the first report and communicate ideas with the other colleagues. The special needs teacher accepted to be the coordinator since no one from our team wanted the above role. All the decisions were/are made through discussions. As far as my co-leader role is concerned – among others – I received a lot of feedback from interviewing 8 of my colleagues (see Appendix C and D): 1. One of them believes that I am very explanatory and gently by giving them detailed and timely information, 2. I have always something substantial to propose, but sometimes I overstep my role doing more than I have/can do, 3. I was helpful in collaborations and update (especially my mentoring role is efficient).  

Regarding our “strengths” in our school and the school complex action plan (see Appendix D): 1. In general, the organisation of the seminars and actions were good (but not so good comparing to the network), 2. The trainings were provided by official agencies, 3. We acquired valuable knowledge – or we refreshed older knowledge – related to the accidents in the school and subsequent action on our part…  

 What about the challenges we faced? (See Appendix D): … 2. Our students need more experiential learning through relevant actions than the existing learning (my colleagues’ feedback), chosen by them – as children are the main leaders (mine feedback) 3. The existent leadership distribution wasn’t suitable for our school. Some teachers take more responsibilities than others; occasionally we face problems in our communication (see Appendix D).  

 Project outcomes – Non Leadership  


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Knowledge and experiences that my colleagues expressed, as following (see Appendix D): 1. They will be able to efficiently face some incidents among children (nose bleeding, faint, injuries, choking etc), but in more serious situations – e.g. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) – even if we did some practice, we need more education. We should make our own proposals to the Ministry of Education in order to be officially trained as schools by the State. We also lack the appropriate device for CPR in our school complex… 5. Children love role play so much e.g. being the doctor, the pharmacist or the patient during our free activities at school … 8. We missed parents as a group from our project (they weren’t the target group; parents have been indirectly informed – not educated – by their children or e-mails).  

On my part, I was supporting communication through “viber” into small or larger groups, which gave us the chance to reflect, exchange ideas about our proposals and actions. Interviewing with some basic topics for discussion was also extremely supportive for our thoughts and the challenges that we faced/face.  

As far as the systemic changes are concerned, I would initially return to some of the views of my colleague’s about the verbal communication. This kind of communication seems to be more powerful than the “written” by clarifying the “meanings” among the members of a team. Consequently, I have already suggested that we find 10-15 minutes for face to face discussion about this project and other educational issues as well. Changes in our communication strengthen the bond between us, so important for better educational results. My decision to refuse the main leader role for this project was a great opportunity for the special teacher to become more visible in our class. As far as the parent’s team is concerned, all of us, as staff members of the complex converged on adding them as the educated team for next year. Last but not least, our students: I made a proposal to the nursery school for having more activities with the children in our school. Children need to be seen and heard as leaders in our actions; besides, “what children can do rather than what they cannot, is the starting point for a child’s learning” (Froebel Trust, n.d.). Froebelian approach – as a “democratic and humanistic approach” in our pedagogy – “helps children understand how their behaviours affect other people” (McNair and Cerdan, p.5).  

 Final reflections   

 “Strong” points in my leadership learning during this project: 1. The effectiveness of distributed leadership in our class and school team, as a liberated form of leadership which leads to the “well-being” and success of the teachers, 2. The significance of the commitment and consistency of a team’s member to a task within the team. One area for growth: The “presence” of children is significant in every decision we make inside the school community. I very much agree with the “Cowgate staff” claim that “the child and their community are the first curriculum” (Bateson, 2023, p.2).  


And the wider Leadership course: studying during the “Leadership programme” I realised “what distributed leadership and collaboration” really means for the teachers and other professionals in our schools. It’s not only about “sharing”. It’s about reflexivity, co-operation, democracy (Lilley in Froebelian Futures (1), 2023, p.15-16). It’s more about love and respect for the personality of the other person by giving him/her the right to think or to find answers for themselves (Lilley in Froebelian Futures (2), 2023, p.6). Areas for growth: To share more of the above values with my colleagues during this and other projects as well. Additionally, our Greek kindergarten teachers need Froebelian education and a wider Froebel dissemination to a regional level in collaboration with the Ministry of Education in Greece. We need more motivational teachers “that share the same goals, vision and mission” (Senge, 2006, p.17). Relevant feedback to my role made me reflect on the limits I should put in my offering to the others, as I sometimes exceed them by being over-willing to help the team. This change would influence the active role of the school members too. There is no need to behave as a “rescuer” (Wheatley, 2005, p.1), because I am not, even if we are training in the “First Aid”.  

Our leadership journey never ends for those who are looking for something better or are willing to be adapted to the daily inevitable changes in our lives. In the near future, I would suggest that we periodically have more live meetings within our teams (class, school or complex). Personally, I would like to reinforce my mentoring role; I felt so happy hearing my colleague’s feedback about both my strengths and weaknesses. It is so valuable for someone to be valuable to others: Colleagues and students as well.   

 As Epilogue…  

 Leaders aren’t all at the top. People at all levels should be given opportunities to lead. Leadership is about doing the right thing… Leaders need not necessarily be managers but all managers should be good leaders.” (Scottish Executive in Froebelian Futures (4), 2023, p.17).  



  1. Bateson, S. (2023). From Froebelian values to a Froebelian setting. A self – evaluation tool for practitioners and managers. The University of Edinburgh.
    Available at: Froebelian-Settings-Self-evaluation-tool.pdf ( [Accessed 13 March 2023]  
  2.  Covey, S.R. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Free Press.
    Available at: Readings – Google Drive [Accessed 18 March 2023]   
  3.  Doranna Wong and Manjula Waniganayake (2013). “Mentoring as a Leadership Development. Strategy in Early Childhood Education” in Eeva Hujala, Manjula Waniganayake & Jillian Rodd (Eds) Researching Leadership in Early Childhood Education. Tampere: Tampere University Press 2013, 163–180.
    Available at: art_09Wong-Waniganayake.pdf ( [Accessed 20 April 2023]  
  4.  Froebelian Futures (2023). Session One. Froebel’s view of leadership. Funded by Froebel Trust.
    Available at: Powerpoint – Google Drive [Accessed 18 March 2023]   
  5.  Froebelian Futures (2023). Session Two. Critical skills for Froebelian Leadership. Funded by Froebel Trust.
    Available at: Powerpoint – Google Drive [Accessed 18 March 2023]  
  6.  Futures (2023). Session Four. Challenges and opportunities for Froebelian Leadership. Funded by Froebel Trust.
    Available at: Powerpoint – Google Drive [Accessed 18 March 2023]  
  7.  Froebel Trust (n.d.). Froebelian Principles. About us.
    Available at: [Accessed 19 April 2023]  
  8.  Highland One World. Global Learning Centre (n.d). Seeds for change. Developing Global Citizens through Play. An Early Level Resource. Inverness High School.
    Available at: [Accessed 6 February 2023]  
  9.  McNair, L. J. OBE and Cerdan C. (2022). Nurturing self-regulation. A Froebelian approach. Froebel Trust.
    Available at: Nurturing self-regulation – A Froebelian approach [Accessed 29 April 2023]   
  10.  Mikuska, E. (2022). “Book Review: Social Leadership in early  childhood education and care: An introduction by J O’Sullivan and M Sakr”, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood. Volume 23, Issue 4, p. 508-509
    Available at: Book Review: Social leadership in early childhood education and care: An introduction by J O’Sullivan and M Sakr ( [Accessed 26 March 2023]  
  11.   O’Sullivan, J. and Sakr, M. (n.d). “Social Leadership in early childhood education and care: an introduction”, Parenta. Working together for our children, Issue 90, p. 6-7. 
    Available at: Parenta Magazine | [Accessed 26 March 2023]  
  12.  Presencing Institute (n.d). Dialogue Interviews. Cambridge.
    Available at: Dialogue Interview | u-school for Transformation [Accessed 26 March 2023]  
  13.  Senge, P.M. (2006). The Fifth Discipline. The art and Practice of the Learning Organisation. Deckle Edge.
    Available at: Readings – Google Drive [Accessed 18 March 2023]  
  14.  Thornton, K. (2015). “The impact of mentoring on leadership capacity and professional learning”. Mentoring in early childhood education: a compilation of thinking, pedagogy and practice, NZCER, p.1-13.
    Available at: Chapter 1 Mentoring in ECE.pdf ( [Accessed 20 April 2023]  
  15.  Wheatley, M. (2005). How is your Leadership Changing. On the retreat to command and control.
    Available at: Readings – Google Drive [Accessed 18 March 2023]  


The mentor’s role and its origins 

 “Mentoring in early childhood is often perceived as “a peer relationship” (Nolan, 2007, xvii) where a more experienced practitioner provides professional guidance to one or more novice practitioners, either on a 1:1 basis or as a group” (in Wong and Waniganayake, 2013, p.164). Mentoring is adapted for inexperienced leaders too and “it is also an effective leadership approach that enhances professional learning and practice” (Thornton, 2015, p.1). “Mentor” as a word has its origins to Ancient Greece and the epic poem of Odyssey (Onchwari & Keengwe, 2008 in Wong and Waniganayake, 2013, p.165) and it could be examined not as a “a supervisory relationship; it is an opportunity for colleagues to engage in reflective dialogue that can enhance feelings of empowerment and success and promote dispositions towards lifelong learning” (Rodd, 2013 in Wong and Waniganayake, 2013, p.166).  


Social Leadership Models  

 The context of distributed leadership uncovers social leadership models: “‘Investing in others’ leadership is fundamental in social leadership model’ (O’Sullivan and Sakr, 2022: 100) as this promotes leadership that is collective, community-orientated and local…” (Mikuska, 2022, p.509)… or… The democratic Leadership style “is considered to be superior to other styles. However the performance of democratic leaders succumbs during crisis” (Taylor et al. in Froebelian Futures (4), 2023, p.15).  


Interview questions 

  1. Were you pleased with the proposal of the Action Plan topic by the colleagues of the co-located kindergarten?  Was the selection of the topic by you individually or by our kindergarten satisfactory?  Why?  
  2. In what ways was the division of responsibilities/actions within the group in your Kindergarten and in the Network of the Kindergartens school complex facilitating for you (if it truly facilitated you)? Would you suggest different ways of sharing responsibilities?   
  3. Were the various ways of information – or on the cooperation – on the coordinator’s part for your work within the framework of the Action Plan at our (your) Kindergarten helpful? From my side? Analyze.  
  4. What went well so far and what challenges/difficulties have you faced in your roles during the development of the Action Plan (inside your Kindergarten team – teachers and children – and our Network cooperation with co-located Kindergartens)?   
  5. Is there some piece of information that you consider to be important as knowledge product from the specific Action Plan for you (teachers, the children and the School environment)
  6. Any other thoughts on the issue at hand or any suggestions?  
  7. Note: I got a verbal consent from my colleagues for the recording of our discussions at the beginning of the discussions.   


Supplementary data from transcript of Interviews 

Many teachers expressed their interest and chose it for different reasons: … 4. We didn’t have “First Aid” in our first studies at the Universities or… 5. Our State is responsible for the organisation of this kind of training as well as for the school nurse or a doctor nomination in the big schools.   

As far as my co-leader role is concerned – among others – I received a lot of feedback from interviewing 8 of my colleagues: … 4. My team leader believed I was helpful too as a co-leader; someone who has more experience can do more proposals and organise a few things. She didn’t have previous experience from actions plans or other schools. She also received significant help from the coordinator of the other class in our school (for a different action plan), 5. Another colleague found the links with material that I sent them (and some proposals for actions I have made) very helpful, as she didn’t have previous experience… Colleagues from the other kindergartens said that: 1. I didn’t make things complicated during the process, 2. I was committing to the proposals and following them… 3. It is so important for someone who is the Head Teacher of a school to assign duties to the other members of a team, because the system functions much better.  

Regarding our “strengths” in our school action plan and the whole plan (for the three schools): … 4. There was interest and mobilization by other colleagues on the whole with the suitable changes in our schedules when it was needed; she felt relieved by the existent leadership distribution, as she had other studies this year, 5. The different forms of communication (verbal and written) were efficient; there wasn’t any enforcement for us to do or not to do something; each team itself can be self-regulated, 6. Students from the other school have already done two more actions for their students (in one of the three kindergartens).  

What about the challenges we faced? (As a school and school complex: 1. We needed (as teachers) one action each month selected by the colleagues… regarding the organisation 5. My head teacher prefers more verbal communication than “viber” which is contrived (her opinion) and doesn’t facilitate our distributed leadership roles, 6. One colleague from another kindergarten emphasised that the rest of our Network didn’t search for available actions – apart from specific memberships. She also felt sad when some colleagues “took back” their decision to participate in a training for which they had been already informed.  

There is a variety of knowledge and experiences that my colleagues expressed as the following: … 2. We don’t give medicines to the children, according to recent educational circulars and it became clearer that the teacher cannot take full responsibility of an incident at school, 3. Our knowledge for “First Aids” was refreshed but it needs constant update, 4. Our students expressed their interest to learn more about this topic and seemed to be able to recall information such as: a. How do we react in the case of a burn or what is the right number to call when needed. Moreover, they heard a few things about self-protecting. It’s not easy to find “empathy” in these children ages (one of my colleagues’ opinion) … 6. The level of understanding of the “First Aid” among children is different and varies according to their particularities, 7. We can’t overlook the issue of multiculturalism and special needs children in our schools … 9. Some of my colleagues claimed that the “First Aid” training programme shouldn’t be organised by us (the teachers), be paid (some seminars) or… that we lose our student class due to the heavy workload…  



Collective strengths   Systemic challenges   Opportunities to go further  1-2 next steps  

(& schedule a review) 


(Bateson, 2023 


The u-school methods and tools   

Regarding feedback I received from interviewing, this was so supportive by giving us direct answers to our questions. Dialogue interviewing is one of the u-school methods that are used in projects, workshops and other programmes. “Their purpose is to develop trust and encourage collective thinking that sparks creativity” (Presencing Institute, n.d.).  





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