Leadership practices and indicators of quality, connected through internal evaluation processes in the New Zealand ECE sector





early childhood education, leadership practice, educational leadership, internal evaluation


The last few years has seen a significant increase in the attention paid to leadership in the New Zealand early childhood education (ECE) sector, particularly in guiding documents. While these provide greater clarity than previously on expectations around leadership practice, a greater understanding of what leadership means and how it is implemented in different contexts is still needed. This article is based on a study exploring how educational leadership is practised through internal evaluation processes in New Zealand ECE services, and how these practices support the professional capabilities and capacities of teachers. Previous research has highlighted that a practice approach to leadership removes the focus on the individual leader and allows leadership to emerge from collective action. The objectives of this research study were: to develop a better understanding of how educational leadership is practised through internal evaluation processes; explore what challenges or enables teachers to become involved and practise educational leadership through internal evaluation processes; and to understand how services monitor the impact of changes on teaching practice, made as a result of an internal evaluation.

This qualitative research, which took the form of an interpretive case study, was framed around a single case design with multiple units of analysis. Data were gathered from three participating ECE services through interviews, focus groups and observations, and drew on the perspectives of both teachers and positional leaders. A reflexive thematic data analysis approach was employed, and four key themes were developed: identification with leadership; supportive workplace culture; continuous improvement; and effective leadership practices in ECE services. Seven effective leadership practices were also identified: relational leadership; creating the conditions for teamwork; engagement; knowledge expertise and sharing opinions; shared decision making; facilitating and guiding and accountability and organisation. This article contributes to our further understanding of educational leadership practices in New Zealand ECE services.


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Author Biographies

Christina Egan Marnell, Victoria University of Wellington

Dr Christina Egan Marnell is a trained early childhood teacher and has been working in areas of leadership and management in the ECE sector for the past 12 years. She advocates for leadership to be explored as the actions that people take, rather than who the individual is, as it can create an opportunity for everyone to show leadership.

Kate Thornton, Victoria University of Wellington

Dr Kate Thornton is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at Victoria University of Wellington, in New Zealand. Her research interests include educational leadership and leadership development, professional learning communities, and mentoring and coaching. Kate was the subject matter expert for the development of the leadership related indicators in Te Ara Poutama. ERO’s conceptual framework Ngā Pou Here.


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