How can future leaders tackle changes in early childhood education? - Education Matters Magazine

How can future leaders tackle changes in early childhood education?

Our understanding of childhood development is constantly shifting. It’s increasingly important for educators to be informed, goal-oriented leaders at the forefront of change management in early education.

Education through a child’s early years is essential for healthy emotional, social, cognitive and physical development. What happens early in life lays the foundation for all that follows.

However, our understanding of childhood development is constantly shifting. With the emergence of new research, technologies and philosophies, it can be easy for education leaders to lose sight of the bigger picture.

In an atmosphere often dominated by opposing ideologies, it has become increasingly important for educators to be informed, goal-oriented leaders at the forefront of early education.

Changes in early childhood education

Debates around best practice in early education are common and abundant in the sector.

Since the 1950s, the malleability of children in their earliest years has been accepted. Educators in the 21st century now face a different challenge. The debate has evolved from the view that early education is pivotal to lifelong learning, to how best to impart knowledge to children of the ‘information age’.

The increased focus on best practice has seen debates rage between advocates for different styles of teaching and learning. Arguments for all styles of pedagogy from inquiry-based learning to more traditional subject-based learning has resulted in teachers being pulled in different directions. The puzzle is even trickier with early childhood pedagogy. Generally, it’s harder to see younger children learning when compared to a child post-primary age.

It may seem that education leaders are spending more time debating what and who is right. Upcoming movers and shakers in education need to be able to manage changing ideas around teaching modes and methods alongside the overall goal of childhood education, which is the preparation of children to enter adulthood.

Leading through change

Educators skilled in leadership are able to positively influence, as well as guide changes and developments in the sector. Those especially adept in change management have a particular set of skills, including:

The ability to listen

Leaders who listen to those in the know are able to see the big picture and take necessary actions. Strong education figures form active and communicative alliances with teachers with the first-hand experience.

Empathy

Change leaders understand there will be competing agendas, especially where education is concerned. Skilled leaders devise ways to anticipate and empathise with others by reducing uncertainty, brokering deals and allowing others to feel respected and heard.

Perseverance

Those ushering in transformational change have the ability to course correct, rally the troops and start moving in the right direction, despite opposition or the unexpected.

Leaders adept in change management also understand the value of goal setting. As the ADKAR model outlines, goal-orientated change management provides an outcomes-focused framework for all other leadership skills to align to. For leaders to be successful and change to last, concrete outcomes of awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement need to remain priorities throughout any individual or organisational change.

While technical skills are important, educators aspiring for leadership also need to develop these softer skills to successfully navigate times of change.

Model leadership

Local educators have worked tirelessly to ensure Australia is a world-class example of successful early childhood education. In addition to a dual focus on technical and soft skills, upcoming leaders are provided with the best resources and frameworks to succeed.

For example, the National Quality Framework has set a high, national benchmark for early childhood education and care. As Amelia Ruscoe, Master of Education (Early Childhood Specialisation) Lecturer at ECU explains, “[The] National Quality Framework is not just a historical event for Australia, we don’t have many of these such agreements. It is world-class – there is no other country in the world that has signed up to a national agreement on what quality looks like in early childhood.”

While this framework is accepted in the current climate, the landscape of childhood education is constantly in flux. New modes of teaching and learning will continue to emerge and reinvigorate debate. It’s up to the future leaders in education to be prepared to lead and manage these changes.

Be future ready

The Master of Education at Edith Cowan University will deepen your knowledge and understanding of early education theory, while also developing your leadership skills for the betterment of the twenty-first-century classroom. You’ll hone your understanding of contemporary pedagogy practices, further developing your perspective of early education on a global scale. Find out how you can learn to be the next leader in early childhood education.

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