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Over the past few months the McCormick Center has been engaging you in a discussion about the concept of whole leadership. We’ve introduced the idea of leadership essentials, administrative leadership, and pedagogical leadership as overarching domains. I’d like to focus on how two of those overarching domains intersect in a way that is critical for sustained quality.
Our working definition of administrative leadership describes successful administrative leaders as being able to establish systems that protect and sustain essential operational functions. Operational leadership (accomplished through activities such as hiring and supporting staff, overseeing budgets, and maintaining a positive workplace climate) and strategic leadership (involving guiding the direction of the organization with the future in mind) are important aspects.
The working definition of pedagogical leadership includes supporting teaching and learning by establishing organizational norms of continuous quality improvement and influencing children’s learning by fostering family engagement, ensuring fidelity to the organization’s curricular philosophy, using data to evaluate the effectiveness of the learning program, and meeting standards established to optimize learning environments.
Let’s consider how administrative and pedagogical leadership are connected by looking at an example related to the common practice of engaging families.
A few months ago, I visited a program where the director expressed frustration because families were not participating in events or engaged in their child’s learning process. Several weeks later, I visited another program where the opposite was the case; families were extremely involved in program events. They were also aware of what the children were learning in the classroom and were embedding the learning into their home life. This was evidenced through photos and documentation that was displayed in the classrooms. When I asked the director of the first program, with little family involvement, what she was doing to support family partnerships her response had been short. She stated they continually sent out flyers about events and posted numerous reminders on bulletin boards. For me, this response demonstrated a disconnect between administrative and pedagogical practices.
When I asked the director of the second program, with considerable family involvement, how she supported family partnerships she provided a description that included the following actions:
For me, the above examples demonstrate administrative leadership that supports family engagement. In short, the director and staff are intentional about building family partnerships and this is established by the development of operational systems that encourage and promote family engagement.
In addition, this director shared the following:
I believe the above examples demonstrate how supervisors in this program are demonstrating pedagogical leadership and have established methods to support this practice.
For me, administrative and pedagogical leadership are dependent on one another. If there are policies and practices in place to help ensure family engagement is occurring (administrative leadership), but if teachers are not supported in building on and following through with these practices (pedagogical leadership), then successful family engagement is less likely to occur.
Jill Bella is Director of Quality Supports for the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University. In this role she coordinates the McCormick Center’s research and training initiatives relating to the Early Childhood Work Environment Survey, the Program Administration Scale, and the Business Administration Scale for Family Child Care. Jill is co-author of A Great Place to Work, Inspiring Peak Performance, and Zoom: The Impact of Early Childhood Leadership Training on Role Perceptions, Job Performance, and Career Decisions.