In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Early Childhood Education Pedagogy

  • Introduction
  • Pedagogical Leadership
  • Preschool Profession and Teaching Based on Pedagogy
  • Children’s Learning and Development as a Practice of Pedagogy
  • Pedagogy as a Mirror of Preschool Quality

Education Early Childhood Education Pedagogy
Sonja Sheridan, Susanne Garvis, Pia Williams
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 April 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0194


Many children worldwide spend a significant amount of their first years in life in early childhood education and care. They have the right to an early childhood education pedagogy that gives them a good start in life, acquiring knowledge to master everyday life as well as an unknown future. Contemporary learning means new trajectories of knowledge formation, not at least the digitalization of society. In preschool, preschool leaders and teachers need a pedagogy that enables them to meet children in their widespread ways of learning and from the view of the child and childhood that emerge in a changing world. This article highlights how research in early childhood education pedagogy can lead to new thinking that has consequences for the children and their families, the profession, the preschool, and policy. The research contributes to an understanding of pedagogy as constituted in the relationships and mutual influence of policy, curriculum goals, preschool teachers’ competence, and how conditions are created for children’s play and learning in various early childhood settings. An extensive search of articles and books were conducted to provide this summary on early childhood education pedagogy. The articles/books are organized as four themes highlighting early childhood education pedagogy from different perspectives. The first theme focuses on Pedagogical Leadership in the field of early childhood education. Pedagogical leadership is often linked to a pedagogy that promotes quality improvement in the early childhood sector. The second theme Preschool Profession and Teaching Based on Pedagogy demonstrates that highly educated and competent preschool teachers are a necessity to teach young children in preschool from a pedagogical perspective. The preschool teachers act as agents of change who take responsibility for their profession as well as have a child perspective based on scientific knowledge and proven experience using a pedagogy that drives development forward. The third theme is called Children’s Learning and Development as a Practice of Pedagogy. During these years, children learn, develop, and make social contacts with peers and adults in a dynamic development process. Research on pedagogy for the youngest children (children aged under three) is an emergent area of research. The last theme on Pedagogy as a Mirror of Preschool Quality mirrors the importance of high-pedagogical-quality preschool for children’s well-being, play, academic achievement, and lifelong learning. Overall, the four themes highlight important research within the field of early childhood education pedagogy and provide glimpses of new research ideas and ways of working with children, preschool teachers, families, and policy issues.

Pedagogical Leadership

Leadership in the field of early childhood education is growing around the world, with a specific focus on pedagogical leadership. Pedagogical leadership is based on staff members taking an active role to support the development of pedagogy in the early childhood context. There is a common consensus across countries that quality improvement with the early years sector must have leaders who can help mentor and support change. The articles selected include the countries of Australia, Finland, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, England, Hong Kong, Japan, and Chili. Pedagogical leaders support the development of pedagogy and provide opportunities for the sharing of pedagogical practice. Many of the authors in this section advocate for a transformation of leadership to enhance and support pedagogical leadership in the early years. This includes enhancing pedagogy through the introduction of a caring relationship, passionate care through appropriate pedagogy, leading knowledge development about pedagogy, and including children and family as part of a productive early childhood pedagogy. The authors also call for more focus on pedagogical leadership across early childhood settings to allow an overall sustained and improved development of pedagogical practices.

  • Alameen, Lubna, Trevor Male, and Ionna Palaiologu. 2015. Exploring pedagogical leadership in early years education in Saudi Arabia. School Leadership and Management 35.2: 121–139.

    DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2014.992773

    The paper reports on pedagogical leadership in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, following reforms in the early years sectors. Leadership roles and responsibilities have become key issues within the reforms. In most cases, the leaders appeared to demonstrate only partial roles as preschools leaders. The application of pedagogical leadership was dependent on the leader’s relationship with the school community, including learners, parents, teachers, social workers, and super intendants.

  • Bøe, Marit, and Karin Hognestad. 2017. Directing and facilitating distributed pedagogical leadership: Best practices in early childhood education. International Journal of Leadership in Education 20.2: 133–148.

    DOI: 10.1080/13603124.2015.1059488

    This article implements a hybrid leadership framework to explore formal teacher-leaders and how they direct and facilitate staff resources for distributed pedagogical leadership. The research discovers a new leadership category called leading knowledge development. The new type of hybrid leadership is important for opening a conceptual space for understanding the complex dynamics of leadership in early childhood and for contextualizing distributed pedagogical leadership in preschools.

  • Cartmel, Jennifer, Kym Macfarlane, and Andrea Nolan. 2013. Looking to the future: Producing transdisciplinary professionals for leadership in early childhood settings. Early Years: An International Research Journal 33.4: 398–412.

    DOI: 10.1080/09575146.2013.852522

    Enhanced pedagogical leadership is an important area of development for government policy. In Australia, there is the initiative Developing and Sustaining Pedagogical Leadership in Early Childhood Education and Care Professionals (Sydney: Australian Government Department of Education). This paper reports on the findings from the study designed to strengthen pedagogical leadership. A model of professional development for leadership was developed with links between multiplicity, complexity, relationality, and criticality.

  • Heikka, Johanna, and Eeva Hujala. 2013. Early childhood leadership through the lens of distributed leadership. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 21.4: 568–580.

    DOI: 10.1080/1350293X.2013.845444

    The study reports on views of distributed leadership in Finland, with a focus on quality improvement and pedagogical leadership. Findings highlighted that developed forms of leadership were rarely used in early childhood education. The practices and distribution of responsibilities for leadership were distributed in different ways. The development of distributed leadership should focus on practices that enable productive relationships between stakeholders within a municipality system.

  • Heikka, Johanna, and Manjula Waniganayake. 2011. Pedagogical leadership from a distributed perspective within the context of early childhood education. International Journal of Leadership and Education 14.4: 499–512.

    DOI: 10.1080/13603124.2011.577909

    The paper explores the meaning of the word pedagogical leadership within early childhood education and provides a summary of current and historical literature around distributed ways of practicing early childhood leadership. The challenges of conceptualizing pedagogy and pedagogical leadership are also discussed, with an exploration of known theorists and educationalists. The authors argue that pedagogical leadership must also include child and family voice.

  • Hujala, Eeva, Mervi Eskelinen, Soili Keskinen, et al. 2016. Leadership Tasks in Early Childhood Education in Finland, Japan and Singapore. Journal of Research in Childhood Education 30.3: 406–421.

    DOI: 10.1080/02568543.2016.1179551

    Leadership research in early childhood education is relatively new, with few comparative country studies. Preschool leadership in Finland, Japan, and Singapore are explored in this study to provide an understanding of different contexts. Pedagogical leadership and human resource management emerging as the two main tasks of leaders. Countries involved spent a lot of time on pedagogical leadership.

  • Jasmine Kah Yan Loo and Joseph Agbenyega. 2015. A critical analysis of the Australian ECEC policy reform: An opportunity for transforming educators into pedagogical leaders? Australasian Journal of Early Childhood 40.2: 127–131.

    Drawing on theories of the new image of the child, the critical analysis provides new insights into the implications about the current conceptualizations children have for pedagogical leaders. The authors call for a transformation of early childhood leadership practices that disrupt dominant practices and highlight the importance of embracing early childhood pedagogical practices. Such a transformation will enhance quality improvement through changes in pedagogy.

  • Murray, Janet, and Rory Clark. 2013. Reframing leadership as a participative pedagogy: The working theories of early years professionals. Early Years: An international Research Journal 33.3: 289–301.

    DOI: 10.1080/09575146.2013.781135

    The authors suggest that traditional notions of leadership are at odds with the pedagogy of early childhood education. The article draws on studies from the introduction of the Early Years Professional (EYP) in England to explore the notion of pedagogic leadership in early childhood. The notion of “passionate care” emerged as a key foundation for improving education and supporting the well-being of young children.

  • Siraj-Blatchford, Iram, and Elaine Hallet. 2014. Effective and Caring Leadership in the Early Years. London: SAGE.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781473957848

    The book provides a detailed understanding about early years leadership, recognizing the behavior of leaders and their abilities to develop skills to support shifts in practices with pedagogy. A focus on the emotional health of settings is also given to establish a culture of care for each other and children through pedagogy. The notion of “caring leadership” allows a culture of respect to achieve and sustain improvement in pedagogical outcomes.

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