Nancy Thomas

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, Ed.D.



First Advisor

Julie Kalnin

LC Subjects

Educational leadership--Research; Education--Study and teaching; Early childhood education--Canada; Early childhood teachers


Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) focuses on young children’s early learning and well-being, as mighty learners and citizens. Making curriculum decisions that reflect guiding principles that view children as active, co-constructors of knowledge is challenging work. This way of working requires integrating theoretical and practice-based knowledge in pedagogical processes to create meaningful learning opportunities that reflect children’s everyday experiences and encourages children’s theory building. Pedagogical leaders play a vital role in the pedagogical process by creating transformative shifts in EC practice and curriculum decision making. Now seems to be the moment when views of ECEC leadership are broadening to include a focus on leading practice and learning,and inspires a vision that situates pedagogy as the core of leadership. This research examined the not yet well-defined and sometimes misunderstood role of the pedagogical leader in ECEC in Alberta by exploring participants’ perspectives on leading practice within ECEC teams.

Wenger's Social Learning Theory (1998) helps to situate pedagogy and leadership, and their emerging connectedness within the context of the ECEC. Building on Wenger's notion of a community of practice described as an assembly of people with a common pursuit to interact to improve learning (Wenger, 1998), highlights the collaborative nature of shared meaning making. Wenger’s (1998) notions of communities of practice was an apt lens to explore the dynamics of pedagogical leadership within ECEC centers.

This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews, a focus group dialogue, and a follow-up questionnaire to explore how pedagogical leaders described the pedagogical practices used to support and engage EC educators in curriculum decision making.

Findings illustrated how formal leadership often began with practice experience and recognition of leadership potential, as participants drew parallels between the pedagogical process used with children to the process used while supporting educator in curriculum meaning making. Findings also illustrated the various conceptions of leaderships, levels of formal leadership that emerge within organizations and the pedagogical enactments that leaders use. Participants detailed the need for formal and informal learning opportunities to further animate their work. The implications for practice focus on creating formalize pathways to leadership; expanding local practice circles for pedagogical leaders to collaborate with one another, and professional learning opportunities focused on pedagogy and leadership specific to ECEC contents.


Copyright for this work is retained by the author.