CEELO says Leadership Professional Learning Community report
The USA-based organisation Centre on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes has released an online summary of activities and findings from a professional learning community (PLC) which supported leadership development amongst high-level leaders of early education.
The findings and resources of the report are likely to be of interest to those in the Australian early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, particularly in light of the latest ACECQA snapshot, which shows Quality Area 7 – Governance and Leadership as the second highest area in which services are receiving a rank of ‘significant improvement required’, the second highest area in which services are receiving a rank of ‘working towards’, and the second lowest area in which centres are receiving a rank of ‘meeting’.
The PLC, which ran from 2017-2018, was to support participants who were new leaders, increasing their awareness, helping them gain critical knowledge, and develop leadership skills required to guide early learning in their various positions.
The 12-month program gave participants individual coaching sessions each month, quarterly webinars, and in-person consultations with education leaders. An output of the program was the development of a leadership toolkit, which allowed participants to share essential knowledge, skills and behaviours that would benefit new leaders.
Participants in the program described it as ‘a lifeline’ saying that the program reduced isolation and increased their understanding of the relevant systems of leadership, as well as leadership practice, and the growth of their networks. Improved confidence, collaboration across sites, and maximising resources to support professional growth were also reported outcomes.
Lessons learned from the program included:
– The importance of onboarding new leaders, and providing orientation and comprehensive, ongoing support.
– A tailored approach which recognises there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to fully preparing and supporting new leaders.
– Balancing individual and collective leadership: space for leaders to examine themselves and their leadership in the context of the larger system.
– Consistent participation was the key to building relationships and forming an effective PLC.
– Connection of participants from the commencement of the program was important, with a face-to-face meeting best held at the start of the PLC rather than the end. It was highlighted here that technology, while useful, was not a replacement for the personal connection.
– Capitalising on the reality of participants using the ‘problem of practice’ approach as frequently as possible, reframing ‘problems’ as opportunities for learning and development.
– Providing support in the form of leaders who have been in similar positions and experienced similar challenges led to a stronger PLC and built trust and confidence in the group.
– Being ready to start the PLC, with tools and human resources was a success driver, with the report recommending the establishment of ambitious deadlines for participants, and ensuring delays are minimised, as they can be a source of frustration and interfere with leaders’ initiative.
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