There is a need to re-conceptualise work-based learning for early childhood practitioners, and the leader has a central role to play as  the sector continues to face rapid policy changes.  This was one of the key take-aways from the workshop presented by Emeritus Professor Dr Carol Aubrey, University of Warwick, at the ceremony on 29 April 2017 for the latest batch of 26 degree graduates of the Warwick Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Early Childhood Care and Education programme.

The workshop was organised by KLC International Institute (KLCII), which has partnered with Warwick to offer the 22-month part-time degree programme fully taught at KLCII by the University’s faculty.

In her workshop, Dr Aubrey brought the students through the nature and relevance of theory to practice, examining the definitions, models and contexts of early childhood leadership, nationally and internationally. She pointed out that in the last 10 years there has been more interest in early childhood leadership and central to that is pedagogy, which in an indisputable factor in quality.

She said that knowing theory is no guarantee of being a good leader, as it ultimately has to be proven effective through application. However, contextual and situational approaches to leadership have to take into consideration the early childhood centre’s own history, working and educational culture that can be mediated in many ways.

Leadership development, she added, requires learning based on problem-solving in real-life situations, reflection on actual experiences, confronting assumptions and challenge from new ideas, coaching to help mediate gap between actual/desired performance and the creation of a community of practice.

Therefore,  professional work-based learning would require three bodies of knowledge, namely leadership (pedagogic, contextual and distributed); professional learning and coaching and mentoring (as a sub-set of professional learning).

Dr Carol pointed out that it is crucial to have the following leadership attributes:

– A pedagogic leader and learner in a professional learning community who can create collective and collaborative learning community

– A contextual leader who can interpret both internal and external environment

– A distributive leader who develops structures and processes to support professional learning in a nurturing, enabling and inclusive environment

– A coach (co-thinker); mentor (jointly creating new knowledge)

Emeritus Professor Dr Carol Aubrey is from the Centre for Educational Studies at The University of Warwick. She is also the Co-ordinator of the Warwick undergraduate programme for Singapore.