International early childhood education leader research

International leadership research of ECE “Discourse of leadership in the diverse field of early childhood education”

Leadership in early childhood education has been broadly discussed phenomenon in recent years and following the institutional chance of ECE field.  Leadership is under the ongoing transformation in many ways. Societal changes, economic situations, and administrative renews challenges both pedagogy and organisational structures, and sets new requirements to the leadership of Early Childhood Education (ECE).

Changes of ECE institutions are global phenomena and comparative studies with Finnish, South African, Japanese, Singapore, the USA and German ECE leadership discourses will open a broader understanding for the variation of discourses. The local phenomena can became more prominent when investigating the phenomena globally.

Data will be collected by focus group interviews, where ECE directors and kindergarten teachers model separately focus groups. The data will be analysed by a discourse analysis.

The aim of the study is to describe directors and kindergarten teacher’s conceptions of ECE leadership among the changing situations of the ECE field.

The purpose is to provide understanding about the various discourses and the different expectations of ECE leadership. Through this, it is possible to unify the concept and bring clarity to the essence of leadership. This will increase pedagogical quality, work well-being and children’s and parents’ satisfaction with ECE.

This study is connected to the collaboration in the International leadership research forum – early childhood education (ILRF–ECE)


Research group

Research group leader University Lecturer Elina Fonsén, University of Helsinki, Finland elina.fonsen(at)

University Lecturer Päivi Kupila, University of Tampere, Finland

Lecturer Tarja Liinamaa, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Researcher Dr Marja-Liisa Keski-Rauska, Regional State Administrative Agency

Professor Nkidi Phatudi, University of South Africa, South Africa

Associate professor Sharon Mampane, University of South Africa, South Africa

University Lecturer Modise Matshediso, University of South Africa, South Africa

Dr Namhla Sotuku, University of Fort Hare, South Africa

Master Student Fritz David, University of Pretoria, South Africa (Namibia)

University Lecturer Chika Inoue, Tokoha University junior college, Japan

Associate professor  Masayo Kawakita, Jumonji University, Japan

Professor Tunde Szecsi, Gulf Coast university, Florida

Doctoral research student, Shaireen Selamat, University of Warwick, UK (Singapore)

Professor Petra Strehmel, Hampurg University of Applied Sciences, German


Advisor members

Emerita Professor Eeva Hujala, University of Tampere, Finland

Professor Manjula Waniganayake, University of Macquarie, Australia

Educational consultant, Jillian Rodd, UK


Student members:

Vivianne Ruohola, University of Helsinki, Finland

Marika Repo, University of Helsinki

Markus Sauvola, University of Helsinki

Sofia Fonsén, University of Tampere

Jan Varpanen, University of Tampere

Anna Reponen, University of Jyväskylä



Fonsén, E. (2013). Dimensions of Pedagogical leadership in Early Childhood Education and Care. In E. Hujala, M. Waniganayake & J. Rodd (Eds.) Researching Leadership in Early Childhood Education. Tampere: Tampere University Press, 181–192.

Fonsén, E. (2014). Pedagoginen johtajuus varhaiskasvatuksessa. (Pedagogical leadership in early childhood education.) Acta Universitatis Tamperensis 1914. Tampere: Tampere University Press.

Fonsén, E., Akselin, M-L. & Aronen, K. (2015). From distributed leadership towards joint leadership – a case study: the early stages of developing a new ECE leadership model for the city of Hämeenlinna. In M. Waniganayake, J. Rodd & L. Gibbs (Eds.) Thinking and Learning about Leadership: Early childhood research from Australia, Finland and Norway. International Leadership Research Forum (ILRF) Research Monograph #2. Sydney: Community Childcare Cooperative NSW, 116–130.

Fonsén, E. & Keski-Rauska, M-L. (fortcoming) Varhaiskasvatusyksiköiden yhteisen johtajuuden diskurssiivinen tarkastelu. (Discurrsive approach to joint leadership in ECE)

Fonsén, E. & Vlasov, J. (2017). Leading Pedagogical Quality in the Context of Finnish Child Care. In C. Ringsmose & G. Kragh-Müller (Eds.) The Nordic Social Pedagogical Approach to Early Years. Series: International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development, Vol. 15. Cham: Springer International Publishing AG, 253–265

Hujala, E., Eskelinen, M., Chen, C., Inoue, C., Matsumoto, M., Kawase, M. & , S. (2016). Leadership tasks in Early Childhood Education in Finland, Japan and Singapore.  Journal of Research in Childhood Education, vol. 30, no.3, 406-421

Hujala, E., Waniganayake, M. & Rodd, J. (Eds.) 2013. Researching Leadership in Early Childhood Education. Tampere: Tampere University Press.

Keski-Rauska, M-L., Fonsén, E., Aronen, K. & Riekkola A. (2016). Research on a joint leadership model for early childhood education in Finland. Journal of Early Childhood Education Research, 5(2), 310–328.

Parrila, S. & Fonsén, E. (Eds.).(2016). Varhaiskasvatuksen pedagoginen johtajuus. Käsikirja käytännön työhön. (Pedagogical leadership in ECE. Handbook for practise.) Jyväskylä: PS-kustannus. (Pedagogical leadership in ECE. Handbook for practise.)

Soukainen, U. & Fonsén, E. (forthcoming) Will the Leadership Last? Sustainable Leadership in Early Childhood Education. OMEP –conference journal.