Assignment 1: Explore Scholarly Writing Through Academic Journal Articles

For this assignment, you will refer to both 1) the three assigned articles on scholarly writing from this week’s resources and  2) at least three other articles on your chosen topic (which you will locate via the NCU library).  Please note that the NCU library offers assistance for your research needs via email and live help.  See the library home page for details, and don’t hesitate to reach out for help! 

Plan to spend some time on reading this week, as reading scholarly writings at first is neither quick nor easy. You will probably want to read each article more than once to get the hang of this kind of writing. After reading all three articles that you selected from the library, reflect on the process of scholarly writing by answering the following questions:

  • What did you notice about the writing style overall in the articles you selected?
  • How did the writing in the academic journal articles compare to writing you might find from other sources, such as books or magazines?
  • What did you notice about the citations in the articles you selected?
  • What did you notice about word choice, tone, objectivity, and level of detail in the articles you selected?
  • Planning for your own future academic publications, what are a few things you will be focusing on as far as your personal scholarly writing skill development as you work through your courses?
  • Knowing that scholarly writing is an iterative process that requires many drafts, much feedback, and extensive editing and rewriting, how can you best prepare for this challenging process mentally, emotionally, and academically?

Length: 3-4 pages, plus reference list and title page

References: Include a full-reference list and in-text citations for at least six scholarly references.  Three of the references should be the three assigned articles on academic writing and the other three (or more) articles should be the ones on your chosen topic. Be sure to use this first assignment as a way to refresh your use of accurate APA format.

Your assignment should demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the ideas and concepts that are presented in the course and provide new thoughts and insights relating directly to this topic. Your response should reflect graduate-level writing and APA standards. Be sure to adhere to Northcentral University’s Academic Integrity Policy.

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Early Childhood Education Journal (2021) 49:669–679
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-020-01107-8

“Everyone Can Be a Leader”: Early Childhood Education Leadership
in a Center Serving Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children
and Families

Clarisse Halpern1  · Tunde Szecsi2 · Veronika Mak3

Published online: 18 August 2020
© Springer Nature B.V. 2020

Abstract
The aim of this study was to investigate the conceptualizations and early childhood education (ECE) leadership practices
among teachers and administrators. A case study was conducted at a community ECE center that mainly serves Hispanic and
Haitian immigrant children and families in Southwest Florida. Three administrators and four ECE teachers were interviewed
about their views and experiences with ECE leadership. After aggregating the data into clusters, five themes emerged: (1)
vision-driven leadership, (2) inclusive leadership (3) practice-focused leadership, (4) freedom and ownership vs. close
supervision, and (5) advocacy for ECE. The findings indicated that the participants held a shared vision of collaborative and
inclusive ECE leadership, which was expanded to include culturally and linguistically diverse children and families. Also,
the teachers highlighted a pedagogical leadership style that directly impacted their everyday classroom practices to facilitate
children’s and parents’ leadership experiences. All participants advocated ECE programs in which quality early care and
education are ensured through inclusive leadership. Both teachers’ and administrators’ willingness to invest in leadership
training and practices indicated their commitment towards a shared and democratic leadership model which is a pathway
toward social justice.

Keywords Early childhood education · Leadership · Teachers and administrators · Case study · Immigrant families

The recognition of the long-term impact of early education
on a child’s life has fueled the improvements in early child-
hood pedagogy. Solid early childhood pedagogy must be
nurtured through leadership to create quality early education
and care (Hujala 2019). Educational leadership is a sustaina-
ble model that uses collaboration to generate positive effects
on student achievement and ensures long-lasting outcomes
(Burns 2016; Ferdig 2007; Fullan 2005). Emerging from
business and management theories, leadership studies were
progressively incorporated into educational studies (Hoy
and Miskel 2008; Jacobson and Cypres 2012). Nonetheless,

due to significant differences, corporate leadership theories
seem incompatible with early childhood education (ECE)
practices (Kagan and Hallmark 2001; Mujis et al. 2004).
Corporate leadership caters to large, hierarchical, formal,
and often product-oriented organizations, typically led by
men, whereas ECE leadership tends to be more collaborative
and distributive in smaller and more people-oriented institu-
tions often led by women (Schein 2004). Current studies of
ECE leadership highlighted the critical attributes predomi-
nantly valued in the field of early childhood: collaboration,
interpersonal relationships, pedagogical practices, and mul-
tidisciplinary services to families (Nicholson et al. 2020).

Interest and demand for conceptualizing ECE leader-
ship, and the need to provide evidence for research-based
ECE leadership training and implementation emerged in
the 1990s. Researchers in different countries conceptualized
ECE leadership within their cultural context. Heikka and
Hujala (2013) emphasized distributed leadership, pedagogi-
cal leadership, and teacher leadership as core concepts in
ECE leadership in Finland. In the United States, ECE lead-
ership was approached by pedagogical and administrative

* Clarisse Halpern
clari_halpern@hotmail.com

1 Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Culture, College
of Education, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers,
USA

2 Department of Teacher Education, College of Education,
Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, USA

3 Fort Myers, USA

http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1835-8601

http://crossmark.crossref.org/dialog/?doi=10.1007/s10643-020-01107-8&domain=pdf

670 Early Childhood Education Journal (2021) 49:669–679

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leadership (Abel et al. 2017). Numerous scholars called
attention to the development of emancipatory leadership in
early childhood centers, including a range of ECE profes-
sionals without limiting leadership roles to administrators
(Nicholson et al. 2020).

Other researchers described the impact of collaboration
and team support at the organizational level (Muñoz et al.
2015) and described the need for developing a holistic model
that describes the administration’s responsibilities for using
leadership to foster organizational integration (Haslip and
Gullo 2018; Myers and Palmer 2015). Although shared char-
acteristics of ECE leadership seem to emerge across cul-
tures, Hujala et al. (2016) emphasized that ECE’s unique
cultural contexts, guiding principles, and core values deter-
mine the content of leadership tasks and responsibilities,
and might differ in ECE schools and centers. Leadership
is required to respond to challenges brought about by the
changing demographics of student populations and diverse
family structures and cultures in the United States (Krieg
et al. 2014). Thus, the micro and macro-environments in
which the early childhood centers operate play an essential
role in the leadership culture and discourse.

Although theories of ECE leadership have been preva-
lent during the past three decades, research-based knowledge
is still needed. Hujala (2019) emphasized that producing
research-based evidence on leadership is the prerequisite for
developing a sustainable ECE leadership model. The percep-
tion that leadership affects the quality of ECE practices is
becoming widespread, thus, there is a pressing need to study
ECE professionals’ perspectives on leadership, exploring the
extent to which they hold shared values, vision, and views on
the key factors that affect the leadership structure (Fonsén
and Soukainin 2020; Heikka and Hujala 2013). Therefore,
this case study explores ECE leadership’s views among
administrators and teachers in a center in Southwest Flor-
ida that serves immigrant children and families from Latin
America and Haiti. First, we provide an overview of the
literature on the conceptualization of ECE leadership. Then,
we describe the context of the case setting, data collection
and analysis, and discuss the five major themes responding
to the research question, followed by recommendations.

ECE Leadership Conceptualization
and Practices

Early studies on ECE leadership focused on its multi-dimen-
sional nature, roles, and responsibilities, thus, suggesting
that ECE settings required a more situational, socially con-
structed, and interpretive approach (Hujala 2002, 2004).
ECE leadership, grounded on pedagogical, curricular, and
instructional goals, focuses on educational purposes, rather
than leadership applied to managerial and business settings.

Hence, ECE leadership places a heavier emphasis on learn-
ing processes, not only those experienced by children, but
also by the entire educational team (Robinson et al. 2009).

Previous research found that ECE leadership fosters a col-
laborative, teamwork culture and learning community cre-
ated through periodic training, discussions and professional
development (Chan 2018; Ueda 2014, 2015). Nonetheless,
despite the importance of gaining leadership competencies
for their practice and career progression, ECE teachers often
lack the experience and mentoring opportunities to do so
(Ebbeck et al. 2014). Thus, the primary goal of an ECE
leaders must be to offer professional development programs
to instill leadership attitudes, skills, and knowledge for their
daily practices (Henderson 2017; LaRocco et al. 2014), and
to develop “their staff to enhance children’s learning” (Nut-
tall et al. 2018, p. 80). Other studies have explored the devel-
opment of ECE leadership through mentoring and coaching,
emphasizing the benefits of combining both strategies for
highly effective learning of leadership roles, responsibilities,
skills, and the assimilation of knowledge created between
coaches and leaders on shared tasks and objectives (Carroll-
Lind et al. 2016; Robertson 2011; Rodd 2013; Waniganay-
ake et al. 2012; Wong and Waniganayake 2013). Regardless
of the hierarchical level, ECE leaders’ essential competen-
cies are effective leadership, shared responsibility, and pro-
fessional learning (Bruns et al. 2017).

ECE leadership is aligned with a holistic model that
describes the responsibilities and actions of ECE cent-
ers’ directors while promoting more integration, shared
knowledge, and visibility of the organization (Myers and
Palmer 2015). ECE leadership should be principle-centered,
grounded in humanistic, transformational, and value-based
attributes (Carr et al. 2009), and should not be restricted to
the administrative/managerial level, but must also include
the teachers. Despite limited opportunities, Armstrong et al.
(2009) found that teachers want to expand their leadership
potential. Leadership opportunities must emerge from the
school’s organizational structure, mainly from the princi-
pal–teacher relationship. Leadership must occur at different
levels to promote a supportive environment for school staff
and children’s families and to benefit the children’s develop-
ment and success. In this regard, Cheung et al. (2018) found
that effective teacher leadership was comprised of different
dimensions, including the classroom, teachers, and school
levels at the ECE organization.

The importance of developing leadership skills at different
hierarchical levels is justified by the need to take it as a process
that influences “change to improve early care and education,
and not reserved just for those with a formal leadership posi-
tion” (Douglass 2018, p. 387). When educators are developed
as leaders, they become empowered to lead change, improv-
ing themselves and their students’ development. Similarly,
Cheung et al. (2018) highlighted that children’s whole-child

671Early Childhood Education Journal (2021) 49:669–679

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development is directly benefitted by the development of
teachers’ leadership. Consequently, leadership must not be
associated with a formal job title or job description; instead,
ECE leadership must be a relational process that aims to influ-
ence and impact change (Douglass 2018).

Whole Leadership Framework

The Whole Leadership Framework (WLF) was developed in
the United States to address the conceptualization of ECE
leadership at the program level for formal and informal lead-
ership roles and program structures (Abel 2019; Abel et al.
2017; Kagan and Bowman 1997). This framework offered
essential insights into the conceptualizations of ECE leader-
ship and guided our investigation of ECE leadership percep-
tions among teachers and administrators, particularly in a
case about an ECE center that offers programs to culturally
and linguistically diverse children and families in Southwest
Florida.

Considering the WLF and the multifaceted nature of
ECE, ECE program leadership encompasses three funda-
mental and interdependent domains: administrative lead-
ership, pedagogical leadership, and leadership essentials
(Abel et al. 2017). The administrative leadership addresses
the need to qualify, empower, and coordinate a team that
develops and sustains the organization, including its opera-
tions and strategic goals, offering programs that advocate
for the needs of the children, families, and communities
served. Pedagogical leadership entails providing high-qual-
ity education based on the curricular philosophy, learning
environment, and developmentally appropriate assessments,
promoting family leadership through family engagement
programs. Finally, the leadership essentials include critical
personal attributes, skills, styles, and dispositions, such as
adaptability, creativity, authenticity, empathy, self-efficacy,
humility, and transparency (Abel et al. 2017).

Based on the literature review and guided by the WLF, we
identified a need for empirical research to investigate ECE
teachers’ and administrators’ perceptions of ECE leadership
in a center that offers programs to culturally and linguisti-
cally diverse families in Southwest Florida. We aimed to
answer the following research question: What are the per-
ceptions of ECE leadership among the teachers and admin-
istrators? The results may inform stakeholders about ECE
leadership, resulting in better practices that benefit children’s
education.

Methods

A case study (Stake 2005; Yin 2005) was applied to exam-
ine a real-life, intrinsic system (Creswell and Poth 2018)
of ECE leadership practices. The case described ECE

administrators’ and teachers’ views of ECE leadership prac-
tices in the context of an ECE center located in Southwest
Florida, offering in-depth and contextualized perspectives
(Merriam 1998) of the phenomenon under investigation.
The case was selected based on a partnership between the
university of the authors’ affiliation and the ECE center that
offers preservice teachers’ internships and opportunities to
practice strategies for English for Speakers of Other Lan-
guages (ESOL) before graduation. The ECE center’s mis-
sion is to serve underprivileged Latino and Haitian families
using leadership practices that attend to the needs of these
immigrant families. The researchers took a social construc-
tivist epistemological standpoint to capture the participants’
perceptions of ECE leadership, understanding that reality
is constructed in a meaning-making process based on their
social interactions and experiences (Berger and Luckman
1985) with leadership practices.

Case Setting

The setting was a community ECE center in Southwest Flor-
ida serving immigrant children and their families. Accord-
ing to the center’s website, 85% of the families served live
at-or-below the Federal Poverty Threshold, with the lowest
income and highest poverty and unemployment rates com-
pared to other parts of Florida. The per capita income is
$16.670, 50% of the elementary age children are English
language learners, and 31% of the population over 25 years
of age have less than a high school education, 60% of parents
have not graduated from high school, of which 24% have
achieved less than a ninth-grade education, and 97% speak
a primary language other than English in the home (i.e., pre-
dominantly Spanish and Haitian Creole). Therefore, the ECE
center, established in 2004, serves the most disadvantaged
families in this community.

The mission and vision of this community ECE center
target specific educational, socio-emotional, and linguistic
needs of the local population, providing pathways out of
poverty through educating children and families. The core
values that guide the day-to-day work and interaction in the
center include: (1) education for transformation, (2) high
expectations toward excellence, (3) integrity and account-
ability, (4) value of diversity, morals, and faith, (5) power
of community and volunteerism, and (6) innovative and
sustainable practices. The center offers a wide range of pro-
grams, including ECE programs, after school programs for
middle and high school students, adult education, English
language courses, financial literacy courses, and family
literacy activities. Recently, the community center’s cam-
pus has been significantly expanded with new buildings to
offer modern, comfortable, and well-equipped classrooms,
offices, and meeting rooms. The ECE center has eight class-
rooms with modern child-sized furniture decorated in an

672 Early Childhood Education Journal (2021) 49:669–679

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age, culturally, and developmentally appropriate way. All
classrooms have learning centers with a reading corner, a
socio-dramatic play area, a building area, and a sand and
water table. Besides, the classrooms reflect the cultural and
linguistic diversity of children and families through bilingual
books, multilingual signs, visuals and artifacts from the His-
panic and Haitian cultures.

Last year, 223 children attended different types of ECE
programs: (1) 71 children in a 5-days/week programs, (2)
42 children in 2-days/week programs, and (3) 110 children
in 1-day/week programs. Through Creative Curriculum and
assessment (Dodge et al. 2002), the teachers pursue a holis-
tic approach to development to promote social-emotional
skills, language and literacy development, cognition, general
knowledge, physical well-being, and motor development.
Through rich exposure to the English language, children
are engaged in developmentally appropriate activities and
interactions that encourage independence, critical thinking,
and confidence. One of the unique components of the ECE
programs is the Parent and Child Together (PACT) program,
which promotes family literacy activities for parents and
children. The goal is to empower parents to take on a proac-
tive leadership role in their children’s lives and education
and become their child’s teacher. Given the characteristics of
the local community and their needs, the ECE center imple-
mented leadership practices to infuse leadership attitudes
and skills into its educational and family literacy programs
and activities. These leadership practices are built upon the
Leader in Me, part of the 7 Habits for Highly Effective Peo-
ple (Covey 2013).

Participants

A purposive sample of seven volunteer participants was
selected. Four participants were teachers, and three were
administrators at the ECE center. The participants signed

an Informed Consent Form (Protocol ID #2018-04) before
the interview, ensuring confidentiality of their names and
information and the use of codes to protect their identities
(Creswell 2014). Table 1 depicts the participants’ demo-
graphic information.

Data Collection Process and Analysis

The data collection process consisted of semi-structured
individual interviews and field notes taken during the inter-
views and visits to the ECE center (Yin 2005). The inter-
views explored the participants’ feelings, opinions, and atti-
tudes towards ECE leadership at the ECE center (Creswell
2014). The field notes comprised information gathered about
the ECE center’s leadership practices and the participants’
behaviors and reactions to the theme under investigation.
The combination of data ensured a detailed description of
the participants’ perceptions (Yin 2005) and increased the
findings’ trustworthiness and credibility (Creswell and Poth
2018).

The interviews were conducted at the ECE center and
lasted approximately 45 min each. First, the authors tran-
scribed the audio-recorded interviews verbatim, then organ-
ized and coded the data using iterative readings. Later, the
authors aggregated the data into clusters (Stake 2005) that
supported the five emerging themes that will be described at
length next (Creswell 2014). The authors adopted additional
measures to increase the study’s credibility and trustworthi-
ness by analyzing the data separately and comparing it to
identify any irregularities and reduce bias (Patton 2002). The
authors used external audits to ensure the consistency and
accuracy of the findings (Fraenkel et al. 2015). Finally, the
authors sought to develop naturalistic generalizations that
would allow people to learn from the case and, consequently,
apply this knowledge to similar contexts, educational set-
tings, or populations (Creswell and Poth 2018; Yin 2005).

Table 1 Demographic information of participants

F = Female, M = Male. AG = Administrator; TG = Teacher

Code Job title Degree Years of experience in
education

Gender Ethnicity

AG-1 Chief Executive Officer Ph.D. in Educational Leadership 36 M Caucasian
AG-2 ECE Program coordinator BA in Early Childhood Education 18 F Hispanic
AG-3 ECE Program Director MA in Education 14 F Caucasian
TG-1 Teacher BA in Early Childhood Education 5 F Caucasian
TG-2 Teacher AA in Early Childhood Education 15 F Caucasian
TG-3 Teacher AA in Early Childhood Education 12 F Caucasian
TG-4 Teacher BA in Early Childhood Education 3 F Caucasian

673Early Childhood Education Journal (2021) 49:669–679

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Findings

Five major themes emerged from the discourses of teach-
ers’ and administrators’ about their perceptions of ECE
leadership: (1) vision-driven leadership, (2) inclusive
leadership, (3) practice-focused leadership, (4) freedom
and ownership vs. close supervision, and (5) advocacy for
ECE. The themes indicated that teachers and administra-
tors perceived a collaborative, democratic, and practice-
oriented ECE leadership practice in this center, which
ultimately contributed to better quality education and life
for culturally and linguistically diverse children and their
families.

Vision‑Driven Leadership

Administrators believed that the vision-driven leader-
ship, with a flat hierarchical structure in managerial and
operational aspects, facilitates optimal early childhood
programs. They (AG-1, AG-2 and AG-3) emphasized a
vision and goal-driven leadership, which is interdependent
and collaborative rather than a top-down approach. The
Chief Executive Officer (AG-1) noted that leaders must
have the ability to create a vision, determine clear goals,
and ensure the execution of the action plan using their
decision-making skills. At the same time, he emphasized
that these skills must be put in practice in a collabora-
tive environment in which professionals and parents work
together. Therefore, he noted, leaders must have qualities
that foster this collaboration, “We are very purposeful in
our ECE program to make sure we are building those inter-
actions in a systematic way” (AG-1). In this ECE center,
new staff members become familiar with the organization’s
mission, values, strategic plan, and performance evalua-
tion system. AG-1 said, “every employee here know[s]
what their role is within the organization, their goals from
the performance standpoint, and how that supports leader-
ship development in their capacities to cooperate.”

Several teachers echoed this vision-driven leadership and
stated, “I believe that leaders must have a clear vision to
guide others” (TG-1). However, other teachers expressed
some distance in terms of shared goals, separating ‘they’
[administrators] and ‘we’ [teachers] saying, “They [admin-
istrators] expect that we [teachers] be (sic) leaders in our
classrooms. They have goals and objectives that we have to
meet” (TG-1). She seemed to distinguish between admin-
istrators’ role as goal setters, and the role of teachers as
executers of goals. However, in general, both teachers and
administrators agreed that this ECE center is driven by the
vision of “everybody has capacity to be a leader” (AG-1)
which implies an inclusive nature of leadership.

Inclusive Leadership

Both teachers and administrators described inclusive leader-
ship as the ability to embrace teachers, parents, and children
as leaders, with the notion that “everyone can be a leader.”
The participants emphasized that when opportunities are
provided, teachers, parents, and children can develop lead-
ership skills to improve others’ lives. Within this inclusive
leadership perspective, participants identified different roles
for themselves. The Chief Executive Officer (AG-1) found
his role as a provider, noting that, “As a leader of this organi-
zation, I’m responsible for developing the capacity of the
individuals within the organization to lead. My role is to
provide the operational systems needed to accomplish those
leadership characteristics within the programs” (AG-1).

Conversely, the director for early childhood programs
(AG-3) identified her role as someone who provides oppor-
tunities for teachers to become leaders. Specifically, she
described the professional development program Leader in
Me: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which was
implemented at this school. She said,

We encourage the teachers to be leaders. They take on
different roles in our bi-weekly meetings. They can
lead the meetings, give ideas for curriculums or lesson
plans, or extracurricular activities. For me, leadership
is helping the leader that everybody has inside. So,
leadership means helping everybody to be the leader
(AG-3).

Other teachers echoed the notion of inclusive leadership
in which teachers are part of the team rather than the ones
“being managed.” A recent graduate teacher with an ECE
degree said,

I’d like to think that everyone is a leader. Here, you
are made to feel like everybody is a team, and we are
working together. We are all leaders. In other places,
that might be more for the upper-level people to see
themselves as leaders, not so much the teachers (TG-
4).

To help young children become leaders, AG-2, the ECE
center program coordinator, who works directly with the
classroom teachers, described the specific strategies used in
everyday activities. She noted,

[Two-year-olds] are going to be the leaders in differ-
ent ways: they can hold the doors, be the line leaders,
be the ones who are helping the teacher, and be the
pointers when the teacher is singing. So, everybody
has jobs, of course, but at different levels. So, every-
body can be a leader (AG-2).

She added that children could learn leadership skills when
teachers give up some control in the classroom, allowing

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them to have a voice, be in charge, and be responsible for
different tasks. The holistic nature of inclusive leadership
further unfolded as one of the teachers described the par-
ents’ role as leaders. In this ECE center, which mainly serves
Haitian Creole and Spanish-speaking, recently immigrated
families, parents are required to participate in class activi-
ties and school events. Parents regularly take part in various
literacy activities with children in the classroom; therefore,
parents become more equipped to engage with their children
at home in age and developmentally appropriate ways (Halp-
ern et al. 2019). Teachers recognized how this involvement
of parents is transforming them to become leaders as well.
TG-4 elaborated on this involvement,

Because the parents in our program have their own
projects and presentations, they are leaders in their
classrooms. They help each other with homework, and
you know that’s being a leader. Myself as a teacher, my
co-teachers, the volunteers when they come here, they
are all leaders in our classes as well (TG-4).

This notion of shared and inclusive leadership results
in additional positive outcomes. TG-2 said, “I’m not the
one controlling all the answers or the situation, but allow-
ing other people to help me learn, too, about the different
perspectives that we may have” (TG-2). The inclusive lead-
ership, comprising administrators, teachers, parents, and
children as leaders, seems to be a shared and appreciated
perception of ECE leadership in this center.

Practice‑Focused Leadership

Mainly teachers, but also administrators, expressed that
early childhood leaders must have interpersonal and prac-
tice-focused leadership skills to support others in a learning
environment. All teachers expected their administrators to
empower them, communicate well, give clear directions,
follow up, provide resources, assistance, and demonstrate
passion and empathy. Most often, teachers seemed to expect
their administrators to provide optimal conditions for teach-
ing and the appropriate tools for learning in the classroom.
In this case, teachers perceived administrators/leaders as the
providers of an optimal work environment. For instance, one
teacher expected the availability of resources and profes-
sional development to be provided by their administrators,
“A leader is the person goes beyond expectations of what
they want you to do, but gives you the tools, the strategies,
and techniques to do so” (TG-1). Another teacher further
clarified that guided assistance in practical pedagogical
issues was appreciated, “[A leader] gives you the manual,
gives you a chance to read through it, explains everything to
you” (TG-3). She expected guidance in pedagogy to become
a more effective teacher.

Good communication skills, including clarity and
straightforward organization for collaboration and teaching
were identified as parts of effective ECE leadership. For
example, AG-3, the director of the ECE program, high-
lighted that, as a leader, she must be a good listener to
understand what the teachers, parents, and children need.
She emphasized that her listening must be focused and
objective, adding that, “I have to stop and focus…to be
able to listen to what a teacher or student or families [say],
and what their needs are” (AG-3). Besides, several teach-
ers noted that administrators’ regular, clear, and straight-
forward communication helped them become effective
leaders in their classrooms. Aligned with teachers, AG-2,
who worked directly with teachers, emphasized practice-
focused leadership, describing her job as “to help every
teacher, just to do their best in the classroom” (AG-2).
She further explained her role saying, “I don’t teach the
teachers. The majority of the time, leadership is to be in
the classroom, giving the support they need and modeling
what they need to change, without saying “this is not right”
(AG-2). The director of the ECE program supported this
idea of modeling skills to others as leadership. She elabo-
rated on modeling leadership qualities for the students:

If you want to have independent students who love
learning, you have to help them get to that place. If
the teacher is constantly leading all activities, the
students will never learn to be leaders. So, the lead-
ers need to foster those skills in their students (AG-
3).

Social-emotional characteristics such as being passionate,
enthusiastic, and empathetic were also perceived as crucial
skills for ECE leaders. Due to the notion of inclusive, col-
laborative leadership in this ECE center, all administrators
and teachers noted empathy as an important prerequisite.
Administrators expected teachers to be passionate about edu-
cation to foster students’ appreciation for learning. Similarly,
teachers recognized that their passion was essential for their
job. As AG-2 highlighted, “You can do your job well if you
feel passion for the people and tasks.” Overall, both teach-
ers and administrators emphasized that ECE leaders need to
focus on interpersonal relations and support student devel-
opment and learning through a practice-focused approach.

Freedom and Ownership vs. Close Supervision

The opportunities for freedom and ownership in teaching
and educational activities were the common expectations
for ECE leaders in providing for others. According to the
participants, freedom and ownership fostered positive trans-
formation for all. The director of the ECE program described
one incident:

675Early Childhood Education Journal (2021) 49:669–679

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We let the kids pick which center they want to go to,
and [having] that control is beneficial to their learn-
ing… [and] when 3-year-olds put on that little apron
which says ‘leader of the day,’ you’ll see a normally
quiet child, who won’t participate, come out of their
shell, greet people, give their opinion, and help out
(AG-3).

She also commented that parents recognized the impor-
tance of giving children freedom and opportunity for leader-
ship and reinforced the activities at home, which resulted in
improved behavior:

Parents have shared that they bought a medal in the
dollar store and told their kids that “at home, you are
the leader of the day.” So, a child who was not picking
up his toys and not helping clearing the table, all of a
sudden, he starts doing all these things that he would
do here. We want them to realize they are the leader
of their own lives; they control their destiny (AG-3).

The acknowledgment of professional freedom in instruc-
tional design and the appreciation for curriculum owner-
ship and lessons surfaced in the teachers’ answers. One
teacher perceived herself as a creative and trusted leader
in the classroom and appreciated this teaching and learning
environment.

My bosses support us by giving us freedom, making
us feel like we are a leader in the class, and we’re in
charge. They are flexible; they let us figure things out.
They want us to be leaders. So, they give us the theme
[for the week], and then it’s up to us what we want to
do with that theme. I write my own lesson plans. We
have our boundaries, but then we have our freedom to
decide what to do. So, I think that definitely supports
us a lot and helps us feel more like we are in charge
and are leaders (TG-4).

This freedom was provided to the parents, who are
expected to participate in the classroom (e.g., with
actively planning activities). TG-1 described her role as a
leader who encourages parents to become leaders in the
classroom: “Every time that we have a new theme, I ask the
parents to do a mini-project; then, the mother becomes the
leader of that activity” (TG-1). Overall, autonomy and own-
ership seemed to be embedded in a collaborative environ-
ment, as all stakeholders felt responsible for optimal learning
in the classroom.

However, one teacher (TG-3), who had 15  years of
teaching experience, seemed to have divergent views about
leadership with freedom and described ECE leadership as
close supervision of teachers. She equated leadership and
management and expected the administrators to tell her
exactly what to do in the classroom. She stated, “[a] good

leader tells people what they should do” (TG-3). Although
she shared other participants’ perceptions of the character-
istics of a good leader (e.g., good communication skills,
knowledgeable about laws, being assertive to meet goals),
she felt frustrated and abandoned in the implementation of
the Leader in Me program (Covey 2013) in her preschool
classroom. Overall, she expressed that the administrators
should provide detailed guidance and supervision on les-
sons and instruction. With the exception of this teacher, all
participants acknowledged that freedom and ownership were
essential conditions for effective ECE leadership.

Advocacy for ECE

All participants identified themselves as ECE leaders and
expressed a strong voice of advocacy for quality ECE. When
exploring future goals and actions, administrators acknowl-
edged the challenge of hiring and retaining quality ECE
teachers. Teacher retention was a particularly puzzling task
at this center because of the limited number of full-time
positions. Both the CEO and the director noted that lower
turnover would create more stability and stronger programs.
The program coordinator (AG-2) pinpointed that early child-
hood teachers’ positions are not attractive because of the
low pay, demand for hard work, and limited prestige of the
profession in society. She advocated for making changes at
the state level through leadership, securing support, and edu-
cating the public about the importance of early childhood.

The teachers also felt that in this program they were part
of the creation and maintenance of quality ECE programs
through the involvement of parents and children as leaders.
They advocated for more collaboration among all stakehold-
ers with the primary goal of serving young children. One
teacher noted, “Early childhood is the foundation, the base
of a big building. So, if we start to trust them [children]
from the very beginning, we will have more leaders in the
world” (TG-1). All participants agreed that with the system-
atic implementation of the Leader in Me program (Covey
2013), all stakeholders could develop a voice advocating
best practices in early childhood.

Discussion

The participants appreciated and practiced inclusive leader-
ship, including administrators, teachers, parents, and chil-
dren, which opposed traditional leadership notions that focus
heavily on assertive and decisive individual power over fol-
lowers (Douglass 2018). Inclusive leadership is associated
with collaborative and relational leadership built on the
foundation of each person’s knowledge and skills to achieve
a common goal (Douglass 2017). In this study, we found
that a shared or distributed leadership was expanded beyond

676 Early Childhood Education Journal (2021) 49:669–679

1 3

administrators and teachers to include parents and children;
thus, enhancing children’s school success aligned with the
ECE center’s mission and vision. Similarly, an inclusive
leadership model was identified by Jacobson and Notman
(2018) in a study of administrators in New Zealand who ini-
tiated increased parental involvement in an ECE program to
support economically disadvantaged families, thereby pro-
viding effective assistance in children’s school performance.

Notably, the unique cultural context of the ECE center
was central in the conceptualization of inclusive leadership.
Most families in this community experience poverty, lack
resources and familiarity with the English language, culture,
education, and life in the United States, resulting in a lack of
social support systems and integration (Halpern et al. 2019).
By inviting and including parents in the ECE daily activities,
and treating them as leaders in these activities, teachers cre-
ated communities of families who support each other in their
new country, including adult education classes to improve
parents’ English proficiency. Through the well-coordinated
support system, including the early childhood classes, adult
education, and food pantry, this community center targets
numerous needs of the families that contribute significantly
to children’s optimal care and education. Besides, the inclu-
sion of children in leadership roles and activities further
expanded the idea of entrusting people regardless of age, and
reinforced a high level of mutual trust as a driving force in
inclusive leadership. The participants’ discourses indicated
a culture of reciprocal trust, benevolence, honesty, openness,
reliability, and competence (Avolio 2011).

In this study, teachers focused on leadership attributes
closely related to their pedagogy and complemented their
daily work and responsibilities. The administrators, who
worked directly with teachers, also emphasized teacher lead-
ership in the classroom, providing autonomy for teachers and
coaching them in pedagogical tasks. In a study about Finn-
ish ECE centers, Heikka et al. (2018) found that teachers
felt more comfortable exercising leadership roles in teams,
mainly in short-term planning and daily tasks. Though simi-
lar to our study, Heikka et al. (2018) also pointed out teach-
ers’ hesitance about taking teacher leadership roles and the
lack of preparation for this role.

Furthermore, ECE leadership literature has called atten-
tion to the leadership development gap (Goffin 2013) due to
the lack of ECE leadership preparation programs in higher
education, and lack of opportunities for experienced educa-
tors to develop these skills (Douglass 2018). Although only
AG-1, the Chief Executive Officer, had a degree in leader-
ship, all teachers and administrators were in professional
development that helped them systematically implement
the leadership program, Leader in Me (Covey 2013). The
combination of training based on well-established guidelines
for educational leaders and empirical research (Braybrook
2019; Fonsén and Ukkonen-Mikkola 2019), ensured the

development of well-orchestrated actions that aim for chil-
dren’s academic success and cultural integration. Hender-
son (2017) conducted action research to develop educational
leadership capabilities among in-service ECE teachers and,
similar to our study, found that teachers began to see them-
selves as leaders. These initiatives for enhancing leadership
competencies contribute to close the leadership gap through
appropriate pre-service and in-service professional develop-
ment (Abel 2019; Ebbeck et al. 2014; Henderson 2017).

The ECE center implemented vision-driven leadership
that mentored and transferred leadership skills to families
and children, thus, becoming a comprehensive leadership
model with impacts that affect the population they serve.
Ultimately, the investments made in leadership practices to
help the lives of the families and children in this Southwest
Florida community have benefitted the children’s kindergar-
ten readiness and may significantly impact their lives and
future academic success (Halpern et al. 2019). Similarly,
Heikka and Hujala (2013) called attention to the positive
impact of leadership built on interdependence and inter-
action between stakeholders by sharing and extending the
boundaries of ECE leadership; they noted, “we must stop
thinking about leadership as one person’s work” (Heikka
and Hujala 2013, p. 578).

The participants expressed a passion for ECE and advo-
cated for high-quality experiences for young children. This
finding is aligned with the Whole Leadership Framework,
which describes leaders as ambassadors for young children,
families, and programs, and an emphasis on pedagogical
leadership and essential leadership skills required of ECE
leaders (Abel et al. 2017). The ECE center’s professionals’
commitment to serving vulnerable populations of immigrant
Hispanic and Haitian children in poverty makes them role
models using leadership to advocate for quality education
and life experiences for culturally and linguistically diverse
populations.

Conclusions and 

Implications

This study contributes to understanding ECE leadership
practices in a center serving at-risk, culturally and linguisti-
cally diverse families by exploring the perception of ECE
administrators and teachers about leadership. All partici-
pants supported the notion of inclusive leadership, which
created collaborative and distributive leadership among
teachers and administrators and offered opportunities for
culturally and linguistically diverse parents and children
to practice leadership skills in the classroom and beyond.
Implementing this inclusive leadership is found to be needed
and appropriate, especially with this population of students
and families who otherwise might be perceived as outsiders
(Elias and Scotson 1994). Through this inclusive leadership,

677Early Childhood Education Journal (2021) 49:669–679

1 3

the ECE program embraced immigrant families in their new
homeland and ensured quality education for young children.
It is instrumental for families to experience trust, shared
responsibilities, and respect from the professionals. This
study indicates that not only early childhood centers and pro-
fessionals are providers of services, but they also embrace
immigrant families as equal and active partners, which is the
right path toward social justice (Nicholson 2017).

Implications

Based on this study’s findings, the following implications for
policymakers, teacher educators, early childhood administra-
tors and teachers, and families are proposed:

1. Early childhood policymakers should develop and
promote policies that support the implementation of
inclusive leadership practices, focusing on the needs of
families at risk. These policies should require leadership
training, allowing ECE professionals to improve their
qualifications and competencies for leading early child-
hood programs.

2. Teacher educators should create learning opportunities
for ECE students to explore context-specific leadership
practices in the ECE teacher education curriculum.
Besides, higher education institutions should ensure
the availability of programs that prepare ECE admin-
istrators. Considering the social, cultural, and linguistic
needs of the population that future teachers and admin-
istrators will serve, they should develop collaboration
skills for leadership experiences shared with families
and children.

3. Considering the growing diversity in ECE classrooms,
early childhood administrators and teachers should gain
an in-depth understanding of the needs of the commu-
nity in which they work, be cognizant of the experiences
and specific needs of recently immigrated families, and
create mutually trustful professional relationships with
families and children as equal leaders in the programs.
Thus, early childhood administrators should provide
ongoing professional development on topics, such as
inclusive leadership with culturally and linguistically
diverse families and children.

4. Families should be invited and encouraged to become
engaged in their children’s classrooms with activities
in which they can take leadership roles. Though differ-
ent from people in other cultures, their culture-specific
knowledge and experiences are valuable and enriching
to all children and teachers in the classroom. Parents
should also be encouraged to offer their children lead-
ership experiences at home, in which children can take
responsibility in age, developmentally, and culturally
appropriate activities.

The limitations of the study are related to the study design
and the context. This case study examined the administra-
tors’ and teachers’ views on ECE leadership implemented
in a center that serves immigrant children and families
from Latin America and Haiti. Therefore, the findings of
the study are not generalizable, though centers that serve
similar populations might find the results relevant to their
context. Another limitation comes from the scope of the
study. The findings indicated that teachers and administra-
tors acknowledged the importance and appropriateness of
inclusive leadership, including parents and children. To
validate this inclusiveness of leadership experiences, parents
and children should have been interviewed as well. There-
fore, future studies on leadership practices should include
participants representing all stakeholders, including parents
and children, to create a more holistic picture of leadership
practices. Also, systematic, participatory observations in the
classrooms and day-to-day practices could deepen or modify
the participants’ self-reflection and perception of leadership
practices in the given center.

Funding Not applicable.

Data Availability IRB Protocol ID #2018-04.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest We have no known conflict of interest to disclose.

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  • “Everyone Can Be a Leader”: Early Childhood Education Leadership in a Center Serving Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children and Families
  • Abstract

    ECE Leadership Conceptualization and Practices

    Whole Leadership Framework

    Methods

    Case Setting

    Participants

    Data Collection Process and Analysis

    Findings

    Vision-Driven Leadership

    Inclusive Leadership

    Practice-Focused Leadership

    Freedom and Ownership vs. Close Supervision

    Advocacy for ECE

    Discussion

    Conclusions and Implications

    Implications

    References

Fall 2009 DIMENSIONS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD Volume 37, Number 3 25

What qualities set effective leaders apart from those who simply manage early childhood
programs? The skills identified here can lead to program excellence!

Principle-Centered Leadership in
Early Childhood Education

Victoria Carr, Lawrence J. Johnson, and Connie Corkwell

One of the most important aspects of any early
childhood setting is the quality of its leadership. Leaders
set the tone and are critical to the development of a
nurturing environment that supports families and staff,
who then encourage children to flourish. A principle-
centered leadership approach is an effective model for early
childhood education (Carr, Johnson, & Corkwell, 2004).

There are profound differences between being a
manager and a leader (Covey, 1991). Managers administer
for stability, have subordinates, adopt clear short-term
objectives, focus on details, and are oriented toward
completing tasks. Leaders administer for change, have
followers, focus on long-term vision, set direction, and are
oriented toward inspiring people to achieve results.

Although leadership skills are far more important to the
success of an early childhood center than are managerial
skills, effective centers have individuals with both sets of
skills. A leader without management skills can have a
dynamic vision with no idea about how to achieve that
vision. A center can be in serious trouble if paperwork and
finances are not appropriately addressed. On the other
hand, a manager without leadership skills will accept the
status quo, create hierarchies, and be reactive to issues
without a clear understanding of where the center needs to
go or how individual efforts fit into the big picture. As a
result, with only a manager, the bottom line can become
more important than the quality of services and the success
of staff, children, and families.

Building on the premise that leadership skills are of
utmost importance with a blend of skills clearly needed,
principle-centered leadership provides a framework for
achieving that blend. As Covey (2004) asserted, leaders
inspire those they supervise to find their

own voices.

These
voices are critical in early childhood for several reasons.
For example, teachers are leaders within the classroom.
Teachers have the capacity to help children reach their
individual potentials and work with families to promote

Victoria Carr, Ed.D., is Associate Professor, College of
Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services & Director,
Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Center,
University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio. Her expertise for
writing this article is grounded in 12 years of service as the
Director of the Arlitt Child and Family Research and Educa-
tion Center at the University of Cincinnati. She is also Execu-
tive Director of Head Start and served in a leadership role for
more than 5 years as the Program Chair for the early child-
hood faculty at the University of Cincinnati. She is currently
the Gifted Education Program Coordinator. She was also a
teacher/director of an outreach preschool program in North-
ern Kentucky and teacher in Southern Florida.

Lawrence J. Johnson, Ph.D., is Professor & Dean, College of
Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services & Execu-
tive Director, Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education
Center, Cincinnati, Ohio. His years of leadership within
academia span a number of positions of great influence lo-
cally, statewide, and nationally. He is well known for his col-
laborative approach to leadership.

Connie Corkwell, M.Ed., is Director of Children’s Programs,
Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Center, Uni-
versity of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, a licensed NAEYC
accredited center and Head Start program. She leads a group
of talented teachers and coordinators, complying with a vari-
ety of accrediting bodies while maintaining a high-quality, di-
verse, inclusive, demonstration university lab school program.
She was also an early childhood teacher in Cincinnati and
Boston.

Managers administer for stability, have subordi-
nates, adopt clear short-term objectives, focus on
details, and are oriented toward completing tasks.

Leaders administer for change, have followers,
focus on long-term vision, set direction, and are
oriented toward inspiring people to achieve results.

26 Volume 37, Number 3 DIMENSIONS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD Fall 2009

positive outcomes. Skillful admin-
istrators support teachers in finding
their voices to create harmonious
learning communities. Stakeholders at
all levels of leadership are also called
upon to serve as advocates for the
early childhood profession (Goffin &
Washington, 2007).

Principle-centered leadership is
grounded in a humanistic, transfor-
mational, and values-based per-
spective (Bennis, 1993) and it
embraces Covey’s (2004) eighth
ability of highly effective people to
move programs from good to great.
The important dimensions of
principle-centered leadership upon
which leaders should focus are:

•responsibility and initiative
•vision and values
•integrity and execution
•mutual respect and benefit
•mutual understanding
•creative cooperation
•renewal (Carr, Johnson, &
Corkwell, 2004).

These aspects of leadership are the
organizing structure for this article
and serve as a powerful paradigm for
leaders and administrators in early
childhood care and education who are
on the path toward excellence and,
perhaps, greatness.

Responsibility and
Initiative

In this dimension, leadership is
focused on fostering knowledge,
attitudes, and skills of the teachers and
support staff in a center. Effective
leaders are clear about what they are
trying to do and make sure people
understand the program’s vision and
goals. Clear and straightforward
communication is an absolute
requirement, and leaders model and

reinforce this kind of communication
with adults and children. All
stakeholders are encouraged to discuss
differences directly with each other
and to be clear and honest about
agreements and disagreements.
Leaders strive to create an
environment where individuals are
respected and treated with dignity.
They also value creativity and
encourage multiple ways to view a
problem or opportunity.

A principle-centered leader works
from a facilitative perspective—rather
than a hierarchical perspective that
has clear, inflexible, lines of authority.
A team-oriented approach is
embraced, where each person has

something important to contribute.
The leader’s orientation is to build on
each person’s strengths and interests
and to create a structure that enables
staff, volunteers, and children to
contribute in ways that match their
creativity, skills, and capabilities.
Rather than focusing on remediating
weaknesses, leaders find ways to
maximize people’s strengths. Leaders
recognize and celebrate the small and
large achievements of individuals
and programs.

Leaders understand that leadership
is about influence, not control. They
emphasize mutual ownership and
responsibility for decisions and the
center’s successes. They strive to reach
consensus to make decisions that are
owned and supported by everyone
involved. Communication and trust
are critical, so a leader listens and
understands people’s views and

Teachers have the capacity to help children reach their individual
potentials and work with families to promote positive outcomes. Skillful ad-
ministrators support teachers in finding their voices to create harmonious
learning communities.

Subjects & Predicates

Leaders inspire those they
supervise to find their

own voices.

Fall 2009 DIMENSIONS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD Volume 37, Number 3 27

mediates between competing views to
create a unified commitment to
success. When things go wrong, a
leader assumes responsibility for the
setback, learns from the mistake, and
helps the group move forward.
Everyone associated with the center
shares in its successes.

Vision and Values
Leaders enable families, staff, and

other stakeholders to create a unified
vision and then use management skills
to stay focused on this vision.
Principle-centered leaders seek
dialogue to better understand
everyone’s views. Competing opinions
are accepted because leaders trust and
rely on the stakeholders’ accumulated
experience and wisdom. Leaders shape
and articulate strategic directions by
being empowered to express new
perspectives, find solutions, and take
action without being micro-managed.

Without question, principle-cen-
tered leaders have personal charac-
teristics that encourage trust and
respect. Promises are kept and
confidences maintained.

Leaders look for opportunities and
recognize that some have a limited
shelf life. While reaching consensus is
important, leaders understand the
importance of making timely
decisions. They help teachers see
challenges as opportunities to create
new strategic directions.

Excellence is not attained by just
following rules and trying to make
decisions that make people happy. At
times, leaders must take stands on
unpopular issues. Leaders choose what

is best for children and families and
ensure that this value is always held
dear. Leaders have the courage to do
the right thing as opposed to doing
things right.

Integrity and
Execution

Leaders understand that a lack of
integrity undermines almost every-
thing they are trying to accomplish.
Leaders maintain their integrity when
they make decisions and create policies
from a position that is grounded in
doing what is ethical for children and
families and being fair to staff.

Overtly expressing this position—
by communicating philosophical points
and demonstrating just behavior—is
key for staff to understand that leaders
will not make decisions or promises
that compromise their integrity or the
integrity of the pro-gram. A clear focus
on the organ- ization’s mission is the
found-ation for all leadership decisions.
Strategies—for larger issues as well as
the daily problems—are grounded on
the organization’s mission, balanced by
its capacity.

For example, finding ways to make
a job more pleasant or more
streamlined within the scope of
organizational goals demonstrates a
leader’s commitment to supporting
staff within an organization that
involves a variety of stakeholders. This
may be a difficult task given the
mandates and financial responsibilities
required by stakeholders, but efforts
toward this end are well worth the
work because they help staff and do
not compromise children’s well-being.

All early childhood staff must be
passionate about educating and caring
for young children. This passion helps
maintain program integrity. When this
is not the case, individuals can be
counseled into a profession that is a
better personal fit.

During the course of a day, leaders
make multiple decisions. Most are
minor, but these small decisions
represent the fundamental nature of a
program. While major decisions may
frame the program, daily decisions make
up the habits and, thus, the essence of
the integrity of programmatic functions
and leadership.

Subjects & Predicates

Urgent issues–such as crises, accidents, or deadlines–must be dealt with immediately. Im-
portant issues–long-term planning, teacher assessment, or celebrations–must be addressed
for the program to be successful, but are not urgent.

Leaders have the courage to
do the right thing.

28 Volume 37, Number 3 DIMENSIONS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD Fall 2009

Leaders make decisions with
thoughtful consideration about the
impact of each and every choice.
Individual propensities and attributes
widely vary with regard to impulsivity
and cognitive processing. However,
taking time, even briefly, to think
about possible choices and staying on
the path toward excellence with regard
to daily decisions will create a
pervasive sense of leadership integrity
that generates trust and commitment
to program initiatives. Leaders learn
to listen to their own consciences to
effectively maintain a clear, mission-
focused strategy.

Carrying out the mission of the
program is central to every leadership
position. Daily decisions and prob-
lems can often be overwhelming, so
leaders prioritize what is critical and
put first things first. Leadership is
about principles, empowerment,
doing the right thing, and direction.

If leaders empower others to make
decisions about what procedures are
necessary to do things right, fewer
daily decisions about programmatic
functions need to be made. Then,
leaders can focus on issues that are
critical to the program’s mission.
Urgent issues—such as crises,
accidents, or deadlines—must be
dealt with immediately. Important
issues—long-term planning, teacher
assessment, or celebrations—must be
addressed for the program to be
successful, but are not urgent.

What issues are urgent, but not
important? These are often related to
minor interpersonal problems. Lead-
ers should not waste precious time
interfering. Prudent leaders refrain
from micromanaging for two reasons:

•tiny details that are continually
handled by leaders can
disenfranchise staff

•micromanaging is a waste of
time that takes away from
attending to more important
issues

Leaders prioritize their time and
attention (Carr, Johnson, & Corkwell,
2004). Focusing on program re-
quirements can often frame how to
execute strategies. Given the numerous
licensing, accrediting, and funding
organizations connected to early
childhood care and education,
maintaining required files and
documentation can easily become
overwhelming. Empowering staff to
develop strategies to meet these
requirements can increase the
efficiency with which paperwork is
accomplished. Leaders focus on the
greater priorities and remain
conscientious about program re-
quirements, while managers ensure
accountability. Maintaining comp-
liance becomes a priority, but the details
are left to the staff responsible for data
collection and reporting procedures.

Mutual Respect and
Benefit

Effective leaders build trust among
co-workers from the moment they are
hired. When high trust exists in an
organization, communication is
instantaneous and mistakes hardly
matter. This is because employees
know one another and because high
trust creates an enjoyable work culture
(Covey, 2004). Leaders foster
relationships and positive work
environments built on trust. When
leaders create an environment in which

staff feel physically and emotionally
safe, they feel comfortable to question
decisions and contribute their opinions.

Leaders are honest and transparent
about their program’s strengths and
challenges. They foster an environment
that encourages open discussion of new
ideas and problem solving. They align
personal strengths of staff to the
program’s mission. Some issues that
leaders consider in this alignment are:

•personalities and personal
interests of the staff

•formal education levels and
unique skills of each staff
member

•each staff member’s public
persona when matching talent
to public initiatives

•an individual’s willingness or
unwillingness to take on new
initiatives, often due to stressors
and responsibilities in his or her
personal life

When a match between initiative
and talent exists, outcomes are
generally quite positive.

Prudent early childhood leaders are
kind and courteous. Adults need the
same basic supports in their work
environment that early childhood
teachers know children need to
flourish: safety, respect, common
courtesy, opportunities to problem-
solve, support in challenging situations,
humor, successful experiences, and
positive feedback. The benefits of a
workplace built on respect and
kindness are tremendous. Ultimately,
staff feel valued and that they have
some control over their work lives. This
may lead to low turnover rates.

Another aspect of a positive work
environment is collaboration. When
leaders communicate initiatives and
decisions affecting the program and
staff feel comfortable expressing their

The organization’s mission
is the foundation for

all decisions.

Fall 2009 DIMENSIONS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD Volume 37, Number 3 29

opinions and generating solutions to
problems, the effort toward continuous
improvement and program excellence
becomes a collaborative journey.

Providing time for working together
on projects and initiatives can be
challenging when teachers must be in
the classroom with young children.
Leaders who value collaboration time
occasionally hire substitutes and/or
build teacher work days into the master
schedule much like most school
districts do.

Unfortunately, full-day/full-year
child care programs find this very
challenging from a financial and family
convenience stance. The long-term
benefits of treating staff professionally

by identifying professional days in the
calendar, however, are well worth the
investment. When families know in
advance that a center will be closed,
they often request a vacation day from
their jobs to spend time with their
children or find alternative care for that
day. Collaboration time is critical to
foster communication among em-
ployees and build ownership of
the program.

Mutual Understanding
Learning to be an effective listener

and communicator is a crucial skill for
individuals in leadership positions.
When most people are engaged in

conversation, they are too busy
thinking about how they are going to
respond to fully comprehend what is
being communicated. Mutual under-
standing is a vital dimension to
principle-centered leadership.

Excellent leaders are tuned into
what is being communicated through
words and body language to truly
understand the message. Active
listening skills such as these are
essential:

•focused attention on the
speaker

•restating or summarizing key
points to ensure understanding
of the message

•attending to non-verbal
messages

•asking non-threatening
questions to solicit further
details

These strategies enable listeners to
understand the other person’s per-
spective. People who truly understand
the message can then generate a
thoughtful, appropriate, and under-
stood response.

Effective leaders respond in ways
specifically related to the behaviors that
can be modified instead of to factors
that cannot be controlled. They self-
monitor their voice and non-verbal
messages for genuineness. Feedback
should be sincere, honest, and focused
on solutions and mutual under-
standing and growth. Issues related to
policies and procedures may require
follow up.

Creative Cooperation
Overall, finding a balance for

program and employee needs requires
creativity and cooperation. A win-win
attitude is one that seeks to find mutual
benefit for all staff members while

Nancy P. Alexander

Prudent early childhood leaders are kind and courteous. Adults need the same basic sup-
ports in their work environment that early childhood teachers know children need to
flourish: safety, respect, common courtesy, opportunities to problem-solve, support in
challenging situations, humor, successful experiences, and positive feedback.

30 Volume 37, Number 3 DIMENSIONS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD Fall 2009

striving for and maintaining program
excellence. Encouraging autonomy
among staff and supporting program
initiatives facilitates ownership of the
program and encourages participatory
actions toward responding to children,
families, and program stakeholders.

Effective early childhood educators
assist children in the development of
autonomy, initiative, and intrinsic
motivation. Leaders do the same for
staff by soliciting their input,
acknowledging contributions, and
providing resources for creative
growth. This is the impetus for
creating synergy.

Program synergy results from

creative cooperation and collaboration.
Generating decisions in isolation,
dictating mandates, micromanaging,
and distancing oneself from staff
are giant barriers to synergy. Valuing
and respecting differences of opinion,
attitudes, and culture while building
on the strengths of individual staff are
central to developing leadership synergy.

Fostering and rewarding collab-
oration by acknowledging positive
outcomes and inspiring and em-
powering staff to reach individual and
collective potentials are strategies for
building a strong synergistic program
whereby staff are involved in solving
problems and respected for their

knowledge and initiatives. Synergy
is the essence of principle-centered
leadership.

Renewal
Synergy allows for organization

nimbleness—the ability to seize
opportunities when they arise. When a
program’s mission and philosophy are
clearly defined and the path toward
excellence is explicitly laid, staff can
experiment with new teaching
methods, try new curricular ideas, and
express their individual and collective
voices. A program with knowledgeable
teachers is far more prepared to be
spontaneous and responsive to children
and families than programs with severe
hierarchies. Leaders can support staff
by encouraging professional develop-
ment and providing educational
opportunities, resources, and materials
for learning and reflection. This
leadership practice promotes program
quality and helps ensure sustainability.

The concept of early care and
education is just now becoming an
integral part of the national
infrastructure (Goffin & Washington,
2007). Policy makers and others who
have historically ignored the field are
now proposing policies and account-
ability measures. Early childhood
programs that intend to remain viable
and sustainable must meet new state,
national, and professional mandates
and be accountable for profession-
alization of the field.

Principle-centered leaders who
adhere to the dimensions of leadership
that guide programs down the path

Synergy allows for
organization nimbleness.

Nancy P. Alexander

The leader’s orientation is to build on each person’s strengths and interests and to create a
structure that enables staff, volunteers, and children to contribute in ways that match
their creativity, skills, and capabilities.

Fall 2009 DIMENSIONS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD Volume 37, Number 3 31

toward excellence will have ample
opportunities to celebrate success with
program staff and families. It is vital
that all stakeholders recognize the part
they play in program achievement and
that competition is minimized.
Program excellence is a collaborative
effort, so the celebration of successes is
for all stakeholders.

Acknowledging individual contri-
butions, however, is appropriate.
Leaders can specify contributions that
led to collective success by embracing
and supporting each individual’s
unique, personal significance to the
program. By aligning personal
strengths to the program’s mission and
encouraging creative and intellectual
discussions, organizations may find
that they have much to celebrate in
terms of achieving the three kinds
of greatness:

•personal,
•leadership, and
•organizational (Covey, 2004).

When personal strengths are aligned
to the mission of the program,
individual greatness can be cultivated

and achieved.
Effective leaders who inspire staff to

collaborate, assume program owner-
ship, and express their individual and
collective voices, will achieve leadership
greatness. When early childhood
programs generate synergy, are
accountable to all stakeholders while
providing children and families with
curricular and instructional excellence,
and thrive under principle-centered
leaders, they have the capacity to
achieve greatness.

Bibliography
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Carr, V.W., Johnson, L.J., & Corkwell, C.
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tiveness to greatness. New York: Free Press.

Goffin, S.G., & Washington, V. (2007).
Ready or not: Leadership choices in early
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College Press.

Sergiovanni, T.J. (1996). Leadership for the
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important? San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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Vol.:(0123456789)

1 3

Early Childhood Education Journal (2022) 50:867–877
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-021-01200-6

A Framework for Promoting Access, Increasing Pa

rt

icipation,
and Providing Support in Early Childhood Classroom

s

Christan G. Coogle1  · Sloan Storie2 · Naomi L. Rahn3

Accepted: 24 April 2021 / Published online: 25 May 2021
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. 2021

Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to provide an inclusive framework for supporting all children in early childhood education
classrooms while also considering early learning standards, curricula, and everyday activities and routines. We describe
universal design for learning, multi-tiered systems of support, embedded learning opportunities, and how these practices can
be intertwined to support the early development and learning of all young children. Within universal design for learning we
describe the multi-sensory ways early childhood educators can represent information, engage young learners, and facilitate
expression. Multi-tiered systems of support promote intentional and individualized instructional decision-making guided
by data to support children in attaining target learning objectives. We describe embedded learning opportunities which are
intentional and naturalistic opportunities to work on specific skills throughout daily activities and routines. Sample informal
assessments and additional resources to learn more about each of these practices are included.

Keywords Inclusive education · Early childhood · Universal design for learning · Multi-tiered systems of Supports ·
Embedded instructio

n

Introduction

Educating young children within inclusive early childhood
education environments has positive implications for chil-
dren who are typically developing and children with delays
and disabilities, and thus, is a recommended practice by

the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and the National
Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
(Camilli et al., 2010; DEC/NAEYC, 2009; Holahan & Cos-
tenbader, 2000; Odom et al., 2011; Strain & Bovey, 2011).
Inclusive education promotes the acquisition, maintenance,
and generalization of all children’s skills and facilitates
social acceptance and friendships (Barton & Smith, 2015;
Milam et al., 2020; Odom et al., 2006, 2011; Sainato et al.,
2015; Soukakou, 2012; Strain, 2017; Urlacher et al., 2016;
Winstead et al., 2019). In addition, programs that embrace
inclusive practices demonstrate enhanced quality, and are
less costly (Buysse et al., 1999; Odom et al., 2001a, 2001b).

DEC and NAEYC define inclusion as, “…the values, pol-
icies, and practices that support the right of every infant and
young child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to
participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full
members of families, communities, and society…” (DEC/
NAEYC, 2009). Inclusive early childhood education occurs
when educators provide access for all children, assure active
engagement by all, and provide appropriate support that is
individualized for all children and their abilities within early
childhood education environments (DEC/NAEYC, 2009).
In order to promote access and engagement, and provide
appropriate support for all young children, educators must

* Christan G. Coogle
ccoogle@gmu.edu

Sloan Storie
sstorie1@uncc.edu

Naomi L. Rahn
rahnn@uww.edu

1 Division of Child, Family, and Community Engagement,
College of Education and Human Development, George
Mason University, 4400 University Dr, Fairfax, VA 22030,
USA

2 Department of Special Education and Child
Development, College of Education, University of North
Carolina-Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd., Charlotte,
NC 28223, USA

3 Department of Special Education, College
of Education and Professional Studies, University
of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 800 W. Main St, Whitewater,
WI 531, USA

http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4440-7182

http://crossmark.crossref.org/dialog/?doi=10.1007/s10643-021-01200-6&domain=pdf

868 Early Childhood Education Journal (2022) 50:867–877

1 3

consider how to intentionally intertwine specific mandated
components and evidence-based practices that facilitate the
development of all young children.

Mandated components might include state early learning
standards and program-adopted curricula. Evidence-based
practices might include embedded learning opportunities
(ELOs) and other evidence-based teaching strategies imple-
mented within frameworks and approaches like multi-tiered
systems of support (MTSS) and universal design for learn-
ing (UDL). Although educators may have training in these
components and practices, they may view them as isolated
or separate, with little opportunity to consider how they fit
together to support best practice. It is important that educa-
tors determine how these components and practices can be
intertwined to promote high quality learning environments
for all young children. In the scenario below we describe
what many educators experience upon learning about each
of these practices.

Liliana is a preschool teacher of 18 children who are
3–5 years of age. The children in her class have a variety of
needs. While most are typically developing, three have dis-
abilities. She is also noticing that some of the children in her
class are not yet demonstrating mastery of the skills in some
of the domains that she is teaching. Liliana loves her job,
and she has received professional development on many new
initiatives including MTSS, UDL, and ELOs; however, she is
not yet certain how to implement these practices within her
everyday classroom environment to meet the needs of all of
the children in her class.

Many educators are like Liliana. They have heard about
various practices that will enhance child development; how-
ever, they are uncertain of how to best meet the diverse needs
children present within the context of everyday activities

and routines, and they recognize that it will take time and
practice to do this well. Therefore, the purpose of this paper
is to describe how each of these components and practices
can be intertwined within an MTSS framework to promote
access and participation, and provide appropriate support
for all young children. This aligns well with the goal of an
MTSS which is to, “organize the resources available in a
system or program to meet the needs of all students.” (p. 3,
Carta, 2019). See Fig. 1 for a visual representation of MTSS.

MTSS

An early childhood MTSS is a framework that provides
differentiated levels of high-quality teaching to help all
young children learn (DEC, 2019). Four key practices in
an early childhood MTSS include: (a) universal screening
to determine which children may need additional support,
(b) differentiation of child goals or outcomes to clarify what
individual skills children are ready to learn next, (c) tiered
instruction or interventions to meet children’s need, and (d)
ongoing progress monitoring to adjust instruction as needed
(DEC, 2019). In MTSS, early childhood teaching teams pro-
vide children with varying degrees of support within three
levels, or tiers (Carta, 2019; DEC, 2019; DEC et al., 2013).
The type of support a child receives is based on how they
respond to the instructional and social opportunities within
their natural environment. Additionally, some children may
need instruction at a more intensive tier in one area of devel-
opment (e.g., expressive language), while responding to a
less intensive tier in other areas (e.g., motor development).
Because of this flexibility, MTSS is responsive to all chil-
dren and their unique needs. In order to determine which

A few children receive supports from Tiers 1 & 2, plus:
• Individualized, differentiation of child goals or outcomes
• Intensified, evidence-based instruction and interventions (e.g., increased

frequency of ELOs, individualized instruction)

Some children receive supports from Tier 1, plus:
• Differentiation of child goals or outcomes
• Targeted, evidence-based instruction and interventions (e.g., ELOs, small

group instruction)

Tier 3
Individualized supports

Tier 2
Addi�onal supports

Tier 1
High-Quality Early Learning Environment All children have access and opportunities for engagement and expression

• Early Learning Standards
• Evidence-Based Core Curriculum
• Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS)

Universal
Screening

Monthly
Progress

Monitoring

Weekly
Progress

Monitoring

A few
children

Some
children

All
children

Early Childhood Practices

Data-
Based

Decision
Making

Fig. 1 Early Childhood Practices Organized Within an MTSS Framework

869Early Childhood Education Journal (2022) 50:867–877

1 3

tier of support children need, the team, or the individuals
who interact with the child during everyday activities and
routines (e.g., caregivers, educators, related service provid-
ers), collect data to understand what children currently know
and can do, analyze the data to determine what children are
ready to learn next, and determine the appropriate level of
support (tier) (Carta, 2019; DEC, 2019; DEC et al., 2013).
Examples of MTSS in early childhood include the Build-
ing Blocks model (Sandall et al., 2019), Pyramid Model
(Hemmeter & Fox, 2009), and Recognition and Response
(Buysse & Peisner-Feinberg, 2010). Programs may choose
to adopt one of these models which provide a comprehensive
approach to implementing an MTSS.

Tier 1

In Tier 1 of MTSS, educators provide a high-quality early
learning environment that is grounded in developmentally
appropriate evidence-based practices. Developmentally
appropriate practices are designed to promote the develop-
ment of each individual child, based on their strengths and
areas for growth within a play-based approach (NAEYC,
2020). This includes implementing a core curriculum that
has evidence of effectiveness, is implemented with fidel-
ity, and is guided by state early learning standards. In early
childhood environments, play should be at the forefront of
any selected curriculum as this is a critical early childhood
activity that promotes learning of skills across develop-
mental domains (e.g., social-emotional, communication,
cognition) for all children (U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services & U.S. Department of Education, 2015).
Tier 1 also includes implementing UDL principles to ensure
that all children have access to, and are able to participate
fully in, the classroom curriculum aligned with early learn-
ing standards. In this way, a strong foundation is provided
for all children. All children receive Tier 1 instruction, and
continue to receive this core instruction, even when they
receive additional support in accordance with Tiers 2 or 3.

Early Learning Standards and Curricula

Early learning standards are one component of Tier 1.
Several states and federal programs such as Head Start
have developed early learning standards (Administration
of Children & Families, 2015; Office of Early Learning,
2017). The purpose of these standards is to provide unified
state or organization guidelines regarding the continuum
of development and to provide guidelines regarding what
all children will attain or work toward attaining as a result
of participating in early childhood education environments
(Scott-Little et al., 2003). Early childhood education pro-
grams frequently adopt curricula to work toward state or

organization standards. These curricula are selected because
they provide materials, activities, and lessons that can be
implemented in early childhood education environments to
work toward early learning standards. Although these cur-
ricula provide materials, suggested activities aligning with
state or organizational learning standards, and strategies to
teach various skills, it is unlikely that they identify respon-
sive and individualized practices early childhood educators
may need to use to meet the needs of all children. There are
published curriculum and assessment systems that include
individualized teaching strategies specifically designed to
address the needs of children with disabilities [e.g., Assess-
ment, Evaluation, and Programming System (AEPS); Hawaii
Early Learning Profile (HELP)]. The curriculum-embedded
assessments within these systems may be useful for pro-
grams as they assess all children across areas of develop-
ment, monitor children’s progress, and consider referrals for
special education evaluation. The primary consideration in
the adoption of a Tier 1 curriculum is that it provides a high-
quality early learning experience for all children. In order
to support all young children within inclusive early child-
hood environments, it is important to design the early child-
hood curriculum to promote access and participation for all
children (Dinnebeil et al., 2013). See Table 1 for resources
specific to MTSS.

Promoting Access and Participation

UDL is a process in which educators identify ways to pro-
vide (a) multiple means of representing learning objectives,
(b) varied ways to engage children in activities aligning with
these objectives, and (c) different ways in which children can
demonstrate mastery of objectives (CAST, 2018; Darragh,
2007). When educators use principles of UDL effectively,
all children will have access to and can participate in the
core curriculum aligned with state or program standards.
Although educators are likely representing information, pro-
moting engagement, and facilitating expression in one way
that aligns with the curriculum, it is important to ensure
that all young children are accessing the curriculum and
participating in everyday activities and routines. The ways
in which educators choose to use principles of UDL should
be responsive to the diverse needs and backgrounds of the
children they are teaching (DEC, 2014). Because UDL is a
component of Tier 1, these principles continue to be imple-
mented by educators across all Tiers.

Representation

Young children use a variety of sensory experiences to
engage and explore their environment (Rose & Meyer,
2006). Educators must ensure that all learners have access
to information by providing multiple and varied presentation

870 Early Childhood Education Journal (2022) 50:867–877

1 3

modes such as auditory, tactile, and visual. It is also critical
that through these modes, adjustments can be made (e.g.,
larger font, increased volume) so that the information is pro-
vided in a way that matches all children’s needs. Educators
can enhance representation by eliminating barriers such as
information that would not be relevant to all learners (e.g.,
language specific slang), pre-teaching concepts by linking
new information to previously understood material, using
cross-linguistic information and materials, and providing
multimedia resources. Educators who make intentional deci-
sions as they represent information create environments that
allow all children to access learning experiences that are
meaningful, which is necessary for skill attainment.

If an educator is working toward identifying new vocabu-
lary items, the curriculum might suggest using a specific
story to represent the vocabulary. Although this is an evi-
dence-based practice to teach vocabulary, educators can pro-
vide multi-sensory experiences by representing vocabulary
through senses such as touch, sound, and sight. The educator
might consider using objects and sounds that represent target
vocabulary in the story while reading the book. Making this
adjustment could benefit all learners. For example, there may
be children within the class who would benefit from seeing
and hearing the vocabulary. Likewise, a curriculum might
suggest a specific story or game to promote social skills such
as taking a turn, but educators can use a variety of modalities
to represent turn-taking. They could use videos, songs, and
models so that children could see what turn-taking looks like
and hear information about turn-taking which would make a
social skills activity accessible to more learners.

Engagement

Many considerations should be made by educators in regard
to engagement by considering child interest and sustaining
engagement (CAST, 2018). Providing choices for learning
enhances engagement for all children. Educators can sustain
engagement by reminding children of what will occur upon a
child completing a step or activity, setting a child up for suc-
cess by differentiating task steps to match what is develop-
mentally appropriate for each child, promoting peer engage-
ment, and providing feedback. By using multiple means of
engagement, all children can engage in learning experiences.

An educator might engage children in learning about tar-
get vocabulary by giving them options to draw pictures, hold
up their hand when they hear a word that means “X”, and/or
share materials or objects that represent target vocabulary.
Providing multiple means of engagement could benefit a
variety of learners. To engage children in developing turn-
taking skills, an educator might provide choices to all chil-
dren about how they want to engage in turn-taking by ask-
ing if they want to practice with a friend or the teacher. An
educator could sustain engagement by reminding them of the
next step in the turn-taking sequence. Upon completion of
each step, the educator might provide feedback by offering
specific praise, identifying what the child did to encourage
continued engagement.

Expression

Expression is critical to consider for all learners to ensure
they can express their knowledge. The curriculum might

Table 1 MTSS Resources

Resource Location Description

Multi-Tiered System of Support Framework in
Early Childhood: Description and Implica-
tions Revised Position Statement (201

9)

(DEC, 2019) Position Statement(DEC, 2019)
Position Statement(DEC, 2019) Position
Statement(DEC, 2019) Position Statement

Web source: https:// d4ab0 5f7- 6074- 4ec9- 998a-
232c5 d9182 36. files usr. com/ ugd/ 38a114_
ce26c f6d1e 3a412 e8fbe 2b8c5 412db 02. pdf

This is a draft of the Division for Early Child-
hood MTSS position statement

Multi-tiered systems of support for young chil-
dren: Driving change in early education. (pp.
1–14). Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co

(Carta, 2019)

Book: https:// produ cts. brook espub lishi ng. com/
Multi- Tiered- Syste ms- of- Suppo rt- for- Young-
Child ren- P1124. aspx

This resource provides a framework for deliv-
ering services for all young children and
their families. It includes an evidence-based
planning book and video set for children
ages 3–5 across a variety of settings

Connect Module: Tiered Instruction (Module
7)

(Buysse, 2012)

Online module: https:// www. conne ctmod ules.
dec- sped. org/ conne ct- modul es/ learn ers/
module- 7/

This is a module that describes how tiered
instruction can be used in early childhood
environments

Pyramid Model
NCPMI

Web source: https:// chall engin gbeha vior. cbcs.
usf. edu/ Pyram id/ overv iew/ index. html

This website describes the Pyramid Model
framework of evidence-based practices
for supporting children’s social-emotional
development

Head Start Center for Inclusion
2021, Head Start Center for Inclusion

Web source: https:// heads tarti nclus ion. org/ This website offers trainings, tip sheets, and
tools and supports

https://d4ab05f7-6074-4ec9-998a-232c5d918236.filesusr.com/ugd/38a114_ce26cf6d1e3a412e8fbe2b8c5412db02

https://d4ab05f7-6074-4ec9-998a-232c5d918236.filesusr.com/ugd/38a114_ce26cf6d1e3a412e8fbe2b8c5412db02

https://d4ab05f7-6074-4ec9-998a-232c5d918236.filesusr.com/ugd/38a114_ce26cf6d1e3a412e8fbe2b8c5412db02

https://products.brookespublishing.com/Multi-Tiered-Systems-of-Support-for-Young-Children-P1124.aspx

https://products.brookespublishing.com/Multi-Tiered-Systems-of-Support-for-Young-Children-P1124.aspx

https://products.brookespublishing.com/Multi-Tiered-Systems-of-Support-for-Young-Children-P1124.aspx

Module 7: Tiered Instruction

Module 7: Tiered Instruction

Module 7: Tiered Instruction

https://challengingbehavior.cbcs.usf.edu/Pyramid/overview/index.html

https://challengingbehavior.cbcs.usf.edu/Pyramid/overview/index.html

Home

871Early Childhood Education Journal (2022) 50:867–877

1 3

suggest that the educator uses the story to model the target
vocabulary and then provide opportunities for the child to
express mastery of the target vocabulary. Young children
can demonstrate expression through various actions and
communication systems such as spoken words, written text,
a work product (e.g., drawing), and/or physical manipula-
tion of materials. Educators can consider multiple means of
expression to ensure that all children can engage in display-
ing their knowledge. An educator might ask a child to point,
use a picture card, or use assistive technology to identify
target vocabulary. Likewise, an educator can ask a child to
demonstrate taking a turn by engaging in that action, organ-
izing picture steps to show turn-taking, or pointing to an
example and non-example of turn-taking.

The early childhood center where Liliana teaches has
committed to meeting the needs of all of the learners in their
program through implementation of MTSS. The program has
adopted an evidence-based core curriculum that is aligned
with their state’s early learning standards. They are also
using UDL principles (i.e., representation, engagement, and
expression). As the educators create weekly lesson plans,
identify child led learning centers, and adult led activities,
they also identify various ways they will represent informa-
tion, engage young learners, and facilitate expression while
considering all of the children in the classroom. As Lili-
ana plans a unit on “winter”, she considers how she can
implement multi-sensory activities that will promote access
and participation during all of the activities. Liliana plans
to read the book, The Mitten. As she considers access and
engagement of all learners in her class, she thinks about how
she can represent the content from the story in various ways
(e.g., using a read-aloud with a felt board, showing a video
of the story on the Smartboard, acting out the story with
stuffed animals, offering an audio-recorded version of the
book in the listening center and library). Liliana also con-
siders how she can engage children by giving them choices
about how to participate. For example, some children might
enjoy putting felt animals on the board, while other children
may benefit from the opportunity to move like the animals

during the story. Finally, she provides multiple ways for chil-
dren to respond when describing the animals in the mitten.
Children can say the name of the animal, point to the animal
when given a choice of two pictures, or touch the pictures
of the animal on a voice output assistive technology app
on a tablet. Principles of UDL benefit all of the children in
Liliana’s class, and she will continue to use these practices
in addition to any other support she provides, as practices in
Tier 1 are always implemented for all children. See Table 2
for UDL resources.

Tier 2

In Tier 2 of MTSS, educators provide additional support to
young children who may need supplementary practice on
particular skills, based on universal screening data. These
are not necessarily children with disabilities, but rather
children who need additional practice in specific areas.
Educators may provide Tier 2 learning opportunities for a
small group of children through educator planned activi-
ties focused on a particular skill, and through child-directed
learning opportunities embedded into routines and activi-
ties. As educators provide these learning opportunities, they
continue to utilize Tier 1 practices such as UDL principles
so that they are representing target skills, engaging children,
and providing opportunities to express information which
are available to all learners. For example, if the class is
working on an early learning standard related to counting
and one to one correspondence in Tier 1, and the educa-
tor observes that some children are not yet responding to
instruction or demonstrating mastery after implementing the
core curriculum and using principles of UDL, the educator
can consider Tier 2 supports in addition to Tier 1 practices.
The educator might gather this small group of children dur-
ing play routines and embed additional opportunities to prac-
tice these target skills. These practice opportunities can be
provided through the use of ELOs.

Table 2 UDL resources

Resource Location Description

Universal Design for Learning: Creating a
Learning Environment that Challenges and
Engages All Students (IRIS Module on
UDL)

2021, Vanderbilt University

Online Module: https:// iris. peabo dy. vande rbilt.
edu/ module/ udl/

This module provides information and
resources regarding UDL including videos
and examples of representation, engagement
and expression

CAST: Professional Learning
2021, Center for Applied Special Technology

(CAST)

Web source: http:// castp rofes siona llear ning.
org/ free- udl- resou rces- and- tips/

This website provides webinars, resources, and
information regarding UDL

National Center on Accessible Education
Materials

Web source: https:// aem. cast. org/ creat ing/
natio nal- instr uctio nal- mater ials- acces sibil
ity- stand ard- nimas. html

This website provides information, resources,
and training on topics related to accessibility

Universal Design for Learning: Creating a Learning Environment that Challenges and Engages All Students

Universal Design for Learning: Creating a Learning Environment that Challenges and Engages All Students

http://castprofessionallearning.org/free-udl-resources-and-tips/

http://castprofessionallearning.org/free-udl-resources-and-tips/

https://aem.cast.org/creating/national-instructional-materials-accessibility-standard-nimas.html

https://aem.cast.org/creating/national-instructional-materials-accessibility-standard-nimas.html

https://aem.cast.org/creating/national-instructional-materials-accessibility-standard-nimas.html

872 Early Childhood Education Journal (2022) 50:867–877

1 3

ELOs

An ELO is a brief teaching exchange that provides children
with opportunities to practice target learning objectives or
individual goals through everyday activities and routines
(Johnson et al., 2015; Sandall et al., 2019; Snyder et al.,
2015). Because ELOs are naturalistic and capitalize on
children’s interests, they can be embedded during everyday
routines and activities, including play. An ELO includes an
antecedent (e.g., choice making, environmental arrange-
ment, wait time), followed by the child practicing a target
skill (e.g., requesting, two-word phrases, counting), and
concludes with a naturalistic and motivating consequence
(e.g., providing the requested object, reinforcement with
behavior specific praise, expanding the child’s language).
The Building Blocks framework (Sandall et al., 2019)
provides many practical examples for modifying the cur-
riculum and using ELOs to address the needs of children
who would benefit from ELOs and other supports as part
of Tiers 2 and 3 of an MTSS (see Table 3).

For example, an educator working with a small group of
children on one-to-one correspondence and counting might
join in with this group of children in the block center. As
the children are building with blocks, the educator might
represent this skill by counting each block in the tower
(antecedent). The children might work together to count the
blocks with supports such as modeling one to one corre-
spondence and physical guidance (providing physical mod-
eling and pointing or physically guiding the child’s hand)
(target skill). The educator should also consider the children
and what might be reinforcing to them. For example, the
educator might use a consequence such as praise by stating,
“Wow your tower is 10 blocks high. You counted all 10
blocks.” Other children might be reinforced by a classroom
announcement about how they counted all of the blocks in
their tower or by the educator joining in for more play. It is
important to consider what type of consequence would moti-
vate the child to continue to use the target skill or behavior
so that they will do it again which will result in additional
practice opportunities, which will then result in maintenance
(using the skill without support) and generalization (using
the skill in a new environment).

In order to effectively provide more intensive supports
and ELOs, it is critical that educator teams work together.
There are specific ways which educators can work together
to ensure quality practice. Teaming and collaboration prac-
tices are identified as recommended practices by DEC.
Specifically, it is recommended that practitioners work
together to support desired outcomes of young children
and their families (DEC, 2014). Look how Liliana and the
co-educator support literacy and social-emotional develop-
ment through the use of Tier 2 supports.

Liliana and her co-educator have been observing and
noticing that some children might need additional support
in literacy and social emotional development, specifically
rhyming and turn-taking. Based on their observations of
children during the first few months of the school year and
data collected during their fall screening and assessment,
they began implementing Tier 2 interventions for some chil-
dren in early literacy skills and social skills. These activities
(e.g. rhyming games, stories about how to share toys) were
offered as part of their regular small-group and child led
play activities to provide additional practice with rhyming
and turn-taking. The educators will continue to incorporate
UDL principles from Tier 1. For example, Liliana and her
co-educator played rhyming songs, read rhyming books,
and showed pictures and objects that rhymed (representa-
tion). During small groups, the children were playing with
manipulatives that rhymed. Liliana and her co-educator
included various items that rhymed to promote choices in
play (engagement). Children chose the toys they wanted to
explore and made choices about how to organize them. For
example, the children explored the toys and began placing
them in rime groups while others matched them to rime
cards. To provide Tier 2 support, they focused on one rime
family at a time (e.g., “at” rime), and they prompted chil-
dren to find two things that rhymed and used wait time for
the child’s response (ELO). Some children verbally shared
what rhymed while others pointed, and one child used his
assistive technology device to respond (expression).

To promote turn-taking, Liliana and her co-educator con-
tinued to use foundational Tier 1 practices to support social-
emotional development and to encourage skills like turn-
taking. To provide Tier 2 support, they introduced picture
cards that had the steps of giving and taking a turn, shared
videos of turn-taking, and described how to take turns by
providing a verbal description (representation). Children
were given the option to choose a friend or teacher to engage
with for a planned, small group turn-taking activity (engage-
ment). Liliana and her co-educator suggested children pass
the toy to a child who had not yet had a turn (ELO). Some
children took turns, while others talked about how to take
turns (expression).

Liliana and her co-educator continued focusing on rhym-
ing and turn-taking during child led play. For example,
Liliana joined a small group of children and pointed out
the manipulatives which contained the same rhyme among
the toys they were playing with. She labeled and showed
the children pictures and objects with the “at” rime and
placed picture cards on the floor that said “at rime” and a
no symbol (representation). Children began grouping all of
the manipulatives that contained the “at” rime in a pile, and
placing the non-at rime manipulatives in another pile. Other
children began excitedly holding up manipulatives that
contained the “at” rime (engagement). The children began

873Early Childhood Education Journal (2022) 50:867–877

1 3

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Module 1: Embedded Interventions

Module 1: Embedded Interventions

Home

https://ectacenter.org/decrp/topic-instruction.asp

http://headstartinclusion.org/elo#elo

Planned Instructional Sequences

Planned Instructional Sequences

Planned Instructional Sequences

874 Early Childhood Education Journal (2022) 50:867–877

1 3

naming the manipulatives that rhymed with their words, and
one child used his assistive technology device to touch each
picture that corresponded to the manipulatives in the “at”
rime pile. Liliana knew that one of the children in the group
was a little shy. Liliana asked this child to point to the “at”
words (expression). Liliana continued by commenting on
how she observed some of the children giving and taking
turns with the toys (representation). Children began talking
about and demonstrating how they could provide and take
turns (engagement). Some children began giving items and
others began accepting items while others pointed at their
peers and said, “They are taking turns.” Liliana was really
excited to think about how she could embed different targets
across different types of routines.

Tier 3

As educators collect ongoing data and analyze the results,
they may find that children need even more support to learn
new skills despite participating in a high-quality core cur-
riculum (Tier 1) and receiving additional moderate level
support (Tier 2). In this case, educators provide more inten-
sive, individualized instruction through Tier 3 approaches.
Tier 3 requires a higher level of planning as these are often
more structured supports (e.g., with clear teaching behav-
iors, expected child responses, and follow up behaviors from
educators), and may be delivered more frequently provid-
ing several opportunities for intentional practice throughout
everyday activities and routines. ELOs and UDL, can also
be used as part of Tier 3 supports. In this case, the educa-
tor might plan to provide multiple means of representation,
engagement, and opportunities for expression paired with
their use of ELOs that can be embedded within several eve-
ryday activities and routines to provide the child with mul-
tiple individualized opportunities to practice the target skill
(e.g., one to one correspondence, taking turns, rhyming).
The educator can provide additional support in Tier 3 by
working with the child one-on-one and thinking about how
to make the skill more concrete.

For example, the educator might join one child in the
block center during play and model counting a smaller
number of blocks in the tower using both words and his or
her fingers (representation). The educator could facilitate
engagement by providing choices of blocks or other toys in
the center, and use an ELO by suggesting the child count
the tower of blocks. The child could count by using their
fingers, their words, and/or using number cards or assis-
tive technology to identify each block number (expression).
The educator would use the same ELO sequence described
above, but by working one-on-one with a child, the educator
is providing more opportunities for practice because only
one child will be responding to the educator’s suggestion

of counting blocks and receiving a reinforcer such as praise
or continued engagement. The educator can also intensify
support by focusing on a smaller sub step of the skill (five
blocks opposed to 10) and embedding additional practice
opportunities throughout daily activities and routines.

Educators should use ongoing progress monitoring to
make data-based decisions to support child goals or out-
comes (DEC, 2014). Look and see how Liliana uses Tier 3
paired with UDL supports below, including ongoing pro-
gress monitoring.

Liliana and her team continued to collect data regarding
child progress. They used checklists, child work products,
and photographs, and placed these within a child portfolio
as Liliana and her co-educators can share these with family
members during teaming meetings to discuss child inter-
ests and progress. Based on their data, they determined that
some children, including Wilson, might benefit from Tier 3
supports in literacy skills in addition to what he already
receives in Tiers 1 and 2. During free play, Wilson is engag-
ing in parallel play with another classmate. Liliana joins
Wilson as he plays in the block center. After spending a
minute observing Wilson and watching as he builds, Liliana
notices that there are some objects that she can add into the
block play. She gets a frog, dog, and cat. Liliana asks Wilson
if he might like to add some animals to his structure. Wilson
says, “Yes.” Liliana places the cat, dog, and frog on a block.
She engages in representation when she holds up the animals
and says, “We have a cat, dog, and frog. Dog…frog…dog
and frog rhyme.” She has multiple manipulatives as well as
pictures so that Wilson can choose how he wants to engage
in the activity. For example, she tells Wilson, “You can pick
a toy, a picture, or you can match the items.” Liliana con-
cludes by providing an ELO when she says, “Which one
rhymes with frog (antecedent)?” Wilson answers, “Dog”
(behavior). Liliana says, that is right, dog and frog rhyme.
Let’s keep playing (consequence)!” Liliana promotes multi-
ple means of expression when she tells Wilson he can point,
hold the picture or the toy, or use his words to name the one
that rhymes.

During this scenario, Liliana joined in the child’s play by
intentionally embedding an ELO in one of the areas Wilson
has been struggling with, rhyming. She continues to use
UDL principles to promote access and engagement. Liliana
can use ELOs throughout daily activities and routines to pro-
vide additional opportunities for Wilson to practice rhyming.

Resources to Deliver Differentiated Supports

Assessment Resources

Throughout the instructional process, it is important for
educators to continue to engage in informal assessment to

875Early Childhood Education Journal (2022) 50:867–877

1 3

determine whether children are responding to the support
they are receiving. This type of assessment should be infor-
mal and ongoing. For example, educators might consider
creating checklists related to target skills. This would allow
the educator to capture critical information in a feasible
way. This information informs how the educator responds.
See Online Appendix A for sample informal assessments.
Programs might also consider using a program-level assess-
ment, like the Inclusive Classroom Profile (ICP) (Soukakou,
2016), which assesses the quality of practices used to sup-
port children with special needs in early childhood class-
rooms, and it can be used to improve these practices.

Routine Matrix Supports

It can be a challenge to remember how to intertwine early
learning standards, curricula, MTSS, UDL, and ELOs while
delivering instruction. Therefore, it is important to think
about resources that can support the delivery of these com-
ponents and practices. One resource is a routines matrix.
Traditionally, a routines matrix identifies daily routines,
children’s individualized education program (IEP) goals,
and teaching strategies like environmental adaptations, cur-
riculum modifications, and ELOs for addressing those goals
(Sandall et al., 2019). A routines matrix can also include
MTSS, principles of UDL, and ELOs. See Online Appendix
B for a sample routine matrix that addresses these compo-
nents and practices.

Professional Development and Coaching

It is important to remember that although the field of educa-
tion has identified evidence-based practices, it can be chal-
lenging to implement these practices with fidelity or the way
in which they were intended to be delivered. For an MTSS to
work effectively, each of the core components must be imple-
mented with fidelity (Carta, 2019). Therefore, it is important
to consider resources that educators can access which include
professional development and coaching. Professional develop-
ment can be effective in enhancing knowledge, but embedded
and ongoing coaching has been identified as a way to support
educator’s use of practices with fidelity. Coaching has been
identified by researchers as an effective avenue to promote
practice change (Desimone & Pak, 2017). Practice based
coaching is a framework for coaching which extends previous
coaching models, but is designed specifically for early child-
hood teachers and includes goal setting and planning, focused
observations, and reflection and feedback (Snyder et al., 2015).
Practice based coaching has been used within early childhood
settings to enhance educator practice and child skills. Feedback
can be delivered in a variety of ways. This includes deliver-
ing feedback face-to-face or via a technology enhanced sys-
tem, and feedback can be provided by a peer, coach, and/or

administrator (Coogle et al., 2019; Ottley et al., 2017; Snyder
et al., 2015). An educator might also use the Early Childhood
Technical Assistance (ECTA) checklists that correspond to
the DEC recommended practices to evaluate how a specific
practice, such as ELOs, is being used.

Conclusion

It is important to consider how early learning standards, cur-
ricula, MTSS, UDL, and ELOs can be intertwined to promote
access and participation and provide support for all young
children. By intertwining these practices into an inclusive
framework, educators provide high quality education for all
children. This carefully designed system of support results in
children attaining desired goals and outcomes by collecting
ongoing progress monitoring and making data-based decisions
that align with individual children.

Liliana is utilizing principles of MTSS, UDL, and imple-
menting ELOs throughout daily activities and routines. She
is taking data, and feels rewarded to see the progress all of
the children in her class are making. Most importantly, she is
excited to see how implementing these principles facilitates the
inclusion of all students! Liliana intends to continue to invite
peers and administrators into her classroom to observe and
provide feedback aligning with these practices as she knows
that all professionals are a work in progress, and receiving
specific feedback related to her practice will provide her
opportunities to continue to learn and develop as a profes-
sional. She will also continue to collaborate with co-educa-
tors and families to support their use of these practices in the
classroom and within their home. She plans to meet with her
co-educators weekly to provide information regarding MTSS,
UDL, and ELOs, and she will engage in observations of their
practice and provide written feedback that includes both sug-
gestions and affirmative comments to support their practice.
She will connect with families using the mode of communica-
tion they prefer (video conferencing, email, face-to-face meet-
ings, phone) to share information and engage in observation
of their interactions with their child as they would like to sup-
port the home-class connection and consistent use of practices.
Liliana feels confident that consistently using these practices
promotes the inclusion and development of all children.

Supplementary Information The online version contains supplemen-
tary material available at https:// doi. org/ 10. 1007/ s10643- 021- 01200-6.

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domized trial: Some planned and accidental findings. Topics in
Early Childhood Special Education, 37(2), 121–126. https:// doi.
org/ 10. 1177/ 02711 21417 711531

Strain, P., & Bovey, E. (2011). Randomized, controlled trials of the
LEAP model of early intervention for young children with autism
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31(3), 133–154. https:// doi. org/ 10. 1177/ 02711 21411 408740

Teaford, P., et al. (Eds.). (2010). Hawaii early learning profile (HELP).
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Urlacher, S., Wolery, M., & Ledford, J. R. (2016). Peer modeling of
commenting during small group direct Instruction for academic
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doi. org/ 10. 1177/ 10538 15116 636645

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & U.S. Department
of Education (2015). Policy statement on the inclusion of chil-
dren with disabilities in early childhood programs. Retrieved from
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ment- full- text. pdf. Accessed Mar 2021

Winstead, O., Lane, J. D., Spriggs, A. D., & Allday, R. A. (2019).
Providing small group instruction to children with disabilities and
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https:// doi. org/ 10. 1177/ 10538 15119 832985

Publisher’s Note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to
jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

https://doi.org/10.1177/1053815115595461

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2011.12.003

https://doi.org/10.1177/0271121417711531

https://doi.org/10.1177/0271121417711531

https://doi.org/10.1177/0271121411408740

https://doi.org/10.1177/1053815116636645

https://doi.org/10.1177/1053815116636645

https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/earlylearning/joint-statement-full-text

https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/earlylearning/joint-statement-full-text

https://doi.org/10.1177/1053815119832985

Early Childhood Education Journal is a copyright of Springer, 2022. All Rights Reserved.

  • A Framework for Promoting Access, Increasing Participation, and Providing Support in Early Childhood Classrooms
  • Abstract

    Introduction

    MTSS

    Tier 1

    Early Learning Standards and Curricula

    Promoting Access and Participation

    Representation

    Engagement

    Expression

    Tier 2

    ELOs

    Tier 3

    Resources to Deliver Differentiated Supports

    Assessment Resources

    Routine Matrix Supports

    Professional Development and Coaching

    Conclusion

    References

Marilyn W. Edmunds
PhD, ANP/GNP, FAANP
Julee Waldrop
DNP, PNP, FAAN, FAANP

www.npjournal.org

Editorial

  • What is Scholarly Writing?
  • s a journal, one of our goals is to help authors publish meaningful and
    relevant clinical content for nurse practitioners (NPs). Through external

    Aaudits of our journal, we know that JNP: the Journal for Nurse Practitioners

    has a reputation for accuracy in the work we publish and that readers feel they
    can depend upon what is published. This is an important reputation to keep
    intact.

    We often have reviewers who tell authors in their reviews that their writing
    needs to be more scholarly. These authors in turn come back to the editors to
    ask, “What does that mean?”

    Scholarly writing is the type of writing that NPs should learn in their
    graduate-level professional and research courses. Those who are credentialed
    as PhD or DNP are expected to have a clear and concise written commu-
    nication style. There is a big focus in nursing on critical thinking. Scholarly
    communication is a step beyond critical thinking—it is really critical
    communication.

    Prospective authors can consult online programs or texts in order to clearly
    communicate in writing professional manuscripts. None of these programs will
    likely tell someone anything they haven’t heard before, which may mean that the
    author has not mastered things that she or he should know.

    Simple but essential scholarly writing rules include:
    1. Write a clear, concise statement about what new information the article

    presents. This means the author must have a clear understanding about
    who readers will be. Unique information, particularly on a topic for
    which there has been a good deal published already, may justify why the
    article should be published.

    2. Begin every paragraph with a simple and direct topical statement.
    Follow this with 2-4 sentences that elaborate, support, or provide
    examples about the topical statement.

    3. Keep sentences simple and relatively short; use an active voice.
    4. To create a scholarly tone, use third-person pronouns and avoid

    informal terms, slang, controversial or biased words, and contractions.
    5. Avoid repetition and meaningless statements or sentences where the

    content is obvious.
    As a scholarly author you are expected to read the literature and to study and

    think about it before you begin to write. The author should not sit at the
    computer and copy directly from other publications to create a “new” paper. She
    or he must develop a logical plan for the order in which arguments are advanced,
    analyze and evaluate the literature, and use references in the discussion of
    these arguments.

    The correct use of references is an essential component of scholarly writing.
    Particularly in clinical journals, readers want to see the best and most recent
    references. An article that includes many references older than 5 years casts doubt
    on the relevance or credibility of the content.

    The Journal for Nurse Prac

    titioners – JNP

    A11

    http://crossmark.crossref.org/dialog/?doi=10.1016/j.nurpra.2018.08.012&domain=pdf

    http://www.npjournal.org

    The Journal for Nurse PracA12

    When using content directly from other publications, less formal publications
    use quotation marks around the phrases, sentences, or paragraphs imported from
    other articles. In scholarly writing, however, the author is expected to rewrite these
    materials in his or her own words, as well as provide the references. Use of more
    than 30 words directly from another publication requires the author to get written
    permission from the copyright holder (usually the publisher) to reprint the ma-
    terial. Many authors choose to rewrite this material rather than get the copyright
    permission. It is not adequate to use direct quotations from other published ma-
    terials (even from the author’s own published work) and just reference them.

    Most publishers, including Elsevier, run submissions through software such as
    iThenticate to compare the author’s submission to other published work. Editors
    can see exactly whether references are properly cited or if there are copyright
    violations. The findings of this exercise often determine whether a manuscript
    will be considered for peer review. Several online programs (for example,
    https://www.grammarly.com/ or https://www.bibme.org/grammar-and
    -plagiarism) are available for authors to check their own work prior to sub-
    mitting to a journal. Many writing resources are available at https://
    researcheracademy.elsevier.com.

    Finally, remember to edit the manuscript carefully before submission. Look
    again to make sure references are complete, the introduction is compelling, the
    conclusion restates the most important information but does not repeat the
    introduction, and the abstract will entice clinicians to read the article.

    titioners – JNP

    Marilyn W. Edmunds, PhD, ANP/GNP, FAANP
    Editor in Chief

    Julee Waldrop, DNP, PNP, FAAN, FAANP
    Associate Editor

    1555-4155/18/$ see front matter
    © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nurpra.2018.08.012

  • Errata
  • The name of the fourth author of the abstract “Urological

    telehealth e A dollars, sense and distance evaluation”
    (JulyeAugust 2017, Page e326) should be Eileen Mary Moore.

    The final sentence in the article “A Summary and Update
    on Glucagon-like Peptide Agonists” (May 2018) should
    have been deleted.

    Volume 14, Issue 8, September 2018

    https://www.grammarly.com/

    Grammar And Plagiarism

    Grammar And Plagiarism

    https://researcheracademy.elsevier.com

    https://researcheracademy.elsevier.com

    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nurpra.2018.08.012

      What is Scholarly Writing?

      Errata

    • Erratum

    The Peer-Review Process in Scholarly
    Writing

    B R E N T D O N C L I F F

    All writers who submit to peer-reviewed journals w ill have their manuscript reviewed. This discussion paper

    examines some o f the reasons w hy peer review exists and provides com m ent on the process. It is helpful to

    understand w hy this process exists and be aware of some o f the issues th a t have been reported over tim e in

    relation to editorial peer review. This paper seeks to do this and pose a few questions for reflection.
    KEYW ORDS: peer review; process; discussion

    A C A D E M IC J O U R N A L S A R E a key tool for the
    dissemination of research results, sharing

    viewpoints and opinions and general professional
    communication (Campanario, 1998). Anyone
    who has submitted articles to academic journals
    will have had their manuscript reviewed and will
    have received a range of comments as a result of
    the peer-review process. The peer-review process
    is a part of the quality control measures for most
    professional journals. Anecdotally, it seems there
    are cifferences in the content of the reviews
    received from different scholarly journals. This
    prompted a quest to examine the issue of peer
    review. What follows is the outcome of a brief
    literature review and some reflection.

    IDENTIFYING RELEVANT LITERATURE
    In order to get a range of articles for review, the
    terms ‘peer review’, ‘scholarly writing’, ‘academic
    journal’ and ‘editorial peer review’ used the
    Android© app Google Scholar. There were over
    30,000 citations. The first 1,000 were screened,
    and, from these, a list o f 200 were chosen for
    review.

    WHAT IS PEER REVIEW?
    Peer review is the review of actions, plans and
    research and is one of the quality measures
    that a profession uses to ensure the integrity
    of images and knowledge related to that pro­
    fession. Put another way, if a sample of knowl­
    edgeable peers within the profession come to
    general agreement that whatever it is that is
    being reviewed is not fraudulent, illegal, unsafe,
    ill-conceived, unethical or misrepresents the
    knowledge of the particular profession, then it
    should pass inspection. Quite simply, it limits
    risks (Price, 2014).

    Peer review is a process that is used in other
    ways, not just in editorial review. Peer review
    has been used to determine allocation of re­
    search funding and academic scholarships and
    to gauge consensus around strategic academic
    or judicial appointments. Peer review in nursing
    includes evaluating aspects o f professional nurs­
    ing practice for opportunities to improve care
    and is done by people who have the appropriate
    knowledge and experience to perform such an
    evaluation (Spiva, Jarrell, &Baio, 2014).

    Whitireia Nursing and Health lournal 23/2016 Pages 55-60 55

    Brent Dondiff

    There exists no specific timeline of the in­
    troduction of editorial peer review (Burnham,
    1990). However, the first medical periodical pub­
    lished in America and recorded in the examined
    literature was the Medical Repository, established
    in 1797 in New York (Davis, 1870). In addition,
    Kronick (1990) reported that over 300 years
    ago the Royal Society of London established a
    committee to review articles before publication.
    By the time that Davis presented his findings in
    1870, it was acknowledged that there were faults
    such as ‘articles defective in style, and impover­
    ished ideas; cases so imperfectly reported as to be
    of no value’ in a number of the extant profession­
    al periodicals of the time (Davis, 18 7 0, p. 416).

    Editorial peer review is external third-party
    reviewing, but who is a peer? Are experts, who
    have continual access and up-to-date awareness
    of their subject likely to view and value informa­
    tion in a manuscript in the same way as a general
    reader with less expert knowledge? Would they
    dismiss some content as being irrelevant to them
    that may be quite interesting and informative
    for the general readership? It would seem that
    experts are certainly more critical in relation
    to what is acceptable (Justice, Berlin, Fletcher,
    Fletcher, & Goodman, 1994). Through whose
    eyes should the assessment of the manuscript be
    undertaken — expert or the wider journal reader-
    ship? And what is the best point in the process of
    publication for the manuscript to be reviewed?
    There are two clear stages in relation to the pro­
    cess of journal publication: pre-publication and
    post-publication (Schuklenk, 2015).

    PRE-PUBLICATION
    The job of a peer reviewer in relation to article
    manuscripts is that of a consultant to the jour­
    nal editor (Kassirer & Campion, 1994) however,
    editorial peer review — although widely used —
    has not been comprehensively examined as a
    process, and its immediate and ongoing effects
    are inconclusive (Jefferson, Alderson, Wager, &
    Davidoff, 2002). However, there seems to be no
    viable alternative. Kravitz, Feldman, Kravitz, and
    Feldman (2015) liken peer review to Winston
    Churchill’s view of democracy: ‘it is the worst

    56

    form of scientific quality assurance except for all
    the others that have been tried’ (p. 1717). The
    questions that should be on the mind of a manu­
    script assessor or reviewer should be in relation
    to the manuscript in its present form – is this
    readable, factual, ethical and likely to be of inter­
    est to the readers? Readability and comprehensi­
    bility are key factors. Peer review as a process is
    ineffective when editors or reviewers are unable
    to fully understand the content of the submit­
    ted manuscript (Manchikanti, Kaye, Boswell, &
    Hirsch, 2015), and improving the readability of
    articles will eventually improve the circulation of
    a journal (Roberts, Fletcher, & Fletcher, 1994).

    POST-PUBLICATION
    This is perhaps the best peer review of all as there
    are no limits on who can make comment. Letters
    to the editor in many journals have comments
    from readers about the impact of articles in the
    publication. Interestingly, when articles are bor­
    rowed from one publication and republished in
    another, it could be considered a form of peer
    review inasmuch as by the time of republication
    the article has been through another round of
    scrutiny by peers and has been deemed appropri­
    ate (Burnham, 1990).

    HOW IMPORTANT IS PEER REVIEW?
    How important, in the wider scheme of things, is
    editorial peer review? In relation to scholarly ar­
    ticles, Smith (2010) suggests that an examination
    of any sample would reveal that many are never
    cited and most seem to lose relevance within a
    few years; thus, very few journal articles will have
    any real continuing importance. If material loses
    its relevance, then does it warrant such a degree
    of attention prior to publication? Perhaps edito­
    rial peer review is related more to the prestige of
    the particular journal and the public face of the
    profession or discipline, than ensuring that the
    information presented is interesting, innovative
    or thought-provoking.

    Bornmann (2011) suggests the peer-review
    process, rather than being specifically scientific,
    involves social judgement. It may be the social
    aspect of peer review that leads to a significant

    Whitireia Nursing and Health Journal 23/2016 Pages 5 5 -6 0

    The P e e r-R e v ie w Process in S ch o la rly W r it in g

    dominance of negative comments (Bakanic,
    Mcphail, & Simon, 1989); however, negative
    review comments are not ubiquitous – at least
    within nursing journals (Shattell, Chinn, Thomas,
    & Cowling, 2010).

    The negative tenor of reviewer comments can
    sometimes be quite disheartening for a manu­
    script writer. When a manuscript is presented to
    a journal, if it is considered the best effort of the
    writer, then negative criticism could bring frus­
    tration and resentment and cause them to aban­
    don the project. Where a writer does abandon
    a project for lack of constructive criticism and
    guidance, the profession loses the chance to be­
    come aware of the particular information or ideas
    that the writer was intending to impart. One con­
    clusion that can be drawn is that the negativity of
    some reviews is encouraged by the anonymity of
    the peer review process. However, the traditional
    anonymity of peer review is not the only way in
    which quality peer review can be undertaken.

    Removing strict anonymity will allow the
    writer to know who has reviewed the manu­
    script and the reviewer to know who wrote the
    manuscript. It has been suggested that this open
    reviewing may lead to fewer people making
    themselves available to review manuscripts (van
    Rooyen, Godlee, Evans, Black, & Smith, 1999). It
    coulci also be problematic where a reviewer has a
    previous connection with the writer, either nega­
    tive or positive, and fails to disclose this. A prior
    connection may lead to some form of transfer­
    ence where the reviewer treats the manuscript
    according to their particular feelings about the
    writer.

    PEER REVIEW AS A D E VELO PM EN T TOOL FOR W R ITER S
    One innovative possibility is for a journal to
    adopt the philosophy that manuscript reviews
    should be seen as an opportunity to further
    develop the writers skills and knowledge and
    enhance their work. Instead of focusing on iden­
    tifying what does not meet accepted standards,
    reviewers should provide the writer with the
    benefit of their experience and wisdom and offer
    guidance around how to raise the quality of the
    manuscript. Chittum and Bryant (2014) suggest

    W h itire ia N u rs in g a n d H e a lth Jo u rn a l 2 3 /2 0 1 6 Pages 5 5 – 6 0

    that graduate students should develop the skills
    needed for peer review and be involved as initial
    reviewers for peer reviewed journals. This would
    enable students to be aware of the rigour needed
    for academic publication and allow them to view
    a range of different writing styles in order to un­
    derstand what is good and bad about these differ­
    ent styles in relation to professional publication.

    When a subject being written about is narrow
    in focus, it may be that the author has the best
    idea of who would be most appropriate to review
    the content o f the manuscript. Another alterna­
    tive to the traditional blind reviewing is offering
    the author the option of choosing from a list of
    reviewers providing their services to a particular
    journal, if they feel that particular reviewer has
    greater understanding of or expertise in the sub­
    ject matter of the manuscript.

    Koop and Poschl (2006) present an interest­
    ing two-stage approach that has been adopted by
    one particular online journal, which is that, fol­
    lowing screening, manuscripts are made available
    online as discussion papers for public comment
    over an eight-week period. During this time,
    designated reviewers provide comments in addi­
    tion to other readers providing their own input.
    After the eight-week period, the more traditional
    review process takes place. Making the manu­
    script available for wider comment will provide
    reviewers and the writer with a good indication
    of interest in the eventual published article. Any
    commentary from peers, such as during the
    discussion-paper stage, is still peer review even
    though it is not refereed (Mahoney, 1985).

    Literary conventions and academic writing
    differ between disciplines, and people who un­
    dertake peer reviews for journals need to have a
    good working knowledge, not only of the accept­
    able style of writing, but also of the referencing
    etiquette for that particular discipline.

    Academic nursing in New Zealand has adopt­
    ed the American Psychological Association (APA)
    style of writing and referencing.

    U N D E R S TA N D IN G SCHOLARLY W R IT IN G
    One of the most contentious issues of manuscript
    peer review is understanding what constitutes

    5 7

    Brent Dondiff

    scholarly writing. While, in general, there is
    global agreement on the acceptable use of gram­
    mar and spelling, there appears to be some disa­
    greement around the acceptable use of personal
    pronouns in scholarly writing. Lee (2014) indi­
    cates that within the APA style, at least, the use of
    personal pronouns in the context of ownership
    of opinions or ideas by the writer is totally appro­
    priate. Hyland (2002) suggests that the tendency
    towards third-person expressions began with the
    hard sciences and engineering and reflects those
    disciplines’ preference for joint authorship.

    Within many disciplines in the social scienc­
    es, the researcher/writer can sometimes become
    embedded in the theatre of the research — such
    as when the researcher/writer adopts the role of
    participant-observer, or when they are using an
    action research methodology. In these situations,
    the use of third-person identity in manuscripts
    can sometimes create discord within the manu­
    script. The same is applicable in nursing, where
    the nurse, nursing care and the environment in
    which the interaction with client/patient occurs
    are central components of the nursing paradigm.
    Reducing the interpersonal dynamic of nursing
    to neutral impersonal prose creates the risk that
    the richness of the nursing context can be lost
    (Hamill, 1999). Adopting a first-person identity
    in academic writing can create a forceful voice
    with which to present arguments and concepts
    (Hyland, 2002). This is something that editorial
    boards of nursing journals need to consider pro­
    viding instructions to their peer reviewers.

    THE CONTINUAL EVOLUTION OF PEER REVIEW
    While scholarly and academic editorial peer re­
    view has been around for at least 300 years, it
    is something that has been continually evolving
    and will continue to do so in order to reflect the
    contemporary understanding of appropriate con­
    tent and presentation required for publication of
    manuscripts. Of note, the Journal of the American
    Medical Association and the British Medical Jour­
    nal facilitate an International Congress on Peer
    Review amd Biomedical Publication, with the
    next one due in 2017.

    FACTORS TO CONSIDER IN A MANUSCRIPT REVIEW:
    Quality of the science: research design, execution,
    presentation of findings, analysis and conclusions.
    Specifically in relation to research, an assessment
    of the particular contribution the research makes
    to the knowledge base of the profession would
    need to be undertaken.

    Content: is the subject matter of potential
    interest to journal readership, does it presents
    information in an informative manner, is it chal­
    lenging or thought-provoking? Does it meet the
    discipline’s standards of ethics and professional­
    ism?

    General style and presentation: does it meet
    the particular requirements of the accepted
    writing style for the discipline? When there are
    simple technical errors, they can be highlighted
    as a learning opportunity for the writer, but if
    the manuscript is going to be reformatted for a
    journal, then these changes should be addressed
    by the editor. However, where there are gross de­
    viations from the accepted style then the writer
    should be given guidance to allow them to revise
    the manuscript.

    CONCLUSION
    Editorial peer review is not perfect but it is the
    best method at the moment with which manu­
    script submissions can be assessed on their suit­
    ability to their discipline’s publication standards
    and knowledge base. Perhaps it is time to consider
    some flexibility in relation to what is understood
    to be scholarly writing in nursing so that, where
    appropriate, the use of personal pronouns and
    idea ownership are accepted.

    DISCLAIMER
    The ideas and opinions expressed by the author
    in this piece of writing are not intended to imply
    that they are (or are not) in any way part of the
    Waikato District Health Board philosophy or op­
    erational procedures they are solely expressions
    from the author based on literature research and
    consolidation, collective experience and wisdom.

    58 Whitireia Nursing and Health Journal 23/2016 Pages 5 5-6 0

    The Peer-Review Process in Scholarly W riting

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    B r e n t D o n d i f f

    van Rooyen, S., Godlee, F., Evans, S., Black, N.,
    & Smith, R. (1999), Effect of open peer review
    on quality o f reviews and on reviewers’ recom­
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    B R E N T D O N C L I F F RN, M N (hons), FCNA (N Z), FNZCM HN is a Mental Health Nurse with over 3 0 years’

    experience working in healthcare. He currently works as a Mental Health Triage Nurse with the Whikato District

    Health Board. He is a Fellow of the College of Nurses Aotearoa (NZ) and of the New Zealand College of Mental

    Health Nurses.

    6 0 W hitire ia Nursing and H ealth Journal 2 3 /2 0 1 6 Pages 5 5 – 6 0

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