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What is pedagogical leadership? Dr. Elina Fonsén explains

Elina Fonsén is Early childhood education and Pedagogical Leadership expert and is a University Lecturer at the University of Helsinki. Fonsén's dissertation study (2014) deals with pedagogical leadership in Finnish early childhood education. The purpose of the study has been to increase understanding of the pedagogical leadership in early childhood education and at the same time to provide information on its development and implementation.


Early childhood education and Pedagogical Leadership expert, University Lecturer at the University of Helsinki, Elina Fonsén.

What does pedagogical leadership consist of? According to Fonsén's research, pedagogical leadership consists of five important dimensions.

1. Values

The first one is the underlying values ​​that are set by law and documents. These include National core curriculum for early childhood education and care as well as National core curriculum for pre-primary education, to provide guidelines. - Values ​​ are considered an important factor in early childhood education. It is also essential to have a discussion on values and to reflect on how the values are fulfilled in practice, says Fonsén.

2. Contextuality

Contextuality focuses on what kind of structure exists. This again relates to time, place, factors and different organizational structures which together form a different social structure for early childhood education. There are different cities and municipalities in Finland with different structures. Each unit also has its structures. Therefore, each organization must consider pedagogical leadership in its context.


3. Organizational culture Organizational culture refers to the operating cultures within organizations. It focuses on how the organization operates, how the leadership is shared and the quality of interaction. Among other factors, old habits easily determine the course of action, and the distribution of leadership varies from place to place. These influence the success of pedagogical leadership. - For example, there may be strong work habits that determine activity. The quality of the interaction may be good or no so good. Leadership may or may not be shared. There is a great deal of variation in the operating culture and management that needs to be addressed, says Fonsén.

4. Professionalism

The professionalism of the manager is important and therefore the manager needs training in their job. Currently, systematic education in the field of education and training is being developed at the University of Helsinki. The purpose of the training is in the best possible way to provide pedagogical knowledge. Professionalism is needed by all employees. -The more the pedagogical skills the teacher and staff have, the easier it is for the leader to get into pedagogical leadership and being able to share it. Above all, a leader needs versatile leadership skills in education and teaching,” says Fonsén.

5. Substance

The last one is a substance which means one´s knowledge and management in their field. Particularly important is educational knowledge. Early childhood education teachers and staff need to be knowledgeable in the field. The role of the leader is to guide the educators in the right direction. "The leader also needs to be aware of the most up-to-date educational research that best demonstrates the child's learning and growth," Fonsén points out. To be a pedagogical leader, a leader needs “pedagogical eyeglasses” to incorporate pedagogical decisions and the best interests of the child in all her leadership decisions. The purpose of the glasses is to support pedagogical solutions. - There should not be a reason to go with the cost first. For example, when placing children in groups, the pedagogical aspects and the best interest of the children should be the first criteria. In that case, we are already well on our way to pedagogical leadership, Fonsén points out. According to Fonsén, good pedagogical leadership requires appreciation and resources from all levels of the organization. Besides, pedagogical leadership needs time and good interaction. The leader must know education and leadership skills.

Writer: Saana Söderlund

Additional sources:

Seminar: Johda pedagogiikkaa, Dr. Elina Fonsén, University of Helsinki


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