Early Ed Leadership & Innovation

We train frontline early educators and child care business owners in entrepreneurial leadership, and research ways to support them at scale

New Study Finds That Early Educators Trained in Leading for Change Develop Entrepreneurial Mindset and Lead for Change in the Workplace


A study published in the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy found that early educators who participated in a relational-entrepreneurial leadership development program were likely to lead for change in curriculum improvement, family engagement, and relationship building after completing their training. It is one of the first empirical studies to examine whether relational-entrepreneurial leadership development training increases early educators’ capacity to lead for change and it contributes new knowledge to the emerging literature on early educator leadership development. Findings from the study, which was designed and authored by researchers at the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation at UMass Boston, are relevant to current debate among early educators, parents, and policymakers about how to make affordable, high quality early care and education accessible to all families.

“This study highlights the importance of relational-entrepreneurial leadership development opportunities for early educators,” said study corresponding author Anne Douglass, PhD, Professor of Early Care and Education at UMass Boston and the founding executive director of the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation. “Early educators hold a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and insights about caring for and educating very young children that are not known to those outside the field. Findings from the study indicate that relational-entrepreneurial leadership training taps into early educators’ proprietary knowledge and equips them to lead for positive change and quality improvement.”

The study, titled “Preparing early educators as frontline leaders and change agents with a leadership development initiative,” assessed the impact of Leading for Change on 31 early educators. Leading for Change is a 40-hour relational-entrepreneurial leadership development program delivered over 15 weeks. Its core mission is to cultivate racially and linguistically diverse leadership from the early care and education workforce and is designed for early educators who continue to work while participating in the training. Nearly all (93.5%) participants were female and ranged in age from 24 to 68 years old. Nearly half (42.9%) of participants were fluent in languages other than English; 37% were White, 25.9% were Black, 18.5% were Asian, 7.4% were Hispanic/Latinx, and 11.1% were other races. Study participants held positions throughout the field ranging from assistant teacher to center director and worked in all program types including centers, schools, and family child care programs.

Surveys filled out by early educators before and after completing Leading for Change showed significant increases in participants’ perceptions of themselves as leaders and change agents after completing the training. Participants also demonstrated significant increases in leadership competencies ranging from having the “respect of my colleagues” to having “gained knowledge about implementing change.” Interviews with participants conducted one year after completion of Leading for Change provided evidence that they were likely to lead changes in their early care and education programs as a result of the relational-entrepreneurial leadership training. Change projects initiated in the year following completion of Leading for Change largely focused on teaching and curriculum improvement, family engagement, and relationship building.

“The field of early care and education is rapidly changing due to efforts to professionalize the field, the urgent need to promote equity, and the impact of the pandemic. It requires a resilient, diverse, creative, innovative, collaborative, and capable leadership workforce,” said Yujin Lee, lead study author and doctoral candidate and research assistant at the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation. “This study provides the first evidence on which approaches, features, and leadership practices can lead to improved outcomes for staff, program quality, and children and it is clear that relational-entrepreneurial leadership development can provide early educators with the tools to create innovative solutions to the persistent challenges to quality improvement in early care and education settings.”

“Preparing early educators as frontline leaders and change agents with a leadership development initiative,” is the latest research from the Institute of Early Education Leadership and Innovation contributing new knowledge about early educator entrepreneurial leadership as a powerful lever for change and examining how systems can be redesigned to cultivate the leadership of early educators at scale. Other recent papers from the the Institute of Early Education Leadership and Innovation include “The Massachusetts Early Education and Care Workforce Survey 2019: Key Findings,” published in 2020; “The Role of Relationships: An Exploratory Study of Early Childhood Educators Earning a Bachelor’s Degree” published in 2019 in SAGE Open; and “Redefining Leadership: Lessons from an Early Education Leadership Development Initiative” published in 2018 in the Early Childhood Education Journal.

“Preparing early educators as frontline leaders and change agents with a leadership development initiative,” is available online.

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