Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/13199
The purpose of the thesis is to investigate how the professional role and leadership of preschool teachers are perceived by them and other stakeholders and what contextual factors affect the preschool teachers’ role and leadership. A further purpose is to investigate how preschool teachers see their professional identity and how the stakeholders’ perceptions and relevant contextual factors appear to affect this. The research also has a political purpose as it is giving a voice to a profession that has been fighting for many years for acknowledgement whilst a gendered stereotypical view and discourse in society means that working with the youngest children is considered women’s work and therefore subordinated.
A theoretical framework, emerging from the literature, is used to analyse the findings, including Whitty’s (2008) and Oberhuemer’s (2005) ideas of ‘democratic professionalism’. The theoretical perspective, or the philosophical stance, informing the methodology of the research, is interpretive, or ‘symbolic interactionism’, which stems from the pragmatist philosopher and social psychologist George Herbert Mead (1934), and the sociologist Herbert Blumer (1969). The main research tool used is focus group interviews.
The main findings of the research reveal that the preschool teachers tend to focus on the educational dimension of their role where they see themselves as professionals and experts. All elements strengthening that dimension are perceived as ‘positive’. They hardly mention the preschools’ function of social justice and contextual factors related to the economic function, as the number of children in the groups (classes) and the children’s long day in preschools are affecting their role and leadership in a ‘negative’ way and impacting on their professional identity. Leadership within preschools is mainly seen as traditional and the professional identities of Icelandic preschool teachers, or how they see themselves as professionals and leaders, are also affected by prevailing stereotypically gendered perceptions of some of the stakeholders. In fact they are barely differentiated from the laypersons who numerically dominate their field.