The impact of school principals on implementing effective teaching and learning practices

Elsa Fourie (Department of Educational Sciences, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa)

International Journal of Educational Management

ISSN: 0951-354X

Publication date: 13 August 2018

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to identify limitations in managing the implementation of effective teaching and learning in township ECD centres.

Design/methodology/approach

This research was grounded in a community-based participatory research approach. A qualitative research design was utilised because phenomena could be studied in terms of the meanings of people. Elements of grounded theory, situational analysis and community-based participatory research were blended. The qualitative research design involved semi-structured face-to-face interviews with teachers in township ECD centres.

Findings

The findings from this research made it evident that principals of ECD centres were often absent; had not been trained to manage an ECD centre; had limited skills to manage finances; did not communicate with parents or teachers; and did not motivate teachers to achieve goals or to improve their qualifications.

Practical implications

Challenges that could impede the effective implementation of an intervention programme should be identified and addressed. Principals of ECD centres should be empowered to manage their centres effectively. A training programme aimed at empowering principals of ECD centres has been developed and will be implemented after consultation with the gatekeeper and principals of the ECD centres.

Originality/value

The findings of this research could be used by principals and researchers to reflect on management practices in ECD centres. A challenge for principals is to acknowledge the principles of effective management and to close the gap between current practices and effective management practices. Interventions from academics are essential to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in ECD centres.

Keywords

Citation

Fourie, E. (2018), "The impact of school principals on implementing effective teaching and learning practices", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 32 No. 6, pp. 1056-1069. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEM-08-2017-0197

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Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited


Introduction

The children of today will lead progress and development in societies of the future. A reason for concern is that approximately 250m children before the age of formal schooling (43 per cent) in low-income societies are at risk of not reaching their full potential because of adversities they face in their early years (Chan and Hansen, 2017, p. 12). Investing in the early childhood development (ECD) of these children will not only benefit them but also their respective societies and countries (Phillips, 2017, p. 138). There is a need to invest in well-designed ECD programmes in disadvantaged societies. The effect of these investments is extremely significant in the sense that poor and illiterate families can become more aware of the importance of education and that ECD programmes can decrease the differences caused by socio-economic factors (Kartal, 2007; Nores and Barnett, 2010, p. 217; Butler-Adam, 2013; Msila, 2014; Pardo and Woodrow, 2014; Chan and Hansen, 2017, p. 12). In a country with high levels of poverty, pre-school education can play a substantial role in getting children school-ready (Kartal, 2007; Steyn et al., 2011; Alameen et al., 2015).

In the last few decades, there has been a growing interest in investments in children at early ages throughout the world (Nores and Barnett, 2010, p. 217). Gaps between more and less advantaged societies have pointed to the importance of educating children in the first five years of life to increase later developmental and educational outcomes (Chan and Hansen, 2017, p. 12). The South African Government increasingly strives to embrace ECD as part of their education agenda. However, taking into account more and less advantaged societies, there are significant differences in early childhood education and care. In less advantaged societies (townships) in South Africa, ECD is mostly privately provided. Although there are many ECD centres in these townships, in the majority of cases teaching and learning are of an unacceptable quality and regardless of government interventions the need to provide quality education to young children in adverse societies still exists (Phillips, 2017, p. 138). According to Nores and Barnett (2010, p. 218), Azam et al. (2014) and Phillips (2017, p. 139), the success of any education system is established through the quality of teachers as they play a vital role in building the character of young children. In this regard, it is often argued that only teachers with formal teaching qualifications are well qualified. Contrariwise, there is a shortage of well-trained teachers for ECD in South African townships (Steyn et al., 2011; Atmore, 2013; Msila, 2014). The majority of ECD teachers have inadequate or no formal training and low levels of school education. However, demanding a formal qualification for educating young children may result in devaluing these teachers who may not have access to acquire the necessary education (Blank, 2011; Pardo and Woodrow, 2014). There is a need to identify alternative paths for the professional development of ECD teachers. This can be seen in many initiatives and programmes of non-government organisations, social partners and non-profit organisations (Strydom, 2011; Aboyassin and Abood, 2013, p. 6).

It is a well-known fact that a school environment that contributes to quality teaching and learning consists of various elements, including managers’ and teachers’ high-quality capacity; a school culture and climate conducive to teaching and learning; a sound school organisational structure; committed school teams; effective human resource management; effective resource management; and noble school–community relationships (Tok, 2011; Data et al., 2017, p. 4). The researcher is of the opinion that it is vital to deal with these complexities before it can be expected that anything would change as far as early childhood education in South Africa is concerned.

Background of this research

During 2015 and 2016, the researcher implemented a professional development intervention project aimed at improving the knowledge and skills of ECD teachers in townships in the Vaal Triangle region of the Gauteng province in South Africa. The intervention project was facilitated through teaching and learning experiences that were transactional and designed to support the acquisition of knowledge in practice. The teachers in this research agreed that they needed to gain knowledge and skills of more effective teaching and learning practices. Through negotiated practice a training programme was designed to equip the teachers with knowledge and skills that would enable them to create environments conducive to teaching and learning.

At the end of the training programme, the researcher conducted face-to-face, semi-structured interviews with all the participants in order to determine the success of the implementation of newly gained knowledge and skills. Data obtained from the face-to-face, semi-structured interviews revealed that the teachers were more motivated towards their daily work; that their self-confidence increased; and that they understood that effective teaching and learning were not dependent on costly resources. Visits to the ECD centres also made it evident that teachers worked tirelessly to implement new teaching and learning methods; that they have gained knowledge and skills to be more effective in their teaching; and that learners were actively involved in teaching and learning. Nonetheless, the data also indicated that teachers experienced several challenges in implementing newly gained knowledge and skills.

Quality early childhood education programmes can lead to sustained impacts if it is effectively managed (Phillips, 2017, p. 138). The challenge is to match investments in quality education programmes with effective management in the implementation of such programmes (Phillips, 2017, p. 139). Although teachers are key figures in constructing creative teaching and learning environments, they need support from their principals, which according to the findings of this research was not the case. It seemed that the most serious obstacle in the teachers’ efforts to implement effective teaching and learning practices was the lack of management skills of the principals of the ECD centres. This called for an analysis of various issues of management practices of principals of ECD centres.

Nicholson and Kroll (2015), Blatchford and Manni (2012), Pardo and Woodrow (2014) and Data et al. (2017, p. 4) posit that effective management and appropriate training for the management role are increasingly important for providing quality provision for the early years. Although research indicates that management indirectly affects learners’ outcomes, principals are key agents for building the school’s organisational capacity and for creating the cultural and structural conditions for effective teaching and learning (Kadji-Beltran et al., 2013).

Effective educational management is generally accepted as being essential in achieving organisational improvement (Aubrey et al., 2013; Gkorezis, 2016, p. 1031). Educational management involves a process of planning, organising, leading and controlling teachers and activities and using all available resources to reach identified educational goals (Mafora and Phorabatho, 2013; Soria-Garcia and Martinez-Lorente, 2014). These constituents of management also apply to managing the implementation of effective teaching and learning practices in ECD centres. Dutta and Sahney (2017, p. 941) support this argument when stating that effective management is acknowledged as one of the key determinants of teaching and learning achievement. A school manager’s role is conceived as part of a web of interpersonal, environmental and in-school relationships that combine to determine successful educational outcomes.

According to Data et al. (2017, p. 4), three major characteristics are vital for effective school principals, namely a high degree of professionalism; ethical standards and integrity; leadership flexibility, capability and capacity; and management adaptability and openness to changing modes of teaching and learning. Furthermore, principals should have strong values and orientations; should motivate teachers towards high performance; should listen to the voices of teachers; and should encourage creativity and teamwork. It is also of vital importance that the principal enhances effective communication with staff; develops professionally trained teachers; encourages consultative approaches in decision-making processes; and creates a shared vision with teachers and parents in order to achieve academically focused goals. When schools are effectively managed, there is greater job-satisfaction among teachers, higher self-efficacy of teachers and a quality educational climate (Garza et al., 2014, p. 799; Gkorezis, 2016, p. 1031).

Gkorezis (2016, p. 1031) argues that effective management nurtures an environment that facilitates teachers’ innovative work behaviour. Innovative work behaviour can be defined as an individual’s conduct to bring about change through introducing new and useful ideas, processes and procedures. An empowering management style is associated with innovative work performance. Teachers who are provided with power, autonomy and participation in decision making experience higher levels of self-efficacy which results in enhanced innovative work behaviour.

A principal’s most important task is to lead the process of teaching and learning and to guide and inspire teachers to enhance the quality of teaching and learning. Hence, principals should create conducive conditions for teaching and learning, should lead the process of teaching and learning and should link the work of teaching and learning with organisational goals and results (Agasisti et al., 2012; Leo, 2015, p. 464; Data et al., 2017, p. 4). Goal orientation, process orientation and result orientation are linked to the management of goals, processes and results. Goal orientation focuses on principals creating conducive conditions for teaching and learning. Process orientation means that principals lead teaching and learning through classroom visits, supervision and feedback while results orientation refers to principals connecting pupils’ results with the task of teaching and learning. Leo (2015, p. 464) and Garza et al. (2014, p. 802) posit that principals need to analyse results, investigate what explains the results and work on improvement of results. In order to achieve the above, it is imperative that managers are present and close to the teaching and learning process, are engaged and involve teachers in the development of quality teaching and learning and engage in teacher development. However, in a study done by Fitzgerald and Zientek (2015) regarding indigenous women’s experiences of being managers, one of the participants said: “[…] it’s like a dance, really and very hard to keep in time if you cannot hear the music or don’t understand the steps”. This assertion confirms statements of Mafora and Phorabatho (2013), namely that the development of the basic skills of managers, in the context of this research, managers of ECD centres, has not received sufficient attention in the past and therefore the continuing professional learning of those leading ECD should become a critical aspect of educational reform. The contribution of effective management to improve organisational performance remains indisputable (Krieg et al., 2014).

Not all principals of schools are effective in their management practices. In this regard, many training courses have been developed and studies have been conducted to find ways to deal with ineffective principals (Aboyassin and Abood, 2013, p. 68). Ineffective management is harmful to any organisation; it is often unethical; it is harmful to employees as it has an adverse impact on motivation to attain common goals; and it drains organisational resources. The reasons for the failure of principals to achieve desired targets include personal traits, skills shortage and not focusing on the goals of the school.

Based on the above discussion, it becomes evident that in order to improve learning environments, there is a need to identify limitations in management practices at ECD centres. Once limitations have been identified, an intervention programme can be designed to empower principals to manage the implementation of effective teaching and learning practices effectively. Available literature relating to the management of ECD centres mostly emphasises the operational features of an intervention programme and its contents (Snyder et al., 2011; Fourie and Fourie, 2016). Research conducted by Fourie and Fourie (2016) and Snyder et al. (2011) indicates that most research conducted in the ECD field focuses on in-service training and staff development aimed at improving subject content knowledge and skills. Limited literature pertaining to the management of implementing what was learned during an intervention programme could be found. Consequently, the need to advance the scientific basis of the management of what was learned during an intervention programme arises. This research aims to address the gap in the literature by identifying limitations in managing the implementation of effective teaching and learning practices in township ECD centres in the Vaal Triangle region of the Gauteng Province in South Africa.

Aim of the research project

In 2015 and 2016, the researcher engaged in an eight-month long community-based research project. The project was conceived after reading and reflecting on the empirical and theoretical context of the field of study. The aim of the research project was to identify limitations in managing and supporting the implementation of effective teaching and learning practices in township ECD centres.

Research methodology

The community-based participatory research approach has its foundations in applied research and is outcome-directed with advantages to communities (Sobrero and Jayaratne, 2014). The educational framework supporting this approach to research lies in adult education; it focuses on the learner having some control over the learning process and experience; and it enhances the practical experience of the student and teacher (Levin and Martin, 2007). Community-based participatory research encompasses a variety of research approaches with interrelated elements, namely participation, research and action. It is also described as a systematic investigation involving those affected by an issue for purposes of education and action.

Theory is integrated with practice and creative production with the challenge of improving active citizenship (Berman 2011; Attalah, 2017, p. 357). Through reflection and community-based research, viewed and practiced as a scholarly activity, the context for a dialogue between theory and practice is created (Sobrero and Jayaratne, 2014). The traditional roles of teacher and learner become indistinct and what emerges is a learning community including community members and researchers.

According to Hollander (2009) and Berman (2011), many researchers generate little scholarship in this manner as the tools for improving practice might overlap with the tools of the researcher. However, the way in which the researcher asks questions; the manner in which the study is grounded in the literature; the higher standards in employing the very same tools than teachers may use and honouring participants’ voices while maintaining academic requirements, make such work scholarship and sets it apart from the world of practice (Sobrero and Jayaratne, 2014).

Community-based participatory research is further characterised as a collaborative process that involves all partners in the research process, recognising the strengths that each brings. This form of research starts with an issue of importance to the community with the aim of combining knowledge and action for social change to improve situations in communities (Selman et al., 2017, p. 9). It is essential that community leaders are engaged as equal partners in order to ensure that the research topic that is decided upon is of real concern to the community. The gatekeeper for this research was the leader of the non-governmental organisation responsible for ECD in a township in the Vaal Triangle. He understood the community; was confident and assertive; was willing to assist with the research; was reliable, consistent and passionate about the quality of teaching and learning in the ECD centres; and had exceptional organisational and interpersonal skills. Through building a good relationship with the gatekeeper, his influence on teachers was transferred to the researcher.

A qualitative research design was utilised for this research (Creswell, 2014). According to Creswell (2014), qualitative research developed in social and human sciences as a reaction to the view that human beings can be studied in the same way than objects. Creswell (2009) defines qualitative research as multi-method focused, involving an interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. For this research, qualitative research methods were utilised blending aspects of grounded theory, situational analysis and the community-based participatory research approach (Attalah, 2017, p. 361). A qualitative research design was suitable for this research as it takes into account the context and the participants’ categories of meaning; it allows for examining complex issues; it is dynamic and provides an opportunity for the researcher to generate explanatory theory about a phenomenon. The qualitative research design involved semi-structured face-to-face interviews, guided by a semi-structured interview schedule with teachers in ECD centres in a township in the Vaal Triangle region of the Gauteng Province in South Africa.

Through conducting face-to-face interviews with all participants, the researcher established a relationship with them and also gained their co-operation. Interviews were digitally recorded and the spoken English transcribed verbatim by a professional transcriber (Maree, 2010).

Population and sample

The population of this research comprised of ECD teachers in townships in South Africa. A purposive research sample of 120 teachers was drawn from a township in the Vaal Triangle region of the Gauteng province. Purposive sampling is based on the judgment of the researcher and is composed of elements that contain the most common characteristics of the population (Creswell, 2014). In this manner, information rich sources were selected from which a great deal could be learned (Maree, 2010). The research sample represented more than 10 per cent of the population.

Results and discussion

The data obtained from the responses to the semi-structured face-to-face interviews revealed that the principals of ECD centres had very limited knowledge and understanding of managing the implementation of effective teaching and learning practices.

Thematic analysis, a method for identifying, analysing and reporting patterns in qualitative data, was used because of its potential to provide a rich descriptive account of complex phenomena (Selman et al., 2017, p. 9). The data were analysed, compared and contrasted to determine the extent to which outcomes agreed or differed. Throughout the cycles of coding, emphasis was placed on exploring themes that spoke to patterns in the management practices of principals of ECD centres. As the data correlated positively, more comprehensive and well substantiated conclusions about limitations in managing the implementation of effective teaching and learning practices in ECD centres could be reached (Maree, 2010). The following themes were identified.

Principals’ non-attendance

The participants indicated that principals were often not present at the ECD centres. They argued that the principals’ absence was the reason for them not being aware of limited resources for teaching and learning. A number of participants revealed that principals did not support them in their teaching and learning endeavours. Supporting quotes:

The owner does not spend enough time in the school.

The owner is never at work so she/he will not be able to see what the center needs.

[…] she is not supporting us, many times the owner is not at the school.

The data support the findings of Leo (2015, p. 464), Mafora and Phorabatho (2013) and Data et al. (2017, p. 4). In order to create an environment that is conducive for effective teaching and learning, it is crucial that principals are present and close to the teaching and learning process (Leo, 2015, p. 464). According to Mafora and Phorabatho (2013), principals have to lead and guide teachers. Principals are responsible for sustaining the daily operation of the ECD centre and therefore have to be engaged in work goals themselves before they will be in a position to engage teachers in the goals of the ECD centre (Agasisti et al., 2012; Bakker and Xanthopoulou, 2013; Leo, 2015, p. 464; Data et al., 2017, p. 4). Goal orientation emphasises that principals should create favourable conditions for teaching and learning, whereas process orientation means that principals lead teaching and learning through classroom visits, supervision and feedback.

If principals are absent from ECD centres supervision and feedback will be impossible. Principal’s values influence the school and are adopted by teachers, parents and learners. Values, the school’s vision and a sense of purpose created by the principal, lead to achievement just as the lack thereof leads to failure as has also been revealed from the data gathered from this research.

Management training

The data made it evident that principals lacked management skills and that they were uninformed with respect to the responsibilities of a principal of an ECD centre. The participants further indicated that principals did not know how to manage, motivate and support the teachers at their respective ECD centres.

Supporting quotes:

She is irresponsible and don’t have the qualities to run an ECD center.

She can not manage and motivate her staff.

The owner does not has, no time management.

The owner is not well trained to manage children.

The principal does not do the administrate.

The failure of principals to achieve desired targets can often be attributed to a lack of management skills (Aboyassin and Abood, 2013, p. 68). This statement confirms the arguments of Mafora and Phorabatho (2013), namely that the development of the basic management skills of principals have not received the necessary attention in the past. Although it would be unreasonable to expect that principals should be professionals in all areas of ECD, successful school principals need to be effective managers and instructional leaders (Cevher-Kalburan, 2014). The data gathered by this research confirm the arguments of Kadji-Beltran et al. (2013) and Mafora and Phorabatho (2013), when they state that if principals are not good managers, early childhood teachers will experience difficulties in taking decisions about instructional issues. It also confirms the viewpoint of Krieg et al. (2014), namely that effective management improves school organisational performance and teaching and learning achievement.

Principals should create constructive educational environments; should lead the implementation of changes towards effective teaching and learning; must take responsibility for providing necessary resources; and have to provide ongoing professional development for teachers (Mafora and Phorabatho, 2013). In a study conducted by Aubrey et al. (2013), principals of ECD centres admitted that they allocate a small amount of time to administration and management. They also revealed that they had no training or experience to perform management tasks.

Nicholson and Kroll (2015), Blatchford and Manni (2012), Pardo and Woodrow (2014) and Data et al. (2017, p. 4) posit that effective management and appropriate training for the management role are increasingly important for providing quality provision for the early years. Research indicates that principals are strategic agents for building the school’s organisational capacity and for creating conditions for meaningful and effective teaching and learning (Kadji-Beltran et al., 2013). On the contrary, the data collected from this research indicate that principals are not trained to perform the above roles.

Financial management

According to the participants, principals experienced numerous challenges related to financial management. All the teachers said that their ECD centres were not maintained in an acceptable manner. The majority of the teachers indicated that they did not have sufficient teaching and learning resources and that the learners were not provided with nutritious meals. They further suggested that in order to improve the conditions at the centres, sponsors should be approached for donations.

Supporting quotes:

Parents don’t pay school fees on time. Don’t have enough money to give them nutritious food.

I can’t do most of what I have learn with kids reason being lack of staff to use such as colourings, papers, glue, etc.

“Our center need maintanance and lots of renovation. We have no carpet, there is blockage of toilet and rotting of the creche’s roofing”. “If someone can give money we can make the centre better”.

Planning the teaching and learning environment is one of the most important components of successful teaching and learning. Although no research focusing on the financial management skills of principals of ECD centres could be found, the studies of Mafora and Phorabatho (2013) and Cevher-Kalburan (2014) make it evident that a lack of teaching and learning material, equipment and space were not contributing to conducive ECD teaching and learning environments. The data obtained from this research indicate that teachers at ECD centres experience problems, for example inadequate teaching and learning resources, as principals do not have the necessary skills to manage finances. It seems that principals do not budget for expenses and therefore a lack of relevant resources remains a serious barrier towards effective teaching and learning.

Communication with ECD teachers

The participants revealed that principals did not communicate with them on a regular basis. Most of the teachers said that principals do not have good communication skills and therefore they avoided regular meetings with staff. The participants also indicated that they were not aware of the school’s vision, mission and values as they were not involved in the creation of it.

Supporting quotes:

No communication between the owner the teacher. No regular staff meeting.

Teachers cannot communicate with the owner. The owner is not responsible.

When you ask for poster she does not talk nicely she make a fool on you by saying look for it.

I know not what she want with this centre.

It is of vital importance that the principal enhances effective communication with teachers, develops professionally trained teachers, encourages consultative approaches in decision-making processes and creates a shared vision and values with teachers and parents in order to achieve academically focused goals (Garza et al., 2014, p. 799; Gkorezis, 2016, p. 1031). Cevher-Kalburan (2014) supports this argument when stating that a school culture is created by teachers and school principals. In order to achieve the goals of a school interaction between these elements is essential. A principal cannot work in remoteness. It must be clear what the ECD centre’s vision and ethos are and everybody must work together towards achieving it (Kadji-Beltran et al., 2013).

Leo (2015, p. 464) and Garza et al. (2014, p. 802) posit that principals need to involve teachers in the development of quality teaching and learning practices. Principals must develop, implement and sustain a community that is committed to a common purpose, with common goals and outcomes. The results obtained from this research contradict the above assertions. It can be argued that everything happens within the context of a community. When schools are effectively managed, there is greater job-satisfaction among teachers, higher self-efficacy of teachers and a quality educational climate (Garza et al., 2014, p. 799; Gkorezis 2016, p. 1031). Therefore, a purposeful teaching and learning community should be established to deal with the challenges and opportunities of increasing learner growth and achievement. This will only be possible if effective channels of communication between teachers and principals are created.

Motivating staff

The teachers argued that principals did not exert motivating behaviour towards them. They also indicated that there was insignificant support or motivation for implementing newly gained knowledge and skills. It further transpired that teachers were not encouraged to obtain any form of ECD qualifications.

Supporting quotes:

She does not manage and motivate her team.

I have attended the course. I really like to implement in my centre, but the problem is my principal she crushes everything I do.

Since I have been in the course I can do the themes, extrodinary. I do share my work with others […] but I have lost my job at the creche, because I demand too much.

There is no trained staff.

Influence exercised by a manager to gain support from employees, and is required to achieve a common goal (Aubrey et al., 2013). Promoting the capacity for change depends on staff motivation and commitment which is enhanced when leaders encourage trust and confidence (Cumming et al., 2015). Commending and inspiring teachers are important elements in creating a positive school culture and in retaining a committed team. Principals should motivate teachers towards high performance, should enhance effective communication and develop professionally trained teachers. When schools are effectively managed, there is greater job-satisfaction and higher self-efficacy of teachers and a quality educational climate (Garza et al., 2014, p. 799; Gkorezis 2016, p. 1031). The data gathered from this research supports the notion that in the absence of the self-efficacy of teachers and a conducive school climate teachers find it difficult to engage in quality teaching and learning.

The data furthermore do not support the statements of Cumming et al. (2015) and Rouse and Spradbury (2015), suggesting that teachers should be supported to gain or improve their qualifications and to be engaged in ongoing professional development. Nonetheless, developing a capable and motivated ECD staff is critical to achieve the goals of any ECD centre.

Communication with parents

It became clear that there was a lack of communication between principals and the parents of learners. The data made it evident that principals did not have good communication skills and that they did not arrange parent meetings. The participants indicated that principals were afraid to speak to parents or to communicate grievances with parents because they depend on the school fees that parents have to pay. They also stated that parents were not involved in the teaching and learning of their children.

Supporting quotes:

She/he do not make arrangement to meet parents or parent evening as they are the one’s who make payment.

The owner did not speaks to the parents and all the times is not at school, the owner is not responsible at all.

No meeting with parent. No communication with the parents out of order. The parents they don’t want to help the home work, they don’t want to bring the thing we want, e.g. pictures.

The owner doesn’t care about the needs of the parents.

In a study that focused on ECD, concerns about communication concentrated on not establishing effective contact between principals, teachers and parents (Cevher-Kalburan, 2014). According to Alameen et al. (2015), communication is essential to motivate and influence people to contribute to the objectives of an organisation of which, in the case of ECD centres, parents are also members. Cevher-Kalburan (2014) states that parent-teacher communication has an influence on learners’ positive attitudes towards school and that it helps parents to develop self-efficacy and self-confidence.

As can be deducted from the results of this research, ECD cannot be separated from families (Alameen et al., 2015). Participants in the study of Alameen et al. (2015) also indicated that regular meetings with parents should be arranged as continuous communication with parents could be a solution to enhance their involvement in the teaching and learning of their children.

It is also of vital importance that principals enhance effective communication with staff; develop professionally trained teachers; encourage consultative approaches in decision-making processes; and create a shared vision and values with teachers and parents in order to achieve academically focused goals (Garza et al., 2014, p. 799; Gkorezis, 2016, p. 1031).

Conclusion

Irrespective of many positive changes with regards to education in South Africa concerns about the quality of ECD in previously disadvantaged areas remain and a serious need for interventions aimed at improving the quality of teaching and learning in ECD centres still exists. In 2015 and 2016, the researcher implemented a professional development intervention project aimed at improving the knowledge and skills of ECD teachers.

Throughout the duration of the training programme, a significant degree of coherence and mutual action developed between the researcher and the participants. At the end of the training programme, the teachers were more motivated and confident to introduce effective teaching and learning practices. Nevertheless, due to a lack of management skills of the principals of ECD centres, the teachers were faced with several obstacles in the implementation of newly gained knowledge and skills.

Through the findings from this research, it became evident that principals of ECD centres in townships in the Vaal Triangle region of the Gauteng Province in South Africa were often absent; that they have not been trained to manage an ECD centre; that they had limited skills to manage finances; that they did not communicate with parents or with the teachers; and that they did not motivate teachers to achieve goals or to improve their qualifications. It became clear that principals do not understand the characteristics of effective teaching and learning and they do not appreciate new ideas.

Effective principals should enhance their employees’ engagement and commitment towards the goals of the school. Principals of ECD centres should value the dynamic relationships with teachers and parents; they should motivate teachers to perform above their own expectations; they should create a school culture and climate conducive to teaching and learning; a sound organisational structure and committed school teams. They should further manage resources effectively and communicate regularly with teachers and parents in order to foster positive relationships, as this is essential for providing quality ECD.

This research was conducted in a community as a social and cultural entity with the active engagement of the gatekeeper and the early development teachers in all aspects of the research process. The researcher followed a collaborative approach and the strengths and responsibilities of all involved contributed to enhance understanding the social and cultural dynamics of the community. The co-operation that all partners wished to achieve through collaboration was more than just an exchange of resources. By merging the perspectives, resources and skills of the community and the researcher, something new and valuable could be crafted. Opportunities were created for communities and science to work in collaboration to ensure a more balanced set of educational priorities which satisfied the demands of both scientific research and the community at risk.

The findings from this research will be disseminated to all partners as it will inform the nature of future action. However, a training programme aimed at empowering principals to manage their respective ECD centres effectively has been preliminary designed. The gatekeeper as well as the principals of the ECD centres will have insight into the contents of the programme and adjustments will be made according to their inputs.

Recommendations

Based on the findings of this research, the following recommendations are made.

Interventions from academics are essential to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in ECD centres. It is equally crucial that any intervention programme should be characterised by a partnership between the researcher and the community. The community should at no time be used as a means to attain researcher’s goals. Community engagement should rather be based on collective partnerships between the university and the communities that it serves.

Any challenges that could impede the effective implementation of an intervention programme should be identified and addressed. In the context of this research, principals of ECD centres in townships should be empowered to manage their respective centres effectively. In this regard, a training programme aimed at empowering principals of ECD centres in townships has been developed and will be implemented after consultation with the gatekeeper and principals of the respective ECD centres.

The researcher is convinced that the implementation of this intervention programme will provide principals with valuable guidelines for the effective management of teaching and learning practices in ECD centres.

The results and findings emanating from the implementation of the intervention programme will be reported on in a next article.

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Further reading

Dobni, C., Brooke, M.K. and Nelson, W.T. (2015), “Innovation strategy in the US: top executives offer their views”, Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 3-13.

Ehigie, B.O. and McAndrew, E. (2005), “Innovation, diffusion and adoption of total quality management (TQM)”, Journal of Management History, Vol. 43 No. 6, pp. 925-940.

Fourie, E. and Kgalenga, R. (2014), “An investigation into practical interventions for quality early childhood development: the Siyakhulisa project”, International Journal of Educational Sciences, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 287-296.

Fourie, J.E. (2013), “Early childhood education in South African townships: academics accepting the challenge to empower early childhood development teachers”, Journal of Social Sciences, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 59-68.

Fourie, J.E. (2014), “Early childhood education in South African townships: the role of innovation towards creating conducive teaching and learning environments”, Anthropologist, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 799-809.

Jackson, L.T.B., Rothman, S. and Van de Vijver, F.J.R. (2006), “A model of work-related well-being for educators in South Africa”, Stress and Health, Vol. 22, pp. 263-274.

Mishra, R. (2015), “Innovation in education”, International Journal of Innovative Social Science & Humanities Research, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 43-51.

Motsekga, A. (2010), Address by the Minister of Basic Education, at the Human Development Cluster Briefing, The Department of Basic Education, Cape Town.

Noris, M. and Barnett, S. (2017), “Benefits of early childhood interventions across the world: investing the very young”, Economics of Education, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 271-282.

Preston, J.P., Cottrell, M., Pelletier, R. and Pearce, J.V. (2012), “Aboriginal early childhood education in Canada: issues of context”, Journal of Early Childhood Research, Vol. 10, pp. 3-18.

Vos, D., Van der Westhuizen, P.C. and Ellis, S.M. (2012), “Educators and the quality of their work environment: an analysis of the organisational climate in primary schools”, South African Journal of Education, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 56-68.

Corresponding author

Elsa Fourie can be contacted at: elsa.fourie@nwu.ac.za