UMass Boston IEELI

The Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation (Leadership Institute) trains early educators in entrepreneurial leadership and researches ways to support their leadership at scale.
The leadership and innovation required to meet the persistent challenges and systemic inequities in early care and education must be driven by experts—early educators. The Leadership Institute is building a racially and linguistically diverse network of early educators who are collectively catalyzing the local and systemic change urgently needed to make quality early care and education programs available and accessible in low-income communities. It offers early educators training in entrepreneurial leadership and innovation. The curriculum empowers educators to design and test solutions to their problems of practice, and an alumnae Leadership Network sustains and reinforces educators’ leadership. Its graduates open new preschools, test innovations, advocate for public policy changes, and conduct cutting-edge research. The Leadership Institute amplifies the impact of its leadership development model with original research and applied research-practice-policy partnerships that contribute new knowledge about early educator entrepreneurial leadership as a powerful lever for system change.

Our Research-Based Approach

One of our original partners in developing MECLP was the University of Massachusetts. UMass Boston led an evaluation of three cohorts of its leadership program, published in the Early Childhood Education Journal in July 2018. The study’s key research questions included: (1) How do early educators define and co-create leadership pathways in the ECE field? (2) How and what do educators change as a result of their leadership development experience?

Approximately one year after they completed the program, all 43 program graduates were invited to participate in an interview, and 35 agreed. In addition to conducting semi-structured interviews, trained graduate assistants analyzed two class assignments, including the final project, and a statement of intent for each participant.

Researchers coded their analysis into themes: changes in practice, leadership barriers, leadership facilitators, leadership progress, program barriers to success, program supports to success, and professional and leadership pathways. They found that educators experienced four transformative shifts in their development as leaders: (1) re-defining leadership (2) coming to see oneself as a leader (3) identifying one’s purpose as a leader and (4) developing professional and leadership networks and relationships.