Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Anne McGill-Franzen

Committee Members

Richard L. Allington, Gary J. Skolits, Sandra L. Twardosz


Research supports the value of quality preschool programs in preparing children for future schooling, though experts in early care and education have not reached consensus on all contributing factors. Studies of educational leadership suggest that school leaders have an effect on student outcomes, yet few studies in the area of early childhood education have focused on the role of leaders. This study examined the literacy beliefs and the leadership behaviors of the instructional leaders of child care facilities and investigated whether these characteristics and/or behaviors were associated with prekindergarten teachers’ instructional practices in the areas of language development, reading, and writing. Instructional leaders self-reported their beliefs through response to a survey that contained the Teacher Beliefs Questionnaire (Seefeldt, 2004) and items related to leadership behaviors. Teachers’ classroom practice was evaluated using the Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation PreK Tool (Smith, Brady, Anastasopoulos, 2008). Results suggest that instructional leaders’ beliefs are most consistent with best practice in the areas of book reading and writing and most contradictory in decoding knowledge.

Additionally, their beliefs in the area of oral language are also congruent with recent research, but they appear not to have a full understanding of the relationship between early vocabulary development and later reading ability. Finally, leaders’ beliefs did not fully translate into teacher practice. These findings suggest a need for further research of leaders’ relationship to literacy instruction in the early childhood setting. Further, the need for more robust professional development in the area of literacy for child care personnel is discussed as is the need for changes in policy concerning education and compensation for professionals in the field of early care and education.

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