Knowlegeable outsider: Shadowing as method in early childhood.

Year: 2018

Author: Hughes, Mary, Kilderry, Anna, Keamy, Kim, Eckersley, Bill

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Shadowing or ‘observation on the move’ (Czarniawska, 2014, p. 43) as a distinct research method is uncommon in early childhood leadership research and in qualitative research in general.  Shadowing enables researchers to experience everyday events that a participant encounters and to view the organisation through their perspective.  This paper draws on a study which is examining the role of the Educational Leader in early childhood education and the day-to-day pedagogical leadership enactment.  The aim of the study is to gain a deeper understanding of, and insight into, the role of the Educational Leader in their day-to-day pedagogical decision-making, with a view to deepening current definitions and understanding of the role. 
Using observation, contextual interviews and reflective conversations, shadowing as method in this qualitative single case study provides the researcher the ability to observe participant actions and leadership behaviours situated in local practice.  The study builds on others’ work in this area, for example Wolcott (1973), Quinlan (2008) and more recently, Hognestad and Boe (2017) where the notion of ‘conspicuous invisibility’ is explored. Conspicuous invisibility is where the researcher is present, but not really present, negotiating distance within proximity to subjects and maintaining an identity as a researcher while forming relationships with participants (Quinlan (2008).  Ongoing reflective engagement between the participant and researcher in shadowing provides additional beneficial dimensions to that of traditional observation methods. For example, being able to produce rich and detailed descriptions of the day-to-day work of educational leaders, offering deeper insights and understanding into leadership in practice. 
However, the method of shadowing can raise ethical issues and power relation dilemmas that usually would not be considerations when collecting observational data with these issues requiring careful and sensitive management.  Furthermore, shadowing as method as part of this study will contribute knowledge by providing deep insights into factors which influence how leadership is enacted in one early childhood education and care setting.
In this presentation the researchers will discuss the concept of shadowing as a powerful method in studying leadership practices within the early childhood sector.