A Leadership Observation Instrument for Preschool Children

Bailey, Frank Scott, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Brandt, Richard M., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Abidin, Richard R., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Ball, Donald W., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Marvin, Robert S., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

A survey of the literature on leadership revealed that little work had been done with preschoolers and that behavior-specific operational definitions of leadership were lacking. Most work was with older children or adults and involved verbal and intentional leadership, but there were suggestions that unintentional leadership behavior emerged in preschoolers. The present study offered an Observation Instrument which used discrete leader-follower dyadic interactions as the basic unit of behavior to be measured. Leaders were conceived as those individuals who were most frequently followed, copied, or joined, and whose modeling impact on others in the group was therefore the greatest.

Two preschool classes were used as subjects, one group of 13 two- to three-year-olds and one group of 10 four- to six-year-olds. Each child was observed in all his interactions with others for five minutes each day, all scoreable interactions in which he played either a leader or a follower role being noted. Two independent measures of leadership in preschoolers included Teacher Leading Ratings by teachers familiar with the students, and Child Nominations of leaders in sociometric interview.

The individual categories of leader behavior in the Instrument failed to demonstrate inter-observer reliability, but Leadership scores summed over all categories were reliable. Leadership scores produced by the Instrument correlated positively and significantly with Teacher Leading Ratings and Child Nominations, although teachers made some significant errors. Child Nominations correlated highest with the Instrument, probably because subjects were most aware of whom they followed. Leading and Following, contrary to past research with older subjects, showed no relationship to each other, suggesting that the two are independent social skills in preschoolers.

Following correlated significantly with no other measure, though previous writers have suggested that it may in preschoolers develop into "cooperativeness."

Leading and age were positively and significantly correlated, suggesting that younger children may follow older children. The youngsters did not exhibit a high frequency of ego-centric responses. Boys showed a tendency toward higher leader scores than girls, but differences were not statistically significant.

All results from the present samples were considered highly tentative because the N's were so small.

Proposed revisions of the Instrument included: a) collapsing behavioral categories into Joining and Copying; b) omitting from the Instrument the category of Observing, with the suggestion that Observing be measured independently; c) including with each score the name of the Other Child along with the Target Child, so that the efficiency of the Instrument would be doubled and so that each dyadic relationship in the group could be examined. Such new information produced by a revised Observation Instrument would allow future researchers to determine the generalizability of Leading behavior across different play partners within a group. Further research was suggested in which Leading status was measured in individuals who moved from play group to play group.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
Leadership, Child Development
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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