Department of Educational Administration


Date of this Version

Spring 2-14-2009

Document Type



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Major: Educational Studies Under the Supervision of Professor Marilyn L. Grady. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2009.
Copyright (c) 2009 Ginger L. Zierdt .



Ginger LuAnne Zierdt, Ph.D. University of Nebraska, 2009

Advisor: Marilyn L. Grady

The traditional roles of early childhood educators have expanded to include management and leadership responsibilities. Through the stories and observations of early childhood administrators who participated in a Professional Learning Community within a Professional Development School (PDS) partnership, we discover new insights about the leadership and management skills needed to lead quality early learning programs.

Given the importance of professional development for early childhood administrators, it is important to understand how this phenomenon is experienced. The purpose of this case study was to understand the nature of professional development for early childhood administrators within the context of a Professional Development School (PDS) learning community. For the existing body of knowledge on early childhood administrators, the major contributions resulting from this study is a greater understanding of the inadequate training and professional development available to these leaders.

Through interviews and observations, the stories of six early childhood administrators were elicited. All interviews and observation notes were transcribed, analyzed and coded for salient themes. An external auditor was used to examine both the process and product of the inquiry, and to evaluate the trustworthiness of the study. Five themes emerged from the study: strength of peer network, rich resources, tangible results and activities, role of top leadership within early childhood, and collaboration across the greater community. An exploration and description of the following issues were presented for each participant: employing organization and work site description; organizational hierarchy, role, and responsibilities; educational background and career path; professional development as a teacher and leader; introduction to the PDS Learning Community; and reflections on the most challenging and gratifying experiences as an early childhood administrator.

The findings may inform and emphasize the importance of the following: engaging Professional Development Schools more intentionally with early learning programs and professionals affiliated with them; offering new early childhood administrators leadership training; engaging K-12 leaders more intentionally in early childhood, specifically elementary principals; exploring the viability of new or expanded licensures for administrators; and encouraging and supporting mentor-mentee relationships between early childhood administrators.