Date of Award

Fall 12-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Special Education


Special Education and Habilitative Services

Major Professor

Flynn-Wilson, Linda; Austin, Patricia

Second Advisor

O'Hanlon, Ann

Third Advisor

Reynolds, Kate

Fourth Advisor

Kieff, Judith


The purpose of this research was to explore how teachers described, recognized, and would potentially influence leadership behaviors in children aged 4 to 6 years. One hundred thirty-three early childhood teachers and teachers of the gifted were surveyed using a researcher-designed instrument called the Recognizing Leadership in Children (RLIC) Survey to assess if teachers could recognize leadership from classroom scenarios that were based on actual classroom observations. As part of the survey, teachers wrote how they thought they might respond to the leadership scenarios. As there is a scarcity of literature concerning children’s leadership, the results from this study contribute information to the field. Data from this study indicate that teachers describe child leaders most often as helpful and self-confident with good communication skills. Teachers generally recognize child leadership but recognize obvious leadership behaviors more often than subtle ones. Teachers are more likely to encourage child leadership when they recognize behaviors as leadership; they are more likely to respond to child leadership in a discouraging manner when they do not recognize the behaviors as leadership. Therefore, if teachers learn to recognize child leadership, they could be more supportive, thus creating more developmentally appropriate early childhood classrooms.

Keywords: child leadership, early childhood education, gifted, leaders, prosocial behaviors, social skills, teacher expectations, young children


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