E. Slunjski

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (CROATIA)
The paper presents some key challenges in a four-year process of research and improvement of educational practices in a kindergarten. The process itself was exploratory and reflective in character in order to avoid the pitfalls that impede quality development. These pitfalls include disregard for the complexity and multidimensionality of practice, the irrelevance of research subjects to the professional life of practitioners and the mismatch between the beliefs that practitioners advocate and achievements in practice. In particular, efforts were made to strengthen the development of the institution’s capacity for change and encourage its gradual transformation into a learning organization. In the process of research and changes in practices, the development of critical reflection by educators was strongly encouraged in order for them to be able to question the fundamental beliefs that shape their daily educational work. The institution sought to develop practical critical reflection so that practitioners would be able to consider problems from different perspectives, develop a better understanding of situations and improve their practice. Strengthening the autonomy and emancipation of educators posed a challenge to the institution’s leadership given the different levels of motivation of the educators involved in the process of change. The levels of voluntariness of their participation in this process differed, which was reflected in the intensity and the outlook of the development of practices. The principal sought to achieve a balance between pressure and support in the process of developing the practices, which was hampered by a shortage of educators. The paper presents the basic dilemmas that, in this sense, the principal confronted and examines the responsibility of all staff in the institution for quality assurance and development.