Leadership construction : an exploratory case study of two exemplary female principals in urban primary schools in mainland China

Zhong, Wanjuan (2009) Leadership construction : an exploratory case study of two exemplary female principals in urban primary schools in mainland China. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Worldwide, education systems have undergone unprecedented change due to a variety of economic, social, and political forces (Limerick, Cunnington & Crowther, 2002). The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is no exception. Continuous educational reform at primary and secondary levels in Mainland China has created new challenges and accountabilities for school principals. The important role of principals in primary and secondary schools has been acknowledged in both policy documents and the broader literature (Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, 1985; F. Chen, 2005; Chu, 2003; W. Huang, 2005; T. Wang, 2003). Yet, most of the literature on primary and secondary school principals in Mainland China is prescriptive in nature, identifying from the perspectives of researchers and academics what principals should do and how they should enact leadership. Lacking in this research is an awareness of the daily practices and lived experiences of principals. Furthermore, within the small body of writing on primary and secondary school principals in Mainland China, gender is seldom given any attention. To date, only a small number of empirical studies have focused on female principals as a specific category of research (Zen, 2004; Zhong, 2004). This study aimed to explore the professional lives of two female exemplary school principals in urban primary schools in Mainland China. A qualitative exploratory case study was used. Semi-structured interviews with each individual female principal, with six teachers in each of the school sites and with the superintendent of each principal were conducted. Field observations and document analysis were also undertaken to obtain multiple insights about their leadership practices. The conceptual framework was based largely on the theory of Gronn (1999) and incorporated five core leadership practices (vision building, ethical considerations, teaching and learning, power utilisation, and dealing with risks and challenges) taken from the wider literature. The key findings of this study were twofold. Firstly, while the five leadership practices were evident in the leadership of the two principals, this study identified some subtle differences in the way they approached each of them. Secondly, contextual factors such as Chinese traditional culture, the contemporary societal context, and the school organisational context, in addition to the biographical experiences of each principal were significant factors in shaping the way in which they exercised their leadership practices in the schools.

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ID Code: 29357
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Ehrich, Lisa, Fox, Patricia, & Millwater, Jan
Keywords: female leadership, school principal, case study, primary schools, Mainland China
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 16 Dec 2009 06:02
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:54

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