Principals’ and teacher leaders’ perceptions of their role and interaction under current Chinese reform : a case study in Shandong province

Zhang, Yaxing (2011) Principals’ and teacher leaders’ perceptions of their role and interaction under current Chinese reform : a case study in Shandong province. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This study aims to explore the perceptions of principals and teacher leaders regarding their roles and the interaction between these roles in Chinese urban primary schools at the time of unprecedented curriculum reform. This involves a complexity of factors such as the influence of globalisation, the impact of traditional Chinese cultural attitudes towards education through Confucianism, and the implementation requirements of the current education reforms. All of these wider contextual factors help to shape the leadership practices that are described in the study. A qualitative exploratory case study approach has been utilised to undertake this investigation. The conceptual framework for this study draws upon scholars‘ work from Western countries but has been adapted in order to address three research questions for the study‘s focus on the context in Shandong province, Mainland China. Three research questions were addressed: First, what are principals‘ perceptions of their leadership roles in Mainland China under current educational reform? Second, what are teacher leaders‘ perceptions of their leadership roles in Mainland China under current educational reform? And finally, what are principals‘ and teacher leaders‘ perceptions of how their roles interact? With reference to the principals in the study, the findings confirm Gurr‘s (2008) comprehensive leadership model relating to four roles, specifically, learning and teaching, symbolic and cultural awareness, future orientation, and accountability. Significantly, some sub-roles that emerge from the data are uniquely Chinese. For example, school culture construction is a very deliberate process in which principals and their staff talked openly about and were involved in creating a positive school climate comprising spiritual, material, and system dimensions. Another finding relates to school feature construction. This refers to the process that principals and staff used to make their schools distinctive and different from other schools and included such features as the school‘s philosophy and the school-based curriculum. In seeking to understand the nature of teacher leadership in Chinese primary schools, this research confirms some findings identified in Western literature. For instance, teacher leaders in Shandong province were involved in decision-making, working with parents and community members, undertaking and planning professional development for staff, and mediating between colleagues (Day & Harris, 2002; Harrison & Killion, 2007; Leithwood, Jantzi, & Steinbach, 1999; Muijs & Harris, 2006; Smylie, 1992). However, some new aspects, such as a heightened awareness of the importance of accountability, emerge from this study. The study‘s conceptual framework also draws upon some significant insights from micropolitics and, in particular, two core constructs, namely cooperation and conflict (Blase, 1991), to explore the interactions between principals and teacher leaders. In this study, principals and teacher leaders employed exchange and facilitation as two strategies in cooperative processes; and they adopted enforcement and compromise in conflictive processes. Finally, the study‘s findings indicate that principals and teacher leaders were developing new ways of interacting in response to the requirements of significant education reform. Most principals were exercising their power through (Blase, 1991) their teacher leaders who in turn, were working in alignment with their principals to achieve the desired outcomes in schools. It was significant that this form of 'parallel leadership' (Crowther, Ferguson, & Ham, 2009) characterised the teacher leadership roles at this period of change to the curriculum in Mainland China.

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ID Code: 50901
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Henderson, Deborah, Ehrich, Lisa, & Hughes, Hilary
Keywords: principal leadership, teacher leadership, roles, micropolitics, education reform, interaction, parallel leadership, case study, 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: 14 Jun 2012 05:24
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2012 05:25

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