Hallinger, P. and Walker, A. (2015), "Systematic reviews of research on principal leadership in East Asia", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 53 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/JEA-05-2015-0039Download as .RIS
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Systematic reviews of research on principal leadership in East Asia
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Educational Administration, Volume 53, Issue 4.
In 1994, an international meeting of 28 educational leadership scholars hailing from a dozen Asia Pacific societies was held in Chiang Mai, Thailand under the auspices of Chiang Mai University. The purpose of the meeting was to take stock of the current state of the field of educational leadership research, preparation and practice in Asia Pacific. The meeting was attended by now familiar names in our field (Ken Leithwood, Philip Hallinger, Allan Walker, Ibrahim Bajunid, Brian Caldwell, Rahimah Haji Ahmad, Gopinathan, Jan Robertson, Clive Dimmock, and Paula Cordeiro), all of whom were interested in supporting the further development of educational leadership in the region.
Looking back, we cannot overstate the outcomes of that seminal meeting. As a direct result of those discussions in Chiang Mai, we witnessed the establishment of new “school leadership centers” in Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore between 1995 and 2000. The birth of these school leadership centers gave impetus to a new focus on principal preparation and development in the region. This resulted in an explosion of new Master, EdD, and PhD programs, as well as professional development programs. Linkages between these centers, as well as with collaborating institutions beyond the region, also led to significant new developments in the design of principal preparation curricula and the development of new approaches to teaching and mentoring school leaders.
Although the initial activities of these new school leadership centers tended to emphasize training and development, it soon became apparent that the design of high-quality preparation curricula was handicapped by the virtual absence of empirical research on the practice of educational leadership in the Asia Pacific context. More specifically, it was increasingly recognized that there were boundaries to the portability of knowledge. While some research findings derived from studies conducted in New York City, London, or Toronto could have broad applicability, the previously unexamined assumption of the universality of research findings in our field became difficult to justify.
Moreover, as case teaching and problem-based learning began to gain greater currency in the region, practitioners began to demand localized cases through which to analyze and develop solutions to administrative problems. This is what Hallinger and Lu (2012) referred to as “overcoming the Walmart syndrome.” The Walmart syndrome is encountered when learners are asked to “imagine” solutions to administrative problems located in organizational contexts with which they have no experience. When the “distance” between the experience of the learner and the context of the case problem becames too great, the learning method "whether case teaching or problem-based learning" loses much of its power.
Recognition of these limitations led regional scholars (e.g. Bajunid, 1996; Cheng, 1995; Hallinger, 1995; Hallinger and Leithwood, 1996) to call for a concerted effort at building a “regionally grounded knowledge base” in educational leadership. We envisioned this as a blend of universally applicable “administrative principles” and “indigenous leadership practices”. In the mid-1990s when we issued this “challenge” to the region’s scholars, the international educational leadership and management journals were virtually bereft of articles either from or about the practice of educational leadership in East and Southeast Asia. We envisioned this as a long-term effort, well beyond what one would characterize as a “project.” As scholars elsewhere have observed, building a knowledge base requires a decades-long effort (Hallinger and Bryant, 2013a, b; Ogawa et al., 2000).
Nonetheless, the ensuing years saw the region’s scholars more actively engaged in direct service activities (i.e. teaching, training, and development) than on research (Walker and Dimmock, 2006). The start-up of these and other school leadership centers in the region had given voice to a latent, but previously unfulfilled need. The centers offered a practical expression to a need increasingly expressed by policymakers as well as school practitioners.
This was the state of the field in the region 15 years after the meeting in Chiang Mai and issuance of the challenge to develop a regional knowledge base. In 2013, Hallinger and Bryant (2013a, b) assessed the extent of progress in research conducted on school leadership in East Asia through a review of articles published in a set of eight core international journals between 1995 and 2012. We concluded that although progress was evident, it was also very “patchy.” At the same time, we wondered if the relative lack of research publications could have been due to the sources that we examined, i.e., international refereed journals. Thus, we recommended that scholars in the region undertake “national reviews of research” that incorporated local language sources such as domestic journals and master and doctoral theses.
In 2012, recognizing the urgency of understanding key issues in educational leadership within East Asia, the editors of this Special Issue initiated a multi-stage project aimed at studying principal leadership in seven East Asian societies: Instructional Leadership in East Asia. The project began with national reviews of research on principal leadership. Five of the review papers coming from the project are included in this Special Issue. Stage 2 of the project, currently underway, involves interviews with principals in the seven societies. This will be followed by case studies, and finally survey research.
As we have expressed elsewhere (Hallinger et al., 2005), our interest in developing a “regional knowledge base” does not seek to privilege local knowledge over other sources of knowledge. Instead, we agree with Leithwood’s (Leithwood et al., 2008) assertion that the literature in educational leadership has begun to identify a common set of “practices” (e.g. vision setting and articulation, capacity development) that apply across different cultural settings. However, the manner in which those practices are enacted does often differ based on contextual conditions such as national culture, school level, school size, and community characteristics. Thus, our research project seeks to identify, examine and elaborate on the enactment of those “leadership practices” in schools located across East Asia. As readers will see, the literature reviews contained in this Special Issue support the importance of contextualizing our research so that findings can become more meaningful and useful.
Philip Hallinger and Allan Walker
Bajunid, I.A. (1996), “Preliminary explorations of indigenous perspectives of educational management: the evolving Malaysian experience”, Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 34 No. 5, pp. 50-73
Cheng, K.M. (1995), “The neglected dimension: cultural comparison in educational administration”, in Wong, K.C. and Cheng, K.M. (Eds), Educational Leadership and Change, Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong, pp. 87-102
Hallinger, P. (1995), “Culture and leadership: developing an international perspective in educational administration”, UCEA Review, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 3-7
Hallinger, P. and Bryant, D.A. (2013a), “Accelerating knowledge production on educational leadership and management in East Asia: a strategic analysis”, School Leadership and Management, Vol. 33 No. 3, pp. 202-223
Hallinger, P. and Bryant, D.A. (2013b), “Mapping the terrain of research on educational leadership and management in East Asia”, Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 51 No. 5, pp. 618-637
Hallinger, P. and Leithwood, K. (1996), “Culture and educational administration: a case of finding out what you don’t know you don’t know”, Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 34 No. 5, pp. 98-115
Hallinger, P. and Lu, J.F. (2012), “Overcoming the ‘Walmart syndrome’: adapting problem-based management education in East Asia”, Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 16-42
Hallinger, P., Walker, A. and Bajunid, I. (2005), “Educational leadership in East Asia: implications for education in a global society”, UCEA Review, Vol. 46 No. 1, pp. 1-4
Leithwood, K., Harris, A. and Hopkins, D. (2008), “Seven strong claims about successful school leadership”, School Leadership and Management, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 27-42
Ogawa, R., Goldring, E.B. and Conley, S. (2000), “Organizing the field to improve research on educational administration”, Educational Administration Quarterly, Vol. 36 No. 3, pp. 340-357
Walker, A. and Dimmock, C. (2006), “Preparing leaders, preparing learners: the Hong Kong experience”, School Leadership and Management, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 125-147