Decoding the Role of Teachers' Professional Networks (TPNs) in Sustaining Educational Reform

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Principal Investigator
Professor Lee Moosung
Centenary Professor,
University of Canberra
Professor Allan Walker
Professor Karen Seashore Louis
Dr. Darren Bryant
Funding Source
Early Career Scheme


A persistent challenge facing schools in Hong Kong is not the absence of innovative reform policies, but reform sustainability, given that many reform measures end in episodic, inconsistent or short-lived innovative projects (Cheng, 2009, 2010). How can educators ensure the sustainability of reform implementation? Heroic teachers alone, as depicted in Hollywood films (e.g., Dead Poet's Society, Mr. Holland's Opus), cannot ensure sustainable educational reform or change (Toole & Louis, 2002). A more promising approach is to investigate the role of teachers' professional networks in conveying opportunities and resources to sustain educational reform. The primary goal of this project is to test this hypothesis. Notably, despite emphasis on the importance of teachers' professional networks (hereafter TPNs) in school change in the literature on professional learning community and teachers community of practice, research focusing on the linkage between TPNs and reform implementation from a longitudinal perspective is extremely thin (Coburn et al., 2010; Orlina, 2010). As such, little is known about key features of TPNs (e.g., evolution, resiliency, and sustainment) that continuously convey opportunities and resources for organizational learning, which is critical to reform sustainability. In this regard, I have three additional goals in this project. First, I intend to identify the links between TPNs and reform sustainability. Based on this, I aim to decode how and why TPNs influence reform sustainability. Second, I aim to identify school organizational factors that facilitate or impede the sustainability of TPNs over time. Third, in doing this, I purposively focus on international schools, the most rapidly growing, but the least researched schooling division in Hong Kong and internationally (Lee et al., in press) in order to address a dearth of research on international schools (Hayden, 2006). Using a mixed-method design covering a two-year period (i.e., four measurement points in time), the project follows the trajectory of international schools in Hong Kong which have recently adopted an ambitious instructional reform known as inquiry-based teaching and learning (Hallinger et al., 2011). The project will contribute to research, practice, and policy, given its educational significance (i.e., illuminating links between TPNs and reform sustainability), theoretical soundness (i.e., theory of social capital), methodological advancement (i.e., multi-level latent growth modeling coupled with social network analysis and follow-up qualitative analysis), and wide implications for educators and policy makers interested in reform sustainability as well as for those involved in the rapidly growing international school movement, both in Hong Kong and globally. 

Objectives and / or expected outcomes or impact
  1. To capture school organizational factors that facilitate or impede the sustainability of TPNs (Teacher Professional Networks) over time;
  2. To identify the links between multiple characteristics of TPNs on reform sustainability over time;
  3. To understand how and why certain characteristics of TPNs contribute to reform sustainability;
  4. To contribute to developing new research agendas that have not been previously applied to educational research of international schools; and
  5. To advance research methods by synergizing the strengths of different analytical approaches, which aim to be disseminated to postgraduate students involved in this study as well as the research community.