Leading School Based Research to Improve Student Learning: Lessons From Shanghai

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Principal Investigator
Dr. Qian Haiyan
Research Fellow of APCLC,
The Education University of Hong Kong
Professor Allan Walker Professor Yang Xiaowei
Funding Source
Early Career Scheme
Project Duration


One of the most difficult tasks facing policy-makers today is how to embed meaningful changes in the technical core of schooling – learning and teaching. Schools are increasingly expected to orchestrate improvement efforts from within, rather than simply adopting pre-packaged change programs. School-based research is often promoted as a solution for schools that want to initiate, construct and design improvement in line with their own contextual needs. The job of making this work falls squarely on shoulders of school leaders. For school-based research initiatives to work, leaders must take responsibility for promotion, coordination, resource acquisition and allocation, and teacher motivation and engagement. Little research has been conducted in this area in the Asia Pacific Region. 

This study aims to build an in-depth understanding of the leadership strategies and practices associated with the successful promotion and implementation of school-based research in Shanghai. More specifically, the study aims to identify and analyze the key roles played by school leaders in leading school-based research to improve student learning. The study is located in Shanghai because school-based research as a change strategy has been promoted and mobilized at a large scale, something rarely seen in other settings. 

Six high schools will be selected to participate in the study. Data will be drawn from principals and vice principals, key mid-level leaders, teachers and students. Data will be collected to help better understand how school leaders perceive school-based research, the strategies they use to engage teachers in research projects, how they embed research findings in school practices and how teachers and students perceive and enact the research process and outcomes. This study will contribute to the thin knowledge base in these two areas: strategies and practices for promoting school-based research, and school leadership in China. The research findings will have substantial implications for schools around the world, and for Hong Kong in particular.