Assessing the Contribution of Distributed Leadership to School Improvement

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Principal Investigator
Professor Philip Hallinger
Senior Research Fellow of APCLC, The Education University of Hong Kong
Professor Cheng Yin Cheong
Professor Edmond Law
Professor Ng Shun Wing
Funding Source
General Research Fund
Project Duration


This research project proposal seeks to investigate effects of leadership on school improvement and student learning in Hong Kong. The study builds upon 40 years of research seeking to understand the extent, nature, and means by which leadership impacts school change, effectiveness and improvement. While this body of international research has made substantial progress, issues that remain to be addressed are equally relevant to the development of educational quality improvement in Hong Kong and internationally.

The study addresses the broad question, “How do changes in the capacity for distributed leadership impact school improvement and growth in student learning?” The research will develop and analyze a longitudinal data set on leadership and school improvement collected from 200 Hong Kong primary schools over four school years. We will elicit teacher perceptions of their schools' leadership capacity and a set of key school improvement variables validated in prior research. Changes in these factors will be modeled in terms of relationships to changes in student learning year-by-year. Although the quantitative research comprises the main focus of this study, we will conduct qualitative case studies of high improvement schools in years four and five. The case studies will be used to gain a more in-depth picture of processes and perspectives revealed through the quantitative analysis.

The study will contribute to knowledge in five ways. First, it will provide empirically derived insights into the contributions of distributed leadership to school improvement. Second, the research will contribute to current methodological progress in leadership research by incorporating and testing dynamic as well as static models. Third, the research will analyze longitudinal data thereby offering insights into the evolving capacity of schools for change and improvement over time. Fourth, our research addresses a central concern in research on school leadership by incorporating data on growth in student learning outcomes and linking these to alterable school factors.

Finally, the research is framed so that the findings will be applicable to the literature on leadership and management of organizations more generally where many of these issues are also highly relevant to scholars and practitioners. 


Book Chapters
  1. Hallinger, P., & Heck, R. H. (2010). Leadership and student outcomes. In J. Robertson and H. Timperly (Eds.), Leadership and Learning (pp. 56-70). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  2. Hallinger, P., & Heck, R. H. (2009). Distributed leadership in schools: What makes a difference? In A Harris (Ed.), Distributed leadership: Different perspectives. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.
Refereed Journals
  1. Hallinger , P. (accepted). Achieving the effects of shared vision through school management teams. School Leadership & Management.
  2. Hallinger, P., & Ko, J. (2015). Education Accountability and Principal Leadership Effects in Hong Kong Primary Schools. Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy, 1 (30150). Retrieved from
  3. Hallinger, P., Lee, M.S., & Ko, J. (2014). Exploring the impact of school principals on teacher professional communities in Hong Kong. Leadership and Policy in Schools.
  4. Hallinger, P. (2011). A review of three decades of doctoral studies using the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale: A lens on methodological progress in educational leadership. Educational Administration Quarterly, 47(2) 271- 306.
  5. Hallinger, P. (2011). Developing a knowledge base for educational leadership and management in East Asia. School Leadership and Management, 31(4), 305-320.
  6. Hallinger, P. (2011). Leadership for learning: Lessons from 40 years of empirical research. Journal of Educational Administration, 49(2),125-142.
  7. Hallinger, P., & Heck, R. (2011). Conceptual and methodologic al issues in studying school leadership effects as a reciprocal process. School Effectiveness and School Improvement , 22(2), 149- 173.
  8. Hallinger, P., & Heck, R. (2011). Exploring the journey of school improvement : Classifying and analyzing patterns of change in school improvement processes and learning outcomes. School Effectiveness and School Improvement 22(1), 1-27.
  9. Heck, R. H., & Hallinger, P. (2010). Collaborative leadership effects on school improvement : Integrating unidirectiona l- and reciprocal effects models. The Elementary School Journal, 111(2), 226- 252.
  10. Hallinger, P., & Heck, R. (2010). Collaborative leadership and school improvement : Understanding the impact on school capacity and student learning. School Leadership and Management, 30(2), 95-110.
Refereed Conference Papers
  1. Hallinger, P. (2013, May). An Overview of Design and Methodological Issues in Studying School Leadership and School Improvement. Paper presented at The International Conference on Designs and Methods of Research on School Improvement, Frankfurt, Germany.
  2. Ko, Y. O.J., & Hallinger, P. (2012, December). What really makes teachers willing to work harder to support students in high-stakes accountability environments in Hong Kong primary schools. Paper presented at the third meeting of the 2012 joint International Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) and the Asia Pacific Educational Research Association (APERA). Sydney, Australia.
  3. Li, L. J., & Hallinger, P. (2012, October). Impact of Principal Leadership on Teachers' Professional Learning: What the Hong Kong Primary School Key Staff and Teachers Think. Paper presented at The Fourth Asian Conference on Education 2012, Osaka, Japan.
  4. Li, L. J., & Hallinger, P. (2012, October).The Effects of Principal Leadership and School Capacity on Teacher Professional Learning: An
    Exploratory Investigation of Hong Kong Primary Schools.
     Paper presented at The Fourth Asian Conference on Education 2012, Osaka, Japan.
  5. Hallinger, P. (2010, October). A review of three decades of doctoral studies using the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale: A lens on methodological progress in educational leadership. Paper presented at Annual meeting of the University Council of Educational Administration, New Orleans, USA.
  6. Hallinger, P. (2010, October). Leadership for Learning in the Asia Pacific: Lessons from 40 Years of Research. Paper presented at The 2nd International Conference on School Effectiveness and School Improvement and The 3rd Meeting of the Educational Effectiveness Academic Committee in China. Shenyang Normal University, Shenyang, China.
  7. Hallinger, P., & Heck, R. (2010, May). Mapping the domain of educational leadership and management: Quantitative approaches to understanding the impact of leadership on learning outcomes. Paper presented at Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Denver, USA.
  8. Hallinger, P., & Heck, R. (2010, May). Studying school leadership as a reciprocal process: Conceptual, methodological and policy implications.Paper presented at Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Denver, USA.

School Report on Student Maths Tests (Video) [Combined] [Seperated]
School Report on Teacher Survey [Word Version] [PDF Version]