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Knowledge Transfer at EdUHK
Links: Leading Learning and Schools

Project Leader 

Professor Allan WALKER
(The Joseph Lau Luen Luen Hung Charitable Trust Asia Pacific Centre for Leadership and Change)


The overall aim of Links is to provide a connected set of experiences which simultaneously builds individual and group leadership capability which contributes to meaningful school improvement.

The purpose of Links is to:

  • improve the learning and lives of international school students through building the capacity and performance of school leaders;
  • establish the conditions and support necessary for committed school leaders to simultaneously learn to lead and lead to learn;
  • nurture the values, knowledge, skills, intelligences and attitudes which combine to help individual and teams of leaders lead successfully; and
  • connect learned experiential knowledge with formal and research based-knowledge.

For example, school leaders learn and lead through:

  • recognising and pooling talent;
  • empowering self and others through collective action. developing and spreading social and cultural intelligence;
  • having and spreading passion;
  • possessing and sharpening pragmatic management skills;
  • feeling valued and building esteem;
  • finding and nurturing investigation of and reflection on learning; and
  • empowering self and others through collective action.


School connection

Each participating school nominates a leader from within the school to work with participants from their school to maximize the flow of knowledge from Links deeper into the school.

Learning configurations

Links is structured around: (i) individual leaders, (ii) Learning Alliances, (iii) Learning Precincts, and (iv) a Learning Cohort.

Individual participants are organized into a Learning Alliance (three leaders from the same school and one senior leader from another school). Learning Alliances are grouped into larger structures called Learning Precincts. All precincts taken together form the overall Learning Cohort.

Key learning outcomes: Platforms, Portals, and Projects

Three formal outcomes frame learning across Links. These comprise both the processes and outcomes of learning. As such, they come together to help leaders develop multiple skills, knowledge, intelligences, and capabilities and to apply these for student good. The three formal outcomes are:

The key tangible output of Links is the Agency Project run by each Learning Alliance in their own school, with the assistance of their director. The focus of the project is discussed with the principal and/or their delegate and regular updates are provided by the Alliance. The project focuses on a real issue/problem/intervention confronting the school. The importance of the project must be justified and defended by the Learning Alliance. In short, it is expected to make a noticeable difference.

Underpinning Research

Formal knowledge transferred draws predominantly on research generated at the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd). Knowledge is organized around: Leading Learning, Leading Others, Leading Cross-cultural Teams, Leading Talent, Leading Strategically, Leading for Improved Outcomes.

Knowledge draws on completed and in-training research into multiple aspects of school leadership. This includes two GRF projects (Missing Link I and II) investigating the link between leadership and student outcomes (leadership practices and school conditions); projects commissioned by the International Baccalaureate (IB) investigating leadership and organization in international schools. We also draw on previous GRF projects into Leadership Succession, the Vice-principalship in Hong Kong, and HKIEd-funded projects into middle leadership and international school leadership. Knowledge is transferred through various formats and media.

We draw heavily on our research/writing about effective leader development. This informs both the process and the content of the programme. For example, the way we integrate the power of tacit knowledge with formal knowledge, the use of mentors, school connections, learning networks cross-cultural understanding in leader development. We also use knowledge acquired through two TDGs to inform programme development.

We draw on our 20 years experience of running cutting-edge leader development programmes. In this way we model best practice developed through HKIEd programmes. This supports our belief that knowledge transfer is not only about the sharing of formal, research-based knowledge, but also about modeling the best ways to deliver and facilitate learning which makes a difference in the community.

Corroboration of Impact or Benefit

The programme, in its third year, is drawing to a close. The following outcomes have been delivered in line with set purposes (formal evaluations are available):

  • The programme has directly impacted 106 school middle leaders matched with 44 senior leaders across 20 schools. Knowledge generated (through projects and other learning outcomes) has impacted over 1,500 teachers and their students.
  • Completed Inquiry projects have lead to major improvements in school structures and student learning within and across schools (see list of projects completed at www.ied.edu.hk/apclc/links/agency_inquiry_project.html).
  • Participants have designed, refined and applied their personal leadership platforms and expectations and publically presented these to principals and colleagues. Platform development has increased understanding, self-leadership and laid a foundation for capacity enhancement.
  • The programme has highlighted the importance of tacit knowledge through the purposeful transfer between middle and senior leaders and teachers; and between HKIEd academics and scholar-practitioners.
  • The programme has embedded professional learning and support networks among leaders and schools. As such, it helped initiate a trusting and professionally supportive learning culture which endures beyond the programme. The network sustains professional learning and provides emotional support.
  • The programme has provided multiple opportunities for leaders to learn from prominent academics. Knowledge from research conducted and published at HKIEd has formed the bulk of the formal input. This provides both formal (empirically-based) knowledge and creative stimulus. 
  • The programme is specifically for middle leaders in Hong Kong international schools It therefore positions HKIEd firmly as the leader in this area.
  • The purposeful linking of formal and tacit knowledge through data collection, application, and reflection has scaled up leader capacity within and across schools.

References to the Corroboration of Impact or Benefit

The programme has made a significant contribution to school leader development in Hong Kong, and hundreds of leaders and teachers and thousands of students benefitted from this programme. The success of the programme is evident in its popularity among middle leaders and the continuing involvement of busy senior management in international schools. Although participation in Links is entirely voluntary, the great majority of leaders elect to join (it is quite competitive). A breakdown of the enrollment for current and over the past two years is presented below.

  2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
  Total Coaches Total Leaders Total Coaches Total Leaders Total Coaches Total Leaders
Primary School 8 21 7 19 8 18
Secondary School 7 15 7 15 7 18
Total 15 36 14 34 15  36

  • Promotions. Research by the sponsoring body has indicated increased promotion success for people completing the programme.
  • Spread. Many go on to leadership positions overseas, present their work from the programme at different professional events, and become invited presenters to run school-based workshops.
  • MA. The majority of students enrolling in the IEMA have come from this programme or its predecessor, “Leading Upstream.”
  • Recognition: HKIEd is the only local institution engaged to train leaders in international schools.
  • As stated in its Mission, HKIEd serves the community through research that contributes to the advancement of knowledge and innovation in education, and through collaboration with schools and other educational organizations that contribute to the development and improvement of educational policies and practices. Therefore, our corporate responsibility is to contribute to both theory and practice in Hong Kong education. Links contributes to the development of competent values-driven leaders who can create a satisfying and productive work environment for teachers and an effective learning environment for students.
  • The programme assembles a team of outstanding and experienced scholar practitioners who are committed to serving the local educational community. They contribute through serving as mentors, coaches, and counselors. Their willingness and devotion to the programme sets a fine example for all leaders and helps foster the sense of social responsibility amongst the education community. The leaders who have benefited from the programme have become an important resource for building better schools in the future.
  • The intentional construction of the learning network maximizes the possibility that the learning coming out of Links spreads beyond the participants and endures well beyond the programme. Therefore, Links meets the commitment of HKIEd to promote life-long learning among the professional it works with.

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