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Selected Research Project
Project Title The Missing Link – School Leadership and Student Outcomes in Hong Kong Secondary Schools
Principal Investigator Prof Allan Walker
Area of Research Project
Educational Leadership, Policy and Administration
Project Period
From 1/2008 To 9/2011
  • To determine how much of the variation in both cognitive and affective pupil outcomes in Hong Kong secondary schools is accounted for by variation in the types, qualities, strategies, and skills of school leadership
  • To identify the intervening variables between leadership and pupil outcomes
  • To investigate the fluctuations in the leadership–outcome relationship under different school characteristics and contexts
Methods Used

The research uses a mixed-method approach.

A quantitative survey is used to conduct the following:

  • Identify a repertoire of leadership practices linked to the improvement of student academic and affective outcomes;
  • Examine the effects of the mediating variables on leadership practice and student outcomes; and
  • Examine the effects of the moderating variables on leadership practice and student outcomes.

A qualitative study is used to conduct the following:

  • Explore the antecedent factors affecting the choice of a specific set of leadership practices in schools with a strong relationship between leadership and student learning;
  • Explore the contextual school factors intervening between leadership practice and student outcomes;
  • Identify how leadership practices influencing student learning are enacted; and
  • Construct some case samples on successful leadership for learning.
Summary of Findings

Interim findings are informed by cutting-edge international literature, local research findings, and pertinent contextual variables.

Seven sets of leadership practices linked to the improvement of student learning outcomes are identified:

    • Strategic direction and policy environment;
    • Teaching, learning, and curriculum;
    • Leader and teacher growth and development;
    • Staff management;
    • Resource management;
    • Quality assurance and accountability; and
    • External communication and connection.

Four mediating variables affecting the link between leadership practices and student learning outcomes are identified: trust, communication, collaboration among staff, and professional learning support.

The research project has the following implications:

  • It is the first study in Hong Kong seeking to relate school leadership with student affective and academic outcomes using 3 years of centralized school SAVIS data.
  • It combines accumulated research-based knowledge of school leadership in Hong Kong with cutting-edge international research into the relationship between leadership and student outcomes.
  • It is built on a strong methodological foundation further tested by graduate students.
  • It supports local and international thinking in terms of leadership development and social improvement.
Selected Publications Related to the Study
  1. Walker, A., Lee, M., & Bryant, D. (2014, Jan 17). How much of a difference do principals make? An analysis of between-schools variation in academic achievement in Hong Kong public secondary schools. School Effectiveness and School Improvement.
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09243453.2013.875044. doi:10.1080/09243453.2013.875044
  2. Ko, J., & Walker, A. (2014). Transformational schools leadership: Principals’ strategic vision and teacher development practices. In Lee, J., & C. Marsh, C (Eds.), Asia's high performing education systems: The case of Hong Kong (pp.151-174). London: Routledge
  3. Ko, J., Hallinger, P., & Walker, A. (2014, Feb 11). Exploring whole school vs. subject department Improvement in Hong Kong secondary schools. School Effectiveness and School Improvement.
    . doi: 10.1080/09243453.2014.882848
  4. Walker, A., Bryant, D., & Lee, M. (2013). International patterns in principal preparation: Commonalities and variations in pre-service programmes. Educational Management, Administration & Leadership, 41(4), 405-434.
    http://ema.sagepub.com/content/41/4/405 doi:10.1177/1741143213485466
  5. Lee, M., Walker, A., & Chui, Y. L. (2012). Contrasting effects of instructional leadership practices on student learning in a high accountability context. Journal of Educational Administration, 50(5), 586-611. doi: 10.1108/09578231211249835
  6. Bryant, D. A., Walker, A., & Lee, M. (2013). The impact of international, national, and local forces on the enactment of quality leadership preparation programs. In M. Brundrett (Ed.), Principles of school leadership (2nd Ed., pp. 221-243). London: Sage
  7. Ko, J., Hallinger, P., & Walker, A. (2012). Exploring school improvement in Hong Kong secondary schools. Peabody Journal of Education, 87(2), 216-234. doi: 10.1080/0161956X.2012.664474
  8. Walker, A., & Ko, J. (2011). Principal leadership in an era of accountability: A perspective from the Hong Kong context. School Leadership & Management, 31(4), 369-392. doi:10.1080/13632434.2011.606269
  9. Qian, H. Y., & Walker, A. (2011). Leadership for learning in China: The political and policy context. In T. Townsend & J. Macbeath (Eds.), The international handbook of leadership for learning (pp. 209-225). Netherlands: Springer
  10. Walker, A., & Wang, X. J. (2011). Same mother, different lives: The social organization of leadership for learning across three Chinese societies In T. Townsend & J. MacBeath (Eds.), The international handbook of leadership for learning (pp. 1083-1106). Netherlands: Springer
  11. Qian, H. Y., & Walker, A. (2011). The “gap” between policy intent and policy effect: An exploration of the interpretations of school principals in China. In T. Huang & A. Wiseman (Eds.), The Impact and Transformation of Education Policy in China, International Perspectives on Education and Society Series (Vol. 15) (pp. 187-208). Bingley, UK: Emerald
  12. Walker. A., & Ko, J. (June, 2011). School Reports 1-48 of “Missing Link: Student outcomes and school leadership in HK secondary schools [Confidential] Submitted to RGC project schools 1-48. Hong Kong, The Joseph Lau Luen Hung Charitable Trust Asia Pacific Centre for Leadership and Change
  13. Walker, A. (2010). Building and leading learning cultures. In T. Bush, L. Bell, & D. Middlewood (Eds.), The principles of educational leadership & management (2nd Ed., pp. 176-198). London: Sage
  14. Kwan, P., & Walker, A. (2011, April). Linking leadership practices, school conditions and student outcomes in Hong Kong secondary schools. Paper presented at 2011 AERA Annual Meeting: Inciting the Social Imagination: Education Research for the Public Goods, April 8-12, New Orleans, Louisiana
  15. Walker, A. (2010, March). Designing & leading a learning school: Aligning conditions that count. Keynote paper presented at Teaching and Learning Conference of Dalian Education University, March 9, Dalian, China.
  16. Walker, A. (2010, March). Nurturing a Learning Culture in Asian School: Conditions that Count.  Invited Seminar at Fudan University. March 5, Shanghai, China
Biography of Principal Investigator

Allan is Joseph Lau Chair Professor of International Educational Leadership, Dean of The Faculty of Education and Human Development and Director of The Asia Pacific Centre for Leadership and Change at The Hong Kong Institute of Education. 

Allan has lived in Hong Kong since 1994. Before joining the HKIEd, he was Chair Professor of Educational Administration and Policy and Chair of The Department of Educational Administration and Policy at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He was also Associate Director of the Hong Kong Centre for the Development of Educational Leadership.

Allan has experience as a teacher, school principal, university teacher and administrator, and consultant in a range of local and international settings. He has worked full time in universities in Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.  He has and conducted leader development courses and/or research in countries such as China, Taiwan, Norway, Finland, Vietnam, Malaysia, Netherland, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Canada, the US, UK, New Zealand and Australia.

Allan spends a lot of time working with teams of principals and middle leaders to develop, write and co-ordinate innovative programmes designed purposefully around contextual sensitivity and energizing leader learning networks.  He works with leaders across a wide spectrum, including aspiring, beginning and very experienced Hong Kong principals and middle leaders and principals in international schools.

Allan's research interests include principal preparation and leader learning, leader recruitment and selection, leadership of international schools, cultural influences on school leadership, leadership ethics and the principalship in and across Chinese societies. He has completed a number of large scale funded research projects.  His work has been published in journals such as Educational Administration QuarterlyJournal of Educational AdministrationEducational Management,Administration and LeadershipJournal of Educational PolicySchool Effectiveness and School ImprovementSchool Leadership and PolicySchool Leadership and ManagementThe Australian Journal of Education and British Educational Research Journal.  He has written and edited a number of books, including School leadership and administration: Adopting a cultural administration published by Routledgefalmer. He is presently working on a book targeting middle leaders in schools entitle – Leading Upstream.






於眾多學術期刊發表學術論文,如Educational Administration Quarterly, Journal of Educational Administration, Educational Management, Administration and Leadership, School Effectiveness and School Improvement, School Leadership and Policy, School Leadership and Management, The Australian Journal of Education and British Journal of Education Administration 等;亦編著多本學術著作,包括由Routledgefalmer出版的School leadership and administration: Adopting a cultural perspective 。  現時正編寫一本以Leading Upstream <清源>為題、國際學校中層領袖領才為焦點的學術論著。


Funding Source
General Research Fund