Leading Learning in Schools across Five East Asian Societies
Dean and Chair Professor
Faculty of Education and Human Development, The Education University of Hong Kong
This paper synthesizes findings from a set of studies of principal leadership for learning across five East Asian societies – Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, China Taipai and China. The first part of the paper briefly outlines the purpose of the study and the methodology used; it also illustrates the initial findings in the form of five simple models of leadership for learning in each of the settings. The second part of the paper identifies a number of similarities and then differences in approaches to leadership for learning across the societies. For example, one of the similarities was the top-down approach to defining the mission and goals of schools whereby principals worked within a fairly narrow zone of discretion. Differences across the five societies centered on the extent to which the leadership for learning role of principals was explicitly defined, and the extent to which they received training for the role. The final part of the paper makes some general comparisons with some of the global literature on principal instructional leadership and suggests some future-oriented challenges for principals across the region. Variations from the global literature reflect the varying cultural, developmental and political contexts of the societies, and future challenges around the delicate balance between tradition and change.
Pursuit of Excellence with a Soul— Diversity and equity in school education
Leslie N.K. Lo
Chair Professor by Special Appointment
Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University
The pursuit of excellence has been a systemic goal of school education in China for the last forty years. Results of China’s participation in international testing for student achievement, such as in PISA, have illuminated the achievements of its exam-oriented schooling. To policymakers and educators in certain countries, the sterling performance of Chinese students in international achievement tests is evidence of the high quality of schooling in China. But what kind of educational insights can we derive from the excellent test scores?
This presentation attempts to look beyond the test scores and to present new dimensions of Chinese schooling that should require the attention of teachers, educators, and other stakeholders in the education system. These dimensions embody quality and equality issues that will affect the developmental course of education in China. In the short term, quality and equality issues illuminate the needs for a more creative pedagogical approach that can address differences and special educational needs in schools and classrooms. In the long run, the capability of the education system to handle the multiplicity of new ideas and practices will become the key determinant of success in its pursuit of excellence and equity.
Both of the aforesaid endeavors require the support of sound policies and innovative practices. Their sustenance will also require the participation of teachers who are able to understand the importance of social justice in education and who are ready to experiment with novel inclusion practices in their classrooms. In the Chinese context where the aim of schooling is directed almost exclusively at student academic achievement, the process of achieving equity in education will be arduous as the challenges are numerous and formidable.
It is argued that the construction of a truly excellent educational system cannot rely merely on good test scores, as the findings of survey researches that are associated with international testing (such as PISA) have demonstrated. The belief that educational excellence has to be pursued along with social justice and equity should find advocates among teachers and educators who are searching for a sense of purpose for Chinese education, which is also searching for ways to help China to advance to a higher stage of educational development.
Understanding What Expert Teachers do
Executive Dean and Professor
Faculty of Education, Monash University
Teaching is sometimes interpreted as being a relatively simple and straight forward task, but that is when it is misunderstood as the delivery of information. The reality is that quality teaching is specialised and sophisticated work that involves knowledge, skills and abilities that can, and should be, developed and refined.
The expert teacher thinks carefully about the nature of learning and how teaching might be structured and conducted to shape that learning in meaningful ways for enhanced student understanding. Through quality learning and teaching, students should become more adept at questioning situations and building new knowledge. It is through the development of new knowledge that societies advance and that the standard of living increases. Education then is a key to such growth and development, therefore how teachers teach, and how that teaching supports student learning is crucial. It is not hard to see then that expert teachers matter now more than ever.
For teachers themselves, there is a great need for them to recognize and value the work that they do and to seek to develop their practice in ways that reinforce learning as something more than a just completing an assigned task. Learning is about being engaged with ideas and possibilities. Learning should be such that it invites students to be curious, thoughtful and reflective about their development and understanding of knowledge. Learning is about more than just knowing what, it is about knowing how and why. Learning involves developing a deep understanding and being able to abstract information and ideas from one situation to another, to genuinely build up and synthesize knowledge in ways that lead to new opportunities, new understandings and new possibilities for the future. It is not hard to see then that expert teachers matter in creating the conditions for that type of learning and for quality learning to be the expected outcome of our formalised efforts in schooling.
Expert teachers shape learning through teaching. The framework offered in this presentation illustrates how teachers’ decisions about what they do, how and why make a difference to the quality of learning that ensues. By thinking carefully about what is needed to make subject matter knowledge accessible, understandable and useable by students, expert teachers frame their practice and build links so that learning is meaningful and valued.
Expert teachers teach in a particular way, for a particular reason to support quality learning in their students. This presentation is designed to give access to the knowledge, skills and abilities of expert teachers and offers a way of supporting the development of that knowledge in order to lead to more informed and highly valued learning outcomes for all.
How Successful School Leaders Make a Different to Student Learning and Achievement
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nottingham
This keynote address is about how school leaders effectively raise standards of learning and achievement. It draws upon extensive syntheses of empirical studies and primary research carried out by scholars from the UK in discussing how school principals, build and sustain optimal conditions, structures and cultures for learning and teaching and through this, impact positively on the achievement of students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. The address reveals the conceptual and methodological strengths of using integrated leadership approaches to explain the effects of the complex range, combinations and accumulations of context sensitive strategies and actions that effective principals employ over time in striving to improve their schools.
Despite the consensus on the important influence of school leaders, especially principals, on student outcomes, the ways in which leadership effects have been analysed differ considerably, depending upon the particular paradigms and research designs adopted by researchers. This keynote address reports research and syntheses of empirical studies on how effective school principals enact a wide range of practices, in progressively shaping the culture and work of their schools, and through these, positively impact on the learning and achievement of pupils from diverse backgrounds and communities.
Drawing upon extensive empirical evidence, the keynote address reveals the limitations of an over simplistic and rigid distinction between particular ‘types’ or ‘models’ of leadership. The address demonstrates that, on the contrary, in schools that sustained and/or improved their performance as judged by student academic outcomes, principals exercise leadership practices that are responsive to the context and capacity of the school and fit for purpose. In steering their schools successfully through changing social and policy landscapes, they provide optimal conditions, structures and cultures for learning and teaching, managing external and internal challenges so that teachers are able to enact their broader educational values, purposes and practices; and through this, sustain their commitment, capacity for resilience and effectiveness.
The keynote address will synthesise the state-of-the-art theory and practice about the longer term impact of school leadership on pupil achievement. It will also bring together new empirical research about the ways in which school principals apply contextually sensitive combinations and accumulations of basic leadership practices, responding to, rather than being dictated by, the contexts in which they work. The address will provide both quantitative and qualitative evidence about how school principals influence school and classroom improvement processes over time in continuing to build, broaden and deepen their organisational, social and intellectual capacity for the improvement of quality and standards in their schools.
Imagining and Realizing a New Paradigm for China's Educational Future
Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia
The paper proposes a turn to a global politic involving cross-cultural research and pedagogical engagements that acknowledge and capitalize upon cultural understandings and ways of knowing. As such it is enfranchising—supporting the mobilization and participation especially in terms of cross-cultural epistemologies. The approach befits a commitment to research and pedagogy that situates diversity on a new ethical plane aligned with a form of epistemological ecological activism: a form of activism that confronts and moves beyond the systems in place to imagined educational futures that might breathe life into educational and scholarly pursuits that currently strangle or immobilize developments.
Education as the Finding, Founding, and Funding of Excellences
Teachers College, Columbia University
This conference invites participants to propose and interrogate ideas and actions that will contribute to educational excellence. Educational excellence is invaluable because education without it a society or culture would not be able to transmit and cultivate its core values, whether reasonableness, citizenship or happiness. In my presentation, I argue that education can be the source of the true, the good and the beautiful. Drawing upon the philosophies of R.H. Holland, Iris Murdoch and Simone Weil, I demonstrate that education introduces students to values, and their inherent reality, by engaging them in truth-seeking activities. I describe and illustrate these truth-seeking activities with reference to the writings of Pablo Casals and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. These truth-seeking activities make us feel at home. In conclusion, it is our educative experiences that invite us to desire, appreciate and understand human excellence.