Understanding Middle Leadership in Hong Kong Secondary Schools

Project: Research project

Project Details


Conventionally, the work of secondary school middle leaders has focused on managerial tasks of subject area administration, but has not accounted for Middle Leaders’ (MLs) potential in leading innovative practice, participating in school-wide leadership and engaging the professional and local communities beyond the school. This conception of middle leadership requires of senior leaders, teachers and MLs themselves a significant shift in understanding the nature of secondary school MLs’ work: a change in focus from managing to leading. However, the research base on secondary school middle leadership is very limited, typically focusing on MLs’ subject area responsibilities, issues of hierarchy and influence within schools, and formal job preparation. There is vast potential for MLs to contribute to their schools beyond subject area management, yet the research base yields limited insight on such work and on how MLs can be supported to accomplish it. The main purposes of this project are to examine how teachers and leaders in Hong Kong secondary schools understand middle leadership, what MLs do, and the factors shaping such understanding and actions. The study builds on recent research which contends that just as effective principals must lead across a broad purview of responsibilities, so too must effective MLs in order to build successful schools. In order to better understand middle leadership in Hong Kong secondary schools and factors that influence how middle leadership is conceptualised and enacted, the study will: 1. theorise middle leadership by examining commonalities and variations in teacher, middle and senior leaders' understandings of middle leaders' roles in secondary schools; 2. analyse opportunities for middle leadership at the subject, school-wide and external leadership levels. 3. evaluate opportunities and challenges faced by ML in their role enactment. 4. examine critical skills and support structures needed to help MLs optimize leadership opportunities and mitigate challenges that they face. 5. examine how MLs are developed for their roles within and outside their schools and postulate strategies to support and strengthen their preparation. 6. provide evidence of and explain the impact of organizational and cultural factors on intra- and inter-school variations in middle leadership.

Funding Source: RGC - Early Career Scheme (ECS)
Effective start/end date01/01/1630/06/18


  • Middle Leadership
  • Distributed Leadership
  • Collective Case Study
  • Hong Kong


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