Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to synthesize findings from five systematic reviews of research on principal leadership in East Asia contained in this special issue. The goal is to identify commonalities as well as differences concerning both approaches to research and the enactment of school leadership within this rapidly developing and increasingly influential region of the world. Design/methodology/approach– The review uses thematic analysis of both structural elements and substantive findings drawn from the composite review papers. Findings– The synthesis of the research reviews found considerable variability across the five societies in terms of the volume of work accessible to international audiences, topical foci, the conceptual and methodological sophistication, and findings. Three content patterns were discerned via the thematic analysis of the five reviews: first, influences on the principalship (incorporating personal, cultural and political sub themes); second, principal leadership practices (including qualities and styles, vision, indirect influence on student learning and shared decision making); and third, principal development (including preparation, training and professional development). Research limitations/implications– In a broader sense, this synthesis paper seeks to assess the development of the field of applied study in East Asia over the past two decades. As such, the paper highlights implications for further building the knowledge base both in the region and globally. Originality/value– This synthesis, as well as the five reviews, represent the first effort to mark the boundaries of knowledge about school leadership in these East Asian societies. As such, they lay a foundation for the future development of the field in the region, and in so doing also make a contribution to a more diverse global literature in the field. Copyright © 2015 Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
CitationWalker, A. & Hallinger, P. (2015). A Synthesis of reviews of research on principal leadership in East Asia. Journal of Educational Administration, 53(4), 554-570.