Perspectives on principal instructional leadership in Vietnam: A preliminary model

Philip HALLINGER, Allan David WALKER, Dao Thi Hong NGUYEN, Thang Dinh TRUONG, Thi Thinh NGUYEN

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Worldwide interest in principal instructional leadership has led to global dissemination of related research findings despite their concentration in a limited set of western cultural contexts. An urgent challenge in educational leadership and management lies in expanding the range of national settings for investigations of instructional leadership. The current study addressed this challenge in the context of Vietnam, a nation with a very limited formal knowledge base in school leadership (Hallinger and Bryant, 2013b; Hallinger and Truong, 2014). The purpose of this paper is to describe the perspectives of Vietnamese primary school principals toward their role as instructional leaders, illuminate instructional leadership practices perceived as important by the principals, and develop a preliminary model of instructional leadership within the Vietnamese education context. Design/methodology/approach: This study was a qualitative inquiry that sought to illuminate the perspectives of Vietnamese principals toward their role as instructional leaders. The research employed semi-structured interviews with 27 primary school principals. Data analysis employed grounded theory in order to synthesize results gathered from the principals into a preliminary conceptual model. Findings: The study yielded a preliminary model of principal instructional leadership in Vietnam. The authors’ model evidences similarities to western models of instructional leadership by including dimensions focusing on setting direction, managing curriculum and instruction and developing the school learning climate. Differences also emerged in terms of two additional constructs, building solidarity and managing external relationships. Other distinctive practices of Vietnamese instructional leaders also emerged in the findings which the authors suggest can be linked to the institutional, political and socio-cultural context of education in this society. Research limitations/implications: Key limitations arise from the focus on primary schools, small size of the sample, absence of data from the Northern region of Vietnam, and lack of verification of principals’ perspectives with data from other stakeholders. Originality/value: This study is one of the first empirical studies of Vietnamese school leadership submitted for publication in international refereed journals and the first study that has that sought to conceptualize the instructional leadership role of principals in Vietnam. Moreover, the study illustrates how conceptualizations of school leadership are shaped by features of specific societies. This lends credence to scholarly admonitions concerning the lack of universality of leadership theories. Copyright © 2017 Emerald Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-239
JournalJournal of Educational Administration
Issue number2
Early online dateApr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


Hallinger, P, Walker, A., Nguyen, D. T. H., Truong, T., & Nguyen, T. T. (2017). Perspectives on principal instructional leadership in Vietnam: A preliminary model. Journal of Educational Administration, 55(2), 222-239.


  • Principals
  • Vietnam
  • School leadership
  • Asia
  • Instructional leadership


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