Teachers as reform leaders in Chinese schools

Darren Anthony BRYANT, Chunping RAO

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper analyzes the influence of teacher leadership on the enactment of educational reforms in southeastern China. It considers how the work of middle and teacher leaders in schools is structured to support reform enactment at the school level.
Design/methodology/approach: The research was conducted in three case study sites in one school district in Shenzhen, China. Low, moderate and high academic achieving schools which had engaged teacher leaders in instructional reforms were selected. A combined total of 34 senior, middle and teacher leaders participated in semi-structured interviews which were analyzed through a comparative coding process.
Findings: Across the three schools, teacher leaders without positional authority strongly influenced the instructional reforms. Their influence was strongest when bolstered by a combination of formal recognition systems, opportunities to lead projects that were directly related to the reform efforts, and mentorship systems that skilled novice teachers in reform-related skills and experienced teachers in leading reform enactment. Mechanisms and structures embedded in schools when coherently focused on selected reforms supported the efficacy of teachers without formal authority. And, middle leaders impact was enhanced when working collaboratively with formal and teacher leaders.
Originality/value: This research yields insight on teacher leaders' influence of reform. It considers how the work of middle and teacher leaders can be structured as a collective that impacts on reform enactment at the school level. And, it illuminates teacher leadership in a Chinese context other than the scrutinized Shanghai school system. Copyright © 2019 Emerald Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-677
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Management
Issue number4
Early online dateMar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


Bryant, D. A., & Rao, C. (2019). Teachers as reform leaders in Chinese schools. International Journal of Educational Management, 33(4), 663-677. doi: 10.1108/IJEM-12-2017-0371


  • China
  • Organizational structure
  • Teacher leadership
  • Middle leadership


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