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A Case Study In Chinese Independent Secondary Schools Education Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 5381 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This study is to examine the role of leadership in teacher professional development in Chinese Independent Secondary Schools in Klang Valley. The specific variables that will be investigated include teachers’ perceptions of teacher professional development; teachers’ expectations as well as the principal’s role in facilitating teacher professional development. Developments in leadership will lead to changes in the ways teachers work. These will subsequently increase the need to review teacher professional development. The purpose of this research is to establish how the dual of the principal and the teachers manifests itself in professional development. This research will be significant as it will examine the voices of teachers on how leadership contributes to teacher professional development. The research will be conducted using qualitative methodology. It will be based on a case study of two Chinese Independent Secondary Schools in Klang Valley. Data will be collected using questionnaires and follow up interviews which will be administered to elicit responses from principals, deputy principals and teachers in both schools. The findings will reveal the need for teachers in Chinese Independent Secondary Schools in Klang Valley to engage more in teacher professional development programmes in order for them to have a better understanding of the concept. This study will also demonstrate if teacher professional development should be the core work of both the principals and teachers in order to create a learning environment in their schools so that both can develop professionally. Based on the results obtained in this study, we will determine if Chinese Independent Secondary Schools in Klang Valley need more awareness in teacher professional development and how it will influence the leadership.

Keywords: Leadership, Principals, Teachers, Teacher Professional Development, Teaching and Learning


Having been a teacher for ten years and now majoring in educational management, I am very much interested in finding out the effects of school leadership on the professional development of the teachers in the Chinese Independent Secondary Schools in Selangor. Chinese Secondary Independent Schools are solely governed by The United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia (UCSCAM) which coordinates the curriculum used in the schools and organizes the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) standardized test. Generally teachers are not employed through the professional teachers training colleges in Malaysia rather they are appointed through individual school administration which is governed by the directors (share holders) of the school as they are not governed by any central system therefore school management is based on the individual school superiors.

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As a teacher from a Chinese Independent Secondary School, I had been involved in various professional development programmes in school. These programmes were mostly conducted during school hours and often during the school holidays. Thus it is my interest to find out how the school leadership contributes in molding and producing teachers who are as competent as the trained teachers by the Teachers Training Colleges under the Malaysia Education System. This is because this will determine whether the Chinese Secondary Independent Schools are producing individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced and harmonic, based on a firm belief in and devotion to God, in line with the goals of the Malaysian National Philosophy of Education.

Basically every organization needs routines to function in a good way. In organizations like higher secondary schools, the routines involve being continuously observant about the force of leadership and teaching on students’ involvement academically. To implement this observation, they also know how to judge students, and the efficiency of all professional activities. Therefore teachers and students solely rely on non-governmental organization to provide relevant professional training and development for further enhancement of teaching outcome.

This proposed study will be able to shed some light on various strategies deployed by the school administration in enhancing professional development among teachers of Chinese Secondary Independent Schools in order to stimulate the pupils’ potentials holistically in accordance with the Education Philosophy.

As a school administrator, I strongly believe it is the job and the responsibility of the

head teacher to see that the pupils achieve success besides possessing the following qualities :

“knowledgeable, competent, possess high moral standards and are responsible

and capable of achieving a high level of personal well-being as well as

being able to contribute to the harmony and betterment of the family, the

society and the nation at large”.

(Malaysian National Philosophy of Education, 1996).

This research takes the form of a qualitative study that employs three research instruments: document analysis, questionnaires that are filled in by all the teachers and five semi-structured interview sessions. Therefore, I would very much like to gain an insight into the ways in which the school leadership behaviour and practices affect the teachers overall achievement in professional development in line with the students overall achievement in schools.


Teachers are a vital labor force according to the Malaysian educational aims in enhancing the education quality and developing manpower of the nation. The importance for professional development for teachers in Malaysia was realized since 1995 by a special committee established by the Education Ministry to look into teachers’ professionalization, professionalism and professional development. Teachers’ professional development was one of the most important factor to enhance the teaching profession. Below are a few suggestions highlighted by the MOE on how teacher professional development be conducted:

• Teachers should be encouraged to attend in-service courses

• Teachers should be encouraged to further their education

• Opportunities should be given to teachers for study visits overseas to study current

developments in education

• Induction programmes be given to teachers appointed to new posts and with new


• Staff rooms should be subject-based

• Teacher centres should facilitate the professional development of teachers; they should

be built in strategic locations, equipped with modern technology, fully funded and

adequately staffed (as cited in Mohd Sofi Ali, 2002, p. 45).

Based on the above needs and requirements the government has made efforts to establish training centres for its teachers. The teacher education division which comes under the MOE and MOHE initiates

both the pre-service and in-service training for the primary and secondary school teachers.

Chinese independent secondary school is a type of private high school in Malaysia. They provide secondary education in the Chinese language as the continuation of the primary education in Chinese national-type primary schools. The medium of instruction in these schools is Mandarin with simplified Chinese characters writing.

There are a total of 60 Chinese independent high schools in the country, including 23 from East Malaysia, and they represent a small number of the high schools in Malaysia. The United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia (UCSCAM, the association of Chinese school teachers and trustees, also known as the Dong Jiao Zong, coordinates the curriculum used in the schools and organizes the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) standardized test. Despite this, the schools are independent of each other and are free to manage their own affairs.

The teaching workforce for Chinese Independent Secondary Schools is generally made up of three categories: Diploma , Degree and Master Degree holders. There are also a category of teachers who completed seven years of secondary education and are employed as teachers after

undergoing a non-residential short course. This was initially done in the initial stages as to produce as many teachers in the shortest time possible so as to cater for the demands of teachers in Chinese Independent Secondary Schools for a simple reason that they are not under the MOE and as an independent organization teachers are to be sourced out on their own.

Being private schools, Chinese independent high schools do not receive funding from the Malaysian government, unlike their national-type cousins. However, in accordance with their aim of providing affordable education to all in the Chinese language, their school fees are substantially lower than those of most other private schools. The schools are kept alive almost exclusively by donations from the public.


Basically the proposed study is to look at the leadership focus in the circumstance of the case study of Chinese Independent Secondary Schools in Selangor. The following are the key aims of this research; What are the leadership styles practiced by school heads in the school vicinity, what is the professional development activities conducted in schools, how does school head and teachers perceived professional development?

Professional development is believed to perk up the excellence of teaching and the quality performance of learners. Knapp (2003:109) believes that every initiative that is geared towards improving teaching and learning in schools should consolidate its efforts chiefly towards high quality teacher professional development and this is perceived as one of the roles attached to principalship. This provides a basis upon which teachers can improve their instructional competence and pedagogic skills. Another objective for this study is to examine how have the leadership styles affected the professional development in schools?


The role of the principal in supporting professional development activities of teachers appears to be crucial to the success of the professional growth of teachers (Berube, Gaston, & Stepans, 2004 citing Stepans, 2001). Therefore it is strongly reckoned that a strong school leadership will enhance teacher professional development in a more effective manner.

Berube et al (2004) state that, “In addition to performing these organisational and managerial tasks, contemporary principals are expected to be leaders, setting directions for the teaching and learning of students. They also are expected to “coach, teach, and develop teachers in their schools,” and perform their tasks as instructional leaders. Generally it depends on the leadership of the school on the various method they would choose to enforce professionalism among teachers in their respective schools.

At the moment the most popular forms of teacher professional development in most Chinese Independent Secondary Schools are workshops and seminars held both within the schools and at the Dong Zhong headquarters. This study hopes to intensify the understanding of the potential role of principals in teacher development. Currently there is insufficient support for teacher professional development which could affect the quality of education that students receive and ultimately impact on their likelihood to pass their final high school external examination and transition into higher education among students of Chinese Independent Secondary Schools


To investigate the leadership styles practiced by school heads.

To explore the professional development activities being conducted in schools.

To examine the factors that influence school head and teachers perception in professional development

To determine the impact of leadership styles on professional development in schools.


The proposed research questions for this study seek to answer these questions;

1. What are the leadership styles practiced by school heads?

2. What is the professional development activities conducted in schools?

3. How does school head and teachers perceived professional development?

4. How has the leadership styles affected the professional development in



Generally on the contrary not many studies have examined principal’s role and practices in relation to teacher professional development. However, there is a need to develop a better understanding of what principals do and how they facilitate teacher development in order to be able to shape a positive school climate that supports teacher learning (Drago- Severson, 2004). Drago-Severson put forth a learning oriented model of school leadership that includes teaming, engaging in collegial inquiry and mentoring targeted at attaining that relationship to foster educational growth more effectively. “The teachers’ perceptions of the way the school leader functions appears to be an important parameter for the appreciation of the contribution of the school to the process of professional development (Clement et al., 2000, p.7).

This study aims to investigate whether teacher professional development is perceived as central to student achievement by school leadership (principals) at Chinese Independent Secondary Schools in Selangor. Basically there are four Chinese Independent School distinctively located in Selangor where each school consists of almost two thousand students along with 130 staff member. It also aims specifically to examine the role that principals play to encourage teacher professional development in their schools. Professional support. Activities within the professional training category include; short conferences, courses, workshops both in the schools and outside the schools, for which emphasis is put on enhancing the knowledge and skills of participants and formal certification is not provided. As Bolam further points out, professional education in contrast leads to formal qualifications and relevant certificates. Professional support according to Earley & Bubb (2004) involves “on-the-job” support that is primarily intended to improve teachers‟ experience and performance. Activities in this category may include coaching, mentoring, and induction.

The results of this research will contribute to those studies, which have been carried out, in the quest for broadening and understanding the roles of school leaders with regard to professional development of teachers. The study could also assist the Board of United Chinese Secondary School Association policy makers to assess the contents of the courses necessary for prospective and incumbent school heads and teachers of Chinese Independent Secondary Schools, to ensure that they are equipped with relevant skills required to run schools in a way that would enhance the achievement of Vision and Mission alongside with goals of Ministry of Education in Malaysia.




This chapter looks at the meaning of school leadership and teachers’ professional development and discusses its significance to the teaching profession and the notion of teacher professionalism. Several themes that emerged from the literature base reviewed such as the changing paradigm of leadership styles, professional development, the impact of professional development on teachers and school heads, core features of effective professional development, changing leadership practices and teachers’ professional development impact in school are also discussed.

Figure 1 : Leadership Styles

Hopkins (2001b) highlights the centrality of transformational and instructional leadership practices in achieving school improvement in schools facing challenging circumstances. Existing literature also indicates that the most popular theories are located in the transactional and transformational models identified more than 20 years ago (Burns, 1978; Hoy and Miskell, 2008) and lately reinvented through such terms as ‘liberation’ (Tampoe, 1998), ‘educative’ (Duignan and McPherson, 1992), ‘invitational’ (Stoll and Fink, 1996) and ‘moral’ leadership (Sergiovanni, 1992).

Apparently a leader holds full responsibility in creating a conducive school community. He or she needs to diversify the leadership roles so that change can be accepted by subordinates. All teacher working under a leader should be anchored towards the same mission and vission in order to achieve success in the aims and goals of the organization(Farrell, 2003).

According to Portin (2003) below are the seven key leadership functions that must exist in all schools regardless of type and size:

1. Instructional: assuring quality of instruction and supervising curriculum

2. Cultural: dealing with history and traditions

3. Managerial: focusing on school operations

4. Human Resource: recruiting, hiring, firing, and mentoring teachers and staff

5. Strategic: promoting the vision, mission, and goals of the school

6. External Development: representing the school in the community

7. Micropolitical: mediating and dealing with internal interests

2.1.1 Leadership Styles

Fullan (2000, 2001) presages school leaders that there is no mystic solution to making schools effective. More exactly, leaders should make an attempt to learn moral leadership practices to help assure that whatever changes and change process they see to adopt are as successful as possible. Therefore leadership styles practiced by school heads are the foremost contributing factor to the running of the school organization which subsequently promotes the professional development of its staff. Basically leadership styles practiced are known as below:

Figure 2 : Types of Leadership


2.2.1 Definitions

Definitions on Teacher Professional Development vary according to educational backgrounds and situations. In education systems where teacher education programs are well recognized, Teacher Professional Development is defined as a process taking up all activities that increase professional career development (Rogan & Grayson 2004; Tecle 2006) or as formal and informal experiences throughout the teacher’s career (Hargreaves & Fullan 1992; Arends et al. 1998).

Furthermore teachers will be able to go beyond their primary training as they fulfill a number of objectives as below:

• to update individuals’ knowledge of a subject in light of recent advances in the area;

• to update individuals’ skills, attitudes and approaches in light of the development of new

teaching techniques and objectives, new circumstances and new educational research

• to enable schools to develop and apply new strategies concerning the curriculum and

other aspects of teaching practice;

• to exchange information and expertise among teachers and others, e.g. academics,

industrialists; and

• to help weaker teachers become more effective.

2.2.2 Importance of Teacher Professional Development

In line with changes and challenges faced by the teaching profession various methods, techniques and information are updated regularly and to upkeep with this pace education alone is insufficient for teachers. Professional development is part of life-long learning and educating oneself. Professional development allows an educator to reflect and on decision making and trouble shoot challenging roles in being an educator. Hence due to the importance of teacher professional development the Ministry of Education in Malaysia has set up Teacher Education Division (TED), Aminuddin Baki Institute (IAB),The School Inspectorate and Quality Assurance Division and the Malaysian Institute of Teacher Education to plan, manage and implement teacher professional development activities in all states in order to uphold to the mission and vision in providing quality education to all.

The teacher is the heart of classroom instruction (Fullan 2000;Hargreaves 2001). The effectiveness of the teacher depends on her competence (academically and pedagogically) and efficiency, (ability, work load, and commitment), teaching and learning resources and methods; support from education managers and supervisors (Rogan 2004; Van den Akker & Thijs 2002; Mosha 2004).

Through Professional development an educator or teacher is able to practice effective management in the classroom , it allows a path where a teacher learns to cope with difficulty faced in the classroom. These experiences provide a learning platform for teacher where they are able to improve their personal skills in handling challenges in the classroom in particular and school generally.

2.2.3 Forms of Teacher Professional Development

Teachers are the heart and soul of learning; they are in fact lifelong learners. Constant reinvention and revolutionary in the education field makes teachers to stay in par through whatever circumstances in professional development. To date there are various ways and strategies implemented to enhance teachers’ mode of learning and sharing on the whole whether it’s a private or government school.

Guskey (2000a, p. 22-29) reviewed seven core professional development practices and identified advantages and shortcomings for each. An abbreviated version is provided below.




Training – presentation,

workshop, demonstration,

simulation, discussions,

seminars, colloquia, etc.

– efficient for sharing info with

large groups

– shared knowledge base and


– little individualization or


– often need feedback and

coaching to supplement


– observation and receiving

feedback e.g. peer coaching

and supervision

– positive impact on observer

and observed through

discussion and feedback

– lessens isolation

– takes time, trust, and must

separate observation and

evaluation – need to be

focused and well- planned

Improvement Processes

curriculum/program design

development or review, to

implement new instructional

strategies or to solve problems

– enhances knowledge and

also collaborative capacity

– generally are invested in it

due to local context and/or

authentic problems

– may only involve small


– may tend toward tradition

and not innovation

– need access to research to

guide decisions/actions

Study Groups

– study regarding common

issue or concern – may have

several groups studying

different aspects of issue

– lessens isolation and bring

focus and coherence to

learning – also focuses on

ongoing learning

– individual involvement may

vary or be discouraged by

dominant members

– may become opinion-focused

instead of research focused

Inquiry/Action Research

– 5 step AR process of

selecting a problem and

determining an action to take

– tends to build knowledge and

increase skills of problem

solving, empowers teachers in

their practice and learning

– takes significant individual

effort, initiative and time

Individually Directed


– identify individual needs

create personal plan -assess

success of plan

– flexible, choice,

individualization, geared to

personal reflection and


– may be reinventing the wheel

or repetitive work if no

collegial sharing is built in –

less likely to be connected to

SIP and other areas of PD


– regular meetings of more and

less experienced pairs about

practice and improvement

– both individuals learn as

mentors become more meta

cognitive and also develop

adult communication skills

– time and resources, also

connecting to other learners or

school plans and initiatives

Table 1: Professional Development Practices


According to Dr. Helen Timperley (aitsl,oct 2011) , there are a number of principles identified on how professional development inpacts teachers and principal on the whole. A few of the principles are as discussed below:-

2.3.1 Professional learning is core school business

First-class learning, teaching and schooling need professionals who involve methodically in increasing their knowledge and skills as part of their everyday duties. This claim is strongly accepted by the analytical research done by Robinson et al. (2008) in which they found that the leadership activity greatly influence student outcomes was leaders’ promotion of, and participation in, teachers’ professional learning and development. Kaser and Halbert (2009) explains that these occasions shall not occur regularly but refer to this principle as developing a learning-oriented design in schools that reflects the complexity required to create appropriate conditions, structures and rhythms for professional learning.

2.3.2 Improving outcomes for students forms the reason to engage in professional

learning opportunities and the basis for evaluating its effectiveness

Engaging in professional development allows knowledge to be deepen and skills in teaching and learning dignifies. Scholars substantially give importance to the impact of their practice on students. Experts always improvise the routine practices for students in order to create active knowledge seeking.

Improving these outcomes becomes the reason to engage in professional learning, the reason to deepen knowledge and refine skills, and the basis for deciding if it is effective. Adaptive experts are constantly focused on the impact of their practice on students, and when their routines of practice are not working for students, they seek new knowledge and skills. Similarly, those leading organisations with high adaptive capacity seek these opportunities at the level of the whole school as an organisation.

2.3.3 Professional learning opportunities build deep pedagogical content and assessment knowledge focused on what is needed to improve outcomes for students

Leaders and teachers must restore information at all time throughout their school day. Having this knowledge organised into conceptual frameworks means that it is known both in a practical sense and theoretically. If understandings are introduced in theory only, then problems arise when teachers try to put them into practice in their own teaching and learning contexts (Kennedy, 2004). On the other hand, leaders and teachers need to know why the understandings and practices promoted through professional learning opportunities are more effective than what they did before so that they can tailor new practices to meet the demands of particular situations. Knowing something theoretically also counterbalances the situated nature of learning referred to in the first principle, in that conceptual or theoretical knowledge allows for transfer to other situations with other students or in other curriculum areas.

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2.3.4 Professional learning environments are consistent with how people learn

All stage of learners are adults or young people, transform new information through the lens of prior understandings (Bransford et al., 2000; Dumont et al., 2010). These prior understandings are, in turn, structured and interpreted through existing mental models. In professional learning situations, if prior knowledge and existing mental models are not engaged, those involved may fail to grasp new concepts because they believe that existing practice is more similar to new ideas than it really is.


Leadership achievement always begins with vision. A intensed vision has that power. It encourages, explains and centres the task of individuals–and preferably entire organizations–for a long period of time. Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee (2002) believes that emotionally intelligent leaders and emotionally intelligent organizations are vital in challenging times. They distinguis 18 aptitudes around four areas: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Leaders of such potential are clearly aware of their own emotional makeup, are sensitive and empowering to others, and are able to cope with day-to-day problems as they work on more essential changes in the culture of the organization.

(From Fullan, 2001)

Figure: 3 Framework for Leadership

Concurrently effective leaders need to stay tunes to the big picture, and much more modernized at conceptual thinking, and transforming the organization through people and teams. It was my conclusion when I examined successful leadership for businesses and in school systems (Fullan, 2001). Besides this another element pertaining to successful change is that relationships improve. When relationships improve, things get better. If they remain the same or get worse, ground is lost. Therefore leaders must be consummate relationship builders with diverse people and groups – especially with people different than themselves. This is why emotional intelligence is equal to or more important than having the best ideas. In complex times, emotional intelligence is a must.

Hence , schools cannot be improved without improving the skills and abilities of the teachers and principals who work in them (Darling-Hammond, 2008, 2009a; Lieberman & Darling-Hammond, 2011). Teachers are the ones who ultimately will implement change. Therefore, professional development processes must address their needs and concerns (Darling-Hammond, 2010a, 2010b)


The theoretical framework of this proposed study is mainly based on the work of eminent educational leadership scholars, specifically Fullan ( 2000,) Hargreaves (2001) Rogan & Grayson (2004) and Bransford et al.(2000), Dumont et al.,( 2010), Darling-Hammond, 2011 and Dr. Helen Timperly (2010) relating to professional development and school leadership. The underlying theories state that professional development is important for the preparation and continuous development of teachers and school administrators. Darling-Hammond (2009a) suggested that professional development should provide opportunities for teachers to reflect critically on their practice and to fashion new knowledge and beliefs about content, pedagogy, and learners. Fullan and Hargreaves (2001) leaders of tomorrow should move steadfast in transforming themselves as well as the people around them to achieve stated results.

2.5.1 Theories of leadership

Through ages, multiple theories and literature have been created by many scholars with different point of view. Generally all the theories can be categorized


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