According to a new study on the role of Heads of Department in the implementation of school-wide reforms, such middle leaders are effective when they serve as:
To evaluate the importance of their role, the researchers surveyed over 350 English teachers from different Hong Kong schools, asking them about :
Results revealed that middle leadership at the subject department level had a strong positive effect on teachers’ receptivity towards the reform, as well as on their actual implementation of the change and perception of student learning.
In the words of the authors: “The results of this study provide empirical evidence for understanding the impact of middle leadership on implementing large-scale curriculum reform in schools.”
Indeed, because of their pivotal position between senior leadership and frontline teachers, Heads of Department play a crucial role in:
As a matter of fact, the researchers also found that efficient middle leadership was much more effective than school-wide professional development in changing actual pedagogical practices. Such mass exercises may be efficient in disseminating policy, but they lack on-going and informal encouragement and support, and often fail to address the specific needs of the teachers.
As a conclusion, “building the capacity and unleashing the full leadership potential of middle leaders is pivotal to effecting change in schools.”
Reference: Li, Poon, Lai, and Tam (2018), “Does Middle Leadership Matter? Evidence from a Study of System-Wide Reform on English Language Curriculum”, International Journal of Leadership in Education, October 2018.