Leadership and teacher learning in urban and rural schools in China: Meeting the dual challenges of equity and effectiveness

Philip Hallinger, Shangnan Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Despite a rapid rise in national income levels, the distribution of wealth remains unevenly distributed between residents of rural and urban areas both in mainland China and other developing nations. These inequities carry over to the education system where researchers have documented differences not only in resource allocation but also in the academic performance of students in urban and rural schools. Most research into the causes of China's urban-rural achievement gap has focused on fiscal resources. In contrast, the current study examined differences in school organization processes associated with learning-centered leadership and teacher learning. These foci were selected due to their documented importance in supporting sustainable school improvement. We employed multi-group confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modeling to analyze survey data collected from 492 urban teachers and 423 rural teachers in 31 Chinese schools located in three different provinces. The results affirmed a similar model of leadership and teacher learning in urban and rural schools. Specifically, school leadership exerted significant direct and indirect effects on teacher learning. It was, however, notable that the strength of all variable measures were significantly higher in the urban schools. The findings imply a potential benefit to be gained from providing training focused on ‘learning-centered leadership for principals and middle level leaders in rural schools, as well as expanding access to quality professional development opportunities for rural teachers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-173
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Development
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Agency
  • China
  • Leadership
  • Rural
  • Teacher professional learning
  • Trust
  • Urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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