University of Leicester
2023AtkinsonMPhD.pdf (1.73 MB)

Exploring the perceptions of middle leaders in international schools in Vietnam

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posted on 2023-11-14, 10:05 authored by Mark Joseph Atkinson

Given the unique context and limited literature surrounding middle leadership in an international school context, it is essential to identify the most pertinent factors that accompany middle leadership within two international schools in Vietnam by investigating the perceptions of the school members who experience middle leadership practice on a daily basis. Therefore, this research explores the perceived roles and responsibilities of middle leaders, the perceived facilitators and barriers to middle leadership, and the leadership development needs of middle leaders within two participating international schools in Hanoi, Vietnam. This research was conducted in the form of exploratory and context dependent multiple case studies in two international schools in Hanoi, Vietnam, adopting a constructivist viewpoint within interpretive means. Data was generated using a two-part data collection process consisting of an open-ended survey questionnaire followed by semi-structured focus groups. Senior leaders, middle leaders and teachers from both participating international schools perceived the roles and responsibilities of middle leaders as being concerned with three key overarching areas, including: organisational and information dissemination roles; interpersonal  relationships and interactions; and roles relating to teaching and learning or pedagogy. They perceived a number of barriers in particular which they perceive as being factors which prevent middle leaders from undertaking their role as effectively as possible, including: team and organisational culture; senior leadership and governance; and workload and time management difficulties. They also perceived the leadership development needs of middle leaders as being mainly concerned with: the development of middle leaders’ interpersonal relationship skills and emotional intelligence; curriculum and pedagogic development; and leadership preparation. The roles undertaken by middle leaders are widely varying, complex and demanding, and encompass many roles which are considered to be vital in supporting colleagues in fulfilling their roles as effectively as possible. Although senior leaders, middle leaders and teachers described a wealth of roles undertaken by middle leaders, it was the manner in which those roles were undertaken which impacted upon team dynamics most, specifically the interpersonal and interactional aspects of middle leadership practice which impacted upon the feelings and experiences of senior leaders, middle leaders and teachers. The perceived barriers and facilitators to middle leadership also stem from interpersonal and interactional relations. The findings presented within this thesis argue that by developing sufficient leadership preparation provision and through supportive practice, the barriers and challenges to middle leadership can be overcome, and the vast array of complex roles undertaken within middle leadership in international schools or similar educational settings can be enhanced.



Wei Zhang

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Education

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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