An evaluation of teacher effectiveness of a Hong Kong secondary school

Final report

Master's Thesis, 2009

100 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction

Chapter 2 Literature Review

Chapter 3 Theoretical Framework

Chapter 4 Conceptualization and Operationalization

Chapter 5 Research Method

Chapter 6 Findings

Chapter 7 Discussion

Chapter 8 Recommendations

Chapter 9 Limitations

Cpahter 10 Conclusion


Appendix: Sample of questionnaire


I would to give many thanks to my supervisor, Prof. Chan Wing Tai, who provided me with timely and scholarly advice and guidelines to aid me in finishing this project. Although he was quite busy, he somehow found the time to discuss with me any of the difficulties that I encountered. Throughout this process, I not only learned valuable research skills from him, but also developed a much better understanding of social research. Mr. Chan, thank you very much!

Second, I have to say thank you to Dr. Rob Cavanagh, an associate professor of the Curtin University of Technology. He not granted me access to his SCEQ, but he also gave me ideas about how to properly administrate it. Whenever I had a question, he graciously answered me through email immediately.

Certainly, I need to thank for the principal of ABC Secondary School, who gave his full supports to conduct my research at his school. Moreover, I would also like to thank all teachers at the school for their key participation in this study.

Last, but not least, I would like to give thanks to Dr. Chan Kwok Hong, Dr. Cheung Chau Kiu, Dr. Ho Wing Chung, and Dr. Leung Kwan Kwok, for their critical advice during this period of study.


In this study, the relationship between collective teacher effectiveness and school improvement oriented culture is investigated through the case of ABC Secondary School. Collective teacher effectiveness is conceptualized with both the model of total teacher effectiveness and the model of continuous learning. Collective teacher effectiveness is regarded as the primary goal the school strives to attain. On the other hand, school improvement oriented culture, which consists of an emphasis on learning, collegiality and collaboration, is regarded as the value system of the school. Moreover, the theoretical framework of this study includes characteristics of teachers (gender, age, and full-time teaching experience) and the practices of academic divisions (the frequency and contents of formal meetings, the encouraged activities, and the opportunities to participate in the decision-making process).

The research findings support the conceptions of collective teacher effectiveness and school improvement oriented culture. The results show that school improvement oriented culture, in general, caused collective teacher effectiveness directly and indirectly. Particularly, each cultural element had different influential powers to collective teacher effectiveness, competence and performance. As a result, a general model and three sub-models of collective teacher effectiveness for ABC Secondary School were constructed. These findings also question the mechanism of goal-attainment proposed by the theory of social system and provide us with a way to revise the current model of total teacher effectiveness.

The recommendations to ABC Secondary School, the limitations of this study and the suggestions for further research are also discussed in this report.

Chapter 1 Introduction

ABC Secondary School has been an aided and Christian school since 1920s. The school has approximately 1060 students and 60 teachers. Like other secondary schools, ABC Secondary School is facing a lot of challenges under the rapidly changing educational environment of Hong Kong, such as diversity in classrooms and the new senior secondary curriculum. In response, the school principal has taken a series of actions: implementing small class and cooperative learning; organizing workshops for teachers; and encouraging peer-observation and collaborative lesson preparation. All these initiatives aim to overcome three major challenges: transitioning to the new 3-3-4 education system; fostering a positive and strong school culture; and enhancing educational effectiveness[1].

Among these challenges, the school should pay more attention to enhancing educational effectiveness, especially teacher effectiveness, because it is one of the most important factors affecting a school’s effectiveness and quality (Щ^Ш, 1995; Medley, 1982). Furthermore, fostering a positive and strong school culture, the second challenge, is also essential, because school culture is directly related to teacher effectiveness (Щ^Ш, 1995; Aelterman et al., 2007; Cavanagh & Dellar, 1997b, 2003; Cheng, 1993, 2000; Cheng & Tsui, 1996; Conley & Muncey, 1999; Evans, 2001; A. Hargreaves, 1992; Hoy & Miskel, 2005; Medley, 1982).

In light of these challenges, this study attempts to answer the following research questions:

1. What is the relationship between collective teacher effectiveness and school improvement oriented culture?
2. How does school improvement oriented culture affect the practices of academic divisions?
3. How do the practices of academic divisions affect collective teacher effectiveness?
4. What are the relationship between the characteristics of teachers and collective teacher effectiveness?
5. What is the causal relationship between school improvement oriented culture, the characteristics of teachers, the practices of academic divisions, and collective teacher effectiveness?

More specifically, this study attempts to achieve the following objectives:

1. To portray collective teacher effectiveness of the school;
2. To profile school improvement oriented culture of the school;
3. To identify the relationship between school improvement oriented culture and collective teacher effectiveness;
4. To differentiate the effects of school improvement oriented culture on collective teacher effectiveness;
5. To examine the impacts of school improvement oriented culture on the practices of academic divisions;
6. To assess the relationship between collective teacher effectiveness and the practices of academic divisions;
7. To evaluate the effects of the characteristics of teachers to collective teacher effectiveness;
8. To understand the causal linkage between school improvement oriented culture, the characteristics of teachers, the practices of academic divisions, and collective teacher effectiveness; and
9. To give the school recommendations to improving collective teacher effectiveness.

Before any further discussions, some key points about this study must be noted. First, this study will investigate teacher effectiveness at the collective level rather than individual level. Second, this study will concentrate on what Cavanagh and Dellar (1996, 1997a, 2003) call school improvement oriented culture. Third, this study will view school as social system rather than formal organization. Consequently, school culture is regarded as the value system of school, while improving collective teacher effectiveness as the primary goal for schools to attain. Fourth, this study will not attempt to make generalization about schools in Hong Kong. On the contrary, it will only intend to understand the situations of ABC Secondary School and give the school recommendations.

Accordingly, chapter two will review the relevant literature. Chapter three will propose a theoretical framework for the investigation. Next, chapter four will conceptualize and operationalize each concept that appears in the framework. The research method will be discussed in chapter five. The research findings will be presented in chapter six. Chapter seven will discuss the results. In chapter eight, recommendations to ABC Secondary School will be made. Chapter nine will note the limitations of this study. Finally, chapter ten will be the conclusion.

Chapter 2 Literature Review

In this chapter, we will look at the linkage between teacher effectiveness and school culture in school social system. The concepts of collective teacher effectiveness and school culture will also be addressed respectively. Finally, it is the summary of this chapter.

Teacher effectiveness and school culture in school social system

We cannot deny that school as a specific type of social system (Dellar, 1994; Hoy & Miskel, 2005; Parsons, 1956b; Shah & Shah, 1998; Waller, 1932; Wong, 1997) whatever we regard school as organization (e.g. Bidwell, 1987; Bown et al., 2007; Tyler, 1988; Weick, 1976) or community (e.g. Cavanagh & Dellar, 1997b, 2003; Sergiovanni, 1993). According to the general theory of social system (Parsons & Smelser, 1956), therefore, school should face the four functional system problems: adaptation, goal-attainment, integration, and latent pattern maintenance. According to Parsons (1956a), the goal of organization social system is defined as “a relation between a system ... and the relevant parts of the external situation in which it acts or operates” (p.64). In other words, the goal of school social system is defined and governed by a higher-order social system, like society (Wallace & Wolf, 2006).

Improving and enhancing teacher effectiveness becomes one of the important goals for the Hong Kong educational system (Tam & Cheng, 2001; Cheng, 2005). In this sense, it will also be the primary goal for schools to attain. The value system of school will be critical for this goal-attainment, because value system does not only perform the functions of pattern-maintenance and tense-management (Parsons & Smelser, 1956), but also legitimize the primacy of the goal “over other possible interests and values of the organization and its members” through the provision of normative rules and the definition of school members’ roles (Parsons, 1956a:68). Moreover, value system would legitimize the goal-attainment mechanism through influencing (1) policy decisions - define and prioritize the steps and practices of attaining the goal, (2) allocative decisions - concern with the allocation of responsibilities among personnel and of fluid resources for goal-attainment, and (3) coordination decisions - consider the integration of the organization as system to achieve the organizational goal (Parsons, 1956a).

According to this perspective, school culture is the value system facilitating schools to improve teacher effectiveness. D. H. Hargreaves (1995), for instance, proposes that school effectiveness is caused by effective school culture. Empirically, Cheng (1993) finds out that school culture is significantly related to school effectiveness with the positive principals’ leadership, organizational formalization and participation, teachers’ social norms, teachers’ organizational commitment and job satisfaction as the mediators. In addition, other researchers also indicate the relationship between different kinds of school culture and different aspects of teacher effectiveness, such as teachers trust, teacher professionalism, teachers continuous learning, cooperation between teachers, effective teaching styles, and teacher efficacy (A. Hargreaves, 1992, 1999, 2003; Cheng, 1991 2005; Dipaola & Hoy, 2007; Hoy & Tarter, 2007; Marsick & Watkins, 2003; Puchner & Taylors, 2006; Reames & Spencer, 1998).

However, the major limitation of the studies is the holistic and static view about school culture. Otherwise, school culture should be dynamic and diverse (Cavanagh & Dellar, 1997b, 1998, 2003; Firestone & Louis, 1999). Moreover, most of the studies only adopt the paradigms of the goal and task model or working process model at the individual level. Therefore, they may not be able to reflect how school culture impacts on teachers’ continuous learning at the collective level. To offset the limitations, it is meaningful for us to assess collective teacher effectiveness with the model of total teacher effectiveness and the model of continuous learning, and investigate school improvement oriented culture. Collective teacher effectiveness Teaching effectiveness and teacher effectiveness Traditionally, the studies of teacher effectiveness focus on the performance of individual teachers in classrooms (Cheng, & Tsui, 1996, 1998; Campbell et al., 2004; Muijs et al., 2005). According to Ryans (1975), for example, effectiveness of teachers refers to the teaching activities related to pupil learning and development. Therefore, some scholars refer teacher effectiveness to teaching effectiveness (e.g. Braskamp, Brandenbury & Ory, 1984; Morrison & McIntyre, 1973; Medley, 1982). However, they are two different concepts. Teacher effectiveness does not only include the teaching activities at classroom level, but also the competence and performance of teachers outside classroom (Muijs et al., 2005; Campbell et al., 2004; Kyriakides, Campbell & Christofidou, 2002). In this sense, teacher effectiveness is a broader concept than teaching effectiveness (Darling-Hammond, 2007).

Several models are developed to understand teacher effectiveness. In this study, only the total teacher effectiveness (Cheng & Tsui, 1996) and the multimodels of teacher effectiveness (Cheng & Tsui, 1999; Kyriakides, Demetriou & Charalambous, 2006) are reviewed. It does not mean these two are superior than others, such as the model of the structure of teacher effectiveness (Medley, 1982; Щ^^, 1995), the differentiated model of teacher effectiveness (Campbell et al., 2004; Muijs et al., 2005), and teacher effectiveness in multiple school functions at multi-levels (Cheng, 2005). This is only because these two are more relevant to this study.

The model of total teacher effectiveness

The concept of collective teacher effectiveness is first recognized by Cheng and Tsui (1996) in their conceptual model of total teacher effectiveness. As Figure 2.1 shows, total teacher effectiveness includes teachers’ competence and performance as well as the students’ learning experience and learning outcome in the cognitive, affective and behavioral domains at individual, group and school levels. Therefore, teacher effectiveness can be divided into teacher competence layer, teacher performance layer, student experience layer, and student learning outcomes layer (Cheng & Tsui, 1996, 1998). Indeed, the relationship between layers is dynamic. On the one hand, there are forward effects from teacher competence layer to student learning outcomes layer; on the other hand, there are also feedback loops from the latter layers to the formers. In addition, this model recognizes the impacts of external teaching contexts, such as school culture and practices (Tsui & Cheng, 1997), and the pre-existing student characteristics on teacher effectiveness. Cheng and Tsui (1996, 1998) have also pointed out that greater the congruence of the three domains at the three levels within layers, greater teacher effectiveness. According to this model, collective teacher effectiveness includes two components: collective teacher competence and collective teacher performance at the group and school level.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2.1: The conceptual model of total teacher effectiveness

(Source: Cheng & Tsui, 1996, p.13, Figure 2)

Although this model provides a holistic view about collective teacher effectiveness, it cannot operationalize it. Moreover, total teacher effectiveness is an ideal type. In fact, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to study “total” teacher effectiveness in one study. It is also hard for a teacher to become a “total” teacher.

Multimodels of teacher effectiveness

To supplement the limitations of the model, Cheng and Tsui (1999) and Kyriakides et al. (2006) develop seven models of teacher effectiveness: goal and task model, working process model, absence of problems model, resource utilization model, school constituencies satisfaction model, accountability model, and continuous learning model. The seven system models offer different sets of measurable criteria and perspectives to assess teacher effectiveness. Among the models, the continuous learning model should be more appropriate in this era. This is because continuous learning empowers teachers to face and adapt the rapidly changing educational environment. Furthermore, continuous learning can improve teachers’ teaching and working process (Cheng & Tsui, 1999).

Compared with the model of total teacher effectiveness, the multimodels are too descriptive. This is because they only offer the criteria. Because of this reason, when we study teacher effectiveness, it is better to adopt both the mulitmodels of teacher effectiveness and the model of total teacher effectiveness. The perspectives from the mulitmodels help us to conceptualize and operationalize teacher effectiveness, and the model of total teacher effectiveness provides us a theoretical framework for investigations.

Criteria of collective teacher effectiveness

Accordingly, collective teacher effectiveness is defined as those groups of teachers who are able to “adapt to external and internal changes, cope with different challenges, meet diverse expectations and develop themselves through continuous learning” (Kyriakides et al., 2006:9). It consists of collective teacher competence and collective teacher performance. The criteria of collective teacher effectiveness are identified as the follows.

Collective teacher competence

Collective teacher competence should include collective teacher efficacy and teachers’ trust in colleagues.

Collective teacher efficacy

Collective teacher efficacy refers to the perceptions of teachers to the efforts of the faculty as a whole will have a positive effect on students (Wheatley, 2002; Goddard, Hoy & Hoy, 2007). According to Bandura’s (1989) social cognitive theory, self-efficacy is a self-motivation mechanism. People high in self-efficacy tend to be more likely to set and achieve higher and more challenging goals (Bandura, 1989), so it is possible to trigger learning activities (Marsick & Watkins, 2003). In this sense, the efficacious teachers will be more likely to involve continuous learning.

Teachers ’ trust in colleagues

Since the 1960s, psychologists (e.g. Rotter, 1967) have identified that interpersonal trust is an important element in human learning. In this era, collaboration with different parties, especially their colleagues, becomes a significant teaching component. If teachers do not trust one another, it is difficult for them to work together (Hoy & Tschannen-Moran, 2007). As a result, it is hard for mutual and reciprocal learning to occur.

Collective teacher performance

Collective teacher performance includes the learning activities of teachers and teachers’ commitment to continuous learning.

Learning activities ofteachers

Participating in learning activities is the most obvious criterion of learning performance. Teachers can learn from formal and informal activities like professional development programs and training courses, collegiality and collaboration, action research, and peer-coaching 2005a, 2005b; 2005; A. Hargreaves, 2003; Sachs, 2003).

Teachers’ commitment to continuous learning

Another essential criterion of collective teacher performance is teachers’ commitment to continuous learning. Tsai et al. (2007) point out that learning commitment contains the domains of affective, normative, and continuance commitment. It means that learning commitment refers to the psychological and emotional attachment to, feeling of obligation to, and awareness of the benefits associate with continuous learning (Tsai et al., 2007). Thus, people high in learning commitment should be more willing to learn continuously.

School culture

School culture and school climate

School climate is an interchangeable concept with school culture. In general, school climate is commonly defined as people’s perception to the essential attributes or characteristics of the school (Anderson, 1982; Bradshaw & Leaf, 2008; Cheng, 1985; Evan, 1968; Insel & Moos, 1974; Kuperminc, Leadbeater & Blatt, 2001; Kuperminc et al., 1997; Litwin, 1968; Moos, 1979, 1987), although some may refer it as the school personality (e.g. Halpin & Croft, 1963; Norton, 1984) or the total environmental quality (e.g. Tagiuri, 1968). On the other hand, school culture is always viewed as a system of shared assumptions, beliefs, values, and behaviors within a school (Cheng, 2000). According to Schein (1992) and Cheng (1989), school culture is divided into three levels: (1) the superficial level - artifacts and norms, (2) the middle level - espoused values, and (3) the deepest level - basic underlying assumptions.

As a result, the major difference between school climate and school culture is that school climate is people’s perception to the school, but school culture is a value system that embraces the assumptions, values, and beliefs shared by the school members (Stolp & Smith, 1995). Because of this reason, school culture includes school climate, but school climate does not encompass all aspects of school culture (Liu, 2004). This relationship can be illustrated by Figure 2.2.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2.2: The hierarchy level of school culture

illustration not visible in this excerpt

(Source: Cheng, 1989, p.130, Figure 1)

School improvement oriented culture

Cavanagh and Dellar (1996, 1997b, 1998, 2003) argue school culture (1) has positive and negative functions; (2) is diverse and complex; (3) is consisted of a set of

cultural elements; (4) is an open system; and (5) is contributive to school improvement.

They name this kind of culture as school improvement oriented culture (Figure 2.3).

According to them (Cavanagh & Dellar, 1998:8), this kind of school culture has six interdependent cultural elements:

1. Professional values concern the importance of the social institution of education and the need for school growth is grounded on pedagogical principles;
2. An emphasis on learning produces a learning community in which there is a commitment to professional growth and improved outcomes for students;
3. Collegiality empowers teachers to exercise professional judgments through the development of supportive inter-personal relationship;
4. Collaboration is the interaction between teachers in which information is shared on school operational matters including the instructional program;
5. Shared planning is a collective process whereby a common vision of the school is actualized by logical planning; and
6. Transformational leaders share power and facilitate a school development process that engages the human potential and commitment of teachers.

They also note that the nature of the cultural elements is both descriptive and
developmental. The inertia of these cultural elements is in a state of dynamic equilibrium that gives school overall stability (Cavanagh & Dellar, 2003). The cultural elements can also constitute a strong school culture (Cavanagh & Dellar, 1997b).

To sum, the six cultural elements are essential to improve educational process in schools. They are also useful to transform schools towards learning organizations or learning communities, which is facilitative to the new knowledge creation for organizations to survive as well as adapt the changing environment (Barker & Camarata, 1998; Senge, 1990).

Figure 2.3: School improvement model of school culture

illustration not visible in this excerpt


Most of the educational research investigating teacher effectiveness and school culture encounter several limitations. First, the relationship between teacher effectiveness and school culture has been investigated without, or at least, lack of sophisticated theories. This may encounter what Mills (1959) criticizes as abstracted empiricism. Second, most of the researchers usually adopt the traditional concept of teacher effectiveness, but it should be no longer applicable in this new changing era. Finally, as Firestone and Louis (1999) criticize, the insufficiency in the literature is the holistic and static view about school culture.

To overcome these limitations, this study first links up teacher effectiveness with school culture by using the theory of social system. Second, this study does not take the traditional concept of teacher effectiveness. Rather, it pays attention to collective teacher effectiveness with the model of total teacher effectiveness and the model of continuous learning. Furthermore, school improvement oriented culture is focused here, because this kind of culture is more realistic and applicable to school improvement (Tsang, 2009).


[1] ABC Secondary School is the case studied in this research. Therefore, the references about this school do not be revealed in order to keep the confidentiality.

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An evaluation of teacher effectiveness of a Hong Kong secondary school
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