Spillane Addresses Principals in Hong Kong and Hangzhou

Spillane Addresses Principals in Hong Kong and Hangzhou


James SpillaneJames Spillane, an expert on school leadership and educational policy at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, conducted a workshop on educational infrastructure design and delivered two keynote speeches for hundreds of principals and administrators during a spring trip to Hong Kong and Hangzhou in southern China.

“School leaders in both countries really want to figure out how to maximize the interactions that improve teaching among their staffs,” said Spillane, the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Professor in Learning and Organizational Change. “The audiences seemed to especially resonate with the notion that educational and physical infrastructure is extremely important in promoting interactions about instruction.”

Spillane’s research suggests that the design of physical space inside a school matters; teachers may benefit from the chance encounters that stem from working near one another inside the school building. Spillane has written extensively on policy implementation, school reform, and distributed leadership. 

“Teaching in China tends to be a public practice with teachers working together to plan and improve their practice,” said Spillane, professor of learning sciences and professor of human development and social policy. “In the U.S. teaching has historically been a private practice with most teachers working alone -- though over the past 25 years there have been efforts to get teachers to work together.”

Spillane also observed that teaching and teacher development are closely related in China. “In most U.S. school systems this tight relationship between the work of teaching and developing teaching does not exist,” he said.     

At the ninth Asia Leadership Roundtable in Hangzhou, China, which featured educational leadership scholars from around the world, Spillane gave the closing keynote address, titled “Research on Leadership and Teacher Learning: Back to (Research) Basics.” This talk centered on how educational infrastructures can help teachers learn from each other on the job.

Spillane gave an addition keynote address called “Leading and Managing Instructional Improvement: Designing Educational Infrastructures that Work” while at the Spring of Qiantang Education Summit. At the event, attended by over 300 principals, assistant principals, and Jianggan District education policymakers, Spillane stressed how educational infrastructure shapes the way teachers interact with and learn from their colleagues. 

In Hong Kong, Spillane conducted a three-hour workshop called “The Social Side of Improvement: Educational Infrastructures that Work” for 60 principals and assistant principals in an event organized by the Education University of Hong Kong. Through a group activity, Spillane introduced the concept of design thinking -- a creative problem-solving process -- and also stressed that managing problems can be more effective than trying to solve them. 

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 4/6/18